The Maasai Mara National Reserve (also spelled Maasai Mara, known locally as La Mara) is a large wildlife reserve in southwest Kenya, which is actually the northern extension of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is for the Maasai (the traditional inhabitants of the region) and the description of the designated area, if you look from afar: “Mara,” which is Maa (Maasai language) for “spotted” an apt description for groups of to mark trees, shrubs, savanna, and the cloud shadows that region.
It is famous for its exceptional population of large cats, play, and the annual migration of zebras, Thomson’s gazelles, wildebeest, and from the Serengeti every year from July to October a migration so immense it is called the Great Migration! The Maasai Mara National Reserve is only a fraction of the great Mara ecosystem, which includes the following ranches: Koiyaki, Lamech, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, and Oloirien Kimintet.
Migrating wildebeest, topi, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and in and occupy the Mara Reserve, the Serengeti plains in the south and Loita Plains in the pastoral ranches northeast, from July to October or later. Flocks of all three species are also resident in the reserve.
All members of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, rhino and black) are in the Maasai Mara. The black rhino population was quite abundant until 1960, but was severely decimated by poaching in the 1970s and 1980s, reaching a low of 15 persons. The numbers have slowly, but increases the population was still only about 23 in 1999.
Nile crocodiles and hippos are found in large groups in the Mara and Talek rivers. Leopards, hyenas, cheetah, jackal and bat-eared foxes can be found in the reserve. The plains between the Mara river and the Siria Escarpment Esoit are probably the best place to see wild animals, particularly with regard to lions and cheetahs.
As in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara, and their number is estimated at millions. Around July of each year, these animals north from the Serengeti plains clumsy migrate in search of new horizons, and south, back to October. The Great Migration is one of the world’s most impressive natural events in which some 1.3 million wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 97000 Topi, 18,000 elk, and 200,000 zebras. These migrants are followed during their annual, circular route by hungry predators, including lions and hyenas.
Many other species of antelope can be found, including Coke Thomson and Grant gazelles, impala, eland, hartebeest and duiker. Large herds of zebra are found in the reserve. The plains are also home to the distinctive Masai Giraffe as well as the common giraffe. The big roan and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, are seen in the reserve boundaries.
More than 470 bird species have been identified in the park, most of whom are immigrants, with its nearly 60 species of raptors. Birds that call this area home at least part of the year are: vultures, marabou, secretary bird, hornbill, crowned crane, ostrich, long-crested eagles, falcons and African Pygmies Gabelracke, which is the national bird of Kenya.