Kenya's most famous and most visited reserve is in fact only the continuation, on Kenyan territory, of the immense Tanzanian Serengeti Park, which covers almost 15,000 km². The two sanctuaries constitute a gigantic ecosystem in which the animals circulate freely. It is this exceptionally rich fauna that makes the Maasai Mara an exceptional reserve.
Lions, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, elephants, rhinoceroses, antelopes, zebras, gazelles, buffalos: they are all there, in unimaginable proportions. The great migration takes place from the beginning of July to mid-September and is a grandiose spectacle in magnificent and varied landscapes.
Composed of vast undulating plains and hills, this territory is dotted with umbrella acacias and thorn bushes. For some, it is these touches of colour that are said to be the origin of the name Mara, which means "spotted" in the Maa language. For others, it seems more likely that it was the invasion of two million herbivores that gave Mara its name. Unfortunately, like Amboseli, the Maasai Mara is a fragile ecosystem, now under threat.
Its worldwide reputation attracts a considerable number of tourists and the concentration of vehicles there sometimes takes on alarming proportions. It is not uncommon to observe a poor lioness, or a cheetah on the hunt, surrounded by a dozen vehicles. Not only is this situation unpleasant for the tourist who feels like he is in a zoo, but above all it disturbs the animals and changes their behaviour. The cheetah, in particular, is now hunting at noon to avoid being disturbed by tourists. Because the heat at this time of day is very high, it tires faster, catches less prey and, naturally, reproduces less. The constant traffic of vehicles also leads to soil degradation, which only accentuates the modification of the landscape. Gradually, the bush, made up of bushes and clumps of trees, is transformed into vast pastures. There are several reasons for this: first of all, natural, with the considerable increase in the number of herbivores, and secondly, human, because of the fires started by the Maasai pastoralists. This method, which is practised worldwide, provides better quality pasture for the herds and does not pose any serious problems as long as it is practised outside the park. Unfortunately, the wild animals (zebras, gazelles, wildebeest...) quickly realized that the grass outside the reserve is much better. As a result, they migrate beyond the boundaries of the Maasai Mara, accompanied by some of the predators.
In order to avoid accidents with the local population and so that the reserve is not deserted by its animals, the rangers in turn start fires. Trees and bushes are gradually disappearing in favour of a herbaceous savannah.
All these problems don't seem to move the Narok Council, who are too busy trying to raise as much money as possible. Yet he's the one who's supposed to be running the reserve. But the huge revenues from entrance fees are not sufficiently reinvested in the park. As a result, the trails are deteriorating and the access road to the reserve has only just been completed, after years of work.
Due to the poor condition of the roads and paths, during the rainy season and the following days, many paths are closed, forcing the visitor to stay on the main roads or risk getting stuck. A harmful restriction, when you know that you are more likely to find animals on the confines of small roads immersed in the savannah than on the main roads that are widely visited. It is therefore better to choose your period of stay carefully so as not to be confronted with these difficulties.
Despite these few problems, the place is still one of the most extraordinary natural spectacles in the world. Walking among hundreds of wildebeest, watching for minutes on end for a lioness on the prowl, watching a group of hyenas tearing apart a carcass, or being tenderized by young cubs playing are all unforgettable experiences that only the Maasai Mara can offer you. Don't neglect the months of May/June and October to visit the reserve, there will always be as many animals to observe (even if not as impressive as during the migration period) and far fewer tourists. The price of your stay will also be considerably reduced.