Maasai Mara National Reserve is a photographers paradise. It is also a place where you might witness Human Wildlife Conflicts firsthand. An interesting area, but not as wild as most of the places I normally visit.
Maasai Mara National Reserve for the first time
Maasai Mara is the most famous game reserve in Kenya. It lies in the south-western part of Kenya and it is easily accessible by air from the capital Nairobi. The Greater Mara ecosystem compromise of Maasai Mara National Reserve, the Mara Triangle and several conservancies owned by the Maasai. It is approximately 1510 km² in size and a very important wildlife conservation area even if it is small in comparison. Maasai Mara is part of the huge Mara-Serengeti ecosystem which covers roughly 25000 km².
Together with Serengeti National Park in Kenya, Maasai Mara hosts the annual Great Migration. A spectacle that most nature lovers now about. During the migration the plains of Maasai Mara become filled with millions of grazers. That is why the area also are renowned for its high density of predators like lions, leopard, spotted hyena and cheetah.
Lion cubs smack
The Mara and its location
Maasai Mara is the northernmost section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. To the south lies Serengeti, to the west the Siria / Oloololo escarpment as well as Maasai pastoral ranges, like the ones you find north and east of the Reserve.
The terrain of the Mara is primarily open grassland with seasonal rivers. The Sand, Talek and Mara are the major rivers where the annual rainfall accumulates. You will find shrubs and trees fringe most drainage lines as well as covering hillslopes and hilltops. Maasai Mara have two main rain periods, the great rains in March-April and the short rains at the end of the year.
The temperatures are pleasant all year around with highs around 30⁰C and you will have rainfall during most months. The elevation of the Reserve is 1500-2000 meters above sea level, most probably being the reason for the pleasant climate.
Topis at sunset
Research in Maasai Mara
There are many different research projects going on in and around the Mara. Some of the more noticeable are the Mara Hyena Project where the University of Michigan study the behaviour of the Spotted Hyena. Other projects that you can find are the Mara Meru Cheetah project, Mara Naboisha Big Cat project, Mara Elephant project as well as many more. Maasai Mara is an area where you have easier access to your study objects than in other parts of Africa. It is also a place where humans and wildlife still live close together, with the Maasai relying upon the land to sustain their cattle. I would say that will see traces of HWC, Human Wildlife Conflict, if you visit the Reserve. It is hard to miss and one of the reasons why I think there are so many different research projects in the area.
Zebras in high key
My visit to the Mara
I went to the Mara at the end of the great rains. The reason behind this was simple. I wanted as few other tourists as possible as I know I do not want to be there during high season. It was an exploration trip to get my own experience from the place.
I can hardly complain after some productive days. For photographers and for first-time safari goers I understand the lure of The Mara. Even during the low season, we got to witness things I have never seen before. I can only imaging how much action there can be during the Migration. Still, I will find it hard to go there at that time due to the number of tourists. If I ever go there at that time, I need to find a way to work away from the crowds, because I do not want to be a participant around the river crossings together with 60 other vehicles.
And remember to check my blog posts with material from this trip.