The Masai Mara is one of the best known and most popular reserves in the whole of Africa.
The Masai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley, which is a fault line some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long, from Ethiopia's Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. Here the valley is wide and a towering escarpment can be seen in the hazy distance. Most of the game viewing activities occur on the valley floor, but some lodges conduct walking tours outside the park boundaries in the hills of the Oloololo Escarpment. The animals are also at liberty to move outside the park into huge areas known as 'dispersal areas'. There can be as much wildlife roaming outside the park as inside. Many Masai villages are located in the 'dispersal areas' and they have, over centuries, developed a synergetic relationship with the wildlife.
There are four main types of topography in the Mara:
- Ngama Hills to the east with sandy soil and leafy bushes liked by black rhino;
- Oloololo Escarpment forming the western boundary and rising to a magnificent plateau;
- Mara Triangle bordering the Mara River with lush grassland and acacia woodlands supporting masses of game especially migrating wildebeest;
- Central Plains forming the largest part of the reserve, with scattered bushes and boulders on rolling grasslands favoured by the plains game.
Animals And Birds
The plains are full of wildebeest, zebra, impala, topi, giraffe, Thomson's gazelle. Also regularly seen are leopards, lions, hyenas, cheetah, jackal and bat-eared foxes. Black rhino are a little shy and hard to spot but are often seen at a distance.
Hippos are abundant in the Mara River as are very large Nile crocodiles, who lay in wait for a meal as the wildebeest cross on their annual quest to find new pastures.
Every July (or sometimes August), the wildebeest travel over 600 miles (960km) from Tanzania's Serengeti plains, northwards to the Masai Mara and the Mara River is the final obstacle. In October or November, once they have feasted and the grass has all but gone, they turn around and go back the other way.
Altitude is 4,875-7,052 feet (1,500-2,170 metres) above sea level, which yields a climate somewhat milder and damper than other regions. The daytime rarely exceeds 85°F (30°C) during the day and hardly ever drops below 60°F (15°C) at night.
Rainy Season: It rains in April and May and again November
Hot Air Ballooning
Huge savannahs of golden grasslands
Rift Valley escarpment
Masai Mara Baloon Safari
Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is the ultimate ballooning destination. The landscape is stunning and free, and the abundant wildlife can make for spectacular viewings from above. As this is a wilderness area contiguous with the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania, with free-ranging wildlife that is not fenced in, we of course cannot guarantee what you will fly over and what you will see during a particular flight. However, typically seen is a good diversity of animals, and it is likely you will spot elephants, giraffes, various antelope species, and ostriches from the balloon.
Many other tourists also see hyenas, lions, and cheetahs, and ballooning is one of the best ways to search for the elusive black rhino, of which there are less than 40 in the Mara. Depending on the day’s flight path, you may also drift along one of the rivers and see hippos and crocodiles.
If you visit the Mara between July and October, you will probably see the “Great Migration” of over a million wildebeest, along with large numbers of zebras and gazelles. Observing this phenomenon from the balloon is the best way to grasp just how huge the migrating herds really are, and is an experience not to be missed. Regardless of whether the “Big Five” are seen from the balloon, most people say that the balloon flight was a highlight of their safari.
Balloon Safari: (5:30am – 7:30am)
Luggage and bags:
For game drives, you will want something that can keep the dust out. A simple backpack with a zipper may be sufficient for most purposes.
Telephoto Equipment is extremely desirable here. Landscapes can be spectacular, but you've probably come here to see animals, and in many cases they are far off. Filters, and particularly a UV filter, would be good too. Otherwise some of the distant spectacular landscape vanishes when you take your photo. Very fine resolution film would be good if you need to enlarge the photo a lot when you get back.
Snack foods of various kinds that can survive the warm temperatures in the sun during a game drive would probably be useful.