Masai Mara Area

Its grass-carpeted smooth hills, the chocolate Mara river waters with hippos, as well as the rich faunal diversity, fulfill the expectations of any visitor searching the African landscapes portraited in motion pictures such as "Out of Africa" or "Mogambo". Save particular tastes or special requirements, this is the park on top of the "must" list in the country: no trip to Kenya would be complete without a visit to Masai Mara. True that it's not the best park for birdwatching, and true that some species are not easily found. However, leopards and rhinos abound, and with more than 450 bird species, the reserve should not be envious of Samburu or the great Kenyan bird sanctuaries. Albeit, in an area only slightly smaller than the State of Rhode Island and with a diverse and complex geography, getting lost is far easier than finding a leopard or sighting a given bird species in its multiple woods.

The reserve, gazetted in 1961, is located west of the Rift Valley and is a natural extension of the Serengeti plains, in Tanzania. The Mara river, the reserve's backbone, traverses north to south heading for its westbound way unto lake Victoria, through the Tanzanian park. This course is the natural barrier crossed every year by the large migratory herds of wildebeests and zebras which march across the two parks. As explained below, more than one million wildebeests and 200,000 zebras move in a quest for the best pastures, finding along the way the crocodile-crowded river. When the herds ford the stream, many animals die flattened or drowned and leave their bones by the Mara banks. From July to October, Masai Mara is at

its peak, with the seasonal visitors populating the vast grasslands.

Masai Mara's location and altitude, above 1,500 m, yield a climate which is milder and damper than in other regions. The grassy landscape and the nutrient wealth for the great herds are mantained by the abundant rains, which here last from November through June, as a fusion of the two rain seasons (long and short) typical in other Kenya areas. Night storms are frequent. In the hills and plains, grasslands are scattered with acacia woods and bush. The riverbanks of the Mara and of the multiple tributary streams are bordered by dense riverine forests with a good chance to find some of the reserve's bird species.

The long distance to the country's main urban centers poses a difference that allows this reserve to keep one of the features which is becoming today an oddity in African parks: wildlife roams in complete freedom, without fences or other obstacles around. Animals make no notice of the borders drawn on the papers, not only those which split Kenya from Tanzania but the limits of the protected area as well. The reserve is surrounded north and east by the so-called dispersal area, inhabited by the Maasai but otherwise similar to the territory within the limits, with equal or even higher opportunities to spot wildlife than at the reserve itself, frequently overcrowded by tourists arriving and wandering around by car, minibus, airplane, balloon or microlight.

Since it is protected as a reserve and not as a national park, Masai Mara is not managed by Kenya Wildlife Service but by the local authorities, namely District Councils. The problem appears with the administrative divisions, defined by the Mara river. The eastern sector belongs to Narok District, whereas the western side lies in Transmara District. This detail, apparently irrelevant, is actually something to bear in mind: in theory, the fees paid at the gate cater for visiting the sector under the jurisdiction of the district through which the visitor has accessed. In practice, this condition is usually overlooked, but just in case you'd better leave the park through the same district you entered.

The nomad pastoral tribe, formerly feared because of their warrior attitude, inhabits these lands from old. But the Masai Mara region had already been deserted over the 19th century, when epidemics and tribal warfare decimated the Maasai people and drove them to a decline which they are still expecting to recover from. Thus, an ancient Maasai prophecy which forecasted the arrival of the foreigners also foresaw a future that would bring back the old splendour days.

When the reserve was inaugurated, in 1961, it was done so as to protect animals in a deserted and wild country, in which wildlife was coming to an end due to massive killings committed by white hunters. The protection of this area, among other factors, favored re-population of the territory by the Maasai, who by virtue of the reserve status were put in charge of the reserve's management through the District Councils. Though land conflicts are still about, the chosen formula for preserving this natural space attempts to render some reward to the Maasai by means of trade with tourists, both through campsite management, handicraft selling and visits to villages. All of it provides a permanent income source, albeit scarce and fluctuating, for this people who fight for preserving their traditions against progress. Their aspect and legend has made them

Currently ,many Maasai customs are restricted by law, such as lion hunting, while others like traditional nurturing on blood and milk fall into oblivion little by little. Meanwhile, tourists expect to find at the same time the Orzowei's Maasai and a safe and peaceful country, devoid of poaching, with no cattle in the reserves and without muggers


Places to visit in Tanzania

1

Ruaha National Park

2

Selous Game Reserve

3

Pemba Island

4

Tarangire National Park

5

Mountain Kilimanjaro

Places to Visit in Uganda

1

Bwindi Impenetrable Park

2

Queen Elizabeth National Park

3

Murchison Falls National Park

4

Lake Mburo National Park

5

Kidepo Valley National Park

Places to Visit in Kenya

1

Masai mara,

2

Amboseli

3

Lake Nakuru

4

Lake Naivasha

5

Tsavo East Tsavo

Places to Visit in Rwanda

1

Nyungwe-Canopy Walk

2

Akagera National Park

3

Lake Kivu

4

Volcanoes National Park

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