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The Maasai Mara National Park

The Maasai Mara National Park

Known locally as The Mara, this amazing park is continuous with the Serengeti in Tanzania The Kenya/Tanzania border cuts through the park and divides the Serengeti from the Mara. The frontier is not fenced and animals move freely from one country to the neighbour.

Where is?

About 3 hrs southwest of Nairobi (140 miles). Or a 30 min flight.

How big is the park?

1,150 Km²plus the surrounding concession land which makes the total area just over 3,000 Km² or roughly the size of Devonshire.

Access to the park
There are 6 gates into the park, most on the north and eastern boundary. There is also the Olololo gate on the west, which is used less often.

Habitats of The Mara

Mainly open grassland which is continuous with the Serengeti. Groves of flat-topped acacia trees in the SE. The western border is the Olololo escarpment which is part of the Rift Valley and runs north-south. Rainfall is higher here and the land swampy in places which means animal populations are good here in the west.

Animals of the Mara

Excellent range of species; classic safari country.

Accommodation in the Mara

Too much to list! There is a style of camp/lodge/hotel for everyone, with a broad range of budgets to match

Maasai Mara A lion and his pain!

A lion and his enthusiastic cub

Maasai Mara National Park Migration

The Mara is famous for the annual migration which is one of the greatest spectacles in the safari calendar and takes place in July & August.

Maasai Mara Concession Land

The Maasai Mara in Kenya is only a fraction of the Greater Mara Ecosystem which includes half-a-dozen “Concession Areas” which are continuous with the national park, and there are no fences. These areas of land effectively enlarge the Mara but are in private ownership: several used to be cattle ranches, others are Maasai tribal lands, which have reverted to wildlife sanctuaries. The concessions include: Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, and Kimintet. The significance for the safari-goer is that concession land usually only contains one of two lodges, whereas the National Park has many more, thus the safari vehicle density and human traffic is lower in the concession land, so it’s easier to avoid the dreadful scenes of many vehicles clustered around a single animal. Furthermore, guests at lodges on concession land may enter the national park, but not vice versa. You are also able to drive after dark and conduct walking safaris on concession land, two things you can’t do within the national park.

Maasai Mara Kenya elephant

Kenya elephant

Mara footnote

The Mara is a young park (est. 1961) and has had an ebb and flow to its history. Since 2001 the Mara Conservancy (a not-for-profit company) has been running things and the future looks bright.

There are three principal rivers that drain the reserve, the Sand, Mara and Talek Rivers and (roughly speaking) the triangle between these three, known as the Mara Triangle is THE place to live if you happen to be a lion; perfect lion country: permanent water, plentiful game 12 months of the year and right in the middle of the park, so relatively safe-and-sound. This is the area where the talented author Jonathan Scott produced several of his books included “The Marsh Lions of Mara” and “The Leopard’s Tale”. Research in this area is also responsible for the explanation of big cat behaviour. Rudyard Kipling wrote in the “Just So Stories” that “the cat that walks by his lone” is the way cats are; all cats that is, except for lions. And the explanation is to be found in the Mara Triangle… this is prime lion real-estate and it is in short supply; to hold on to it a cat does best if he co-operates with his brothers and a brother-bond of two or three lions, plus their harem, is a great deal more secure than a cat walking on his lone.

Maasai Mara Hippo in lily pond

Hippo in lily pond

Maasai Mara National Safari

All the concessions and the western part of the Mara are all excellent safari destinations. The part to avoid is the east of the Mara because it is closest to Nairobi (140 miles away) and consequently gets a great deal of human traffic. It is really well worthwhile to travel a little further and reach a more exclusive section.

Maasai Mara Giraffe embrace

Giraffe embrace