Why Maasai Mara, is still Ranked the Best Safari Destination in 2023 Despite the Drought
Maasai Mara is Africa’s top and most popular safari destination, with Kenya as the original safari country. It is a world-renowned wildlife reserve located on the southwest border of Kenya bordering Tanzania’s Serengeti national park to the west. It is famous for the great migration, the wildlife, the cultures of the Maa people, and its scenic views and beautiful landscapes. Though there are many different places where you can see the famous Big 5, here’s why Mara should be your top choice.
Table of Contents
Of the many tribes across Kenya, the Maasai are one of the few tribes who have upheld and retained traditions, lifestyles and traditional lore. The Maa people are famous for being semi nomadic pastoral behavior as they herd cattle and goats. The Maasai were the dominating tribe having the largest share of the most fertile lads across Kenya before the European colonization. Though they tried to fight them, their warriors and weapons were no match for the British forces. From this, they lost about two thirds of their land and were forced to move to the less fertile parts of Kenya and Tanzania.
Due to their nomadic lifestyle being centered on cattle breeding, cattle became their primary source of food. Cattle and children are also seen as a sign of wealth. A popular belief is that a man with plenty of one and not the other is considered poor. The cattle provide meat, milk and blood for their dietary needs. Bulls, goats and lambs were slaughtered for meat during special occasions and ceremonies. As time has gone on, their cattle herds have shrunk in number and the Maasai have turned to other foods such as sorghum, rice, potatoes and cabbages.
The hide from the slaughtered cattle was used to make clothing before the 1960s where they changed to the commercial cotton cloths that can be seen today in the form of the Maasai shukas of different colors mostly red with plaid patterns.
In the olden days, the Maasai people, being monotheistic, believed and worshiped Engai/ Enkai/Nkai who has a dual nature represented by the two colors: black for Engai Narok who is known to be kind and red for Engai Na-nyokie who is known to be vengeful. They also have two totems of the Maasai community: Oodo Mongi, the red cow and Orok Kiteng, the black cow.
Their totemic animal is the lion that used to be hunted in the olden days and killed during rite of passage ceremonies that gave one great value and status in the community. They do not practice this anymore due to the practice being banned in East Africa in the hopes of conservation of the species. Today, mostly practice Christianity with few practicing Islam.
Their nomadic behavior also influenced their type of shelters. They relied heavily on the readily available materials and their lore on construction to build semi permanent houses. These materials include mud, fallen branches, dung and grass. These shelters are meticulously constructed by the women to maintain heat and surrounded by a fence like structure by the name Enkang, constructed by the men, to provide security to the animals and the compound occupants.
Maasai Mara is also home to the Maasai people, a semi-nomadic tribe with a unique and rich culture. A visit to the park offers a chance to learn about their rich lifestyle and traditional practices, including beading, music, and dance, which have remained mostly unchanged for centuries.
Maasai Mara is in the Maasai land, where Maasai people still live their traditional way of life. You can learn about their culture, customs, and traditions by visiting their villages, attending their ceremonies, and interacting with them
Billed to be the 8th natural wonder of the world, the great migration is truly a spectacle that cannot just be described by words. It is considered as the most significant animal migration. Each year, usually around the months of June to July, the herds cross the border of Tanzania and Kenya from Serengeti national park to Maasai Mara game reserve through the Mara River.
This happens because of the seasonal changes as the southern Serengeti’s southern grasslands dry up and the herds of animals are forced to move west and North towards the northern side of the National park then head west to enter Maasai mara in search for greener pastures for grazing and water. These herds consist of about 1.5 million wildebeests and a couple of thousands of zebras, elands, grants and Thomson’s gazelles.
The spectacle in all of this is the race between the herds and the Nile crocodiles in the river who claim the lives of a couple of thousands of these animals as they all battle to survive. Those who are triumphant in crossing are still at risk of the big cats on the other side of the river. Through the months of august and September, the herds graze in the mara and towards the beginning of January, they start their journey back going West and south towards the southern part of the national park where they will stay till the next migration.
It is hard to accurately predict the exact time when the migration will occur due to the randomness of Mother Nature. It truly is a 365-day-a-year visual phenomenon that keeps the savannah plains fertile.
The Maasai Mara is home to a diverse wildlife populating ranging from prey to predators. The vegetation in Mara supports large herbivores including wildebeests, zebras, Maasai giraffes, African elephants and African buffalos that graze the savannah grasslands and play a crucial role in the ecosystem. These herbivores become the source of food for the predators of the land that include African lions, African leopards and cheetahs who room the grasslands are woodlands showing off their great hunting skills.
