Maasai Mara National Reserve is essential conservation and a true depiction of serenity in Narok, Kenya.
It remains one of the famous destinations for tourist visitors to the country, spanning across a land area covering 520sqkm of the Mara Triangle.
Sited adjacent to Tanzania’s Serengeti national park along the Great Rift Valley Road in Narok Town, the reserve, a wildlife sanctuary, is a breathtaking vista to behold in Southwestern Kenya.
Read through the mind-blowing details and facts about Maasai Mara National Reserve in this post. It takes in everything you need to know about the reserve; just read on to discover.
The National Reserve at a Glance, including a Bit of History
Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large national wildlife sanctuary and a game reserve with massive wild animals, conservancies, and wilderness areas.
Three major rivers flow until they finally drain the reserve, including the Mara River, Talek River, and Sand River.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, Kenya, became a dream come real before 1961. In 1974, Maasai Mara received the status of a ‘National Reserve.’
Initially designated as a refuge for wild animals, the reserves operated under the management of the Trans-Mara County Council.
The pastoral ranches of Maasai border the national reserve on the east, north, and west, while the Oloololo or Siria Escarpment borders it on the west, and Serengeti national park Tanzania in the southern part.
Maasi Mara, otherwise Masai Mara, in another spelling way, is an enormous game reserve and wildlife park in Kenya, called “The Mara” by most people.
Meaning of the name Mara: According to the local language of the Maasai people, Mara implies “spotted” circles of dwarf, bushy trees, cloud shadows, and savanna.
The reserve takes the name ‘Maasai’ in honor of the Maasai people – the ancient occupants of the area who came from the Nile Basin due to migration.
Location of the national reserve
The national reserve sits at Kilometer 180 away from the Nation’s Capital City, Nairobi, Near the Town of Narok (West of Nairobi), Rift Valley Province, SouthWestern Kenya.
What is makes Maasai Mara a Famous Reserve in Africa?
The reserve is world-renowned for the yearly migration of wildebeests across the river Mara, under the survival of the fittest alongside many predators like the African elephants, giant Nile crocodiles, among others.
Also, it is famous for housing the five large African mammal species’ big five’ viz African buffalo, leopards, lions, elephants, and the rhinos.
Yet again, apart from great migration of wildebeests annually, the national reserve takes a big name in Africa for hosting the highest number of rhinos around the world, thus ranking among the “Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders” and as one among the ten (10) “Wonders of the World.”
The Great Mara Ecosystem and the Reserve’s Savanna
The vegetation of Maasai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, Kenya, is purely a tropical savanna with scattered trees like various seasonal rivulets, coupled with several acacia trees dotting the land area.
On the other hand, the ‘Great Mara’ ecosystem circumscribes the Mara triangle, the Maasai Mara National reserve, and a broad range of conservancies. It covers up to 30,000 square meters of land area.
The resources conserved here include but are not limited to Ol Chorro Oirowua, Kimintet, Oloirien, Mara North, Ol Derkesi, Siana, Maji Moto, Koiyaki, Lemek, Kerinkani, Olkinyei, and Naikara.
Maasai Mara National reserve has incredible, most spectacular, and diverse ecosystems. And, it is possibly the most extensive safari game viewing ecosystem around the world.
The Expansion and Reduction of Maasai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, Kenya
Originally, the national reserve began before 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary covering just about 200 square meters of land, i.e., 520 km² of the recent area, plus the Mara Triangle.
Later in 1961, the reserve expanded to the east side to occupy 703 square meters of land area, i.e., 1,821 km², and include a Game Reserve.
The Narok County Council (NCC) took over the management after the expansion.
Conversely, in 1976, the locals removed an additional 63 square miles (162 square kilometers) from the park, reducing it further in 1984 to 580 square miles (1 510 square kilometers) to return the portion to the local communities of the area.
The reserve’s reduction happened after the park acquired the National Reserve status with the sole aim of returning those portions to the local communities.
After the Trans-Mara County Council (TMCC) formation in 1994 in the western part of Maasai Mara national reserve, the Narok County Council and the new council shared the park’s administration.
Maasai Mara reserve is synonymous with the people of Maasai (commonly known as pastoralists), which encompasses communities that spread to the north, south, and central park of Kenya and Tanzania to the northern side.
The Management and Current Administration
Upon establishment, the Trans Mara County Council handled the management of Maasai Mara National Reserve. However, after the expansion, the control of the reserve shifted to the governing body of Maasai locals, the Narok County Council (NCC).
Currently, the Narok County government and the eastern manages the Maasai Mara area. Maasai Mara National Reserve remains under the management of NCC, while the Trans-Mara County Council manages the Mara Triangle.
The park’s conservancies and some of the outer areas of the park operate under the management of Group Ranch Trusts of the Maasai communities.
Again, a non-profit organisation known as the Mara Conservancy started managing a popular part of the reserve, the Mara Triangle, in May 2001.
Top Attractions in Maasai Mara National Reserve
The major attractions in the Maasai Mara National Reserve are the wildlife and nature, set aside at the center of the park.
