What is the Maasai Mara?


Ok, so I spent a 3-day weekend at the Maasai Mara recently, and it was unbelievable. Just amazing.

Safaris are not cheap on the whole, however since I’m already here it seemed like an awful waste not to go and see a bit more of incredible Kenya. However I managed to find a reasonably-priced budget deal, and it was so worth it! There will be many pictures and videos to follow, but first, a bit of background…

The Maasai Mara (also known as the Mara Triangle, or sometimes just “The Mara”) is a national park on the border of Tanzania, and has, at this time of year, one of the highest concentrations of wild animals in the world. As you can see from this map I have shamelessly stolen from google, the Mara is actually very small – the northern-most tip of the Serengeti plains – most of which is in Tanzania.

serengeti-mara-map

However, the wildebeast migration causes it to be one of the most spectacular places in the world at a certain time of year – here’s another stolen image of the wildebeast migration route:

map-great-migration

As you can see, from approx August to November, all of the Wildebeast travel north to the Mara to graze, following the rains to search for fresh pastures. Bear in mind we are talking over a million wildebeast here – they eat a LOT of grass, and basically have to keep moving continuously throughout the year to get enough food. This also means as they move on however, that the faeces and urine of a million wildebeast help to fertilise the plains and ensure the re-growth of the grasses when they return the next year – a truly symbiotic relationship.

The peak attraction of the Mara tends to be in August/September, when the wildebeasts are forced to cross the Mara River in search of fresh grass – this is said to be an impressive sight, although many hundreds die in the stampede to cross the river, drowning, trampled on, or falling from the banks.

And apart from the sheer numbers of wildebeast, what makes the migration so impressive is all of the other animals that go with them.

For example, zebra herds tend to follow and hang out with the wildebeasts, as there is significant safety in numbers – for the zebra, having several hundred other animals who might alert them to predators and raise the alarm can be helpful. The same is true for a number of other grazers such as gazelle, antelopes, and so on. Lions and other big cats also follow these massive wildebeast herds, as an easy source of food. This means that during this period when the herds reach the Mara triangle, there is a much higher concentration of lions, leopards and cheetahs than at other times of year. Similarly, the scavengers such as vultures, jackals and hyenas who rely on the big cats and herds for their food, also follow around the cycle. Other grazing animals such as elephants and giraffes are also there due to the rains and the plentiful supply of grass and plants at this time of year.

And so, you can imagine the spectacular sight for a few months of the year, when a trip to the Mara means you are practically tripping over these incredible wild animals every few minutes.

Truly it was an experience of a lifetime, and I am so very glad I had a chance to see it. I think Kenya may well have just knocked Kashmir off my top spot for most beautiful place in the world, and there is so much I haven’t had the chance to see yet…

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