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Masai Mara National Reserve

The Masai Mara National Reserve covers some 1530km² in south-western Kenya. It is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, covering some 25,000 km². It is bounded by the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria escarpment to the west and Masai pastoral ranches to the North, East and West. The Sand, Talek and Mara are the major rivers draining the reserve. Shrubs and trees fringe most drainage lines and cover hill slopes and hilltops.

Named after the Masai people (the traditional inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from a viewpoint - "Mara", which is Maa (Masai language) for spotted: an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savannah and cloud shadows that mark the area. It is famous for its exceptional population of Big Cats, game, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson's gazelle and wildebeest from the Serengeti every year from July to October, a migration so immense it is called the Great Migration.

All members of the "Big Five" - Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino are found in the Masai Mara. Hippopotami are found in large groups in the Masai Mara and Talek rivers. Cheetah are also found, the plains between the Mara River and the Esoit Oloololo Escarpment are probably the best area for game viewing, in particular regarding lion and cheetah.

The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving an immensity of herbivores some 1,300,000 wildebeests, 360,000 Thomson's gazelles, and 191,000 zebras. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.

Numerous other antelopes can be found, including Thomson's and Grant's gazelles, impalas, topis and Coke's hartebeests. Large herds of zebra are found through the reserve. The plains are also home to the distinctive Masai giraffe as well as the common giraffe. The large Roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders. The Masai Mara is a major research centre for the spotted hyena. Additionally, over 450 species of birdlife have been identified in the park, including vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested Eagles, and African pygmy-falcons.