The Wildlife of The Masai Mara

The Wildlife of The Masai Mara

The Masai Mara game reserve is a shining example of what is possible when countries and communities come together to protect their natural heritage, and as a result, this special reserve offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the world. Part of the Great Rift Valley, and home to the famous annual wildebeest migration, this conservation area has fenceless borders with Tanzania’s Serengeti National park as well as several smaller reserves, meaning that wildlife can move around much as they have for millennia.

Apart from the Big 5 – lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant – there is a seemingly endless cast of creatures that call this place home, literally an A to Z from aardvarks to zebras!

If you are a lover of all things feline, then a safari in the Masai Mara will delight you with cats big and small. The elusive and beautiful caracal, serval and African wildcat (which looks deceptively like a household tabby!) bring in the smaller scale, with lion, cheetah, and leopard at the larger end. The reserve is a paradise for wildlife filmmakers, and the raw, natural beauty of the Kenyan landscape has inspired many books, such as Out of Africa by Karen Blixen and the true story of Elsa the lioness in Born Free by Joy Adamson.

Mammals of all shapes and sizes are to be found, from mongoose, meerkats, bush babies, porcupines, rock hyraxes or ‘dassies’, jackal, bat-eared foxes, vervet monkeys and baboons, warthogs, African wild dogs and spotted hyena. Hippos and crocodiles laze in the rivers, and reptiles such as lizards, geckos, terrapins, and tortoises can also be spotted.

The range of bird life is truly astonishing; with an estimated 470 separate species to be found, including an impressive 60 raptor species. The national bird of Kenya, the lilac-breasted roller, is a favorite among visitors, as well as the slightly bizarre-looking secretary bird. Vultures, hornbills, cranes, ostrich, plovers, starlings, falcons, eagles, herons, egrets, spoonbills, hawks, buzzards, kestrels, kites, storks, and guineafowl are in abundance, to name but a few!

Antelope abound, from the tiny and really quite adorable dik-dik and duiker, up to the largest antelope of all, the eland. These majestic creatures can stand as tall as 1.6 meters at the shoulder, and are capable of jumping a 3-meter fence with ease! The females have even become a source of milk for some enterprising tribal communities, as they require less water and care than traditional cows. Other antelope include impala, Thomson gazelles, topis, waterbuck, hartebeest, kudu, and the rare roan antelope. And oh yes, there may be one or two wildebeest…

The Annual Migration

Starting around July each year, one of the most breathtaking wildlife spectacles on Earth begins. Wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelles, topi and eland numbering in their millions begin their annual trek north from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara in Kenya. Hungry crocodiles wait for them in the rivers, and predators large and small follow in their wake, which has led to the migration being given the nickname of ‘The Wildlife World Cup’!

Wildebeest Migration
Wildebeest Migration – Source: African Wildlife Photos

Want to learn more about the Great Migration?

The Migration Path Explained