Masai Mara National Reserve
Probably the most famous of the reserves, the Maasai Mara, in Kenya’s south-western corner, boasts an astonishing amount of game. Unfenced, the Mara is bounded in the east by the Ngama Hills and in the west by the Oloololo or Siria Escarpment. Gazelle, wildebeest and zebra graze in large numbers and where prey is found so are predators. Not only is this a great place in which to find game, but the wide greeny-gold savannahs spotted with thorn trees make it ideal for photography.
The Mara, as it is known in Kenya, is ravishingly beautiful and also offers long, undisturbed views and utterly dramatic panoramas. The weather really means something here. The sun may beat down unforgivingly, huge clouds in fabulous shapes may sweep across the widest of skies, the wind ripples the grasses as though they are stroked by a giant hand. The landscape is stunning. The famously black-manned Mara lions are possibly the stars of the Mara show, but cheetah, elephant, kongoni, topi, Thompson’s gazelle, waterbuck, hyena, and primates are all here too. As with the rest of Kenya, the birding is good. There is no settlement within the reserve, however; the Mara is in theory owned by the Maasai, pastoralists and, in earlier times, renowned lion-killers. Lodges and hotels offer the opportunity to buy their beadwork, checked clothes and copies of their spears. It is said that if lions scent approaching Maasai on the breeze they move swiftly in the opposite direction.
Famously, the Mara is the northerly end of the Great Migration, that great primaeval surge of wildebeest, zebra and antelope that sweeps in from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Masai Mara as the Tanzanian grass starts to fail. They are tracked by the large predators that pick off the weak, the stragglers and the young. The great herds, nearing their destination by July, mass along the Mara River pushing, shoving and fantastically noisy, just waiting for the first animal to cross so that they can all follow, lemming-like, on the final leg of the journey. However, crocodiles lie in wait, sluggishly cruising the waters, fully prepared for their best meal of the year.