Maasai Mara National Reserve
When it comes to game-viewing, there is nowhere in Africa richer in wildlife or more eventful in encounters than the Mara. A pristine wilderness of haunting beauty, it promises its visitors a profusion of wildlife, prolific bird life and the unprecedented opportunity of catching up with all the members of the 'Big Five' in one morning. As to scenery, the 1,800 sq kilometres of this veteran reserve offer the classic mix of African imagery; miles of lion-gold grasslands, shoals of lilac-misted hills, a meandering river, acres of thorn-bush and mile upon mile of undulating wilderness.
The Miracle of the Migration of the Wildebeest.
Known as the 'greatest show on earth' the annual migration of up to one and a half million animals between the dry plains of Tanzania and the lush grasslands of Kenya (and back again) has featured as an annual event on Earth's calendar for the past two million years. And it's still as extraordinary, enlightening and exciting an event as ever.
Taking place around the months of August and September the migration is a spectacle, both comic and tragic, that features the epic journey of vast herds of wildebeest between the grasslands of Kenya and Tanzania - flanked by a carnival of other herbivores and stalked by a ruthless pack of predators. As a vivid portrayal of the violence of the concept, 'survival of the fittest', this is a spectacle, not always for the faint-hearted, that goes beyond memorable and into momentous.
The Mara is a beautiful but sensitive environment that can survive only if properly respected. Well-watered by the Mara River, enjoying abundant vegetation, wildlife and rainfall, its ecology would appear, at first sight, to be relatively resilient. It also appears to have withstood the erosive effects of huge numbers of visiting tourists extraordinarily well. There are signs, however, that the delicate balance between tourist numbers and wildlife populations cannot be properly maintained for much longer as evidenced by the reduction in the protective vegetation cover and the emergence of a series of dust bowls.
Meanwhile, the Reserve is host to 95 species of mammals, amphibians and other reptiles and 485 species of birds. During the dry season (July to October) it also hosts a major concentration of migratory herbivores including about 250,000 zebra and 1.3 million wildebeest. Amongst the list of easy-to-view species are: gazelle, elephant, topi, buffalo, lion (Kenya's largest population), black rhino, hippo, hyena, giraffe, leopard and mongoose.
The Maasai People.
As its name would suggest the Maasai Mara is the home of the fabled Maasai peoples. Often strikingly tall and slender, swathed in brilliant red cloth 'Shukas', hung about with beads and metal jewellery, the young men (Moran) favour 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 world's cattle are theirs by God-given right. Their nomadic and pastoral lifestyle, though historically based on the pursuit of the migratory wildlife, is slowly changing thanks to a combination of education, Maasai MPs, votes, favourable new laws, projects, jobs and cash.
Climate The coast is always hot with an average daytime temperature of 27-31 degrees centigrade whilst the average daytime temperature in Nairobi is 21-26 degrees centigrade. Temperatures elsewhere depend on altitude. July to August marks the Kenyan winter.