The world re known masai mara game reserve is a northern extension of the serengeti national park which is located in Tanzania. Masai mara covers an area of 1510km². The masai mara ecosystem is composed of rivers i.e talek river and mara river which are the main water supply for the ecosystem. The mara river is a huddle to the wildebeest migration as the wildebeests have to cross the river from serengeti most of them perishing in the jaws of crocodiles and big cats. The western part of masai mara lies the siria escarpment, loita plains and the rest is the masai pastoral land.
The masai mara game reserve is owned and run by the county council of Narok which is the richest county council in Kenya due to the revenue collected as park entrance fee. Part of the masai mara which is called the mara triangle is contracted out and privately run. Park fees are paid by the number of nights one spends in the mara conservancy.
The masai mara lies at an altitude of 1500 meters to 2100 meters. It rains twice a year in the game reserve that is during the long rains that fall between the month of March and May and during the short rains that fall on the month of October, November and part of December. June and July are the coldest months and January and February the hottest months. Temperatures during the day rarely exceed 85°F (30°C) and during the night it hardly drops below 60°F (15°C). Masai mara is a mosquito prone area but camp site are sprayed with mosquito repellants and the tents have treated mosquito nets.
Masai mara has a big population of wildlife. All members of the big five can be seen in this reserve, a large number of ungulates are also easily visible they include the wildebeest , thomson gazelles, grant gazelles, buffalos, rhinos, impalas, topis, elands, zebras, giraffes and duikers. The common predators include the lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, jackals and foxes. Masai mara has over 450 identified species. Some common birds include the common ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, hornbills, storks, eagles and vultures.
The wildebeest migration happens annually, this spectacle is considered as one of the 7th wonder of the world. More than a million wildebeest, accompanied by topis, zebras, gazelles and elands make their journey from serengeti national park to masai mara game reserve. Many of them perish while crossing the mara river where crocodiles and big cats make a kill on the vulnerable ungulates. The migration happens every year during the month of July after the long rains. The grass is big and plenty and for the next three months the wildebeests clear the lush grass of the masai mara. The migration varies annually due to the climate change. If the climate changes and it doesn’t rain as usual the wildebeest may delay to cross over or cross over and go back since there isn’t grass to feed on.
The masai people whom by definition speak the maa language hence the name masai have held on to their culture even in these times of modernization. A masai’s home is called a manyatta where he lives with his wives and children. From childhood boys are obligated to look after their fathers cows while girls are obligated to doing house chores, fetching water and milking the cows. After every fifteen years there is an initiation where boys are circumcised and they become young morans and the existing morans graduate to junior elders. The masai enjoy eating meat, milk mixed with blood during rituals such initiation and marriage. The use of herbs as medicine. Their culture is still embedded in their day to day life. The masai are a big attraction in Kenya.
Lake Nakuru is one of the alkaline lakes of the Great Rift Valley. Lake Nakuru is also known as “Pink Lake” or Africa Bird’s Paradise. The lake is ideally located in central Kenya within Lake Nakuru National park. The park occupies an area of 188 km2 while the lake occupies an area of 62 km2. The lake is famous for the millions of flamingos that flock the lake although flamingos are unpredictable birds and are not always to be found in the lake is such vast numbers. From a distance i.e. the baboon cliff the lake looks pink in color due to the flamingos.
The topography at Lake Nakuru is comprised of grasslands alternating with rocky cliffs and outcrops, acacia woodlands and a forest made up euphorbia trees. In the early 1960’s tilapia grahami was introduced to the lake and it flourished despite the alkaline nature of the lake.
There are two species of flamingos namely lesser flamingo and greater flamingos, they feed on algae, which flourishes due to the warm alkaline waters of Lake Nakuru. It is believed that flamingos consume about 250,000 kg of algae per hectare of surface area per year. The abundance of algae in the lake is what attracts millions of flamingos to Lake Nakuru. Apart from flamingos other bird species include ducks, pelicans, cormorants, plovers, vultures, eagles, and buzzards. Lake Nakuru has over 50 animal species which include hippos, reed bucks, water bucks, rothschild giraffe’s, baboons, black and white columbus monkey, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, lions, gazelles and impalas among others.
Lake Naivasha is at the highest elevation of all the Kenyan Rift valley lakes standing at 1,890 metres (6,200 ft). The lake is fed by two river namely malewa and gilgil rivers, and has no visible outlet. The lake covers an area of 140 km² but this varies annually due to the rainfall. The lake has an average depth of 8 meters and it is a fresh water lake.
Much of the lake is surrounded by forests of the yellow barked Acacia Xanthophlea, known as the yellow fever tree. These forests abound with bird life, and Naivasha is known as a world class birding destination. The lake habits schools of hippos and many bird species. The most common is the fish eagle. A wonderful way to spend the afternoon or morning is to take a boat ride.
