The 1510 sq kilometers of open rolling grassland that makes up the Mara offers the quintessential African safari experience.
The world-renowned Masai Mara National Reserve is a huge expanse of tawny, sunburnt grasslands pocked with acacia trees and heaving with animals big and small. Impressive at any time of year, it’s at its best between July and October when around a million wildebeest and thousands of topis, zebras and other animals pour into the reserve from Tanzania in search of the fresh grass generated by the rains. The Great Migration is, arguably, the most spectacular wildlife show on the planet and the one thing that no visitor to Kenya should even consider missing while on safari.
The Mara covers an impressive 583 sq miles in south-western Kenya. It is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers a much greater area of 9,700 sq miles in Tanzania and Kenya. It is bounded by the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria escarpment to the west, and Maasai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west.
The Masai Mara (or Mara, as locals affectionately refer to it) is the northern extension of Tanzania’s equally famous Serengeti Plains and is jointly managed by the Narok County Council and the Mara Conservancy (on behalf of Trans-Mara County Council).
Reliable rains and plentiful vegetation underpin this extraordinary ecosystem and the millions of herbivores it supports. Hippopotamus and Nile crocodiles are found in large groups in the Mara and Talek rivers. Leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, and bat-eared foxes can also be found in the reserve especially during the migration. The plains between the Mara River and the Esoit Siria Escarpment are probably the best area for game viewing, in particular regarding lion, to which the Mara has the highest density of population in the world.
Antelopes can be found, including Grant’s gazelles, impalas, duikers and Coke’s hartebeests. The plains are also home to the distinctive Masai giraffe. The large roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders.
More than 470 species of birds have been identified in the park, many of which are migrants, with almost 60 species being raptors. Birds that call this area home for at least part of the year include: vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested eagles, African pygmy-falcons and the lilac-breasted roller, which is the national bird of Kenya.
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