Main Tourism Activities in Masai Mara Game Reserve

The main activities in Masai Mara are game viewing and bird watching

Masai Mara National Reserve In Kenya

Masai Mara national reserve is located in Norak County in Kenya. The reserve is located along the eastern arm of the east African rift valley and it covers an area of about 1,510 sq.km. Masai Mara is an extension of the greater Serengeti eco-system in Tanzania. Serengeti national park is located in the southern part of Masai Mara reserve, Oloololo/Siria escarpment to the west and Masai pastoral communities to the north and east. Masai Mara game reserve is named to respect the tribe that lived in the area many years ago. The word “Mara” in Masai local language means “spotted” referring to short trees and bushes that dot the landscape.

Masai Mara national reserve is part of Mara ecosystem that includes the Mara triangle, other Masai conservancies such as Kerinkani, Kiminent, Maji Moto, Koiyaki, Lemmet, Naikara, Mara north, Siana, Oloirien, Ol Derkesi and Oirowua. The three main rivers that drain Masai Mara reserve are Talek River, Mara River and Sand River. Most parts of the game reserve are made up of open grassland, acacia trees and seasonal rivers. The Masai Mara reserve receives two rainy seasons. The reserve has long rainy seasons that fall between the months of April and May and the short rainy seasons are in November to December.

Masai Mara reserve in Kenya was gazzated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1961 and it was 520 sq.km including the Mara triangle. In the same year the reserve was extended to the east and made a game reserve covering an area of 1821 sq.km. in 1974 the game reserve was declared a national park and about 160 sq.km was returned back to Masai community. By 1984, Masai Mara reserve was reduced to 1510 sq.km after lunch encroachment by the local Masai community.

Who are Masai?

Masai are one of the Africa’s famous group of people found in Kenya. The Masai are proud people and they have remained independent for a long period of time. The Masai stay in central, south and northern parts of Kenya but with some groups in Serengeti plains in the northern parts of Tanzania. The Masai people are famous for their tall stature, eye-catching beads and traditional Shuka costumes. They are independent and still believe and practice their old traditions and customs. Just like the karamajong of Uganda, the Masai group of people are cattle keepers they depend on livestock farming for their whole life. In fact the Masai people have a belief that every cattle in the whole world is theirs. All that is not in their hands was at one time theirs but stolen. In the past, the belief that every group owned the whole cattle in the world led to many tribal wars as they attempted to get back their stolen cattle from the neighborhood and these fights only stopped with the intervention of the government. It should be remembered in the past years the government of Kenya tried to force the Masai out of the reserve by force but they were later left to live harmoniously with wild animals in the section of the reserve.

Tourism and wildlife in Masai Mara game reserve

Masai Mara is one of the most visited and famous wildlife conservation areas in Africa. The reserve is famous because it hosts all the big 5 animals that is the elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and the buffalo. Masai Mara is the only game reserve in Kenya where you find indigenous black rhinos. Before 1970’s, there were many rhinos roaming freely in the park but after the poachers killed most of them for meat. There were only 15 rhinos left in the park and these have multiplied in number but they haven’t reached where they were before. Despite the decrease in the number of rhinos, Masai Mara is still the best place to go see mammals in Uganda especially the big 5 animals in Africa.

Apart from the big 5 animals, Masai Mara game reserve harbors a number of animals among which include duikers, giraffes, impalas, hartebeests, wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, topi, baboons, spotted hyena, bat-eared fox among others. The reserve has a number of antelopes but their population vary depending on the season because some migrate from Loita plains and others from Serengeti national park. Masai Mara game reserve is also a home of hippos, crocodiles, jackals and foxes among others. The reserve harbors over 470 bird species among which include vultures, secretary birds, African fish eagle, ostriches, marabou storks, yellow-billed stork, long-crested eagles, lilac-breasted roller, southern ground hornbill, grey crowned crane, saddle-billed stork, turaco, rufous-bellied heron and African pygmy-falcons.

Main Tourism Activities in Masai Mara Game Reserve

The main activities in Masai Mara are game viewing and bird watching. One can also take part in nature walks and cultural experiences with the Masai, hot air ballooning and photography tours. Many tours prefer visiting Masai Mara in the times of great migration. This period, over 1.7 million wildebeest, over 500,000 zebras and over 200,000 other grazers migrate to the par from Serengeti national park of Tanzania in search for green pasture and water. These animals pass through crocodile-filled rivers and big cats territory to reach Masai Mara game reserve. When you visit the park in this season, you get opportunities of seeing battles between predators and the prey.

The wildebeest migration begins in the month of July and ends around the month of October. Visiting the park his time gives you a best safari experience although the park is always crowded with tourists. If you need a private safari you should coke in the rainy months of November, April and May when the park has less tourists. When you are visiting Masai Mara during great migration time, you can opt and go to conservancies or private ranches where you can observe clearly migration with out to much crowds. The conservancies are managed by Masai group of people and they also offer abundant wildlife and a beautiful scenery. These conservancies have activities that are not done in the reserve i.e. camping in the bush, night game drives and walking safari under the guidance of Masai worriers.

Cost of entering Masai Mara National park

The management of Masai game reserve charge an entry fee of USD 70 for foreign residents per person per day, USD 80 for non-foreign residents per person per day, USD 40 for foreign children from the age of 3-18 and children 0-3 years enter free. All east African residents pay less money to access the game reserve and this money is paid in Ugandan shillings. Its very important to know that visitors to masai merge it with visiting other tourism destinations in Africa

Threats and research activities

A study done by the international livestock research institute and funded but the world wide fund for nature between 1989 and 2003 discovered that Masai Mara park on average lost about 70% of the total population of grazers that is the impala, giraffes, hartebeest and the common warthogs. This loss was blamed on the increased number of Masai people which increased human encroachment around the reserve. As the population of wild animals in the reserve –increase there is completion for space between the animals and the people leading to conflicts and this has led to increased poisoning of animals by the Masai people. Poaching is also spreading widely most especially with the population explosion and mushroom settlements with in Masai Mara game reserve. Human and wildlife conflicts are currently reducing because of more community awareness campaigns to people in the game reserve made by organizations such as the Mara elephant project. The government is also playing a big role in compensating people that have lost their animals and crops to wildlife.

How to get to Masai Mara game reserve

Masai Mara game reserve can be accessed by road. The first way to get to the game reserve is by starting from Nairobi using a standard tour van or land cruiser with a help of a tour operator. The tour operator does not only provide a tour vehicle but also a full time drive to the whole safari. The tour guide also plays the part of being a tour guide because they well know about the game reserve and where to find animals. The journey from Nairobi city to the Masai game reserve takes you about 3- 4 hours. Apart from using a tour operator, you can use a bus from Nairobi city to Narok country in order to save some money.

The second way to get to Masai Mara game reserve is by using air transport. This is the most convenient and the fastest way to reach the reserve although it’s a bit expensive. There are many private airstrips that are owned by the lodges in the area. Air Kenya and safari link organize flights to the game reserve every day at a fair cost. A tour operator can help you to book flights so that you fly to Masai Mara game reserve as soon as you land.

 

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