Amboseli National Park is located south of Nairobi 140 kilometers which is a four hours drive from Nairobi. The park occupies an area of 392 km2. The ecosystem is made up of a seasonal lake called Lake Amboseli where the park derives its name from, swamps, open plains, acacia woodland, rocky out crops, thorn bushes and marches. The landscape is dominated by the backdrop of the majestic snow-cap of Mount Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa. The snow capes are visible when the clouds are clear mainly early morning and late evenings and this scene gives one the opportunity to capture wonderful memories on camera for friends and loved ones back at home.
Amboseli national park is considered Kenya second best after Masai Mara game reserve by many tourist and is the only national park in Kenya that has the highest population of elephants. The ecosystem of Amboseli though small compared to other parks sustain a large number of bird species and game. Amboseli offers some of the best opportunities to see African animals because its vegetation is sparse due to the long dry months. The park is considered most ideal for writers, filmmakers and researchers.
The Maasai are the local habitant of this area, which they call Empusel meaning “Dusty place”. Other community tribes have moved to Amboseli in search of greener pastures. Beside game viewing and the ecstatic views of Mount Kilimanjaro one can visit a local Masai village to learn their way of life and to interact with the locals.
Tsavo West National Park covers an area of 9065 Km2 and is located South Eastern Kenya, 240 km from Nairobi or 250km from Mombasa to Mtito Andei Gate. The park has magnificent scenery, Mzima Springs, rich and varied wildlife, good road system, rhino reserve, rock climbing at Kichwa Tembo Cliffs and guided walks along the Tsavo River. Tsavo West National Park has a variety of wildlife, such as black rhino, cape buffalo, elephant, leopard and masai lion. There are also other smaller animals that can be spotted in the park, such as the bushbaby, hippo, hartebeast, lesser kudu and masai giraffe.
Mzima springs is a natural reservoir under the chyulu hills to the north. The Chyulu range is composed of volcanic lava rock and ash, which is too porous to allow rivers to flow. Instead, rain water percolates through the rock, and may spend 25 years underground before emerging 50 kilometres away at Mzima Springs. The spring produces 450 million liters of water in a day that serves the Tsavo eco system and some of the water serves the coastal region through a pipe. At the spring you will find schools of hippos, crocodiles, fish and water birds like cormorants. During the night hippos come out to grave and during the day they just laze in the fully or half submerged.
The Shetani Lava flow, a black lava flow of 8 km long, 1.6 km wide and 5 meters deep, is the remain of volcanic eruptions which were subject of tales among local communities who named the flow “shetani” meaning evil in Kiswahili after it spewed from the earth 240 years ago. Climbing the flow is not an easy task as the thick black soil is composed of uneven chunks of solid magma. The cave, located near the center of the outflow, has two large opening and one ancient tree is growing between them. Although the cave is only few meters long, the exit is not accessible (although it can be seen) as the place is too narrow.
The Roaring Rocks will give you magnificent panoramic views, usually only seen by the eagles and buzzards that fly around these cliffs, over the plain called Rhino valley and the Ngulia Hills (1,821 m – 5,975 ft.). The Roaring rocks, located near the Rhino Sanctuary, has been for long an observation point for the protection of black rhinoceros and the fight against poaching. The eerie Roaring Rocks are named after the buzz of cicadas that inhabit them and the howl of wind that hits the bare rocks by producing a roaring sound.
Tsavo East National Park is one of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya covering an area of 11,747 square kilometers. The park is located near the village of Voi in the Taita-Taveta District of Coast Province and is divided into east and west sections by the A109 road and a railway. The park borders the Chyulu Hills National Park, and the Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania. The climate in this area is warm and dry. One requires a smart card to access the park and the card can be topped up at Voi gate.
Attractions of Tsavo East National Park include “The Red Elephants”. This effect is achieved from the wallowing and rolling in the galena river and spraying of the red soils of tsavo.
The beautiful Aruba dam located on the north bank of the seasonal Voi River, is visited by thousands of animals and a great game viewing point.
The Mudanda Rock
The Mudanda Rock is a 1.6 km inselberg of stratified rock that acts as a water catchment that supplies a natural dam below. It offers an excellent vantage point for the hundreds of elephants and other wildlife that come to drink during the dry season.
The Yatta Plateau, the world’s longest lava flow, runs along the western boundary of the park above the Athi River. Its 290 km length was formed by lava from Ol Doinyo Sabuk Mountain.
Lugard Falls, named after Frederick Lugard, is actually a series of white water rapids on the Galana River
Tsavo East has vast amounts of diverse wildlife that can be seen, including the famous ‘big five’ consisting of lion, black rhino, cape buffalo, elephant and leopard. The park also is also home to a great variety of bird life such as the black kite, crowned crane, lovebird and the sacred bird.