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Rift Valley, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

GPS: -1.3719126871477, 34.938109428952

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Located in the south-west of Kenya, in the illustrious Great Rift Valley, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is the natural extension of the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), in its northern part. Covering an area of 1,500 km², it has no borders or fences and offers one of the best areas for observing African fauna.

The central part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve is made up of large grassy areas and has very few trees. It revolves around the Mara Triangle in its north-west part (between the Oloololo escarpment and the Mara river), the Siria escarpment to the west (long ridge forming the western border of the reserve), the Musiara marsh area to the south (between the Mara and Talek rivers) and the natural site of Ngama Hills to the east (2,000 meters high). This legendary land of East Africa houses the most typical animals of the savannah: large Felidae species (lions, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, leopards…), mammals (elephants, giraffes, rhinos, Hippopotamuses…), reptiles (Nile crocodiles, pythons, monitor lizards…) and hundreds of varieties of birds. Each year, nearly 2 million wildebeest (a species of antelope) and several hundred thousand zebras and gazelles migrate from Serengeti National Park to the Maasai Mara National Reserve according to the rains. This impressive natural phenomenon, called the Great Migration, gives rise to an entirely exceptional concentration of wild animals. The epic of large herbivores over more than 800 km away is motivated by the rarity of food during the dry season within the Serengeti. It gives rise to ruthless fights between animals, prey and predators, thus perpetuating the cycle of life and the harsh law of nature. Each day that passes through the reserve presents itself as a new survival experience for many wild species.

The great plain of Masai Mara is named after the semi-nomadic people who still live on these lands, the Maasai, in perfect harmony with their environment. Living mainly on their domestic cattle which they raise within the perimeter of the reserve, they participate greatly in the preservation of fauna. Dressed in their characteristic red outfits, the Maasai people move freely according to the seasons between the border of Tanzania and Kenya. With its hilly plains and its abundant fauna, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is the ultimate destination of all safari in the Maasai country.

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  • An incredible concentration of wild animals; extremely diverse and varied wildlife species
  • The natural landscapes of the reserve (rivers, meadows, swamps, shrub savannahs and forests)
  • Lush areas bordering the Mara River and its affluents
  • The large population of birds (marabou storks, Grey crowned cranes, ostriches, Lilac-breasted rollers, ibises, Saddle-billed storks… including around fifty different species of raptors
  • The experience of a sunset in the African savannah; the observation of the stars at nightfall in the absence of any light pollution
  • The memorable and grand show of the Great Migration
  • The pastoral tradition, the nomadic culture and the initiation rites of the Maasai people (including the traditional war dance)
  • Line fishing activity; the possibility of flying over the savannah in a hot air balloon
  • The other wildlife conservation areas nearby and less frequented than the Maasai Mara National Reserve: Olare Orok, Naboisho, Ol Kinyei as well as the Musiara Marsh and the Olypunyata Swamp
  • The fauna of the Maasai Mara National Reserve is estimated at around 3 million individuals. The migratory crossing of the Mara river, to reach more fertile grazing areas, is closely scrutinized by crocodiles and other predators (lions, tigers, hyenas, etc.) in search of the most vulnerable prey.
  • By foaming the carcasses of dead animals, vultures limit the spread of diseases in the wild such as rabies, tuberculosis and anthrax.
  • The black and white stripes of the zebra offer the advantage to this animal to fight effectively against attacks of tsetse horseflies and flies. These parasites, blood suckers, are likely to spread diseases that are sometimes fatal to humans and animals (against which zebra, horses and donkeys are particularly vulnerable). The striped dress of the zebra thus creates a kind of natural camouflage against insect bites which are more attracted by uniform colours. In addition, these scratches bring a feeling of freshness such as a draft by reflecting the sunlight. Each zebra has patterns ranging from around twenty elements to 80 unique stripes, which are specific to it, like a fingerprint in humans or a barcode for products sold in commerce.
  • The new parade used by poachers and breeders is to poison the carcasses of slaughtered animals with toxic pesticides. This is to avoid being spotted by park agents or to cause the death of other cattle predators. This disastrous technique would have the consequence of killing many vultures whose species is considered to be endangered and which feed on poisoned animals. To counter these criminals, the management of the Maasai Mara National Reserve employs a canine unit responsible for hunting poachers. Since dogs were trained to detect weapons, booby-traps and wildlife traffickers in 2009, poaching has declined slightly in the region.
  • As in humans, wild mammals see females living longer than males. The opposite occurs in birds, where males benefit on average from a longer life expectancy than females. According to an advanced study, chromosomes and DNA seem to play a fundamental role in the longevity of the species as well as in the differences observed between males and females.
  • The government of Kenya plans to set up two dams on the Mara River (Norera and Mungangago). This project is strongly contested by environmental movements insofar as it could greatly degrade the ecosystem of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Serengeti National Park. Animals that evolve freely according to the seasons on either side of the Mara River would find their habitat directly impacted.
  • All the periods of the year are favourable to the observation of fauna within the Maasai Mara National Reserve (it nevertheless remains very frequented in July-August and the high concentration of vehicles which intersect can harm the experience sought).
  • The best times of the day to see as many animals as possible remain the first two hours after dawn and the last two hours before dark.
  • After a hot day, the sunset over this wetland reveals unexpected landscapes, sublimated by mist. Light, which is available in orange tones, is conducive to all daydreams.
  • If you can, leave the beaten track to venture into the savannah on foot, accompanied by an experienced local guide.
  • For the most modest budgets, the two rainy seasons of the park region (April to June then October to December) correspond to the lowest prices offered by the camps.

Where to eat

  • Keekorok Lodge
    (fresh and varied food)
  • Fairmont Mara Safari Club
    (resplendent frame)
  • Isokon Restaurant
    (enticing cuisine)

Where to go out

  • Mfangano Island
    (provides a true change)
  • Thimlich Ohinga
    (major archaeological site)
  • Ruma National Park
    (hilly reserve)

Where to sleep

  • Mara Kima Camp
    (simple and rustic)
  • Porini Mara Camp
    (isolated from other camps)
  • Rekero Camp
    (in full immersion)

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