Travel to Masai Mara

Masai Mara

The Masai Mara Game Reserve is widely considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve. The Mara comprises 200 sq miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forest. Contiguous with the plains of the Serengeti, the Mara is home to a breath taking array of life.

The vast grassland plains are scattered with herds of Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelle, and Topi. The Acacia forests abound with Bird life and Monkeys. Elephants and Buffalo wallow in the wide Musiara Swamp. The Mara and Talek rivers are brimming with Hippos and Crocodiles.

Each year the Mara plays host to the world’s greatest natural spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration from the Serengeti.  From July to October, the promise of rain and fresh life giving grass in the north brings more than 1.3 million Wildebeest together into a single massive herd. They pour across the border into the Mara, making a spectacular entrance in a surging column of life that stretches from horizon to horizon.

The Mara has been called the Kingdom of Lions and these regal and powerful hunters dominate these grasslands. Cheetah are also a common sight in the Mara, as are Hyena and smaller predators such as Jackals.

Wildlife moves freely in and out of the reserve, and through neighboring Maasai lands. Outside the boundaries of the reserve there are many other small camps and lodges, some of which offer walking,horse riding and other safari options.

South Western Kenya is the heartland of the Maasai. The Maasai are a strongly independent people who still value tradition and ritual as an integral part of their everyday lives.  They regard themselves not just as residents of this area but that they are as much a part of the life of the land as the land is part of their lives.

Traditionally, the Maasai rarely hunt and living alongside wildlife in harmony is an important part of their beliefs.Lions and Wildebeest play as important a role in their cultural beliefs as their own herds of cattle.  This unique co-existence of man and wildlife makes this Maasai land one of the world’s most unique wilderness regions.

Overview

Within the borders of a single country, you will find savannahs rich with big game, timeless cultures unchanged by the modern world, pristine beaches and coral reef, equatorial forests and mighty snow-capped mountains, searing deserts and cool highland retreats and endless opportunities for adventure, discovery, relaxation; more than you would ever expect.

People

Currently there are more than 40 different ethnic groups in Kenya.

The main groups of tribes are the Bantu who migrated from western Africa, the Nilotic people who originated from Sudan and the Hamitic group, who were mainly pastoral tribes from Ethiopia and Somalia. The main tribes are Kikuyu (21%), Meru (5%), Kalenjin, Luyha, Luo (14%), Kisii, Kamba, Swahili, Masai, Turkana

The other large ethnic groups include the Luo, Luhya, Kamba and Kalenjin- There are also some groups of people who form a very small population. This includes the tribe of El Molo.

Language

Jambo is one of the most common words you will hear spoken throughout Kenya. This is the simplest Swahili greeting, and is often the first word learned by visitors to Kenya.
Swahili (locally referred to as KiSwahili) is Kenya’s national language. Swahili originated on the East African coast, as a trade language used by both Arabs and coastal tribes. The language incorporated elements of both classical Arabic and Bantu dialects, and became the mother tongue of the Swahili people who themselves rose from the intermarriage of Arab and African cultures.

A little Swahili goes a long way in Kenya. It is worth learning a little, and most Kenyans are thrilled to hear visitors attempt to use any Swahili at all.

History

Kenya was first populated by a number of small dispersed tribal groups, the main groups were the Kikuyu, Kamba, Luo and Masai. These tribes shared the same area of land although they all had different origins.  It wasn’t until the 19th century that outsiders entered the interior of the country and as a result Kenya escaped the worst of the Arab slavers who concentrated more further to the south.

In 1893 Uganda became a British protectorate closely followed by Kenya - 1895. The British were just interested in controlling the rich resources of Uganda and to facilitate this they built a railway between Mombasa and Kampala using laborers from India, many of whom remained and have become today’s merchant class.

By 1915 the majority of the fertile highlands were being used by the British and racial segregation of land effectively excluded Africans and Asians from owning properties there.  Presently a large majority of the land is still owned by expatriate or politicians and the country’s employment problems are caused by the fact that there is limited access to the land and because only seven per cent of the total area receives enough rainfall to support agriculture.


Some tribes remained virtually unaffected by the plantations.  The pressure over land ownership and the controls over cultivation and marketing of cash crops by Africans prevented them from competing with the white settlers leading to the formation of nationalist organizations in the 1920’s.

In 1963 independence was granted with Jomo Kenyatta as the country’s first president.

Travel Guide

Currency

The official currency is the Kenya Shilling. Available Notes are 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 shillings. Available coins are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 40 shillings. Visitors to Kenya should change foreign currency at banks, bureau de change or authorized hotels. The easiest currencies to exchange are US Dollars, Pounds sterling and EURO.

Travelers Checks are widely accepted, and many hotels, travel agencies, safari companies and restaurants accept Credit Cards. Most Banks in Kenya are equipped to advance cash on credit cards. There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Kenya.  Most hotels/lodges will charge in US Dollars making it unnecessary to get local currency.

Before departure, travelers are advised to convert any excess Kenya shillings into foreign currency at a bank or bureau de change before departure. Departure taxes can be paid in local or foreign currency. Anyone wishing to take more than 500,000 Kenya Shillings out of the country will require written authorization from the Central Bank.

Weather

Kenya straddles the equator so there is little seasonal variation in temperature. There is much more variation between the coastal and low lying regions and the high plains and mountain regions. The game parks lie at an altitude of 5,000 to 7,000 feet and have a pleasant climate with warm days and cooler evenings year round.

There are two rainy seasons - the long rains during April and May and the short rains in November. The rest of the year is classified as dry season. In practice, the rainfall pattern has been neither regular nor predictable in recent years. In the rainy seasons, the rain often falls in heavy but brief tropical downpours during the evening or night with pleasant sunny days in between. The effects of the rain can cause some animals to disperse and may produce a few local problems with flooding of roads and bridges. On the other hand, rain makes the atmosphere clean and dust free and the vegetation beautifully lush and green.

Health Requirements

If you have recently visited a Yellow Fever infected area you are required to have a valid vaccination certificate which must be taken on holiday with you.  Malaria is present and you are also advised to take a course of anti-Malarial pills.  We strongly advise you to reconfirm your vaccination requirements with your own/family doctor.

Visa Requirements

A visa is required prior to entry into Kenya. A single Entry Visa (valid for three months from date of issue) will cost US$ 50. A transit visa will cost US$ 20. No Visa is required for persons aged 15 years and below.  Visas may be obtained in advance online at http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival.  Travelers to Kenya and neighboring African countries should ensure that the validity of their passports is at least six months beyond the end of their intended stay, and that their passport contains sufficient blank pages for visas and immigration stamps.

Credit Cards

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in Kenya. Other credit cards much less so. However, many shops etc. don’t have automatic dial-up systems for credit card transactions yet. They use manual systems that are more open for fraud. While there are no reports of massive credit card fraud, it may be wise to use your credit card only with more up-market places.

Electrical Appliances

The power supply is at the UK/ European standard voltage of 220/240 , and power sockets are the U.K. square pin type. Remember if you want to use U.S. appliances you will need a voltage converter as well as a plug converter. Mains power supply is subject to cuts and voltage fluctuation. On safari, most lodges’ power supplies are from generators, and these are often turned off during parts of the day and night to reduce noise and fuel consumption.

Water

It is generally recommended to drink only bottled mineral water which is readily available everywhere.

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