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Where is the Masai Mara?

Map of the World,
showing Africa in red.
Map of Africa,
showing Kenya in red.
Map of Kenya,
showing Masai Mara in red.
Map of World Map of Africa Map of Kenya

An area of gently rolling hills, woodland and acacia trees
which is watered by the Mara and Talek rivers
and opens onto the Serengeti plains of Tanzania.

What are the animals?

Much of the wildlife can be divided into mammals, birds and reptiles. Many of the mammals can be divided into carnivores, primates and ungulates (hooved animals). Carnivores include cheetah, genet, hyena, jackal, leopard, lion, mongoose, serval and wild dog. Primates include baboon, bushbaby and monkey. Odd-toed ungulates include rhino and zebra. Even-toed ungulates include buffalo, giraffe, hippo, warthog and antelope (bushbuck, dik-dik, duiker, eland, gazelle, hartebeest, impala, klipspringer, kudu, oribi, reedbuck, roan antelope, topi, waterbuck and wildebeest). The so-called "Big Five" are Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros. The "Big Nine" extends this to include Cheetah, Zebra, Giraffe and Hippo.

A brief taxonomy of living organisms

Many living organisms can be classified as plants or animals. The animal kingdom can be split loosely into those animals with backbones (vertebrates) and those without. Vertebrates can be classed as amphibians, birds, fish, mammals or reptiles. Each of these classes may be divided into orders; for example mammals include all carnivores, insectivores and rodents. The different orders are then broken into families, families into genera, genera into species.

Where are the animals?

The general location of animal communities depends on the habitat. Vegetation varies according to the type of soil and drainage but is also influenced by fire, rain and grazing animals (including destructive elephants). "Grassland" is most common, especially in areas of poor drainage, frequent fires or heavy grazing - supporting a wide range of herbivores which all prefer different grasses and shoots. "Bushland" is particularly vulnerable to fire and foraging elephants - the favourite place of rhino. "Woodland" is often populated with acacia trees (with rich edible leaves) - where you might find monkey and giraffe. The Rivers are home of hippo and crocodile.

Who are the Maasai?

The Maasai are a proud semi-nomadic cattle-rearing people with a fascinating culture. They are divided into a number of sub-tribes some of which share the Mara region. They have a very special relationship with cattle which are essential to their life-style. The Maasai have survived a troubled history but are under increasing pressure to conform with modern society.

What's in a name?

The Masai Mara Game Reserve is often called simply "The Mara" which is the Maa word meaning "Mottled" - a reference to the patchy landscape. Both spellings "Masai" and "Maasai" are acceptable although the latter is more usual when referring to the people. The Masai Mara is a Game Reserve (sometimes called a National Reserve) although an inner area is treated as a National Park. Reserves are normally managed by local authorities and allow lodges, camp sites and the settling of some tribespeople with their cattle. National Parks are normally managed centrally and do not allow any human inhabitation other than for Park Rangers and people on safari.

Other Kenya Reserves include the Arawale, Bisanadi, Boni, Buffalo Springs (and Samburu), Dodori, Kakamega Forest, Kerio Valley (Kamnarok), Kiunga Marine, Kora, Lake Bogoria, Losai, Mwea, Nasolot, North Kitui, Rahole, Samburu (and Buffalo Springs), Shaba, Shimba Hills, South Kitui, South Turkana, Tana River Primate. Kenya National Parks include the Aberdares (with Treetops and The Ark), Amboseli, Central Island (in Lake Turkana), Hell's Gate, Kisite-Mpunguti Marine, Lake Nakuru, Malindi (and Watamu) Marine, Marsabit, Meru, Mount Elgon, Mount Kenya, Nairobi, Ol Doinyo Sapuk, Ruma, Saiwa Swamp, Sibiloi, South Island (in Lake Turkana), Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Wasini Marine, Watamu (and Malindi) Marine. There are also Sanctuaries at Crescent Island and Maralal. However the Masai Mara remains one of the best places to see wildlife in Kenya.

Where can you stay?

There are a number of Lodges (including Keekorok, Mara Serena, Mara Sopa) and Camps (including Fig Tree, Governor's, Intrepids Club, Kichwa Tembo, Mara Buffalo, Mara Cottar's, Mara River, Mara Sarova), plus other campsites (on the Talek River and near some of the Gates).

Please try to follow these guidelines
when visiting the Masai Mara:

Keep noise to a minimum to avoid disturbing the wildlife (it is very important that the carnivores have some peace alone for their hunting, particularly if they have young to feed). Listen and enjoy the natural sounds of the Mara itself.

Try to leave the Mara as you found it. Don't leave any litter (especially if burning or flammable) or remove any plants, wildlife or other items.

Don't feed the animals or take any pets with you. Only leave your vehicle or make camp at designated areas (but don't light camp fires unless permitted). Don't hang out of your vehicle or sit on the roof (and don't try stroking passing lion cubs however cute they look!).

It is recommended that you use a local driver/guide; this is an advantage because s/he should be familiar with the area, able to give you lots of information about the animals and their habitat, and know where they can currently be found plus how best to approach them.

If you choose to drive yourself then remember that animals have the right of way and don't drive too close to them. Keep to the speed-limit (usually 30-50kph) and don't drive off the tracks damaging vegetation. Make sure your vehicle is reliable, that you carry a map, spare tyre and toolkit. Don't travel before sunrise or after sunset.

mmlogo Above all
be sensible and considerate
to the animals and their home.


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