A lot has been said about the Masai Mara before, and for good reason. Tucked away in southwest Kenya, it's the country's most popular national park, and if you take in the small size of the reserve in comparison with some of the giants like Amboseli or Tsavo West, you can immediately glean that there must be something truly special about this park.
The Masai Mara, totalling 938 square miles, is essentially the northern continuation of the Serengeti of Tanzania. Though dwarfed by its southern sister, the richness and concentration of wildlife in the Masai Mara is second-to-none. It is undoubtedly considered the best place in Kenya for spotting each of the "Big Five”—lion, elephant, leopard, cape buffalo, and black rhino—due partly to the sheer diversity of landscape and vegetation in this corner of Kenya.
Start with the image that's immediately conjured upon hearing the word "safari”—that of the open, rolling savannah. The Masai Mara offers plenty of this quintessentially African landscape. You will gaze from your safari vehicle, or if you're lucky from your lodge or tented camp, and be faced with open plains, a washed-out greenish-gold in the dawn hours, and a deeper orange-gold under the blaze of the sunset. Open lands such as this are often favoured by cheetahs, which can sprint unhampered across the landscape in pursuit of an unlucky gazelle or ungainly wildebeest.
The woodland is, of course, more densely populated with shrubs and trees. The acacia trees that grow so profusely in this part of the world are often home to swinging monkeys and nesting birds, and giraffe are often spotted around these areas clipping the most succulent leaves from the treetops.
The rivers of the Masai Mara are another major habitat for the myriad of creatures that reside here. Hippos reside in large groups in both the Talek and Mara rivers, along with lurking crocodiles, waiting, stoic and motionless, for a thirsty wildebeest or struggling zebra to wander into its midst.
At no time does this happen more than during the Great Migration. In June of each year, thousands upon thousands of wildebeest and zebra in the northern Serengeti raise their heads, taste the air, and instinctively know it's time to move on. They begin their perilous journey, heading north and crossing the border into the Masai Mara. They continue east, joined by yet more grazers from beyond the Loita Hills. Many sick and lame creatures do not survive, and yet more are lost during the crossing of the Mara river, when some will drown and others will be snapped into the ruthless jaws of a Nile crocodile.
Read more guides, tips, and insider info from East African travel experts Ziara Safaris. Ziara specializes in fully customizable and private Kenya safaris around the greatest national parks and game reserves in the country.
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