Maasai Mara


Maasai Mara 

The park covers 320 sq km in the south-west corner of Kenya. It receives ample water from the tree-lined Mara River, a tributary of the Talek River. The western border of the park features the Oloololo Escarpment as well as the highest concentration of game. This area is often difficult to traverse as the swampy ground often becomes impassable after heavy rains. Because of its accessibility from Nairobi, the eastern edge of the park is most popular with tourists and minibuses.

The highlight of the Mara is undoubtedly the great migration of wildebeest which move north from the Serengeti in July and August in search of lush grass. They return south in October before the rainy season. Watching millions of these animals move together in mass is truly a humbling experience for human visitors. Other animals are commonly spotted in the park including the big cats: lions, cheetahs, and leopards. Lions are often found in large prides and it's not uncommon to see them hunting. Elephant, buffalo, zebra, and hippo roam in large herds while the Topi, impala, and Coke's hartebeest are also abundant.

 

The official designation of the Maasai Mara is as a park reserve, and it therefore does not have national park status. The primary difference is that a park reserve allows people to graze their animals and shoot game if they are attacked. National parks set aside the entire area for wildlife and the natural environment with no allowances for pastoral grazing. The Maasai Mara region is the traditional land of the Maasai people who often find themselves in competition with the wildlife and tourists for scarce resources. When the game reserve was established in the early 1960s, much the their native land was put off limits and pressure for land became intense. Constant conflict with land authorities led to settlement programs which have met with only limited success. As a nomadic, pastoral-oriented people, Maasai traditions scorn the concept of agriculture and land ownership. The tension continues as traditional ways clash with the 20th century.

 

Accommodations vary greatly in the Maasai Mara region and include all levels of convenience from tented camps to luxury lodges. Most establishments organize game drives in the early morning and late afternoon when the wildlife is most active. Like all wild areas in Kenya, the Mara can be deceptively dangerous. It is advised that tourists not travel off the beaten path alone, nor is it wise to travel in anything other than a four-wheel drive vehicle as the terrain is often difficult.