The Nile crocodiles also fall into this category as they thrive in the Mara River and can be seen on the river banks. There is a population of about 35-50 black rhinos populating the reserve. The Mara River is also home to hippos.
The reserve is home to other species such as Aardvark, Aardwolf, African hare, Banded mongoose, Bat Eared Fox , Bush baby, Bushbuck , Coke’s Hartebeest, Common Eland, Copper Tailed Monkey/ Red Tailed Monkey, Crested Porcupine, Dwarf Mongoose, Grant’s Gazelle, Honey Badger, Impala, Kirk’s Dik-Dik, Klipspringer, Olive Baboon, Oribi, Pangolin, Side Striped Jackal, Slender Mongoose , Spotted Hyena, Spring Hare, Straw Colored Fruit Bat, Thomson’s Gazelle, Topi , Vervet Monkey, Warthog , Waterbuck and Wildebeest and is also home to about 37 known species of birds.
Having being located on the southwest part of Kenya which is predominantly semiarid, the vegetation is mostly composed of savannah grassland with patches of trees and scattered dense shrubs that appear to be doted from a far hence the name Maasai which means dotted .
The most common type of grass species in the area is the buffalo grass that spread across most of the reserve and are usually green during the rainy seasons. These grasses provide food for the grazing herbivores in the land.
During the dry seasons, the herbivores animals rely on the acacia trees since the grass dries up. Since these trees aren’t that many in number and not all animals can reach them, they have to migrate to find better grazing lands. Usually this migration is the famous great migration that happens twice annually.
The land also has a plateau called the Siria escarpments on the western side of the reserve and woodlands found along the Mara River where the great migration takes place. The land is also famous for its soap berry tree or desert date that provides food for not only the animals but also to the Maasai communities and is also used for medicinal purposes. The land is also scattered with camphor bushes that the locals refer to as Leleshwa that is used by locals to make oil.
Laita hills are also located here and are home to the Forest of the lost child, known by the locals as Entim Enaimana Enkiyio that covers about 302 km2, with trees up to 200 years old. There is a great legend told by the locals about the origins of the forest’s name.
The scenery and vegetation in the area plays a vital role in the sustainability of not only the wildlife but also the communities that reside within the reserve
A great recommendation on where to stay in the Maasai Mara would be Rhino Tourist Camp located 242.8km from Oloolamuita gate, which is one of the six gates that serve as entryways to the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve, on the slopes of the Oloolamuita hills. It was voted the best camp in Oloolaimuita in the year 2015.
The camp offers a variety of accommodations varying from tents to different sized rooms according to the visitors’ needs.
The campsite has about 40 rooms with single, double and twin occupancy. Some of the rooms are made of stone to cater for guests who are particular about their security from the wild. For those who enjoy being one with nature, the camp also offers tended rooms ideal for the true camping experience.
All the rooms are equipped with mosquito nets and a built-in bathroom with showers, lavatory and washbasin.
The camp is also outfit with a massage parlor that offers diverse massage treatments at affordable prices. They offer healthy and delicious traditional African food prepared by their top chefs and served on a buffet display to give your taste buds a chance to experience our African delicacies.
All the produce used is organic and locally sourced. The camp has 24/7 electricity with backup generators and free WIFI connectivity for all its guests. What more could you possibly need?
The staff is caring and will ensure your stay with them is everything you hoped for if not more.
Maasai Mara is also known for its Memorable and exhilarating balloon rides that offer participants a chance to experience Mara and take in the scenic views of the landscape, vegetation, and the wildlife from the skies. Though it is a bit on the pricier side, it is worth it.
Their launch sites are chosen and designated within or near the reserve for optimal viewing opportunities. The flights usually take place very early before daybreak for the participants to get a chance to view the sunrise pouring over the landscape.
The ride itself takes about an hour and this gives the participants ample time to take in the views as the wildlife move about the reserve. The ground crew ensures that the ride takes off and lands safely and the pilots ensure to practice precaution and provide safety briefings and equipment.
After the flight has ended and the balloon has landed successfully, the participants are welcomed to celebrate the experience with champagne or a bush breakfast that can be organized for them.
This should definitely be on your to-do list if you would like to visit the Mara especially if you would like a chance to view the great migration up close.
Does Rhino tourist camp offer hot showers?
Yes, the camp is equipped with hot and cold showers in all their rooms.
Is there a bar in Rhino Tourist Camp?
The camp does have a bar that is fully stocked with a variety of beers, liquors and soft drinks.
When is the best time to see the hippos?
When the water in the river level is low or at night when they are most active during the evening game drives.