Located in the natural prolongation of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches over 538 sq mi. It is most probably Kenya's most famous reserve, maybe even Africa's most famous, actually. Created in 1961, it was named after the river which flows across it, the Mara River and the population who lives there, the Maasai. Visitors can enjoy a variety of landscapes such as the savannah or even wooded areas: it's a real treat!
As far as safaris are concerned, you won't be disappointed with the great variety and impressive amount of animals. You will, of course, come across the 'Big Five': lions, rhinoceroses, buffalos, leopards and elephants. The reserve is accessible all year round but you should know that the Great Migration of the herbivores (wildebeests, zebras) takes place around the middle of the year, in July, August and September. An incredible number of animals (around three million!) walk across the great plains in search of new pastures.
You will have to choose between driving and flying to get to the Maasai Mara. The roads can be rather chaotic: the drive takes approximately 6 hours from Nairobi. Flights are organised from the capital city and they only take about 45 minutes.
Watch the sun-rise from a hot-air balloon: most lodges and camps organise balloon flights - they are not cheap but watching the wildlife and nature come to life from up in the sky is simply spectacular.
The reputed 'Big Five': lions, rhinoceroses, buffalos, leopards and elephants, and all the other animals on the reserve!
Surface area : 224080.0 km2
Population : 39002772 inhabitants
Remember to get anti-malaria pills before leaving as this disease still rages in Kenya, and equip yourself with a repellent to avoid being bitten.
Take a jumper with you as you will definitely need it after nightfall. Night-time temperatures drop significantly compared to daytime temperatures.
Everyone who wishes to enter a natural park or reserve has to pay a fee. If you do not get a package holiday (which would include the price of taxes), you will have to allow for the extra charge of tourist tax, which varies depending on the place that you are staying at Kenya. In Maasai Mara, it is ?40 per person and per day for visitors (price in 2008).
Do not get out of your car far out in the bush: Some of the animals are experts at hide-and-seek and could very well catch you unaware. Your guide knows the bush like no one else and he will tell you when it is safe to leave your car.
If you want to take a picture of a Maasai person or of his/her village, always ask permission beforehand. They probably won't refuse but may ask you for a few Kenyan shillings in exchange.
The legacy of numerous colonisations is keenly felt in the local food - Kenyans use a lot of different spices and you will find, of course, a great variety of seafood and various different kinds of stew such as kuku wakupaka (chicken cooked in coconut milk). Kenyans often serve their dishes with ugali, a sort of porridge of crushed corn. Unfortunately, this dish does not really have any particular flavour. Very tasty Indian cuisine can also be sampled here: gourmands among you will be delighted to taste mandaazis (doughnuts) or even sambusas. The price of food is generally very low, it is therefore quite a rare thing to leave the table still feeling hungry!
Kenyan handicraft is available in the hotels that you are staying at and it is very varied: there is an incredible number of carved wooden figurines, which all represent the animals of the savannah. There are also some very beautiful African masks and painting enthusiasts will love the very colourful Kenyan paintings. They mainly evoke villages, but also hunting scenes.
The wildlife reserves themselves are not ideal for shopping, you will mostly take home millions and millions of photos!
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