This post includes photos from two safaris in Maasai Mara National Reserve in May 2022. The safaris were private tours due to late booking and a dearth of tourists.st
Before getting to the photos, some background information from Wikipedia helps to set the scene:
The total area under conservation in the Greater Maasai Mara ecosystem amounts to almost 1,510 km2 (580 sq mi). It is the northernmost section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi) in Tanzania and Kenya. It is bounded by the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria / Oloololo escarpment to the west, and Maasai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west….
The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland with seasonal riverlets. In the south-east region are clumps of the distinctive acacia tree. The western border is the Esoit (Siria) Escarpment of the East African Rift, which is a system of rifts some 5,600 km (3,500 mi) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique….
It has a semi-arid climate with biannual rains and two distinct rainy seasons. Local farmers have referred to these as the ‘long rains’ which last approximately six to eight weeks in April and May and the ‘short rains’ in November and December which last approximately four weeks.
Elevation: 1,500–2,180 m (4,920–7,150 ft); Rainfall: 83 mm (3.3 in)/month; Temperature range: 12–30 °C (54–86 °F).
AA Safari Lodge was the base Lamara Tours selected for the stay at Maasai Mara. It is located on the east side of the reserve two miles outside the Sekenani Gate.
Animals in the reserve are most active in the early morning. For best viewing, safaris start at dawn. That meant meeting the guide and driver for breakfast at 06:00 in order to be at the reserve at about 07:00.
Safaris are unpredictable. Wildlife can be anywhere at anytime. Safaris follow no set routine or route. Drivers simply follow one of the main roads or narrow grassland tracks to see what turns up. When something particularly interesting is spotted, other drivers are alerted via shortwave radio.
The safari was in May at the end of the eight-week, “long rain” season. Open rolling savannahs were at their most luxuriant. Tall grass made spotting wildlife a bit harder than in the dry seasons.
We spotted a couple of large avian predators who do most of their hunting on the ground.
Black crowned cranes measure up to 105 cm (3’5″) in length, weigh between 3000-4000g (6.61-8.82lbs) and have a wingspan of 180–200 cm (5’11”-6’7″).
Secretary birds are large terrestrial birds with eagle-like heads and bodies on crane-like legs. They stand about 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) tall with a length of between 1.1 and 1.5 m (3 ft 7 in and 4 ft 11 in) and a wingspan of between 1.9 and 2.1 m (6 ft 3 in and 6 ft 11 in).
Driving around the reserve led to many encounters with several varieties of African antelopes and other grazing animals.
While grazers were plentiful, they were not seen in the numbers that are found during the Great Migration. It occurs annually from July to September when over two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles move through the Serengeti and Maasai Mara. The Maasai Mara and Serengeti are one ecosystem that is bisected by the border between Kenya and Tanzania.
Radio calls alerted us to a cheetah family lounging by the road. The cheetahs ignored the safari vehicles while relaxing and preening.
The cheetahs created a traffic jam reminiscent of bear jams and bison jams in national parks in North America.
A school bus was one of the vehicles caught up in the traffic. It was a reminder that Maasai live in unfenced conservancies immediately surrounding the unfenced reserve. These communities have coexisted with dangerous wildlife for thousands of years.
Other common sights were elephants, giraffes, ostriches and cape buffalos.
We paid a visit to the border where I entered Tanzania and Serengeti National Park illegally.
The only difference between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara is an arbitrary line on the map. During the Great Migration, enormous herds pay no attention to that line.
Speaking of the Great Migration, we also visited the Mara River. It is the major river running through the Mara and the northern Serengeti. TV programs show vast herds crossing this river while trying to cope with crocodiles, lions and angry hippos.
Hippos are the deadliest animal in Africa for humans after the mosquito. Hippos are huge and very aggressive. You’d have to be an Olympic sprinter to outrun one. Estimates of human fatalities caused by hippos range between 500 and 3,000 per year.
The reserve has a rule that people must stay in their vehicles. The rule is confusing because the reserve allows walking and horseback riding safaris in certain situations. We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the open in the middle of the reserve.
I also had a picnic on safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa. That location was fenced. There were no fences for the lunch spot in the Mara.
We saw no attacks by large predators but came upon scenes of recent lion kills. The lions seemed to pay no attention to humans except that they enjoyed using shade from the vehicles as resting places.
Several safari vehicles gathered around a juvenile cape buffalo kill. The lions appreciated the shade the vehicles provided but seemed to have no interest in the people inside. A lion could have easily gotten in a vehicle if it wanted to.
A funny scene played out here between the lions and a lone hyena. As the lions rested. the hyena tried to sneak in to get a bite of the kill. A female kept an eye on the hyena and would chase it off when he got too close.
The hyena must have been hungry because it didn’t give up easily and made several approaches to the kill.
Lions provided more entertainment during what Ezekiel, my guide, called a “lion honeymoon”.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says that lions have no set mating season and that they copulate every 20 – 30 minutes up to 50 times per day. I don’t know about 50 times a day, but these lions copulated three times in about 20 minutes.
Mr. Lion seemed pleased with himself. Mrs. Lion not so much.
Thanks to the abundance of wildlife, Maasai Mara National Reserve offers amazing safaris year round. Conditions were ideal with pleasant temperatures, low humidity and no mosquitos. The singular disappointment was not seeing leopards. The eastern part of the Mara has few trees to entice them. This was my fifth safari experience and the second time in Maasai Mara. Each experience has been different and fun.
Stay tuned for the next posts about the Mara. They will cover a balloon safari and a visit to a Maasai village. Is an African safari on your list of past or future travel adventures? Thanks for visiting.