Named for the famous Maasai people and the equally renowned Mara River, the Maasai Mara, Africa’s largest wildlife reserve, is reputed for its exceptional population of game, the annual immigration of over two million zebra and the wildebeest from the Serengeti and also for encompassing over 450 species of prolific birdlife in its custody. Situated in south-western Kenya, this large park reserve is Kenya’s most visited protected area and indisputably, Africa’s most famous Safari destination. The ecosystem holds one of the highest lion densities in the planet and is a haven for viewing a flock of all sorts of animals in a five-mile radius. The wildlife ranges from the big cats to the even bigger elephant, the charging rhinos and vast herds of herbivores such as wildebeest. The climate is gentle, rarely too hot, the air invigorating and the rain well-spread year round. The environment of the reserve is open grassland, with seasonal riverlets, giving the atmosphere the breath of a bracing flower bouquet. Opened in 1974 and managed by the nomadic, pastoralist Masai tribe, who arrived in the area by the middle of the 17th century, the Maasai Mara is a world exhibition of animal at its best, as of July, when the huge herds of the Serengeti in Tanzania begin moving to the Maasai Mara in the north, lured there by the rains and the assurance of greener pastures. The crossing of the Mara River is as repugnant as it is fascinating. The animals begin to move South again by late October, in order to calve in the Serengeti in January. But this sanctuary of wild is also a haven of different species of birds. On the open plains there is a variety of bustards including the large jacksons bustard, which during nuptial display soars high in the air then with rigid wings descends slowly to earth like a prickled balloon ground hornbills are ones of the most spectacled birds of the open plains and more easily seen in the Mara than elsewhere in Kenya. Birds of prey are abundant and no less than 53 different species have so far been discovered, secretary birds are a common sight as they stalk sedately over the grasslands, and in the sky there are always vultures and other scavengers and that effortless flier the batelour. This 1,672km² reserves is one of Africa’s premier wildlife destinations and boast all the big game species. Besides the normal safari activities, it is also possible to go hot-air ballooning across the plains in Keekorok Lodge, one of the finest ways to see Africa’s wildlife across the blue skies. Maasai Mara is definitely extraordinaire and a genuine Animal Kingdom!
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