These attractions, notwithstanding, have subcategories according to the conservancies that are under the management of various native Maasai inhabitants near the area.
Top attractions in Maasai Mara national reserve, therefore, include:
i. The hot air balloon safari
ii. The almighty cultural tour of Maasai – It’s one among the world’s leftover untapped cultural tours.
iii. The annual migration of wildebeests: It usually involves the largest animals across the globe.
iv. The ‘Big Game’ at the expanded game reserve area
v. Bird watching
vi. Walking safari and nature walk.
vii. The Narok museum tour
viii. Mara Triangle: It’s a renowned conservancy in Maasai Mara under Trans-Mara County Council’s management, spanning 510 sq. km of a land area next to Oloolo Escarpment.
ix. Ol Kinyei Conservancy – This is another notable picturesque in the middle of the reserve, encompassing the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. It houses broad attractions as the largest conservancy, such as the great migration across the Mara River, rolling Kopjes, and more.
x. The Mara River – The exact spot for the mighty great wildebeests’ migration.
xi. Lemek conservancy, Ol Choro Oiroua, and Olare Ork conservancy
xii. Horseback riding
xiii. Gorilla Trekking
xiv. Safari’ Game Drive’ in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park (a nearby attraction)
Ways to Discover the Iconic Maasai Mara National Reserve Completely
Visitors can utilize any vacation season to explore the history, scenery, and untapped cultural conservancies at one of Africa’s most iconic treasures, Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Below are the fun and affordable, easy ways to discover Kenya’s top national reserve:
1. Safari Package
Maasai Mara National Reserve offers a wide range of expeditions and adventure tours into the wilds of Africa.
Among the various safari tour packages that one can explore at the reserve include:
i. Four days Kenya Big Five safari
ii. Wildebeests grat migration private safar
iii. 8 days Masai Mara, Srengeti and Virunga safari
iv. Five days Kenya Express safari
v. Five days Mouth Satiuma hiking safari
vi. Six days Uganda Chimpanzee and wildlife safari
vii. Eight days Kenya wildlife and culture flying safari
viii. Four days Aberdares and Samburu safari
ix. Four days classic Mombasa beach holiday
x. Six days Masai Mara honeymoon package
xi. Five days classic Kenya beach vacation (Malindi)
xii. Three days Mount Nyiragongo hike Congo safari – Virunga national park
xiii. Thirty days Kenya safari, 6 Days Kenya budget safari, and whole lots more.
Whether you are the reserve for a private or group tour, honeymoon, family vacation, or whatever it may be, Maasai Mara national reserve makes a getaway for thoughtful accommodation.
From permanent safari accommodations, boutique camp, private tented safari camp to a serene beach resort and spa, the resort has a lot to offer to ensure comfortability and safe stay for visitors.
All the accommodations offer wholesome food and a warm welcome to stay in and experience the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the people’s untapped culture, and other beautiful things to explore around.
To mention but just a few of the accommodations in and around the reserve are:
i. Sentinel Mara Camp
ii. Emboo River Camp
iii. Leopard Beach Resort and Spa
iv. Hemingways Ol Seki Mara Camp
v. Mara Big Five Lodge
vi. Angama Mara
vii. Ashnil Mara Camp 4-Star
viii. Lerai Safari Camp, and so many others.
3. Tour operators
Maasai Mara National Reserve has several tour operators that guide private, group and all kinds of tours in and around the reserve.
The ten best tour operators you can utilize for Masai Mara tours are:
i. Kenya Safari Operators
ii. Jeep Safaris and Tours
iii. Focus East Africa Tours
iv. Perfect Wilderness Tours And Safaris
v. Classic Journeys Africa Ltd
vi. Gracepatt Ecotours Kenya
vii. Kenya Bush Expeditions Tour
viii. East Africa Safari Bookers
ix. Perfect Safari Africa tours
Although you can quickly get the contacts o these operators directly and call them for what you need, it’s crucial to get recommendations from guests who have used such local operators and know their experiences with them.
Ask rightful questions to identify genuine operators and check their membership credentials for tourism associations in Kenya. And finally, check their payment policies, read the terms of services very well to know if there may be cancellation or refund after payment.
4. Wildebeests migration
The great migration of the wildebeests is an incredibly thrilling experience at the Maasai Mara national reserve that displays the most extraordinary wild animals’ behaviors, experienced nowhere around the world, aside from the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
The great year-round circular migration takes place in cycles from January to December.
Best time to explore the wildebeests’ migration
The wildebeests’ migration offers a breathtaking view and a thrilling experience.
The best time to spot the migration of great wild animals perhaps depends on the particular place where the wildebeests are crossing through, as well as the time and season.
January – March: January to March is the calving and low-sighted period when you can spot the wildebeests in the south of Tanzania’s Serengeti national park. Also, in the same region of Tanzania’s park, the rutting period and an intense significant cat action take place in the same period.
June – August: Peak season for the wildebeest migration when you can spot them around river Grumeti.
July – October: Also a high season, otherwise the river-crossing migration cycle when the wildebeests, alongside gazelles and zebras, migrate from north Serengeti to Masai Mara.
