The Masai Mara National Reserve is world famous for the Great Wildebeest Migration, a natural spectacle unrivalled for size and drama.
Between July and October, over two million animals follow the rains from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in search of fresh grazing. Among the multitudes are numbered 1 500 000 wildebeest, 200 000 zebra, half a million Thompson’s gazelle and thousands of other antelope.
Their trek becomes a life-and-death drama when they reach the banks of the Mara, Talek and Sand rivers. No wonder this has not only been rated one of the seven wonders of the natural world but has earned the moniker ‘the World Cup of Wildlife’. The animals mill on the rivers’ edge until instinct drives them to cross. Carnivores drawn to the on-the-hoof banquet are the villains of the piece. Great Nile crocodiles kill and feast in the river and on the far side the Big Cats (cheetah, lion and leopard), hyenas and jackals wait. The epitome of great African adventure, this is also life’s great balancing act in action: without predators, the wildebeest numbers would grow too great, but the herbivores’ constant movement from the Serengeti to the Mara and back preserves them from worse predation.
Outside migration time, the drama diminishes but the greater Mara region teems with wildlife all year round, including the Big Five, handsome roan antelope, giraffe and huge pods of hippo, and game viewers reap the reward of fewer safari vehicles and a blissful quiet. Birders pursue their checklist of 470 bird species. The reserve is bordered to the east, north and west by pastoralist ranches and conservancies managed by the Group Ranch Trust. Cattle herds keep the grasslands of the Mara Conservancy short. When the grasses of the reserve grow too high, elephant and antelope grow nervous about the unseen dangers lurking there and move into the conservancy. As they move, so do the carnivores, including the lions made famous by the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries. In consequence, visitors are assured of spotting satisfying numbers of wildlife.
The Masai community is deeply invested in their namesake reserve and the conservancy. The pastoralist ranches and conservancies that make up the Mara Conservancy are managed by the Group Ranch Trust. Masai are employed as knowledgeable guides and trackers and the recently-established Koiyagi Guiding School is equipping young guides, including the first female Masai guides, with additional skills. Cultural visits to the local villages are always rewarding.
Masai Mara National Reserve