Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Maasai Mara National Reserve

Maasai Mara National Reserve is located in SW Kenya and it is comprised of the northern tip of the Mara Serengeti Ecosystem. However, the Maasai Mara only forms a small 1500 sq kilometer section of the greater 25,000 sq kilometer ecosystem. The Maasai Mara reserve is also contiguous with the Serengeti National Park that lies south of the border in Tanzania.

Due to the abundance of wildlife in the reserve the Maasai Mara creates some of the best game viewing in the world. Most notable, is a natural phenomenon called “the great migration” which occurs between July and October when the great herds of wildebeest and other ungulates arrive in Kenya from Tanzania. Unfortunately for them, their migration route is crossed by the crocodile infested Mara River.

Day One – Maasai Mara Safari

After our arrival at the Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge we set out immediately to get in a late afternoon game drive. We were in luck because we would soon learn that our guide was one of the best in Kenya.

Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Here is our fantastic Maasai Mara safari guide and our transportation which also folds out to serve as a viewing platform.

We soon encountered this giraffe trio who were fighting among themselves. After dishing out a few blows they took a short break to pose for a photo.

Fighting Giraffes - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Our safari guide pointed out that these giraffes were fighting. They bend their necks and strike each other with their two horns.

Fighting Giraffes - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

The three quirky Maasai Mara animals actually made for a good photo when they stood still.

Fighting Giraffes - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

That’s better, now please smile for the camera.

Pride of Lions at Maasai Mara

As we enjoyed observing these amusing giraffes our guide took a keen interest in something on the horizon. After confirming his intuition with the binoculars we moved in for a closer look. As we approached this speck on the horizon he explained to us that what we were looking at was lion cubs standing on a termite mound. Naturally, as we moved closer their shapes began to take form.

The lion cubs seemed keenly interested in something off in the far distance. I could not see or hear anything so I was a bit perplexed by what was going on. Then the lion cubs began to quickly trot off towards whatever it was that they were observing.

Our guide began tailing the cubs……

Lion Cubs - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

The guide spotted the lion cubs far off in the distance and we approached them.

Lion Cubs - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

We then followed them as they seemed very focused on where they were going.

Lion Cubs - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Maasai Mara Lion Tracking Tactics

Some questions that were in my mind included what were these cubs doing away from the rest of the pride? What were they looking for? When would we find the adult lions? As we were pursuing the lion cubs our guide told us what was going on. 

  1. The cubs are usually left alone while the adults are out hunting game
  2. The cubs were in fact leading us back to the adult lions
  3. Although inaudible to human hearing, the cubs could hear from a couple kilometers off in the distance that the pride had made a kill
  4. The cubs were in fact leading us to the kill

Then sure enough, we drove right up to a fresh kill that the pride had made. Fortunately, we were the first ones on the scene and had the whole thing to ourselves before some other safari vehicles showed up (our guide tipped off his associates with the radio after a few minutes).

The cubs quickly jumped in the fray to try and swallow a few bites. The target of the kill was suspected by our guide to be a baby African buffalo and unfortunately there was not much to go around.

Lion Kill - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

One of the cubs gets in between two adult lioness. This looked pretty hazardous.

Lion Kill - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

The lions were quickly devouring the remains of the African buffalo.

Lion Kill - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

The pride members were relentless in obtaining their share of the kill.

Lion kill - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

As the portions got smaller the lions started getting pretty aggressive.

Lion Kill - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

The lion cubs seemed pretty content to be reunited with mom.

Day 2 – Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Day one had concluded with a bang therefore day two would have a tough act to follow. Finding a fresh lion kill such as the one we were able to observe is not always so easy.

However, day 2 started out very well. Our guide got clued into the location of some cheetahs that were hanging out on the savanna. Fortunately, they were still there when we arrived and we got some great photos.

Cheetah - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Our guide brought us to a distant location in the Maasai Mara savanna where there were 2 very photogenic cheetahs.

Cheetah - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

The cheetahs were resting in the grass watching the horizon.

Cheetahs - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Unfortunately, the cheetahs were not actively hunting at this time and we were unable to observe a live kill.

New Lion Pride Maasai Mara Safari

On the 2nd day we did have an encounter with a new pride of lions. However, this pride of lions was in a much different condition than the large pride we discovered on Day 1.

Second Lion Pride - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

This pride of lions was not as healthy as the first pride we had encountered the day before. Our guide pointed out pertinent details.

Our guide explained that this pride was not as healthy as the pride we observed on day one. They had likely been blocked out of the more abundant hunting grounds that was part of territory of the stronger lion pride.

Subtle differences that our guide pointed out included:

  1. This pride did not have many cubs indicating that the pride was not able to feed very often
  2. The single cub we were able to observe with this pride was in very poor condition, it appeared to be malnourished.

The single cub that was part of this pride can be observed in the center of the picture. It is lying down in between the two lionesses with its head resting against the shoulder of the one lioness. We were able to observe that lion cub was not very healthy and it appeared very thin.

Malnourished lion cub - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

The new pride of lions only had a single cub that appeared malnourished. This was a sure sign these lions were not feeding well.

The Mara River

After observing the lions we ventured off towards the Mara River. The Mara River is world famous for being the best location in the world to observe the great migration of wildebeest. Unfortunately, the wildebeest do not enjoy it so much because they must try and cross the river while being attacked by giant African crocodiles.

This was not the season of the great migration however, there are still ample game viewing opportunities to be had in the off season.

Giant crocodile Mara River Kenya - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

This giant crocodile is patiently waiting on the river bank for the return of the great Maasai Mara migration.

Hippos Mara River - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

After observing this hungry crocodile we found some hippos to observe and had lunch on the river bank.

Aggressive Hippos Mara River Kenya - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

This other group of hippos was behaving rather aggressively. Of all Maasai Mara animals, the hippos can present the most danger to unsuspecting humans.

Elusive Male Lions At Maasai Mara

As we were scouting around the banks of the Mara river, suddenly our guide swerved of the trail and began directly driving into the brush. This made us a bit nervous….

However, what are guide has spotted was some branches that was out of place indicating something large had walked through it.

Sleeping Adult Male Lion - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Adult male lions sleep for 20 hours per day.

Our guide had again alerted to us to what was at first unseen to the untrained eye. Thus, his intuition was again correct and we had found a sleeping adult male lion. This lion did not so much as open an eyelid even though our vehicle was idled about 2 meters from its head.

It was now late afternoon and it was time to start heading back to the lodge. On the way we spotted a group of elephants which made for some good photos. However, we would be seeing many many elephants in the near future at Amboseli National Park.

Elephants - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

We spotted a small herd of elephants on the Maasai Mara savanna.

Solitary Elephant - Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari

Conclusion

Our trip to Maasai Mara National Reserve had been fabulous. The next destination on our itinerary would be Lake Nakuru and also Lake Naivasha. Therefore, we would now be traveling north towards Mt Kenya to stay the night at Lake Nakuru. We would spend that evening and the next morning exploring Lake Nakuru and then spend the afternoon at Lake Naivasha. After that we would be traveling back through Nairobi to Amboseli National Park.

Review of Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge

Our accommodation at Maasai Mara was the Sopa Lodge. The facilities were very welcoming because the rooms were done up with traditional African colors and furnishings. Plus, they had large fireplaces in the lounge and restaurant.  The staff was very professional and overall our experience at this Sopa Lodge was very satisfactory. 

 

Additional sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_Mara
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serengeti#Great_migration
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mara_River