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Masai Mara National Park Attractions And Landmarks Guide
While dwarfed in size by some other Kenyan game parks, Masai Mara is the country’s best known and most popular reserve. Not only is it relatively accessible from Nairobi, Kenya’s largest city, but it’s one of the best places to watch the annual Great Migration of vast numbers of wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, buffalo and other grazing animals -- the subject of countless wildlife documentaries.
Masai Mara (also spelled Maasai Mara) is actually the northern extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, where the Great Migration begins and ends. The Mara River separates the two countries, and it’s there, in the river, where crocodiles lie in wait for the weakest members of the hoofed herds to falter and become their next meal.
Lions and cheetahs, meanwhile, wait their turns on land, and jackals and hyenas are always ready to steal and feast on any remains. It’s a drama played year in and year out, part of the cycle of life on these magnificent East African plains, though not meant for the faint of heart.
One caveat: while the drama takes place roughly between June and October, there’s no exact timetable for when the herds of wildebeest and the rest will actually begin their stampede and cross the river in search of greener pastures during the dry season. July and August seem the safest months to catch the show, but there are no guarantees.
Spotting the Big Five
If you can’t make it to Masai Mara for the Great Migration, don’t despair. The reserve is packed with wildlife at any time of year, and the open plains allow for viewing across broad swaths of parkland. You can spot the Big Five here -- lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino (though rhino are fairly rare) -- along with many other species. But the park is especially noted for its big cats: lions -- the most of any reserve in Kenya -- as well as leopards and cheetahs. It’s not unusual during a game drive to spot all three in one day, or to set sights on several different prides of lions.
The park’s downside is that its popularity brings crowds, including lots of safari vehicles, sometimes all chasing the same pride of lions. But even this has an upside, since many of the animals are so used to the human and vehicle presence that they go about their daily routines much as they would if left entirely alone.
Variety of Lodgings
The park itself is bordered to the west by a number of private reserves that tend to be far less crowded, but generally more expensive to stay in. Within or outside the park, you can choose among luxury lodges, tented camps or, for safari-goers on a budget, rustic camping, and tour operators may offer several different options.
With so many possibilities to choose from, it’s wise to rely on Stride’s easy-to-use tools to find the Masai Mara tour operator that makes the most sense for your preferences. Whether you want to travel in comfort and are willing to rough it, you’ll find the outfitters that are best for your situation right here.