The Masai Mara game reserve is one of the oldest game reserves in Kenya and is located in the Great Rift Valley. It is accessible through Narok and Sekenani Gate both of which are linked to the main road. It is also serviced by two airstrips. It was gazetted as a national reserve in 1984 after the Kenya government conceded some of the land to ancestral Maasai herders for their use in grazing.
The Mara is unique in that it is one destination that experiences very high concentrations of wildlife. Indeed, most tourists rate visiting the Mara during the annual wildebeest migration between July and November as an experience of a lifetime. During the migration, over a million wildebeest, zebras and antelopes gather at the reserve to give birth to the next generation of wildebeest. Obviously, viewing over 100,000 calvings is not the experience that has made the Mara famous. It is the antagonists in the form of predators in hot pursuit and their devious ways of hunting pray that complete the show. The view of lions, hyenas, and cheetahs in pursuit of prey is only peppered by the sight of nervous wildebeest and zebras crossing the treacherous Mara River. There, crocodiles lie in wait shedding the proverbial crocodile tear with every misstep. It is a sight worth beholding.
Even during other times of the year apart from the annual wildebeest migration, there is plenty of wildlife to be hand. The reserve is located on open grassland where over 95 species of reptiles, amphibians and mammals as well as over 400 bird species live or frequent. Indeed, very few reserves in Africa can rival the Mara in terms of wildlife abundance. Most visitors to the Mara are rewarded with sightings of the big five namely: buffaloes, elephants, lions, leopards and the rhino. In additions to the big five visitors also have a chance to see impalas, Thompson’s gazelle, foxes, and jackals topped up by hippos and warthogs. It also has breathtaking scenery as it is located in the Great Rift Valley. The sightings are not limited to the reserve as Safari enthusiasts can also view a variety of wildlife in the conservancies within the reserve’s vicinity.
For cultural tourists seeking a holistic experience of the wildlife, the sights, and the people, the Mara does not disappoint. The Maasai have an annual rite of passage for boys where they graduate into warriors known as Morans. They also hold numerous ceremonies to mark important events such as circumcision, marriage, graduation of elders and childbirth. All these are events that visitors can witness if they obtain the requisite permission from the elders.
In recent years, the Kenya Wildlife Service has been concerned that the enchanting Mara River may lose its allure due to human activities that have impacted its flow. The water shortage makes it hard for crocodiles to lie in wait denying visitors the chance to witness one of the most iconic sightings of the migration. It has initiated conservation efforts covering riparian areas and forests supplying water to the Mara. It also made concessions to the Maasai by giving them part of the land for grazing while they reciprocated by supporting conservation efforts. KWS has also licensed private conservancies to intensify conservation efforts.