Masai Mara

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:12 pm
Jul 172011

Masai MaraShortly after crossing the border we turned off the main road and headed towards the Masai Mara. We managed yet again to take a road that led us through villages and at times became a track with us having to climb over rough roads. At least though the road was not bad because of corrugations and stones, it was just a rough road, which is much more interesting to drive. The last part of the road makes its way down the escarpment and is quite steep and rocky at times requiring us to engage 4wd. The view of the Mara though was spectacular, miles and miles of grass plains. As we reached the bottom we passed a school bus. Surely it wasn’t going to negotiate the pass and the road we had just come down? Yep, it was. Loaded with school kids it turned and started up the road. Goodness knows how or if it made it.

After so many days of fantastic game driving in Tarangire, the Crater and the Serengeti we wondered how the Mara would hold up. Sure enough, it was absolutely amazing, making us again extend our stay to 3 nights. We camped in the park all 3 nights and heard lions every night all throughout the night as well as zebra, wildebeest and I think a leopard.

Wildebeest & Zebra migration across the Mara River, Masai MaraWe were extremely lucky and managed to time our visit so we could witness the migration crossing the Mara River (people we met later were there 2 weeks earlier and didn’t see it). It is a sight to behold with thousands and thousands of wildebeest and zebras making their way to the river bank and crossing into the Mara triangle, with millions of them dotting the plains with black on either side of the river. There is pure chaos as the wildebeest follow each other, often making it to the other side where it is extremely difficult for them to climb out the other side when there is a much easier exit point 10 metres over. They panic as they attempt to scramble out up the rocks, many of them falling and struggling. The zebras seem to be more intelligent and tend to make their way directly to the easiest exit. The number of wildebeest that die in the process is astounding. The river is full of hundreds of dead bodies making easy feeding for the vultures. Some are taken by crocs, but most die through injuries, such as breaking legs or getting jammed between the rocks where they eventually die from exhaustion or drowning. It is impossible to capture the spectacle with a camera as you just can’t capture the chaos, the masses of animals, the sounds and the tension. We sat there each day watching for an hour or so in astonishment. We even saw crocs take down a wildebeest in the river twice. The whole thing is an amazing event to witness and we are so lucky to have seen it.

Wildebeest & Zebra migration across the Mara River, Masai MaraDead wildebeest in the Mara River, Masai MaraMigration, Masai Mara

The Mara is primarily about the wildebeest and zebras, but there are plenty of other animals around. We saw a variety of animals including:

9 lions Defassa waterbuck zebras impalas elephants
ostriches topis warthogs buffalos hyenas
Grant’s gazelles Thomson’s gazelles baboons giraffes crocodile
wildebeests black rhino dik-dik vultures  


Masai MaraAt times there were 7 or 8 different types of animals all grazing in the same area, pretty amazing. All the animals were used to cars and rarely moved away when we approached.

The first night we camped at the signposted public camp near park HQ, but it was down a rocky road, deep in amongst the trees and nowhere flat really to park our car. After speaking to a ranger we managed to find the other campsite, about a kilometre further down the road which was much nicer being up on a hill with views down to the plains. A bit of a long story, but on our second night we were told we would need 2 rangers at a cost of $20 each if we were going to camp. After explaining that we had camped the previous night without them, that we hadn’t budgeted for this and didn’t want them, much discussion and phone calls they agreed that if we signed something to see they would not be liable if something happened we could go without them. When we got to the other camp there was already someone there, another car also arrived and neither of them had rangers!

Grant's Gazelle, Masai MaraMasai MaraCrocodile, Masai MaraMasai MaraBlack Rhino, Masai MaraMasai Mara

The second car that arrived were 2 Aussies, Mark and Bansi, who have set up a safari Masai Marabusiness in Kenya and base themselves here with trips back to Aus. They were extremely helpful, assisting us with planning our new route through Kenya and providing all sorts of useful info.

The roads managed to take their toll on our car, and on the second day we blew one of our shocks, with the bushes completely destroyed. Luckily we managed to get the mechanic at the lodge to replace the bushes for us which would at least allow us to get to Nairobi without having to drive extremely slowly. Our primary battery died a few days ago and this will also need to be replaced in Nairobi. Nothing like African roads to destroy a vehicle.

Even after our amazing experiences in the week or so prior to the Mara, we were not disappointed. At this time of year the Mara is a spectacular place to visit.

Masai MaraRuppell's Griffon Vulture, Masai MaraTopi, Masai MaraMasai Mara

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