Kenya has long since been recognised as the home of the modern day safari, a land of mystery and intrigue, imbued with a long and rich history and a natural diversity that is unrivaled anywhere it Africa. From sweeping coastal plains and pristine beaches to grand interior plateaus and the towering Mt Kenya, this is an eclectic country, a place that seems to encompass all the beauty and vibrancy of Africa within its heart. Of course at the centre of this microcosmic marvel of a country is the world renowned Masai Mara National Reserve, a region that has become completely synonymous with Kenya safaris. Known locally as ‘The Mara’ this area pulsates with pure African energy and displays the kind of rugged, unfettered landscape that you might have believed could only exist on a Hollywood film set.
Located south west of the capital, Nairobi, and neighbouring the Tanzanian border, the park offers of 583 sq miles of unadulterated wilderness and is home to some of the most impressive animal and bird species on earth. When touring the reserve you can expect to see a mind boggling variety of wildlife including the famed African ‘Big Five’ which includes lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephants as well as other recognisable and not so recognisable animals such as zebra, crocodile, impala Thomson’s gazelle, kudu, jackals, hyenas and cheetahs.
Many of the predatory species that visit the area are attracted by the vast migratory herds that arrive during the autumn months. This annual movement makes up part of one of the most engrossing natural spectacles on earth, the great wildebeest migration. Millions of hooves trample across the savannah on their way to the replenished Masai Mara when the grasses of southern Tanzania have been withered by the dry season. The search for food brings literally millions of wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra, eland and antelope into the Masai Mara and with this influx a host of apex species including lions, leopards and cheetahs.
Along with the wildlife, it is the people, the ancient tribesmen who have for over six hundred years called the Masai Mara area their home and whose ancestors have roamed the African plains for thousands of years. The Masai people are one of the most recognisable emblems of Africa, a noble semi-nomadic collective with numbers in Kenya thought to exceed 500,000. The tribe’s colourful dress, large and elaborate facial adornments and their proximity to some of the most famous game reserves in Africa means that this represents of the most well reported traditional cultures in Africa.
Some of the best safari accommodation in Kenya has understandably been established in the Masai Mara to house the hundreds of thousands of tourists who make their way here every year. I would particularly recommend the Kitchwa Tembo Tented Camp, which is often recognised as one of Kenya’s most beloved and luxurious safari properties.