African Safari – Masai Mara National Reserve – Background information
The Masai Mara National Reserve (also spelled Maasai Mara, and known by the locals as ‘the Mara’) is a large game reserve in south-western Kenya, which is effectively the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park game reserve in Tanzania. Named after the Maasai people (the traditional inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from a viewpoint – “Mara”, which is Maa (Maasai language) for spotted: an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savannah and cloud shadows that mark the area. It is famous for its exceptional population of Big Cats, game, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and wildebeest from the Serengeti every year from July to October, a migration so immense it is called the Great Migration.
The Masai Mara National Reserve is only a fraction of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, which includes the following Group Ranches; Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien and Kimintet.
The Masai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) covers some 1,510 square kilometres (583 sq mi) in south-western Kenya. It is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 25,000 square kilometres (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 south-east-north-west gradient, varies in space and time, and is markedly bimodal. The Sand, Talek and Mara 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 Oloololo Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, and wildlife tends to be most concentrated here, as the swampy ground means that access to water is always good and 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.