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The Masai Mara

The Masai Mara, or simply “the Mara” as it is often referred, is a Park Reserve (not a national park) located in the southwest corner of Kenya. The park is about 320 square km and has an ample water supply via the Mara River.
The Maasai (the spelling of the name for the people adds an “a”) are a nomadic people, which are most notably known for their beadwork. They are herdsman and use cattle as capital. They are known for drinking a mix of cows blood and milk and also for hunting lions by spear. The lion hunt is a part of the passage from adolescent into manhood for the young Maasai, or more accurately from manhood to a status of warrior. Several Maasai will take part in the hunt. The lion’s mane is then used to make a ceremonial headdress. The picture displayed here is three, Maasai warriors starting a fire using two sticks. While some Maasai have adapted to modern life many still live in their traditional way. It is a fascinating culture where the roles for the men and women are very well defined. Both genders are circumcised in a passage to adulthood ceremony at about the age of 12. The women are responsible for hut building and beadwork, while the men are primarily responsible for taking care of the cattle and protecting the tribe.

Maasai men

Masai Mara sunset

The young Maasai men actually out of the tribe and live off the land in small groups for several years before they become warriors as part of their passage to adulthood. Many of them stay living in the bush and become wild. The Maasai are also very well versed on the local plants and have many uses for the plants found throughout the region. The park itself is actually an extension of the Serengeti National park in Tanzania and is most famous for the Wildebeest migration. Sunrise on the Mara is extraordinarily beautiful. The sky there at both dawn and dusk tends to take on an unusual purple color. During my visit lightening storms were common and particularly spectacular. The lightening storms were of course followed by rainbow, strewn skies. One of the most common tourist activities on the Mara is a champagne brunch/hot air balloon tour. The price is about $385 (or was in 2004). It is a particularly exciting way to view the wildlife,although there is no guarantee that wildlife will be visible from the air, and it was scarce when I went, but still. worth the trip. There is nothing quite like a champagne brunch in the bush.

Masai Mara Balloon Ride

Masai Mara Balloon Ride

Masai Mara Champagne Brunch


Giraffe and zebra

The hippo pools are at the very southeastern end of the park. The trip to the pools takes all day, and hippos with their young are very prevalent as are crocodiles sunning themselves along the banks. Herds of elephants are also a common site on the Mara, as well as lone bulls like the one above. There is not too much more exciting then seeing an elephant crossing the savannah against a purple dusky sky. Giraffes, and zebra are also very common; the zebra migrate with the wildebeest from the Serengeti in Tanzania.



Most spectacular are the wildebeest and zebra seen in the thousands dotting the distance slopes like ants, which have found a prime picnic site. Small herds of galloping wildebeest scamper across the plains, suckling calves. Wildebeest carcasses and skeletons litter the grasslands. The migration into the Mara starts in late July and the animals return to Tanzania in early to mid-September. The vast amounts of food migrating into the park provide feasts for the carnivores. While lion kills are a little difficult to see in person, lions are very prevalent everywhere. Cheetahs have actually learned to use the Safari vehicles as cover for feeding, since marauding lions or hyenas often take their kills away. They will actually drag the kill underneath the safari vehicle to eat. Seeing the migration in person is definitely an experience of a lifetime and very much worth your time if you happen to be in this part of the world during the late summer.

Masai Mara sunset 2005. All Rights Reserved.