The Maasai Mara National Reserve (also known as Masai Mara and by the locals as The Mara) is a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region, Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from afar: “Mara,” which is Maa (Maasai language) for “spotted,” an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area.
It is globally famous for its exceptional population of Masai lions, African leopards and Tanzanian cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.
Maasai Mara, is “spotted” with bushes, animals, cloud shadows, and umbrella acacia trees.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) covers some 1,510 km2 (583 sq mi) in south-western Kenya. It is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi) in Tanzania and Kenya. It is bounded by the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria escarpment to the west, and Maasai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west. Rainfall in the ecosystem increases markedly along a southeast–northwest gradient, varies in space and time, and is markedly bimodal. The Sand, Talek River and Mara River are the major rivers draining the reserve. Shrubs and trees fringe most drainage lines and cover hillslopes and hilltops.
The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland with seasonal riverlets. In the south-east region are clumps of the distinctive acacia tree. The western border is the Esoit (Siria) Escarpment of the East African Rift, which is a system of rifts some 5,600 km (3,500 mi) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. Wildlife tends to be most concentrated here, as the swampy ground means that access to water is always good, while tourist disruption is minimal. The easternmost border is 224 kilometres (139.2 mi) from Nairobi, and hence it is the eastern regions which are most visited by tourists.
Wildebeest, topi, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle migrate into and occupy the Mara reserve, from the Serengeti plains to the south and Loita Plains in the pastoral ranches to the north-east, from July to October or later. Herds of all three species are also resident in the reserve.
All members of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, and black rhinoceros) are found in the Maasai Mara. The population of black rhinos was fairly numerous until 1960, but it was severely depleted by poaching in the 1970s and early 1980s, dropping to a low of 15 individuals. Numbers have been slowly increasing, but the population was still only up to an estimated 23 in 1999.
Hippopotami and Nile crocodiles are found in large groups in the Mara and Talek rivers. Leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, and bat-eared foxes can also be found in the reserve. The plains between the Mara River and the Esoit Siria Escarpment are probably the best area for game viewing, in particular regarding lion and cheetah.
As in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year, these ungainly animals migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 97,000 Topi, 18,000 elands, and 200,000 zebras. These migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
Antelopes can be found, including Grant’s gazelles, impalas, duikers and Coke’s hartebeests. The plains are also home to the distinctive Masai giraffe. The large roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders.
More than 470 species of birds have been identified in the park, many of which are migrants, with almost 60 species being raptors. Birds that call this area home for at least part of the year include: vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested eagles, African pygmy-falcons and the lilac-breasted roller, which is the national bird of Kenya.
Mara Serena Airport, Musiara Airport and Keekorok Airport are located in the Reserve area of the Maasai Mara. Mara Shikar Airport, Kichwa Tembo Airport and Ngerende Airport are located in the Conservation area of the Maasai Mara.
Big Cat Diary:
The BBC Television show titled “Big Cat Diary” is filmed in both the Reserve and Conservation areas of the Maasai Mara. The show follows the lives of the big cats living in the reserve. The show highlights scenes from the Reserve’s Musiara marsh area and the Leopard Gorge, the Fig Tree Ridge areas and the Mara River, separating the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara.
Day trip to Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park, only 8km (5 miles) from the city centre, is Kenya’s oldest national park. Today, it still looks much as it did in the early photographs – wild, undulating pasture – and supports most of East Africa’s best known wildlife, including lion, rhino, giraffe, buffalo and zebra (but not elephant).
Explore Kenya’s coral coast
Visitors can choose between scuba-diving, snorkelling, sailing, waterskiing, swimming or surfing along Kenya’s coral coast. The most popular resorts include Bamburi, Kikambala, Kilifi, Malindi, Nyali and the 10km- (6-mile) long, dazzlingly white Diani Beach. Another good base for watersport is the Rift Valley lake of Naivasha, about 1.5 hours drive from Nairobi.
Feed the giraffes
At the Langata Giraffe Centre near Nairobi, you can feed the resident Rothschild giraffes from a giraffe-height tower (www.giraffecenter.org), visit a bird sanctuary or follow a nature trail. Listed as endangered by the IUCN, Rothschild’s giraffe is a localised race now confined to a few parts of Kenya and Uganda.
Gaze at the Great Rift Valley
Take in the sweeping views from the road between Nairobi and Naivasha. Here the 2,000m- (6,560ft-) high escarpment walls plunge to the flat-bottomed valley floor below, which is dotted by a small string of volcanoes and brackish soda lakes.
Go wild at Lake Nakuru National Park
Boasting a dramatic setting in the Rift Valley, this park is dominated by a lake whose edges are frequently home to hundreds of thousands of shimmering pink flamingos. It is also one of Kenya’s best rhino sanctuaries, supporting high concentration of both black and white rhino, and you may spot a leopard in the giant yellowwood acacia trees.
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Diani Beach is a major beach on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya (in eastern Africa). It is located 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Mombasa, in the nearby Kwale County.
The beach is about 10 kilometres (6 mi) long, from the Kongo river to the north and Galu beach to the south (the southern point of reference is an old Baobab tree). It is adjacent to the town of Ukunda, the population of which nears 100,000 inhabitants.
Diani can be reached either by plane or road by passing from the mainland onto Mombasa island and from thence on a picturesque ferry which crosses the sea inlet to the docks, land on the south coast mainland, and from there a drive of about 20 kms to this small paradise.
Diani was just a fishing settlement about 40 years ago, but saw a boom in the 70s when tourists wishing to come to Africa found Kenya the ideal place, as there was so much strife and problems in other African countries.
Hotels mushroomed along the 5 mile coast road, which was tarmacadamed at that time from a dusty track; a small airport was built by literally by hand (and blessed by the late first Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta); and Diani has continued to develop to the cosmopolitan resort it is now, without losing its charm and simple ambience.
The water remains shallow near shore, with some underwater sandbars near the surface which allow wading with a clear view of the sandy bottom. Inland from the beach, there is extensive vegetation, including numerous palm trees which cover the coastal areas, unlike the dry acacia trees of the mountainous Kenyan Highlands. The Mwachema River flows into the sea at Diani Beach.
The general area is known for its coral reefs, black-and-white colobus monkeys, and for the closely located Shimba Hills National Reserve, a wildlife reserve which looks out over the Indian Ocean. Diani Beach has high-class restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, and several shopping centres.
Diani Beach is also a popular kitesurfing location.