Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara National Reserve and its surrounding conservancies are quintessential Africa: big game and predators traversing the open plains, rolling savannah grasslands, and acacia-dotted bush. This Kenyan reserve and conservancies is the northernmost part of the Serengeti Plains, and is one of the stages for the Great Migration. Millions wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle seasonally converge at this National Reserve around mid-July. By around mid-October, these migratory ungulates return to the Serengeti. Between these months, wildebeest and zebra frantically stampede across the Mara River while crocodiles lay waiting below the surface.
Yet unlike many other seasonal reserves in Africa, the Maasai Mara offers excellent year-round game viewing. Year-round residents include elephant, lion (prides of which sometimes exceed 40), hyena, buffalo, black rhino, cheetah, and Maasai giraffe. For this reason and its expansive landscape, the Maasai Mara is arguably one of the best places on earth for hot air ballooning. The Maasai Mara is also a birdwatcher’s paradise. More than 400 species inhabit the area's wetlands and grasslands.
Each of the current nine conservancies have their own number of lodges and camps that offer night game drives and escorted walks—activities that are not allowed in the reserve. Incorporating community lands into wildlife conservancies has contributed greatly to protecting wildlife and natural wilderness. Only guests staying in one of the conservancies can game view there. In addition, the density of camps and lodges is lower in conservancies than in the reserve. Therefore, conservancies ensure a more private and exclusive bush experience.