Wildlife in Masai Mara

Wildlife and animals in Masai Mara National Reserve.

Wildlife and animals in Masai Mara National Reserve. The Masai Mara is Kenya’s flagship game reserve. Sightings of four out of the Big Five are almost guaranteed. The black rhino is more elusive but can sometimes be spotted. The reserve is one of the best for big cats, but sightings of smaller predators like bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals, and spotted hyenas also tend to be rewarding. Antelopes, such as impala, reedbuck, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, and topi, are common, while buffalo, elephant, and giraffe are relaxed and easily spotted.

The legendary wildebeest migration is one of the world’s most amazing wildlife encounters. Sometime between late July and late August, millions of animals leave the Serengeti and head into the Masai Mara,arrivingaround September. The crossing of the Mara River along the way is the most spectacular part of the migration. Around October, the migration slowly heads back to the Serengeti.

The best time for Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing in the Masai Mara is good throughout the year. The best time to witness the wildebeest migration are from July to September.

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Masai Mara is also home to a large number of other animals apart from the Big Five. This is a list of some of the other diverse wildlife you will find in Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Africa’s iconic images of massive herds of wildebeest and zebra trekking across the African plains are only part of the Masai Mara’s wildlife appeal. The Masai Mara is also one of the best places on earth to spot most of the Big Five during a bush safari.

In addition to popular showstoppers, this part of the globe is home to some very spectacular-looking creatures that you may not be familiar with.

The Masai Mara Nature Great Masterpiece. 

Most safari travelers dream of spotting the coveted Big Five: Lions, Elephants, leopards, and Cape buffalos,whichare relatively common sights in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Rhinos do occur, but they are notoriously difficult to spot. The term ‘Big Five’ has a very dark origin. It has little to do with the size of these animals and everything to do with the difficulty of hunting them. Luckily, these days they are most sought after for the perfect photograph. In addition to the Big Five, the Masai Mara Game Reserve is home to an extraordinary variety of interesting animals. Here’s a glance at the most popular wildlife living in the Masai Mara ecosystem.

Lion (Panthera Leo)

Africa’s king of the jungle, the lion, is both awe-inspiring and terrifying due to its strength, speed, and reputation. Approximately 650 to 800 live within the Masai Mara National Reserve and surrounding conservancies. The Mara ecosystem is one of the world’s premier locations to spot this mighty beast in the wild. Lions are one of the most sociable big cat predators, and they generally live in a pride of fifteen to twenty lions. A pride can consist of up to three males, several adult female lions (of which one is the dominant female), and several sub-adults and cubs. Male lions are known to lay claim to and defend their territories. The females of this species are known as the lion pride hunters, and male lions only occasionally assist during a kill. They will generally be called in to take down larger animals. Their favorite meals consist of zebra and wildebeest, but when these are out of season (beyond the great migration season), they also enjoy preying on warthogs and buffalo. Lions are known to sleep approximately 20 hours a day.

Elephant (Loxodonta Africana)

One of the most common sightings of the Big Five animals in the Masai Mara is the African Elephant. The elephant is the largest land mammal on the planet. An African Elephant can grow up to seven and a half meters long, almost three and a half meters high, and can weigh up to six tons. Despite being threatened by poachers for its ivory tusks, the African elephant population in the Mara has grown in recent years. This incredibly intelligent and sociable animal is known for having strong family ties. They are matriarchal, which means they live in female-led groups. Family units are usually made up of approximately ten elephants, but at times several family units get together to form a clan of up to 65 or more elephants led by a single female elephant. Elephants live on a diet of grasses, fruit, roots, and tree bark and can eat up to 200 kilograms of food per day.

Leopard (Panthera Pardus):

While lions are known for their strength and majestic appeal, leopards are often heralded for their grace and stealth. Although leopards can be found in Masai Mara in healthy numbers and in some other parks in Kenya as well, these elusive animals are nonetheless listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are threatened by human-wildlife conflict. Leopards almost always hunt on their own and are, by nature, shy and camouflaged. They mostly prefer to hunt at night.

Buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

Also known as the Cape Buffalo, are large bovines regarded as one of the more dangerous animals in East Africa, not least due to their volatile and unpredictable nature, which is one of the reasons the African Buffalo has never been domesticated as is the case in Asia. Females protecting their young calves and solitary rogue bulls are the most aggressive, and having 800 kg of angry animal is no joke. Both sexes have the distinctive curving horns which broaden and almost meet over the forehead, although those in females are fairly smaller. Buffalo are often found in herds of 100 or more and never graze too far from water areas, especially in the dry season. These animals appear in great numbers in all major parks, with the exception of Nairobi National Park. They can also be found in large numbers in Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Rhino (Rhinocerotidae)

 Masai Mara is home to the Black Rhino, the slightly smaller but more aggressive species  compared to the White Rhino, which is more commonly found at Lake Nakuru. Rhinoceros is the proper name for the rhino, and it is one of five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae, as well as numerous extinct species. Black rhinos are smaller than white rhinos, and there is no color difference between them. Black rhinos use their horns during mating and fighting, as well as when defending themselves from predators. They also use their hooked lip to browse shrubs and prefer thick bush habitat.

African Hare (Lepus Capensis)

African hares are commonly found in grasslands and wooded savannas throughout Africa. They live mainly solitary lives, though they sometimes form groups of two or three while eating. They use their senses of hearing, smell, and sight to avoid predators. African hares are 20 inches long, weigh between 1.5 kg to 3 kg, and feed on leaves, buds, roots, berries, fungi, bark, and twigs. African hares are generally present in Masai Mara Game Reserve. The lifespan is 10 to 12 years.

Antelope (Alcelaphinae)

One of the wild animals that most people would always associate with in East Africa, Antelopes are present in Masai Mara Game Reserve generally in large numbers. There are 3 sub species ; namely the Dik-Dik, Klipspringer, and Oribi Antelope. Antelopes are found in arid regions with bush or scrub cover and come in a variety of sizes. They show true diversity and imagination with their headgear.

Banded Mongoose (Mungos Mungo)

Banded mongoose is a mongoose commonly found in the central and eastern parts of Africa. It lives in savannas, open forests, and grasslands and feeds primarily on beetles and millipedes. Mongooses use various types of dens for shelter, including termite mounds, and they live in colonies with a complex social structure. They are brown or grey in color and are easily identifiable by the dark bands across the back that stretch from shoulder to tail. The animal is about 40 cm in length and weighs between 1.3 to 2.3 kg. They are commonly seen in groups in Masai Mara, Tsavo, Aberdare, and Amboseli.

The cheetah (Acinonyx Jubantus)

is one of the iconic animals in Masai Mara Game Reserve. They are known for hunting in the open in groups of up to four or five. Cheetahs are universally known for their speed, being the fastest land mammal, touching up to 110 km per hour on short bursts during hunts. Similar in appearance to leopards, the cheetah is longer and has a lighter body. It has a slightly bowed back and a much smaller, rounder face. It stands around 80cm at the shoulder, measures around 210cm in length (including the tail), and weighs from 45 to 65 kg. It’s found in small numbers in most of Kenya’s major game reserves and national parks.

The giraffe (Giraffa)

 is the tallest living mammal and actually quite a sight, extremely picturesque, and known for their graceful movements even when running at their fastest speed of 50 to 60 km per hour. There are two main subspecies of giraffe found in Kenya. The reticulated giraffe in northern Kenya and the Masai giraffe in southern Kenya, including Masai Mara. It is estimated that close to 33,000 Masai giraffes arrive in the wild in Kenya.

The hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius).

The Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), commonly referred to as a hippo, is the third-largest land mammal, with average adult males weighing close to 1500 kg. Hippos typically inhabit swamps, rivers, and areas close to the lakeshore, and remain cool by staying in the water during most of the day. They are found in the greatest numbers in Masai Mara Game Reserve, especially along the Mara River. Hippos are territorial. They are also found in other parks in Kenya.

Zebra (Equus quagga)

is one of the wild animals that most people would always associate with East Africa. Zebras are present in Masai Mara and Kenya generally in large numbers. There are 2 sub species , namely the plain zebra and Grevy’s zebra. Masai Mara is home to the plains zebra, while the Grevy’s zebra with their unique thinner stripes are found in Samburu Reserve, Northern Kenya.

Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)

The Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a small to medium-sized burrowing mammal with a long snout and powerful claws, native to Africa. Aardvarks are nocturnal animals that feed on insects, mainly ants and termites. They have a hairless body with a pronounced arched back and short legs. The thick claws on the forefeet are well adapted for burrowing and digging.

Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus)

Aardwolf “proteles cristatus” in an insectivorous carnivore native to East and digging. Its name means “earth wolf” in Afrikaans. It is yellowish with vertical black stripes and a bushy black-tipped tail, and resembles a small stripped hyena. Like the hyena, it has a long, coarse ridge of erectile hairs along the length of its back, sturdy shoulders, and longer front legs than hind legs. However, the aardwolf is less of a runner and has five toes on the front feet instead of four. Aardwolves are found  on the open, grassy plains of East and South Africa. They are solitary and rest in burrows during the day before becoming active at night. Their territory ranges from 1 to 4 square kilometers, depending on food availability, and they mark it with urine, dung, and secretions from their anal glands. The  

Bat-Eared Fox (Otocyon Megalotis)

Bat eared fox is a species of fox found in short-grass prairies and arid grassland and are only found in Africa, where they are most often seen foraging at night or in the early morning during warmer months and during the day when the weather turns colder. Their body is generally yellow-brown; the throat and underparts. are pale. Often seen in areas that have been extensively grazed by domestic and wild ungulates, but they do venture into tall grass and thick shrub areas if threatened. They are highly social, so if you spot one, keep your eyes open to see more of them. The majority of the bat-eared fox’s diet consists of small invertebrates such as ants, termites, spiders, scorpions, and crickets. They will also eat small birds , reptiles, and mammals. The  

Wildebeest (Connochaetes)

Wildebeest (also nicknamed gnu, is a member of the antelope family. The front end of their body is heavily built, while the hindquarters are slender with spindly legs. They have a gray coat and a black mane, as well as a beard that can be black or white. There are several species of wildebeest. The species forming the large herds of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania are known as the western white-bearded wildebeest. Their favorite habitats are open woodlands and open grassy plains.

Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus)

Waterbuck, also known as defassa waterbuck, is a fairly solid animal and is easily recognizable by its thick, shaggy, dark brown coat and white inner thighs. The horns are present in males only, which they use to defend themselves if attacked. These curve gradually outwards, then grow straight up to a length of about 75cm. The female and young ones move in the vicinity of a number of territorial males or may stay with one dominant male. They feed on grass, reeds, and some foliage. It is fairly common and easily seen in Nairobi, Lake Nakuru National Park, and Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Warthogs (Phacochoerus Africanus)

Warthogs are the most common wild pig in Kenya and the most frequently observed wild pig in Africa. They are distributed throughout the savannah and semi- arid areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

They are often seen in family groups, with parents and piglets trotting briskly in a straight line with tails erect. Warthogs are herbivores and diurnal animals that spend much of their day foraging for food.

Their most endearing habit is the way they turn tail and trot away with their thin, tufted tail stuck straight up in the air like some antenna. The best places to see them in Kenya are in Masai Mara Game Reserve. Warthogs are known for their short memory.

Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops)

Vervet monkey is a small, black-faced monkey with a greenish–olive or silvery-gray body, found in the Mara. Vervet society is built on complex but stable social groups (troops) of 10 to 50 individuals,mainly

adult females and their immature offspring. They primarily have a herbivorous, living mostly on leaves, roots, and fruits. Grass seeds are also consumed. Sometimes they are carnivorous, hunting rodents, eggs, baby birds, and hares.

Topi (Damaliscus Lunatus jimela)

Topi (Damaliscus lunatus jimela) is a medium – sized antelope with a striking reddish-brown to purplish-red coat that is glossy, even iridescent in bright sunlight. They primarily live in flood plains, but sometimes can be found in dry areas of open savannah and park woodland, taking to the shade during the heat of the day. They prefer flat lowlands and can go without water for long periods of time,butonly if they have access to green pastures.

They are mainly found in the Masai Mara Game Reserve.