August – October: Another peak season of migration of the wildebeests when visitors can spot them in Mara conservancies of the national reserve.
Stages of the Wildebeests Migration
The annual movement of herds happens in stages as the wildebeests migrate in a circular motion into Maasai Mara National Reserve from Serengeti national park, Tanzania.
The stages are:
Stage 1- Birthing: The stage of birthing during the herds’ movement is the beginning of the migration circle from January to February.
During this period, the calves scatter across the Ngorongoro crater northern slopes and Olduvai Gorge, which after 2 – 3 weeks, they give birth to more than 300,000 to 4,000,000 young calves.
Stage 2- Kickoff of the circle: The beginning stage of the migration happens around March, during the termination of a short dry season when the grasses begin to dry out.
They begin their movement in the western direction of the Serengeti national park woodland areas in search of new sprouting grasses and pleasant weather.
Stage 3- the rut: The period of migration when the early rain starts, while the heard moves towards the northwestern towards the granite outcrop of Moru Koppies and Simba into hilly county’s woodlands in the western Seronera in the direction of Lake Victoria.
In less than one month of this stage, mating already takes place between half of the wildebeests. They also experience the complete moon phase between May and June and drastically influences the period.
The wildebeests are primarily active during this period, resulting in territorial males fighting the dominant males over their females, and most of them sustaining severe injuries.
Stage 4- the crossing: The wildebeests move from west Serengeti towards the Masai Mara national reserve Kenya as the rainy season gets serious. They cross many rivers and select a better crossing point to enter Kenya’s national reserve through the southern Serengeti.
Stage 5- the predators: The predator stage begins as the wildebeests get to the plain camps of Maasai mara. It is usually the time when the herds graze to fatten up and wander around the green pastures.
The herds mate as they move about feeding on the green grasses and reproduce offsprings of calves that run around to attract predators.
Stage 5- the crossing circle: It happens around October when the last rainfall hits Serengeti’s short, plain grasses, creates a new growth spurt, and fills the seasonal waterholes.
At this stage, the herds of wildebeests head towards the eastern woodlands of Serengeti, and by this time, most of them are heavily pregnant.
5. Park entry fees
Remember that your budgets determine if you can pay for all applicable fees to explore the Maasai Mara.
The entrance fee for Maasai Mara national park works per person per day, with different considerations for residents and non-residents.
For East African Citizens (Ksh)
Adult citizen – Ksh.100
Children citizen – Ksh.200
Student citizen – Ksh.200
East African Residents (Ksh)
Adult residents – Ksh.1, 200
Children residents – Ksh.300
Student residents – Ksh.300
Non-resident adults outside the park = 80 USD per person
Non-resident adults within the park = 70 USD
Non-resident children 3 to 18 years old outside the park = 45 USD
Non-resident children 3 to 18 years old within the park = 40 USD
Non-resident student children = 20 USD
Non-resident student adults = 40 USD
Kids under the age of 3 = free of charge
Also, note that various fees are applicable for tourists who want to explore camping in Maasai Mara and a diverse range of vehicles entering the place.
However, if you embark on an organized private or group tour, the management will include the charges in the prices above.
6. Travel information
Talking about Kenya tours or Kenya Safari, Masai Mara national reserve remains the best hot spot and the epitome of tourism for luxury and budget travelers. The reserve houses many bird species, wildlife conservancies, the big five, and other attractions you can name, and Masai mara will uncover.
The rivers draining the land area, hills, trees, and other unique features are second to none.
There are more than ten exciting things you can do in Maasai Mara, listed in the initial phase of this post.
Maasai Mara National Reserve best visiting time according to different sightings.
Whatever be your reason for visiting the reserve, you can always spot the wildlife, including the ‘big five, and witness the great migration of the wildebeest’s herds.
Anyways, depending on your choice of activities to explore, what you most likely want to spot, you can visit the Maasai Mari at any time of the year.
Although July through October marks the best time for the great migration and November through December for bird watching, the best time to explore the whole flow of the migration is late June to early October.
During this time, you can get over the crazy crowds that make the place busy to explore the area as you like.
How can one quickly get to the Maasai Mara to explore the national reserve?
Be that as it may, visitors can easily access the Maasai Mara either by road or air, depending on your budget and how you want to move.
- Take a trip by road from Nairobi
- Take a flight to Maasai Mara from Nairobi, or
- You can take a domestic flight to and fro Mombasa
When visiting Maasai Mara, basic things to have at the back of your mind include your tour duration, accommodation, transportation, food, currency (for non-residents mainly), debit card, or cash.
Contact Information for Maasai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, Kenya
Phone numbers: +254 753 029 209, +254 759 588 041
Email Adress: [email protected]
The Maasai Mara national reserve is breathtakingly beautiful and it remains the most famous safari destination in Africa.
It provides historical wonders and natural conservancies, also educate a diverse public, allowing visitors to explore and discover the incredible, rare conservancies.
Finally, it fosters the next generation of wildlife and game reserve enthusiasts from around the world.