Situated in the southwest corner of Kenya near Lake Victoria, the Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the country’s most popular safari destinations. Hundreds of thousands of game animals pass through the reserve in their annual migrations to the Serengeti, offering visitors multiple opportunities to view both prey and predators. Animal encounters abound at every turn, from bull elephants grazing calmly near herds of antelopes and giraffes to lions creeping through the grass to prey on hippos lounging in the Mara River. It’s an optimal place from which to view the “big five:” lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos.
Known simply as “The Mara” by the locals, the game reserve was named after the Masai people who originally inhabited the region. The outer areas of the park are patrolled by Masai rangers who effectively keep poachers away from the region. The reserve offers a broad array of accommodations, from luxury tented cabins to camp sites. Some travel lodges are modeled after Masai villages, with clay-wall cottages lined up in rows, offering visitors a rare glimpse of the culture of the Masai.
Visiting Masai Mara National Reserve during the Great Migration can provide more encounters with wildlife than any other spot in Kenya. Days in the Mara begin at dawn so that visitors can view the big cats before they settle down for their daily slumber. Balloon safaris in the reserve also depart early, offering breathtaking views of the savannah landscape as the animals rove in the morning sun.