 Thomson’s Gazelle (Gazella thomsonii)

s one of the best-known gazelles. It is named after explorer Joseph Thomson and is sometimes referred to as a ‘tommie’. It is often confused with the much larger Grant’s Gazelle (38- 80 kgs), however, it is more easily identified by its thicker black tail, shorter horns, and more obvious black stripe on the flank. Thomson’s gazelles prefer savannas and grassland habitats, particularly in the Serengeti region of Kenya and Tanzania.

Straw coloured Fruit Bat (Eidolon helvum)

Straw coloured fruit bat also known as african straw coloured fruit bat which is the second largest fruit bat in Africa. They live in a wide range of habitats across sub-Saharan Africa. They prefer moist and dry tropical forests, because there is so much fruit. However, they also eat blossoms and young shoots of silk-cotton trees and will use various other forest habitats and even urban areas. These bats are very strong fliers, with long, pointed wings built for endurance over agility. Because of this, they cannot maneuver in tight spaces and find their food in the yellow or dark brown- grey. They are highly social species and travel in massive colonies of at least 100,000 bats.

, (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck also known as imbabala, is a sub-Saharan antelope found in the rainforest, montane forests, forest-savannah mosaics, and bush savannahs. They have a light brown coat, with up to seven white stripes and white splotches on the sides. The muzzle is also white and horns are found only on the males, which can reach over half a meter with only one twist. They mainly browse but supplement their diet with any other plant matter they can reach. They are active around 24 hours a day but tend to be nocturnal near human habitations. Commonly found in Kenya’s parks and reserves. The  

Coke’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus cokii)

The Cokes hartebeest is a medium-sized, fawn-colored antelope. They are easy to recognize due to their long, narrow face and distinctively angular,highly ridgedshort horns in both males and females,. They are primarily found in medium and tall grasslands, including savannas, and can be spotted in most of Kenya’s parks and reserves. They feed on grass but are not very selective and are quite tolerant of poor-quality food.

Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx)

is also known as the southern eland antelope and is a savannah and plains antelope found in east and southern Africa. It is the second-largest antelope in the world, being slightly smaller on average than the giant eland. They are spiral-horned antelopes and prefer savannah scrub to wide-open spaces but also avoid thick forests. They feed on grass and tree foliage in the early morning and late afternoon, as well as on moonlit nights. They are commonly found in most of Kenya’s parks and reserves.

Copper Tailed Monkey/Red Tailed Monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius)

 are social primates forming a group of 7-30 individuals and are found in east and central Africa. The groups consist of one dominant male, females, and their offspring. They are more active in the early morning and evening. They are omnivorous and feed on fruits but also eat leaves, flowers, or insects when fruits are scarce.

Crested Porcupine (Hystrix cristata)

Crested porcupine is a large, black-bodied, nocturnal rodent with long, black and white spines and a prominent crest of elongated, spiny hairs from forehead to shoulders. It can be distinguished from others by its black rump and short, rattle-like quills in the tail. Mostly found in non-desert habitats such as savannas, woodlands, steppes, and uplands. They mostly feed on plant materials; fruits, roots, tubers, bark, and bulbs. They can be spotted in Masai Mara, Kenya.


Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula)

Dwarf mongoose is a small African carnivore belonging to the mongoose family. They are commonly found in savannahs, thickets, and woodlands, typically with numerous termite mounds for shelter. Although they can survive seasonally waterless periods, they avoid very arid, open country. They are one of the two social species of mongoose, living in family groups of between 2 to 21 individuals. They feed on insects, notably crickets and grasshoppers. They give birth to 1 -6 young ones with a gestation period of 53 days. They can be found in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Grant’s Gazelle (Gazella granti)

Grant’s gazelles are mostly identified by its coloring and long horns. They are sandy brown on the back, clearly demarcated from a lighter color on the flanks and white belly and around the tail and hind legs. Both males and females have horns and are often found in mixed groups alongside other herbivores. They exist in large numbers in most of Kenya’s parks and reserves.


Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis)

, also known as ratel, is a mammal widely distributed in Africa, southwest Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. They got their name from their fondness for feeding on honey and honeybee larvae. They also feed on insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals as well as fruits, roots, bulbs, and berries. They are active throughout the day but near human settlements, they prefer the cover of darkness. They can be spotted in Masai Mara, Kenya.


The impala (Aepyceros melampus)

The impala is a medium-sized antelope found in eastern and southern Africa. It has a reddish-brown coat with white hair inside the ears, over each eye, and on the chin, upper throat, underparts, and buttocks. A narrow black line runs along the middle of its lower back to the tail, and a vertical black stripe appears on the back of each thigh. They are usually found on grassland and woodland edges, very close to water. They are both browsers and grazers, feeding on a variety of vegetation. They can be found in most of Kenya’s parks and reserves.  

Kirk’s dik-dik (Madoqua kirkii)

Kirk’s dik dik is the most common of the two dik-diks found in Kenya and can be easily seen in Nairobi, Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Amboseli National Park, as well as Masai Mara National Reserve. It is a tiny antelope with reddish-brown color on the back, lighter flanks, and a white belly. They are easily recognized by their almost lack of tail and the tuft of dark hair on the forehead. Males have short horns, which are often hidden in their hair tuft. They are nocturnal and spend their days resting in the shade to avoid the lossvaluable fluids.

The klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) is a small antelope found in rocky areas of eastern and southern Africa.

Klipspringer is a small antelope found in eastern and southern Africa. It is easily recognized by its curious “tip-toe’ stance and the greenish tinge of its speckled coarse hair. Its horns are short and widely spaced. Klipspringers are mostly seen on rocky outcrops or in the grassland in the immediate vicinity. When alarmed, they retreat into the rocks for safety. They can be seen in Meru, Amboseli, Tsavo West, and Tsavo East National Parks, as well as Masai Mara.

Olive Baboons (Papio cynocephalus Anubis)

The Olive baboon also known as the Anubis Baboon is one of the largest baboons, with an olive grey/green coat that covers their body and a black face. They inhabit savannahs, steppes, and forests and are highly adaptable. They live in troops of 20 to 50 males and females. They feed on grass seeds, leaves, cereals, fruits, tubers, and young birds. They can be found in most of Kenya’s parks and reserves.

 (Ourebia ourebi)

Oribi is a tall, slender antelope of medium-small size with a sandy body color,white undersides, upper throat, and mouth and ear lining. They are commonly found in grassland maintained by heavy grazing. They prefer flats or gentle slopes and are uncommon. They can be spotted in Masai Mara, Kenya.


Pangolin (Manis temminckii)

Pangolins are bizarre-looking, nocturnal mammals covered in protective keratin scales. They are the only known mammals with this feature. When threatened, they roll up into a ball to protect themselves. They live in hollow trees or burrows, depending on the species. They tend to be solitary animals, meeting only to mate and produce a litter of one to three offspring, which can be raised for about two years. Although they are one of Africa’s elusive creatures and are rarely seen, they can be spotted in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Side Striped Jackals (Canis adustus)

Side striped jackal is shorter-legged and shorter-eared than other jackals. It can be easily recognized by the white tip of its tail and the poorly defined black and white stripes along the flanks. They are commonly found in woodland and scrub areas. They mostly feed on invertebrates and small vertebrates. Side-striped jackals can be spotted in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Slender Mongoose (Herpestes sanguineus)

Slender mongoose also known as the black-tipped mongoose or the black-tailed mongoose is a very common species of mongoose in sub-Saharan Africa. It is long-bodied, short-legged, partly arboreal, and extremely variable in color. The tip of the tail is usually black-tipped and it is found in all woodlands, savannahs, forest swamps, and thick forest habitats. They feed on rodents, insects, reptiles, birds, and frogs.

Spotted Hyena (Hyaena hyaena)

The spotted hyena also known as the laughing hyena, is one of the most fascinating and successful carnivores in Sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast to other female mammals, female hyenas are male-like in appearance, larger than males, and substantially more aggressive because of their social structure and an increase in testosterone in their fetal stages. The females are highly social and dominate the male hyenas. Hyenas are often heard but not seen, and loud, long-distance call can carry for up to 5 km. They can be found in Masai Mara, Kenya.

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