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Maasai Mara National Reserve. Kenya's finest wildlife reserve.


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Maasai Mara National Reserve.

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is Kenya's finest wildlife reserve. Everything about this reserve is outstanding. The wildlife is abundant and the gentle rolling grasslands ensure that animals are never out of sight.

Birds, too, are prolific. Including migrant birds, well over 450 species have been recorded, among them, 57 species of birds of prey. The climate of Maasai Mara is gentle, rarely too hot and well-spread rainfall year round. Rain, when it falls almost always chooses the late afternoon or night. Between July and October, when the great wildebeest migration is in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the sensation is unparalleled.

MASAI MARA WILDEBEEST MIGRATION

Maasai Mara is one of the best plains' game reserves where you can actually encounter a live Discovery Channel, a haven for viewing a congregation of all sorts of animals in a five-mile radius: A pride of lions can be spotted ready to make a run for a gazelle. The Maasai Mara National Reserve lies about 270 kilometers from Nairobi, and takes about 4.5 to 5 hours by road. There are scheduled flights, twice daily from Wilson Airport Nairobi, which take about 40 - 45 minutes.

The Masai mara reserve is about 1510 square kilometers having been reduced from 1672 square kilometers in 1984. However, the wildlife is far from being confined within the reserve boundaries, and an even larger area, generally referred to as the "dispersal area" extends north and east of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Masai communities live within the dispersal area with their stock but a century of close association with the wildlife has resulted in an almost symbiotic relationship where wildlife and people live in peace with one another. The first sight of this natural wonderland is breathtaking. Here the great herds of shuffling elephants browse among the rich tree-studded grasslands with an occasional sighting of a solitary and ill-tempered rhino.

Thompson's and Grant's gazelle, Topi and Eland and many more species of plains' game offer a rich choice of food for the dominant predators; lion, leopard and cheetah which hunt in this pristine wilderness. In the Mara River, hippo submerges at the approach of a vehicle only to surface seconds later to snort and grumble their displeasure. Seemingly, the drowsy crocodile sun bathe on the riverbanks, mouth agape, and waiting with subtle cunning for prey at which to strike with lightning swiftness. But this richness of fauna, this profusion of winged beauty and the untouched fragility of the landscape, are all subordinate to the Mara's foremost attraction, The march of the wildebeest

Each year, far south in the great vastness of the Serengeti, the wildebeest raise their dignified but quaint heads, sniff the air and, as if by one accord, start the long trek to the Kenya border and the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

After exhausting the grazing in Tanzania's northern Serengeti, a large number of wildebeest and zebra enter the Maasai Mara National Reserve around the end of June drawn by the sweet grass raised by the long rains of April and May.

It is estimated that more than half a million wildebeest enter the Maasai Mara National Reserve and are joined by another 100,000 or so from the Loita Hills east of the Maasai Mara. Driving in the midst of these great herds is an unimaginable experience. Whilst the eyes feast on the spectacle, the air carries the smells, the dust and the sounds of hundreds of thousands of animals.

There is nowhere else on earth to compare with this wildlife marvel. But the trek is costly. The herds' draw ravening packs of predators, especially hyenas and lions, and thousands of the lame, laggard and sick never complete the cycle. More die, by drowning or by the teeth of the cunning crocodile, while trying to cross the swirling muddy waters of the Mara and Talek rivers.

Once the Masai Mara National Reserve's grass has been devoured and when fresh rain in Tanzania has brought forth a new flush there, the herds turn south, heading hundreds of kilometers back to Serengeti and the Ngorongoro plains. There the young are dropped in time to grow sufficiently strong to undertake the long march north six months later.

A well worth it and recommended activity in the Masai Mara National Reserve is the hot air balloon safari. Early in the morning, you will be woken and driven to the departure site. Once in the air, the view of the surrounding landscape, the rising of the sun between the mountains and the congregation of the animals at the river is beautiful. This all concludes with a champagne breakfast and memories of a lifetime.

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