Have you ever dreamt of a wild Africa, to experience grassland plains like no other, meet a unique tribe of people like none other, and expand your views; spotting zebra, eland, lions, cheetahs and gnus under a warm, hazy sun? Then the Masai Mara should be your next destination, now more than ever.
The Masai Mara was established in 1961 to protect wildlife from hunters. The Masaai Mara Game Reserve is the reason many visitors come to Kenya, and its beauty and abundant wildlife don’t disappoint. C4 Photo Safaris have been leading Safaris into the Masai Mara for 13 consecutive years. The forst time we visited it was in 2002 amnd since 2008 we have run safaris there every year.
1. Nominated as the seventh New Wonder of the World because of the amazing spectacle of more than 1 million wildebeests, half a million gazelles, and 200,000 zebras, the Masai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing areas. The annual wildebeest’s migration alone involves over 1.5 million animals arriving in July and departing in November.
2. The build up of excitement leading towards your very first sighting of wildebeest crossing the great Mara River (often called “the greatest show on earth”). Watching swathes of migrating wildebeest following in motion the distant storms, only to stop and turn around to follow an even closer formation of brewing clouds that will ultimately bring upon rain and fresh grazing, adding drama to the vast open plains of the Mara.
3. Driving out of camp and seeing the open plain in front of you, filled to the horizon with biomass is something you don’t forget easily. Heaving, mooing and grazing wildebeest and zebra condensed so tightly into one scene is something I have only seen once in my time in the Mara. As you drive through them they part like bread being cut, except the bread closes in behind you! We spent a full morning enjoying this sighting, photographing its intensity and knowing that it will not be around again soon. The following morning we drove out of camp and those exact 120 000 animals were, gone.
4. The Masai people. Not only do they hold the title of being the most recognized tribe in the world, but they are some of the friendliest and most hospitable too. Their great humor, stunning brightly coloured attire, pride for their culture and love for their land have quickly turned our guides into both friends and good photographers.
5. Predators. Besides tracking and following the migration, you will search for as many predators as possible, particularly; Cheetah – the great plains are home to these majestic cats. Recently, some travellers have been very fortunate to witness the coalition of the 5 cheetah brothers dominating the Masai Mara. But let us not forget Leopards resting in the treetops around camp too. Where ever you look, predators abound. It is one of the great predator paradises of the natural world, something many people dont appreciate.
6. General wildlife species. Unfamiliar sightings of general wildlife such as topi standing aloft termite mounds and tiny shy dik dik’s going about their daily routine. The Mara houses some of the largest buffalo bulls on the continent. Nowhere in Africa is wildlife more abundant, and it is for this reason a visitor hardly misses seeing the big five, cheetah, serval, hyena, bat-eared foxes, black-backed and side-striped jackals, hippo, crocodile, baboons, warthog, topi, eland, Thompson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, impala, waterbuck, oribi, reed-buck, zebra. It’s a smorgasbord of animal viewing that if you blink, you miss some species.
7. Something for everyone. A special for birders, amongst others, are the large relatively common Rupell’s griffon and a huge density of raptors.
8. Landscapes: The vast open grasslands covered in Red Grass. The rich volcanic soils hold this incredibly nutritious grass that ultimately supports one of the largest mammalian migrations on earth. Not forgetting the mighty Sand River, which is the border between Kenya and Tanzania. The riverbanks are bordered with ancient riverine trees, which teem with birdlife. The stunning landscape of the Masai Mara, which is like none other. You can see for miles in any direction of the soft rolling grass-covered hills, dotted with a few lone trees.
9. The build up to an afternoon thunderstorm, as well as the calm after the storm – this is always the best time to be out on the open plains. Smelling the rain in the Mara. Being able to stand up in the vehicle, the wind in your hair, driving over the plains with the storm clouds above you is one of the most magical sensations ever. The plains spread out in front of you and the drama in the sky makes the atmosphere quite palpable. You can almost see the afternoon playing out and so for me this is our version of “Gods Country."
10. Tusker beer. Kenya’s local Tusker beer has become synonymous with safari, and nothing quenches your thirst better when you arrive back at camp after a game drive.