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Nakuru National Park & Maasai Mara National Reserve
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6. THE MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the best known and most popular
reserves in the whole of Africa. At times and in certain places
it can get a little overrun with tourist minibuses, but there is
something so special about it that it tempts you back time and again.
Seasoned safari travellers, travel writers, documentary
makers and researchers often admit that the Masai Mara is one of
their favourite places. So why is that? Perhaps it is because of
the 'big skies', the open savannahs, the romance of films like 'Out
of Africa' and certainly because of the annual wildebeest migration,
the density of game, the variety of birdlife and the chance of a
hot air balloon ride. Also because of the tall red-robed Masai people
whose lifestyle is completely at odds with western practices, and
from whom one learns to question certain western values.
A combination of all these things plus something
to do with the spirit of the place - which is hard to put into words
- is what attracts people to the Mara over and over.
The Masai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley, which is a fault line
some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long, from Ethiopia's Red Sea through
Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. Here the valley is
wide and a towering escarpment can be seen in the hazy distance.
Most of the game viewing activities occur on the valley floor, but
some lodges conduct walking tours outside the park boundaries in
the hills of the Oloololo Escarpment. The animals are also at liberty
to move outside the park into huge areas known as 'dispersal areas'.
There can be as much wildlife roaming outside the
park as inside. Many Masai villages are located in the 'dispersal
areas' and they have, over centuries, developed a synergetic relationship
with the wildlife.
There are four main types of topography in the Mara:
Ngama Hills to the east with sandy soil and leafy bushes liked by
black rhino; Oloololo Escarpment forming the western boundary and
rising to a magnificent plateau; Mara Triangle bordering the Mara
River with lush grassland and acacia woodlands supporting masses
of game especially migrating wildebeest; Central Plains forming
the largest part of the reserve, with scattered bushes and boulders
on rolling grasslands favoured by the plains game.
THE WILDLIFE AND BIRDLIFE
In a short stay during the wildebeest migration you could see thousands
of animals, at other times there are still hundreds. The plains
are full of wildebeest, zebra, impala, topi, giraffe, Thomson's
gazelle. Also regularly seen are leopards, lions, hyenas, cheetah,
jackal and bat-eared foxes. Black rhino are a little shy and hard
to spot but are often seen at a distance.
Hippos are abundant in the Mara River as are very
large Nile crocodiles, who lay in wait for a meal as the wildebeest
cross on their annual quest to find new pastures.
Every July (or sometimes August), the wildebeest travel over 600
miles (960km) from Tanzania's Serengeti plains, northwards to the
Masai Mara and the Mara River is the final obstacle. In October
or November, once they have feasted and the grass has all but gone,
they turn around and go back the other way.The Mara birds come in
every size and colour including common but beautiful ones like the
lilac breasted roller and plenty of large species like eagles, vultures
and storks. There are 53 different birds of prey.
CLIMATE AND SEASONS.
Rainy Season: It rains in April and May and again November and this
can cause some areas of the Mara to be inaccessible due to the sticky
'black cotton' mud.
- Dry Season: July to October is dry and
the grass is long and lush after the rains. This is a good time
to come and see the huge herds of migratory herbivores.
Hottest time: The warmest time of year is December and January.
- Coldest Time: June and July are the coldest
THE SPECIALITIES OF THE MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE.
- Wildebeest Migration
- Hot Air Ballooning
- Huge savannahs of golden grasslands
- Big skies
- Rift Valley escarpment
- Lion sightings
7. LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
Nakuru National Park is a very shallow strongly alkaline lake 62
km2 in extent. It is set in a picturesque landscape of surrounding
woodland and grassland next to Nakuru town. The landscape includes
areas of marsh and grasslands alternating with rocky cliffs and
outcrops, stretches of acacia woodland and rocky hillsides covered
with a Euphorbia forest on the eastern perimeter.
The lake catchment is bounded by Menengai crater
to the north, the Bahati hills to the north east, the lion hill
ranges to the east, eburu crater to the south and the mau escarpment
to the west. Three major rivers, the njoro, makalia and enderit
drain into the lake, together with treated water from the town's
sewage works and the outflow from several springs along the shore.
Lake Nakuru was first gazetted as a bird sanctuary
in 1960 and upgraded to National Park status in 1968. A northern
extension was added to the park in 1974 and the lake was designated
as a Ramsar site in 1990. The foundation of the parks food chains
is the cyanophyte spirulina platensis which can support huge numbers
of lesser flamingo.
- Flamingo (Greater and Lesser) and other water
birds including a variety of terrestrial birds numbering about
450 species in total.
- Mammals: 56 different species including white
- View-points: Lion hill, Baboon cliff and out
- Hills: Enasoit, Honeymoon, Lion hill ridge etc.
- Waterfalls: Makalia
- Unique vegetation: About 550 different plant
species including the unique and biggest euphorbia forest in Africa,
Picturesque landscape and yellow acacia woodlands.
Flamingo (Lesser and Greater), Egyptian goose, Great white pelican,
Cattle egret, Blacksmith plover, Great white egret, Sacred ibis,
Hammerkop, Sandpipers, Black winged stilt, Grey heron, Yellow billed
stork, Little Grebe, Great cormorant, Hadada ibis, King fishers,
African spoonbill, Green shank, African snipe, African Jacana, African
fish-eagle, Marabou stork, Tawny eagle, European roller, Ox peckers,
Bee eaters, Secretary bird, Ground hornbill, Ostrich, Augur buzzard,
Martial eagle, Kori bustard, Fiscal shrike, Drongo, Starling, Guinea
fowls, Yellow necked spurfowl, Mourning dove.
Meru & Mt.
Kenya National Parks