Kenya is not renowned as the land of safari for nothing. Apart from breathtaking scenery, miles of scorching white sandy beaches, welcoming people, numerous game parks and reserves and wildlife, there is the Maasai Mara. They say you haven’t been on safari till you’ve been to the Mara.
The Mara is arguably Africa’s crown jewel in terms of wildlife. The Maasai word ‘Mara’ means ‘spotted’ in English perhaps referring to the countless wild animals that dot this gently undulating 1510km of grasslands. Maasai Mara is endowed with an extraordinary density of animals including the Big Five (lions, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros) and an array of plains game.
The Maasai Mara lies about 270 km from Nairobi and takes about 5 hours by road if you fancy seeing the beautiful Kenyan countryside on your way to Maasai Mara.
Flights that take about 40-45 minutes are also available. Birds are featured in plenty, for those in love with the winged wonders. Over 450 species of birds including 50 species of birds of prey have been recorded in the Mara.
They include the vulture, widow bird, secretary bird, crowned crane, red-billed oxpecker, ostrich, long-crested eagle, pygmy falcon, scale francolin, hornbill, African goshawk, fiscal hike, yellow-throated long claw, marabou, white-backed vulture and prowl plovers.
These birds can be seen perched and chirping away on groves of acacia and thorn trees that interrupt the grass-carpeted landscape. All these animals can be viewed by taking game drives into the wilderness of the Maasai Mara.
However, this extravagance of fauna, this plethora of flora, this expansive blue African sky and the untouched untamed landscape, all dwarf the unparalleled sensation of the relentless march of the wildebeest.
The great wildebeest migration is a wildlife marvel beyond comparison. Witnessing this marvellous play of nature is an awe-inspiring experience. More than 500,000 wildebeest and 200,000 Zebra accompanied by other herbivores migrate far south from the plains of the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara for the luscious pastures occasioned by the long rains of April and May.
But the trek is punishing because the migrating herds attract the attention of a voracious horde of predators, especially hyenas and lions. The predators single out the lame and sick animals for easy prey.
Another natural barrier in the form of the chocolate Mara River fraught with ravenous crocodiles and frolicking hippos await the galloping herd of animals. When the migrating herds pick a spot to cross the river, more die by drowning or between the jaws of the sneaky crocodiles, while attempting to cross the churning waters of the Mara River.
Once the Mara pastures have been exhausted, the herds head back to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro plains where fresh rain has nourished the grasslands. Numerous other animals reside in the Maasai Mara like Impala, they are nocturnal bat-eared fox, the Roan antelope, the Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, topi, zebra, giraffes, Coke’s hartebeest, hyena, cheetah, wild dog, jackal, hippo, kongoni, eland, monkeys and ostrich.
The panoramic landscape of the Maasai Mara is also captured in various films like ‘Out of Africa’ and its wildlife in documentaries like the BBC Television show Big Cat Diary. Another thing you must do is take the early morning Maasai Mara balloon Safari and softly glide in the endless azure African sky.
The feeling of floating in the skies with hordes of wild game marauding in the plains below is just beyond description. The sight of giraffe heads bobbing among the trees and the chill of the wind whispering around the balloon will be forever engraved in your memory.
After the exhilarating sashay in the heavens, a glass of champagne is served for those who love to toast. Then a sumptuous freshly prepared breakfast is served in the bush in the middle of nowhere. Oh, you will wish that your life was such a continuous luxurious adventure, especially when you get back to the concrete jungle (city) or your workplace.
If you fancy a trip that also explores the culture of the locals of the Mara, the Maasai, guided tours can be arranged. It will be interesting to learn how these ancient peoples and their livestock have adapted to coexisting peacefully with wildlife and the savannah. Tents can be made available and tourists can spend a night in the homesteads of the Maasai to the sound of hyenas laughing and lions roaring.
There is a wide range of accommodation available in the Mara. The resorts in the Maasai Mara revolutionise the meaning of luxury by the way they pamper and spoil their clients. Both local and five-star cuisines are served accompanied by drinks. Some of the Resorts are the Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, Maasai Mara Serena Safari Lodge, Saruni Camp, and Mara Safari Club Hotel.
Do not forget to carry a pair of good quality binoculars, get the necessary immigration jabs and take anti-malarial medicine. A visit to the Maasai Mara is an experience of a lifetime that you will never forget.