Welcome to Kenya
| Masai Mara National Reserve
Masai Mara is known as one of Africa’s Greatest Wildlife Reserves, situated in southwest Kenya and is part of the northern section of the Serengeti National Park. Famous for the abundance of the big cats, lion, leopard, cheetah and the Great Wildebeest Migration, as well as the Maasai people. The Masai Mara Ecosystem holds one of the highest lion densities in world.
The rolling grasslands offer astounding game viewing and photographic opportunities and the grassy plains are broken by rocky outcrops which are favorite midday resting places for lion, for which the Mara is famous. One of the Mara's main attractions each year is the astonishing spectacle of the annual migration where over 2 million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle migrate annually following the rains and succulent new grass, with an escort of carnivores. A costly trek as many of the lame, laggard and sick will fall prey to the ravening pack of predators and many more will die in the swirling flood waters trying to cross the Mara River. Once the rains have ended and the grass begins to wither the wildebeest turn south and head back to the Serengeti and beyond. The reserve with an area of 583 mi² forms the northern part of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. The parks southern boundary is contiguous with Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.
The Mara Ecosystem
The Masai Mara Conservancies are located adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve in the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 9,700 mi²in Tanzania and Kenya. The terrain is primarily open grassland with seasonal rivulets. The western border is the Siria Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, which is a system of rifts some 3,500 miles long, from Ethiopia's Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. These conservancies are private areas of pristine wilderness with strict controls on the number of visitors and vehicles permitted. There are normally just a handful of small camps (with an agreed 1 bed per 700 acres) with guests gaining exclusive access to thousands of hectares of prime game-viewing land. These strong eco-tourism practices and low-vehicle densities safeguards the Masai Mara through professional wildlife management and result in a vastly superior wildlife experience.
Wildebeest, topi, zebra, and Thomson's gazelle migrate into and occupy the Conservancies, from the Serengeti plains to the south and Loita plains to the north-east, from July to October or later. Herds of all 3 species are also resident. All of the "Big Five" (lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, and Black Rhinoceros) are found in the Mara and hippo and Nile crocodiles are found in large groups in the Mara and Talek rivers. Hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, and bat-eared foxes can also be found and there is a growing population of African wild dog. The plains between the Mara River and the Siria Escarpment are probably the best area for game viewing, in particular regarding lion and cheetah.
As in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Masai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year, these ungainly animals migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1 500 000 wildebeest, 500 000 Thomson's gazelles, 100 000 Topi, 18 000 elands, and 200 000 zebras. These migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
More than 470 species of birds have been identified in the Mara, many of which are migrants, with almost 60 species being raptors. Birds that call this area home for at least part of the year include: vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested Eagles, African pygmy-falcons and the lilac-breasted roller, which is the national bird of Kenya.
Although the best time to see the wildebeest migration in Kenya is July to October, December to February is also a great time as its dryer. The Masai Mara is an all year round destination with the big cats, and all the big game still in the Maasai Mara Ecosystem.
| More National Parks
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park covers 151 mi² squared, and forms part of the much larger 1 158 mi² Amboseli ecosystem and is located on the border with Tanzania immediately north west of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, the Amboseli National Parks is one of Kenya's most popular parks. The name "Amboseli" comes from a Maasai word meaning "salty dust", and it is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. The National Park embodies 5 main wildlife habitats (open plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush country, swamps and marshland) and covers part of a pleistocene lake basin, now dry. Within this basin is a temporary lake, Lake Amboseli, that floods during years of heavy rainfall.
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is the largest park in Kenya covering an area of 5 308 mi². The park has a beautiful landscape of plains, rocky ridges and outcrops. Bordered beyond the Galana River by the length of the 186 mile long Yatta Plateau.
One of the great spectacles of the park is the Mudanda Rock between Voi and Manyani. This mile long outcrop is a water catchment area which supplies a natural dam at its base. In the dry season elephants come to drink and bathe. The sight of dust-red elephant wallowing, rolling and spraying each other with the midnight blue waters of palm-shaded Galana River is one of the most evocative images in Africa. The Tsavo and the Athi River merge into the Galana River just above the dramatic Lugard Falls.
The Park is home to many of the larger mammals, herds of dust–red elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, pods of hippo, crocodile, waterbucks, lesser kudu, gerenuk and hirola antelope.
Tsavo West National Park
The park covers 2 728 mi² and contains a diversity of habitats, wildlife and a mountainous scenic landscape. The park has a diversity of habitats including open plains alternating with savannah bush and semi desert scrub, rocky ridges and outcrops, and mountain forest on the Chyulu Hills. A section of Lake Jipe is included in the extreme south west of the park.
Part of the park is of recent volcanic origin where there are many lava flows and cones including the Shaitani lava flow which formed in the wake of a recent volcano. The sight of fifty million gallons of crystal clear water gushing out of from the under parched lava rock that is the Mzima Springs to the Shetani lava flows, Tsavo West is a beautiful, rugged wilderness.
The savannah ecosystem comprises of open grasslands, scrublands, and Acacia woodlands, belts of riverine vegetation and rocky ridges including the Poacher's Lookout where visitors can see the teeming herds in the plains below. Tsavo West offers some of the most magnificent game viewing in the world and attractions include elephant, rhino, hippos, lions, cheetah, leopards, buffalos, diverse plant and bird species including the threatened corncrake and near threatened Basra Reed Warbler..
