The spectacular Masai Mara region, in Kenya, is one of the world's most sought after wildlife holiday destinations. Along with access to the 'Big Five' and the opportunity to experience one of the greatest shows on Earth (the annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest moving from the Serengeti), the Masai Mara is also home to a massive number of migratory and endemic avian species. In fact, the figure equates to around 11% of the world's total, so it's no surprise the region has become a hotspot for dedicated bird tours. |
Around an hour from Nairobi, Lake Naivasha is one of the Great Rift Valley lakes, covering an area of around 139 square miles and supporting a vast population of avian life (and, of course, many other wildlife species). With an elevation of 1884m, it is the highest of the Rift Valley lakes and also the country's second largest freshwater lake. Throughout the year, more than 350 species of birds can be observed around its shores and the surrounding habitat.
The best bird tours will spend a couple of days at Lake Naivasha and, in this rich habitat, participants will encounter myriad species including: African Fish Eagle, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Spectacled Weaver, Common Waxbill, Superb Starling, Dusky Nightjar, Malachite Kingfisher, Golden-winged Sunbirds, Hilderbrandt’s Francolin, White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Long-tailed Cormorant, Buff-bellied Warbler, Tawny Eagle, Osprey, and countless others.
One of the most striking sights that can be experienced on these bird tours, it's not uncommon for the shallows of Lake Naivasha to transform into a vision of pink, with the presence of vast numbers of Greater and Lesser Flamingos.
In addition to the birdlife, Hippos regularly appear to drink from the lake, and in the surrounding Acacia trees, Colobus Monkeys can be observed feeding and at play.
The Plains of the Masai Mara
Home to an astounding number of wildlife species, including at least 500 avian species, the Masai Mara National Game Reserve encompasses more than 181,000 hectares of the spectacular Rift Valley and twice that again beyond into southwestern Kenya. This diverse, sprawling habitat includes not just the iconic dry grasslands for which it is renowned, but also vast areas of scrub, swamp and Acacia woodlands.
The Masai Mara is a prime habitat for a host of Palearctic migratory species as well as the many endemic species of Kenya, including the threatened Jackson’s Widowbird and Grey-crested Helmet-shrike, and the Lesser Kestrel and Madagascar Pond-Heron. The grassland regions are home to Kori Bustards, Ground Hornbills, Grey Crowned Cranes, Capped Wheatear, Temminck’s Courser, Wattled Lapwing and Secretary Birds.
Other species that are often sighted are the small but very beautiful Carmine Bee-eater and any of at the 53 magnificent birds of prey, including the Martial Eagle and Hooded and Rupell's Vultures.
One of the most wildlife-dense regions on the planet, the Masai Mara is also home to majestic big cats (Cheetahs and Lions), Elephants, Masai Giraffe and Thompson's Gazelle.
Kenya has one of highest densities of wildlife on the planet, and for those who explore Lake Naivasha and the vast, grassy plains, forests and swamps of the Masai Mara on professionally organised bird tours, a truly memorable experience awaits.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in bird watching. As a passionate lover of birds, Marissa chooses the expert-led bird tours organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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