Masai Mara National Reserve
This area includes the Masai Mara National Reserve of 181,200 ha and the surrounding wildlife dispersal areas of 482,800 ha in southwestern Kenya. Collectively, the reserve and its surrounds are often called the Greater Mara. In 1996, it was nominated for designation as a World Heritage Site.
To the north, east and west are large parcels of land demarcated as group ranches owned and inhabited by the semi-nomadic pastoral Masai people. Habitats in the Masai Mara are varied, including open rolling grassland, riverine forest, Acacia woodland, swamps, non-deciduous thickets, boulder-strewn escarpments, and Acacia, Croton and Tarchonanthus scrub. The permanent Mara and Talek rivers, and their tributaries, flow through the reserve and approximately trisect it. There is a pronounced rainfall gradient from the drier east with 800 mm rain/year to the wetter west with 1,200 mm/year.
Masai Mara National Reserve Game Viewing (Home of the “BIG FIVE”)
The Masai Mara is remarkable for its high concentration of large herbivores and their attendant predators. The extraordinary annual migration of over one and a half million Wildebeests and over 200,000 Grant’s zebra that starts from the Serengeti plains to the Mara grasslands from late June is world-famous. There are also large numbers of the African Elephant, African Lion, Hippopotamuses and the Nile crocodile in the massive Musiara Swamp, Topi, Gazelles, several primates, and many more.
Masai Mara National Reserve Birding
As an endemic bird area, Masai Mara has all the three of Serengeti Plains and one of the eight species of the Kenya Mountains Endemic Bird Areas that occur in Kenya. Seven globally threatened species have occurred here; they include the Malagasy Pond-Heron, Pallid Harrier, Jackson’s Widowbird, Red-throated Tit, Grey-crested Helmet-shrike, Corncrake, and Lesser Kestrel. Regionally threatened species that occur here include Circaetus cinerascens, Hieraaetus ayresii, Anhinga rufa, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Trigonoceps occipitalis, Polemaetus bellicosus, Stephanoaetus coronatus, Coturnixadansonii, Buphagus africanus, Casmerodius albus, Podica senegalensis, Neotis denhami, Scotopelia peli, and Porzana pusilla.
More than 500 other bird species are known to occur, including 12 species of Cisticola and 53 birds of prey. Grassland birds are exceptionally well represented. Large numbers of Palearctic migrants winter in the area, including Caspian Plover and the White Stork.
There is a single record of Shoebill Stork, from the Musiara swamp.
The Mara’s extensive grasslands are a stronghold for the threatened, migratory Corncrake and the restricted-range Jackson’s widowbird. The woodlands around the reserve are probably the centre of abundance for the restricted-range Grey-crested Helmet-shrike. The restricted-range Rufous-tailed Weaver has recently been sighted within the reserve, near the southern border, and maybe expanding its range northwards.
Masai Mara National Reserve Masai People
The Masai Mara tour would seem incomplete without an encounter with the legendary Masai people from which the reserve derives the name. They are strongly independent people, still paying a lot of attention to their traditional rituals. Strikingly tall and slender, swathed in brilliant locally made red cloth, hung about with beads and metal jewellery. Young men prefer long, plaited, ochre-daubed hairstyles and have a formidable reputation for glamour, prowess and ferocity.
Traditionally the Maasai live off the milk and blood of their beloved cattle and believe that all the cows in the world are theirs.
The Masai People believe they are not just residents of this area but are much a part of the life of the land as the land is part of their lives.
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