For a long list of factors, Maasai Mara is the very best animal reserve in Kenya. Set at almost 2000m above water level, the reserve is an excellent wedge of undulating grassland in the remote, sparsely populated southwest of the country, right up versus the Tanzanian border and, undoubtedly, an extension of the even larger Serengeti plains in Tanzania. This is a land of brief turf and croton bushes (Mara implies “spotted”, after the yellow crotons dotted on the plains), where the wind has fun with the thick, green mantle after the rains and, nine months later, whips up dust devils from the baked surface area. Maasai Mara’s environment is fairly predictable, with ample rain, and the brand-new yard supports a yearly wildebeest migration of half a million animals from the dry plains of Tanzania.
At any time of year, the Mara has abundant wild animals. Whether you’re enjoying the migration, a pride of lions searching, a herd of elephants grazing in the marsh, or hyenas squabbling with vultures over the carcass of a buffalo, you are mindful all the time of being in a realm apart. To take a trip through the reserve in August or September, while the wildebeest are in property, seems like being caught up in the momentum of a historic occasion. There are few places on earth where animals hold such spectacular sway.
With its plentiful greenery and wild animals, the reserve’s ecosystem may at first appear resistant to the result of big numbers of tourists. However, the Mara is the most visited wildlife location in Kenya, and the balance in between enhancing tourist numbers and wild animals can’t be kept indefinitely. Off-road driving kills the protective cover of plants and can develop dust bowls that spread out like sores through the effects of natural wind and water disintegration and become muddy quagmires in the rains.
Human population increase is also a risk: the animal numbers in the Mara are still big by comparison with a lot of other parts of Africa, however the enormous herds of every species– not just wildebeest– that were here after self-reliance are gone, as Kenya’s population has actually quadrupled. With the land subdivided and sold off, the old environment, where the Maasai and their herds mingled with the wild animals, is beyond being challenged: local individuals no longer tolerate lions and hyenas near their homes, or buffalo where their kids are strolling to school, or elephants raiding their corn. The answer, in an imperfect world, is wildlife conservancies for the wildlife and ranching and settlement areas for individuals.