Maasai Mara, also sometimes spelled Masai Mara and locally known simply as The Mara, is a large national game reserve in Narok, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the area, who migrated to the area from the Nile Basin. Their description of the area when looked at from afar: “Mara” means “spotted” in the local Maasai language, due to the many short bushy trees which dot the landscape.
Maasai Mara is one of the most famous and important wildlife conservation and wilderness areas in Africa, world-renowned for its exceptional populations of lion, leopard, cheetah and African bush elephant. It also hosts the Great Migration, which secured it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and as one of the ten Wonders of the World.
Masai mara was originally established in 1961 and at the time it consisted of only 520 square kilometers (which included the Mara Triangle). Later the amount of land covered in the sanctuary expanded and in 1974 the area received National Reserve status. The area was extended to the east in 1961 to cover 1,821 km2 (703 sq mi) and converted to a Game Reserve.
The Masai Mara Ecosystem is part of the Great Lake Victoria basin. To the east the landscape is dominated by the Ngama Hills, granite and quartz rock formations created by volcanic activity. The natural northwest boundary of the Masai Mara is made up of the Oloololo Escarpment. The western border is the Esoit (Siria) Escarpment of the East African Rift, which is a system of rifts some 5,600 km (3,500 mi) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique.
All members of the “Big Five” – lion, African leopard, African bush elephant, African buffalo, black and white rhinos – are found here all year round. Most safari travelers dream of spotting the coveted ‘Big Five’. Luckily, lions, elephants, leopards and Cape buffalos are a relatively common sight in the Masai Mara. Rhinos do occur but are notoriously difficult to spot. The term ‘Big Five’ actually has a very dark origin.
Administration. The Maasai Mara is administered by the Narok County government. The more visited eastern part of the park known as the Maasai Mara National Reserve is managed by the Narok County Council.
The Maasai Mara is a major research centre for the spotted hyena. With two field offices in the Mara, the Michigan State University based Kay E. Holekamp Lab studies the behaviour and physiology of this predator, as well as doing comparison studies between large predators in the Mara Triangle and their counterparts in the eastern part of the Mara.
Masai mara offers game drives are the most popular activity in the Maasai Mara, but other activities include hot air ballooning, nature walks, photographic safaris and cultural experiences. There are several airfields which serve the camps and lodges in the Maasai Mara, including Mara Serena Airstrip, Musiara Airstrip and Keekorok, Kichwa Tembo, Ngerende Airport, Ol Kiombo and Angama Mara Airstrips, and several airlines such as SafariLink and AirKenya fly scheduled services from Nairobi and elsewhere multiple times a day.
Big Cat Diary
Big Cat Diary, also known as Big Cat Week or Big Cat Live, is a long-running nature documentary series on BBC television which followed the lives of African big cats in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.