Kenya is synonymous with safaris, game reserves, and the spectacular Masai Mara National Reserve or “The Mara”. It is situated in Kenya’s south-western tip and is considered as Africa’s best safari park. Abounding in wildlife with more than hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, and birds, Maasai Mara is Africa’s most diverse and astounding ecosystem; indeed, the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife!
A safari to see Masai Mara’s animals will never leave you disappointed, as the game reserve will provide you with ample close encounters of the wild kind! The Kenyan savanna is teeming with not just the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and cape buffalo) but also gazelles, giraffes, zebras, baboons…the list is endless!
Words can’t do justice to the experience of seeing the majestic animals of Masai Mara – the magic, the euphoria, the sheer bliss that Africa’s wildlife has to offer. So, we stop right here and let the following 13 brilliant pictures of Masai Mara’s animals do the talking.
Masai Mara’s Animals in 13 Magnificent Pictures
The majestic Masai lions are the pride of the Mara; regal, powerful and beautiful creatures who are born to rule the jungle! Awe and admiration is guaranteed while sighting these royal animals as you drive through the grasslands of Masai Mara.
Best place to spot the lions: The Musiara Marsh (home to the Marsh pride of lions) and the Bila Shaka.
Unlike lions who move around in groups (pride), leopards are solitary hunters and the leopards of Masai Mara are no different. The Mara leopards are strong swimmers, agile tree climbers, and ferocious hunters. Consider yourself lucky if you spot a leopard while on your game drive, as they are the most elusive among the Big Five of Africa. Keep your eyes peeled and you might just see one atop a tree, lying in wait for its next kill.
Best place to spot leopards: Leopard Gorge, Yellow-barked Acacia woodlands, Keekorok valleys, Sand River, and Ol-Kinyei
It is becoming increasingly difficult to spot a black rhinoceros in Maasai Mara, even though the national reserve is the only protected area in Kenya with an indigenous black rhino population. The one-horned rhinoceros has now become an endangered species due to the rampant poaching for the rhino horn. It is a rare treat to see the black rhinos with their massive bodies, stumpy legs, and characteristic horns.
Best place to spot: The Croton thickets surrounding the Lookout Hill (Observation Hill)
The African elephants are the largest land animals that walk on earth, with their characteristically large ears and tusks that curve outwards. The majestic creatures always move in large herds. So the chances of spotting a group, ambling towards the Mara River or wallowing in a mud bath on your game drive are quite high. Did you know that elephants are among some very few animals that can recognize themselves? Or that they mourn after a family member’s death, revisiting the bones of the dead elephants for years?
Best place to spot elephants: The Musiara Marsh, or the Mara River crossing
Menacing Cape Buffaloes
Don’t fall for its tame look in this picture, for the Cape buffalo is one of the most unpredictable and dangerous creatures you may encounter on your African safari. They say elephants never forget, but African buffaloes never forgive! They have been known to attack people that have harmed them even years after the event. In fact, no other animal in Africa has killed more humans (especially hunters) than the Cape buffalo.
Best place to spot the cape buffaloes: Paradise Plain
Cute Lion Cubs
This picture of the gorgeous African landscape with the moon rising over Masai Mara’s plains and a tall, gangly giraffe walking towards it, makes for the perfect postcard! Giraffes are social animals and quite graceful despite their spindly legs and long necks. Watching them tower over the Masai savannah as they amble along looking for foliage, is a pure visual delight that should be part of your African safari experience!
The Thomson’s gazelles are one of the most common gazelles in Africa, often referred to as Tommies. The fifth-fastest animal on land, the Thomson’s gazelle can easily outrun its most common predator, the cheetah, by sprinting at the rate of 80 – 96 kms/hour, often zigzagging and stotting to show-off its fitness and agility.
Gorgeous Grey Crowned-Cranes
Home to more than 470 species of birds, the plains of Masai Mara resound with birdsong from dawn to dusk. Just one among these wide variety of winged-creatures is the beautiful grey crowned-crane. Its predominantly grey plumage is off-set by yellow-golden straws that crown its head and a bright red throat pouch that is inflatable! These pretty cranes are also known to break into a dance routine, mostly during the mating season, and sometimes just for fun.
The Olive baboons, named after their olive green/grey coats are omnivores eating anything from plants to small rodents and even antelopes like the Thomson’s gazelle. They live in big groups called troops.
The Mara River is infested with these cunning reptiles who lie in wait for their prey, lurking in the waters with their nostrils, eyes, and ears above the surface. The photograph here shows one such crocodile with its mouth open, on the banks of the Mara River waiting for the wildebeests, that cross the river during the Great Migration.
The Great Migration of more than 1.5 million wildebeests (gnu) from Tanzania to Masai Marai in Kenya, is what put the Mara on the world map. The best time to view this migration is between July till October when the wildebeest reach Masai Mara; this is when you may get to see a lot of prey-predator action. Incorrectly named “wildebeests” for their threatening appearance, these large African antelopes are anything but wild.
Zebras are found in abundance in the Mara because they are part of the Great Migration. If there are 1.5 million wildebeests moving from Tanzania to Kenya, there would be at least 30,000 zebras accompanying them. They are best friends that way!
The grassland of Masai Mara is pulsating with wildlife so diverse that you have to experience its magic and watch these beautiful animals in action, at home on their playground. Here’s wishing you a Safari Njema (nice trip) to Kenya and Masai Mara!