In the south of the Park lie the Ngulia Hills where thousands of migrant birds are netted and ringed, providing vital information on migratory routes and habits of many species common to the northern hemisphere.
Samburu National Reserve
Samburu National Reserve is situated in the hot and arid fringes of Kenya's vast Northern Frontier District. The 64 mi² area is home to the Samburu tribe, pastoral relatives of the Masai. The landscape is rugged and dramatic - against a backdrop of volcanic mountains, gaunt hills and withered scrub tree punctuate the sparse and dry terrain with clusters of the incredibly hardy desert rose providing the occasional flash of vivid color. The Ewaso Ng’iro River, lifeline of the area, runs along the southern boundary dividing Samburu from Buffalo Springs Reserve. Crocodile and hippo share the river with the many small herds of elephant which bathe and frolic in the muddy brown waters during the heat of the day before returning later to browse on the lush vegetation of the riverine forest. Buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and plains game may also be seen but a special feature of this Reserve are the various species of game unique to these northern parks - beisa oryx, the long necked gerenuk, Grevy's zebra, reticulated giraffe and the blue shanked Somali ostrich.
Meru National Park
Meru National Park is wild and beautiful. Straddling the equator and bisected by 13 rivers and numerous mountain-fed streams, it is an especially beautiful area of Kenya. Its 336 mi² has a diverse scenery ranging from woodlands at 3 400 feet on the slopes of Nyambeni Mountain Range, north east of Mount Kenya, to wide open plains with meandering riverbanks dotted with doum and raffia palms.
Meru is part of a complex of protected areas along the Tana River that includes the adjacent Bisanadi and Mwingi National Reserves (to the east and south respectively), Kora National Park and Rahole National Reserve. The wetter North Western sector is hilly, with rich volcanic soils. The land flattens towards the East, where grey alluvial volcanic soils appear. The area is crossed by numerous permanent streams, draining from the Nyambenes and flowing in parallel between tongues of lava, south eastwards towards the Tana River. As well as the many streams that cross it, the park is bounded by three large rivers: the Tana to the South, the Ura to the South West and the Rojeweru to the East
Game to view includes: lion, elephant, cheetah, leopard black rhino, zebra, gazelle, oryx and some of the rarer antelope, lesser kudu and duiker, also the more common dik dik, one of Africa’s smallest antelope. Large prides of lion can be seen and some of Kenya’s largest herds of buffalo. The rivers abound with hippo and crocodile.
The Park is most famous as the setting for Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free”, the story of the Adamson’s life and research amongst lion and cheetah. “Elsa” the lioness was the most well-known and her grave is marked here.
| The Great Migration
The Serengeti is famed for its annual migration when more than 1,500,000 wildebeest and 500,000 Thomson Gazelle follow some 200,000 zebra in a 2,000 km round pilgrimage in search of fresh grazing and water. It is “the greatest wildlife show on earth” and “a once in a lifetime experience”!
Wildebeest feed only on new shoots and very short grass but do, of course, eat the longer grass once it has been ‘trimmed’ by zebra or buffalo. It is for this reason they follow the zebra.
Eland and Thomson’s gazelle also migrate but instead of following the main migration they just alternate between the plains and the woodlands. Grant’s gazelle do not migrate as they are not so dependent on water. They move only locally and, in many cases, in the opposite direction to the migratory species.
Predator versus prey dominates the migration. Lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and a host of other, smaller predators, watched by the ever present vultures, gorge on their annual feast while, in the rivers, giant crocodile wait their turn.
The best time to see the migration is between June and August when the wildebeest congregate and prepare to cross the Grumeti River. However both the route and timing of the migration are unpredictable so visitors must plan carefully to be assured of seeing the spectacle.
During December to May the animals are found on the short grass plains around Lake Ndutu, the Gol Mountains and the Moru Kopjes in the south of the park. December is a peak month for zebra foaling and February the main month for wildebeest calving.
Then the migrations starts as vast herds, in columns over 25 miles long, head north towards Kirawira and Mbalageti, in the Western corridor, before crossing the crocodile infested Grumeti River into the Grumeti Game Reserve and the Ikorongo Wildlife Management Area. Meanwhile some smaller herds move directly north through the Seronera area, while others travel up the eastern boundary of the park through the Loliondo and Lobo areas.
All routes eventually crossing the Mara River, where the animals face another life threatening experience, into Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Finally, in November, the herds start their trek back through the Serengeti arriving at the short grass plains ready to give birth again.
And so the cycle continues! As it has for over a million years!
|Location:||Location: Kenya is bordered to the north by Sudan and Ethiopia, to the east by Somalia, to the west by Uganda, to the south by Tanzania, and to the southeast by the Indian Ocean.|
|Country Size:||Kenya covers an area of approximately 224 960 mi² and lies almost exactly astride the equator.|
|Topography:||Low plains rise to central highlands bisected by Great Rift Valley; fertile plateau in west.|
|Independence Day:||12 December 1963|
|Head of State:||President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta|
|Official Language:||Kiswahili and English|
|Ethnic groups:||Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15%, non-African (Asian, European, Arab) 1%|
|Religions||Christian 82.5% (Protestant 47.4%, Catholic 23.3%, other 11.8%), Muslim 11.1%, Traditionalists 1.6%, Other 4.1%|
|Main Exports:||Tea, coffee, wheat, petroleum products.|
|Electricity:||220 Volt A/C 50 hz|