Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The Masai Mara National Reserve (sometimes abbreviated to ‘the Mara’ meaning ‘mottled’ – due to its patchy landscape) is Kenya’s best known game reserve. It is coined by gently rolling hills, woodland and acacia trees and watered by two rivers, the Mara and Talek. There are no fences between the Masai Mara and the bordering Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, allowing large numbers of animals roam freely between the two parks.
The most dramatic spectacle of the area is the migration of zebra and wildebeest. In May every year, they leave the dry south in herds of thousands and head west and then north to the greener grasses. Lion, cheetah, hyena and wild dog follow the wildebeest and zebra, making sure that only the fittest survive. In November, when the grazing is finished in the north, this army of animals surges back to the now green pastures of the south where they calve and mate before starting the entire cycle again.
You will also be likely to spot the ‘Big 5’ here - buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion and leopard. It’s little known but the term originally referred to the 5 large animals that proved the most challenging to early colonial hunters – and therefore became a much sort after prize. Nowadays visitors prefer to ‘shoot’ the animals with cameras rather than guns. The park also has very healthy populations of cheetah, zebra, giraffe, hippo, hyena, jackal, eland, crocodile and a wide variety of birds.
Several sub-tribes of the Masai people live within the Mara area. These are a proud semi-nomadic, non-hunting people who live and raise their cattle in harmony with the surrounding wildlife. Despite the growth of modern civilization, the Masai have largely managed to maintain their traditional ways.
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