Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Masai Mara National Reserve - Kenya

We left Lake Nakuru NP and drove to Masai (Maasai) Mara National Reserve, to the Mara Serena Lodge, a distance of 169 miles which Google Maps says took about five and a half hours, but I don't think it was that long. Masai Mara is contiguous with the border of Tanzania and Serengeti National Park and encompasses 580 square miles. Masai or Maasai is in honor of the Maasai people, who inhabit the area. Mara means "spotted" in the Maasai language and refers to the bushy trees that dot the landscape. As Wikipedia notes, Masai Mara is one of the most famous and important game and conservation areas in Africa and is known for its lions, leopards, cheetahs and elephants. Each year what is known as the Great Migration takes place where wildebeest from Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti go clockwise through Serengeti National Park to the Masai Mara, then ultimately move back again. About 1.7 million wildebeest are preceded by 260,000 zebra and hundreds of thousands of other game animals follow the wildebeest, including 470,000 gazelles. We visited in May 2014, before the migration arrives in Masai Mara. 

We had a game drive on our way into the reserve to the Mara Serena Lodge, ate lunch, had an afternoon game drive and roamed the grounds. The next day we had a morning and afternoon game drive, broken up by lunch at the lodge, then had an evening game drive from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and spent a second night at the Mara Serena Lodge before leaving for Serengeti National Park. This was the most overall incredible experience on this trip to Africa, considering the amazing lodging, the game drives and the animals seen. 

Following are photos from the Masai Mara:
On our way in we saw a grouping of animals watching a wandering cheetah. Here is a group of four defassa waterbucks watching it warily. 

African bush elephants in the background as the cheetah walks along. 

Topi and zebra warily watch as the cheetah wanders along. 

Here they get nervous and start to trot away.

We got great views of the cheetah as it walked near our safari vehicles. 

Later that afternoon we watched a mother defassa waterbuck look on as her baby was feasted upon by a cheetah. It was an incredible spectacle with lots of drama. 

Here the cheetah pauses from its eating to survey all of the safari vehicles around it watching. 

Incredibly, a spotted hyena is behind the waterbuck, waiting to get in on the action. 

The Masai Mara.

More Masai Mara with two Masai giraffes in the distance. 

The lodge

View of the plains below from the lodge.

Individual cabins lined up on a ridge.

Our cabin on the ridge. While I was taking a short nap after we arrived, two olive baboons came in through the open window on the balcony and I woke up seeing two baboons going through our items on the small coffee table. I screamed at them to get out and they scampered out the window taking with them some baby wipes (and fortunately not our cameras or wallet or purse). 

The most colorful lizard I've ever seen inhabited the rocks right in front of our cabins: the Mwanza flat-headed lizard. 

Yellow-spotted rock hyrax were also in the rocks and trees by our cabins. 

This bushbuck walked right beneath our balcony when I was standing on it and did a double-take, just like I did. 

This tropical house gecko was on the wall of our cabin. 

More of the "circle of life," as two lions feast on a zebra.

Lion cubs on a small mound.

Their mother on a nearby mound.

We watched a pride of lionesses divvy out assignments for day-care duty of the cubs and hunting assignments for zebra. 

Meanwhile the king of the jungle is solitary among the small trees that dot the landscape and give the name "mara."

East African (black-backed) jackals among Thomson's gazelles.

Spotted hyena

With a Masai giraffe.

On our night game drive we saw an aardvark. One of the guides said it was one of the few aardvarks he'd seen in doing years of these. 

Verreaux's eagle owl - right at the beginning of our night game drive. We saw lots of hippos out wandering around, but got no good photos. 

Cape buffalo

Hippos in the Mara River.

Masai giraffes "necking". 

Thomson's gazelle


Defassa waterbuck

Bohor reedbuck

White-bellied bustard


Crowned plover

Nile crocodiles along the Mara River. They were gigantic from gorging on zebra and wildebeest that cross the Mara during the Great Migration. One of the most impressive sights of our trip. 

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