Meaning “spotted” in the Maa language of the Maasai, it’s easy to see why the Masai Mara is so called. The rolling grasslands of this 1,500km² reserve are dotted with flat-topped thorn trees, dappled with cloud shadow and during the Great Migration, flecked with an unbelievable number of wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle.
Between July to October, over two million wildebeest and thousands of zebra migrate north from Tanzania’s Serengeti in search of fresh water and new grass. They are what most visitors come to Kenya to see; however, the Mara has reliably good gameviewing throughout the year.
The herds attract plenty of large predators such as lion, leopard and hyena, and the interactions between the animals are extraordinary. River crossings are particularly exciting, as the wildebeest are preyed upon by hundreds of hungry crocodiles waiting in the seething waters.
The plains of the Masai Mara are the permanent home of all of the “Big 5” as well as a plethora of antelope ranging from the tiny dik-dik through to the imposing eland. So even when the wildebeest and zebra herds have departed for the Serengeti, you’ll find this one of the best places in all of Africa to observe big game species such as black rhino and cheetah.
As the reserve can get busy, staying in private concessions adjoining the Masai Mara provides a measure of exclusivity. It also allows visitors to enjoy activities not permitted in the main reserve such as walking safaris. Whilst game drives are the most common means of exploring the Mara, why not consider floating over the landscape in a hot air balloon? This magical experience provides a bird’s eye view of the reserve, and concludes with an indulgent champagne breakfast in the bush.