Archive for February, 2011
Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Overview:
May & June
In late May, the herds leave the Western Corridor for the northern Serengeti plains and woodlands. The fresh, tender and mineral-rich pastures on the other side of the humans’ border, in Masai Mara, are the irresistible bait for the animals to finally invade the Kenyan reserve, an event which usually starts in late June to early July. The troops coming from the south meet here another migratory contingent: the resident wildebeest herds of the Mara region. These animals reside in the Loita Plains and Hills, northeast of the Mara, until the dry season brings the tougher days and it is time to seek the evergreen Mara basin.
July to October.
Throughout the month of July, the herds cross the Sand River, a mostly dry tributary of the Mara which roughly follows the boundary line between Kenya and Tanzania. The parade takes the eastern sector of Masai Mara, surrounding the Keekorok Lodge area. The trek follows westward, leading the herds to face the major challenge along their quest: crossing the Mara river and frequently also its tributary, the Talek. By then, the rains at the Mau Escarpment, where the Mara rises, have fed the stream to its highest levels.
The steep banks are populated with trunk-looking basking crocodiles that seem almost to be expecting their annual banquet. The operation of fording the river is the most delicate along the migration, and as such seems to plunge the gnus in a state of anxiety that only relieves when the whole herd has crossed. The trekkers walk along the left (eastern) bank of the Mara looking for a suitable point to cross. There are plenty of preferred crossings along the course, which are easily identifiable by the lack of vegetation, the depressed slopes and the deep grooves carved by the animals’ hooves. These are the most secure places to ford the river, those that ensure a minimal mortality. Nonetheless, the apparent programming of the whole process sometimes seems to collapse, and the nervous herds occasionally choose places where the banks are too steep and many of the animals break their legs down the cliff or fall flat into the waters. The herds gather at the suitable points and wander around nervously, their grunts sounding loud in the air. Eventually, one animal takes the lead and approaches the rim, scanning the opposite edge to analyze if any danger awaits after the crossing. When it finally dives into the stream, this seems to haul the rest of the herd. More animals follow in a single line across the river, while the lagged ones throw themselves towards the stream until the rearguard pushes the troops to a frantic race that ends up with some animals trampled to death, lying aside the course. Along the boreal summer, the crossings repeat over and over, and the survivors graze peacefully on the Mara Triangle grasslands unless disturbed by the early-morning and late-evening hunts of lion and cheetah, the latter preying on the calves.
By October, the rains are heading south back to the Serengeti. This is when the pace of the march reverses, bringing the herds to face once more the quest for the southern grasslands. The rite of fording the river is again part of nature’s call. In the last days of October, the migration heads towards the vast plains of the southern Serengeti, where a new generation of calves will be born to start the cycle of life all over again. Normally the route is down the eastern side and the pace is fast. Quite often a million animals can be seen stretched out. Getting there:
The point of road access to this region is Narok, a 3 hour drive from Nairobi. There are regular buses and matatus to Narok from Nairobi and other destinations. Some people choose to Fly to the Mara, which is serviced by 2 airstrips. There are daily scheduled flights from Nairobi, and the coast. Private Charters also use these strips.
Accessing the Mara area is difficult without private transport. Most visitors come to Maasai Mara as part of a safari holiday in Kenya and participate in Masai Mara safari tours. The park has well established internal roads and tracks. Accessing areas outside the reserve is only possible using basic public transport, and finding your way around can be difficult. Several Safari operators can arrange specialized tours, treks or hikes in this area.
Daily departure at 7.30am
A safari to Maasai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s most celebrated game park offering the possibility of seeing “the big five” and many other species of game. This is where the great wildebeest migration is a spectacle to behold for any would be visitor to Kenya mainly in July and August of each year.
Day 1: Nairobi – Masai Mara Game Reserve: Masai Mara safari tour
Distance: 285 kms (5 hrs).Pick up from your hotel at 7.30am and drive into the Maasai Mara with its amazing concentration of wildlife and outstanding scenery. Lunch. Afternoon game drive. Overnight at Mara Sopa Lodge, L,D.
Maasai Mara tour
The Maasai Mara (aka Maasai Mara) is a large park reserve in south-western Kenya, which is effectively the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park game reserve in Tanzania. Named for the Maasai people (the traditional inhabitants of the area) and the Mara River which divides it, it is famous for its exceptional population of game and the annual migration of the wildebeest every July and August, a migration so immense it is called the Great Migration.
With an area of 1510 km2 the Maasai Mara is not the largest game park in Kenya, but it is probably the most famous. The entire area of the park is nestled within the enormous Great Rift Valley that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to South Africa. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland, with clusters of the distinctive acacia tree in the south-east region. The western border is the Esoit Oloololo Escarpment of the Rift Valley, and wildlife tends to be most concentrated here, as the swampy ground means that access to water is always good and tourist disruption is minimal. The easternmost border is 224 km from Nairobi, and hence it is the eastern regions which are most visited by tourists.
Masai Mara Wildlife and safari holiday
The Masai Mara is perhaps most famous for its lions. All other members of the “Big Five” are to be found in the Masai Mara, although the population of black rhinoceros is severely threatened, with a population of only 37 recorded in 2000. Hippopotami are found in large groups in the Masai Mara and Talek Rivers. Cheetah are also to be found, although their numbers are also threatened, chiefly due to tourist disruption of their day-time hunting. As mentioned above, the plains between the Mara river and the Esoit Oloololo Escarpment are probably the best area for game viewing, in particular regarding lion and cheetah.
Like in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitant of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year these ungainly animals migrate in a vast ensemble north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving an immensity of hervibores: some 1,300,000 Wildebeest, 360,000 Thomson’s Gazelle, and 191,000 Zebra. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
Numerous other antelope can be found, including Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, impala, topi and Coke’s hartebeest. Large herds of zebra are found through the reserve. The plains are also home to the distinctive Masai giraffe as well as the common giraffe. The large Roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders. The Maasai Mara is a major research centre for the spotted hyena. Additionally, over 450 species of birdlife have been identified in the park, including vulture, marabou, secretary bird, hornbill, crowned crane, ostrich, long-crested eagle, and pygmy falcon.
Day 2: Masai Mara Game Reserve
Morning and afternoon game drives in the finest game sanctuary in Kenya, noted for its lions and other wildlife. Overnight at Mara Sopa Lodge, B, L,D.
- Hot air balloon Safari: US$ 450 per person
- Visit to a local Maasai village: US$ 25 per person
Day 3: Masai Mara – Nairobi
After breakfast drive to Nairobi where the tour ends at approximately 2pm, B
Tour price includes:
- Guarantee price/guarantee safari on confirmation
- Transport on safari in a safari van equipped for game viewing, photography and touring
- Full board accommodation whilst on safari
- Meal plan as described, B=Breakfast, L=Lunch and D=Dinner
- Accommodation in double/triple room
- All park entrance fees to include government taxes
- Service of an English speaking professional driver/guide
- All game drives as detailed in the itinerary
- Bottled water whilst on safari
- Start and end in Nairobi.
- Personalised service
Safari price excludes:
- New Year and festive season supplement fee
- International flights
- Items of a personal nature
- Any other extras not detailed in the above itinerary
Further reading on Kenya safari holiday can be seen at: http://www.africansermonsafaris.com/maasai-mara-safari.html
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