travel guide Masai Mara

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M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya M a s a I M a R a M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya s I g H T s M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya N a R o K MASAI MARA Dream of Africa and you dream of the Masai Mara. This huge expanse of gently rolling grassland – specked with flat-topped aca- cia trees and trampled by massive herds of zebras and wildebeest – is the ultimate African cliché. But for once the reality lives up to the im- age and the Masai Mara, which comprises not just the famous reserve but also around a dozen community conservancies, several group ranches and numerous Maasai villag- es, is for many people not just the highlight of their Kenyan adventure but the very rea- son they came in the first place. Narok P OP 24,000 Three hours west of Nairobi, this ramshack- le provincial town – the capital of the Mara region – is the last proper centre before the vast savannahs of the Masai Mara. It's a friendly and surprisingly hassle-free place, but few travellers have reason to stop. Most people roll on in, browse the curio shops while their driver refuels, then roll on out again. 1 Sights Narok Museum MUsEUM (B3 Hwy; adult/child Ksh500/250; h 9am-6pm) The town's only official attraction is the small Narok Museum and its displays on tra- ditional and contemporary Maasai culture, as well as that of other Maa-speaking people. 4 Sleeping & Eating Chambai Hotel HoTEl $ (% 0722957609; s/d from Ksh1500/2300; p ) The rooms in this town-centre place, not far from the matatu stand, are a little dark, but have inviting beds, balconies, small TVs and huge bathrooms. 8 Information Barclays Bank (B3 Hwy) The only aTM around the Masai Mara is at Talek gate, so stock up on cash here – and take more than you think you'll need. 8 Getting There & Away Narok line matatus run to Nairobi (Ksh500, three hours) from the shell petrol station on the B6 Hwy. all other matatus leave from the main matatu stand just around the corner in the centre of town. Destinations include Naivasha (Ksh350, 2½ hours), Kisii (Ksh500, three hours), Kericho (Ksh500, 2½ hours) and Nakuru (Ksh500, two hours). Matatus and share taxis also leave from the matatu stand to sekenani and Talek gates (matatu/taxi Ksh500/700). It's much cheaper to fill up with petrol here than in the reserve. Masai Mara National Reserve The world-renowned Masai Mara Nation- al Reserve (adult/child Us$80/45, subsequent days if staying inside the reserve Us$70/40; h 6am-7pm) is a huge expanse of tawny, sunburnt grasslands pocked with acacia WILDLIFE IN WESTERN KENYA The Masai Mara National Reserve is arguably Kenya's mo famous park and positively groans with all manner of savannah-dwelling creatures. The annual migration sees the arrival of a million herbivores (principally wildebee and zebras) from the Serengeti in search of grass, which in turn supports a large number of predators, including crocodiles, cheetahs, lions, leopards, hyenas, caracals, black-backed jackals and mongooses. The dense rainfore s of Kakamega Fore Reserve (p136) offers prolific birdlife, seven species of primates (including rare de Brazza's monkeys), nocturnal flying squirrels and a aggering array of butterflies and insects. You might get lucky and spot one of Mt Elgon National Park's famous mineral-loving elephants (p142), which mine bat-infe ed caves for salt, although waterbucks and colobus monkeys are more readily seen. More wildlife and unique surrounds can be found at Ruma National Park (p129), home to Kenya's only roan antelope population, a good number of endangered Rothschild's giraffes and some relocated black and white rhinos; and at Saiwa Swamp National Park (p145), which ho s rare swamp-dwelling sitatunga antelope. 1 1 2

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