The Masai Mara National Reserve covers an area of 1,510 square kilometers, it is located in the South-East of Kenya and is the Northern section of the Serengeti Ecosystem, an area of 25,000 square kilometers that in addition to the Masai Mara in Kenya, includes the National Serengeti Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Grumeti, Liliondo and Maswa Reserves and other small game reserves in Tanzania.
The Masai Mara borders to the South with Tanzania and the Serengeti National Park, to the West it is bounded by the Oloololo escarpment, also known by the name of Syria, that is part of the Great Rift Valley crossing the continent from Ethiopia to Mozambique; the escarpment can be seen in the distance from the National Reserve if the day is clear; in addition, on the West lie the grassy plains and the acacia woodland of the Mara Triangle.
To the East the National Reserve is bounded by the Ngama Hills, characterized by have a sandy soil and being covered with thick bushes, that are favored by black rhinos; these hills are located near the Sekenani entrance, the most widely used for those who come up to here by road from Nairobi, and marks the natural border between the Masai Mara National Reserve and private reserves; just to the East, beyond the Siana Conservancy, instead the Loito Hills raise.
The central part of the Masai Mara National Reserve consists mainly of the Central Plains covered by grasslands and acacia groves, this is the preferred region by herbivorous; here and there rise small rounded and lonely hills that make up a good observation point of the surrounding savannah.
From an administrative point of view, the Masai Mara National Reserve is bordered to the North, East and West with areas property of the Maasai and of the Conservation Areas.
The Masai Mara National Reserve is crossed by two major rivers: the Mara and the Talek, these divide it into three areas: the West part of the Mara River creating the Mara Triangle, the Musiara sector located in the portion between the two rivers and finally the Sekenani Sector that is located East of the Talek River; while the Mara Triangle is under the jurisdiction of the TransMara County Council, the Sekelani and Musiara sectors are under the jurisdiction of the County of Narok.
The Mara River has only two bridges within the Reserve that can be crossed by vehicles, while on the Talek River there are several points where you can cross the river.
If you want to have more chances of seeing the river crossing, it is best to take a lodge or a tented camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve, perhaps even on the East bank of the Mara River or nearby, so you will have a "front row seat" to attend one of the most spectacular events that nature can offer; counter this is also the area of the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem with the highest concentration of tourists.
The Masai Mara Conservancy are the result of a brilliant approach to the management of environmental conservation and the winning key is to work together with the Masai land owners and help their communities to gain with conservation.
The Maasai have pledged to leave large portions of free land by livestock and their settlements, so that wild animals can move freely in these areas; moreover, in this way, the vegetation can return to its original state.
In the Conservancy, or private reserves, that lie beyond the borders of the Masai Mara National Reserve, there is a lower number of visitors since it is necessary to stay within the single private reserve in order to make a game drive in a specific Conservation Area and there are fewer structures in each of them.
This means that during a safari you will encounter fewer vehicles than in the Masai Mara National Reserve, also in the private reserves you can practice some activities that are prohibited in the National Reserve such as walking safaris, night safaris, opportunity to visit the Masai villages and to have breakfast, lunch or dinner in the bushes.
Animals can move freely between the National Reserve and private reserves since there are no marked boundaries and there are no fences; this is a very important aspect for the survival of the animals that can move at will in search of food and water.
The first Conservancy was established in 2005, taking as model the Selenkay Conservancy founded in 1997 near the Amboseli National Park; the aim of private reserves is to implement conservation projects through a cooperation between operators of accommodation facilities for tourism and the Masai landowners and promote eco-tourism and the use of environmentally friendly technologies.
The Maasai, in front of a lease payment for the land, have pledged to limit the regions where to lead their cattle to graze and where to establish their villages; managers and owners of the lodges and tented camps have engaged, in addition to the regular payment of the rent, in the creation of projects for the local community involving education, health, women, and other areas.
The Great Masai Mara Ecosystem, that is constituted by the Masai Mara National Reserve and the neighboring private reserves, is very diverse and contains within it different landscapes including sandy areas and small woods to the East, while the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley of Oloololo delimits to the West; close to the Mara River are the grasslands and forests that grow along the river banks, while most of the National Reserve consists of open plains with the presence of bushes and hills.
The movie "Out of Africa" was partly filmed here, above the escarpment of Syria in 1985.

The areas of the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem

  • The North Zone of the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem
  • The East Zone of the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem
  • The South Zone of the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem
  • The West Zone of the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem
  • The Central Zone of the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem

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Maasai Mara National Reserve and neighbouring Conservancies - Illustration Credits: Marco Dal Molin -