The Big Five of Masai Mara National Reserve

The Big Five of Masai Mara National Reserve : Masai mara national reserve is located in Narok County southern part of Kenya. It is the most popular and the most visited park in Kenya with the largest and the diverse wildlife spread across the park into the adjacent neighbouring Tanzania’s Serengeti National park. Maasai Mara national reserve is located in the south west Kenya is a vast scenic expanse of the gently rolling African savannah plains measuring 1510 square kilometres in area and bordering the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the south. Maasai Mara is such a unique wildlife conservation haven for a memorable safari, famous for its largest terrestrial mammals natural diversity of the wildlife and happens to be a premier Kenya safari location in the entire East Africa. The reserve has got the big five mammals that includes the rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, lions,  that there are large number of other animal species that includes cheetah, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra and many more are found in the reserve  in their natural habitat, the unconfined and free to roam the vast wilderness stretching for miles in the end. The reserve was established in 1961.

The tourists flock into Masai Mara National Reserve not a surprise that they come from all over the world. This is because the reserve has been voted as one of the new seven wonders of Africa and among the ten wonders of the Natural world. It is also regarding to the origin of the word ‘’Maasai’’ comes from the Maasai tribe the nomadic inhabitants of the area of the word ‘’Mara’’ is their word for spotted, referring to the ubiquitous flat topped acacia trees, shrubs and bushes and the landscape that crosses most of the reserve.

They are known as the big five because they are originally difficult to hunt.


There are more than 900 recorded number of lions spread across Masai Mara National Reserve according to the last recorded data. The lion ( Panthera leo) is a large cat living in groups or prides. They inhabit the grasslands savannah and the scrublands of sub Saharan Africa and Western India. Male lions are large than the female lions and have a prominent mane on their necks ,

Lion is the most used Animal symbol in the human culture from paintings, Films, used in National flags, sculptures and literature.

Lions of Masai Mara National Reserve live in a more sociable groups or prides of between 15 to 20 ,which are made up of 3 males several mature females, semi adults and several cubs. In Masai Mara the females do most of the hunting , with the help of males in taking down the big preys. They usually favour hunting wildebeest and Zebras during the great Migration but have been spotted too hunting other wild animals.

Lions have high metabolism and because of that they sleep for about 20 hours with most of the hunting sometimes done during the nights. They have estrus that last for 4 days ,their copulation last an average of 20 seconds. Male cubs are raised socially together and they are house from the pride age two to three and half years. The cubs are weaned between 7 to 8 months old and up until this period the cubs are allowed to suckle any lioness. Lion cubs are born with blue eyes that change to amber or brown when around the age of two to three months.

Lions are the most sought after animals in Masai Mara National Reserve Kenya by majority of the safari tour lovers. They have the most complicated communication of any of the cats family. Lions are the most loudest of the cat family with its roars being heard up to 8 kilometres. They also make other communications sounds such as ,roars, grunts ,meows, purrs ,moans ,growls ,snarls ,puffs and woofs. Lions roars for different reasons ,to relocate other members of the pride, announcing territorial ownership ,to intimidate rivals and assisting in social cohesion. It also help the lions to recognise the sound of a member of their pride from an outsider who would harm its cubs.

There are four known prides in Masai Mara National Reserve Apart from it having several prides with Enesikiria pride being the most known among the four prides. They are found mostly in the Naboisho conservancy. Other prides of Masai Mara National Reserve are ; Sand river pride, Topi pride, Rokero pride, Mara river pride, Serena North pride, Salas pride, Rongai pride and Roan pride. There is also the most famous Marsh pride which gained its fame by being featured in BBC  Big Cats Diary and Dynasties. The pride suffered a disaster in 2015 when the pride were poisoned by insecticides, over the past decades Africa lions have been wiped out.


Masai Mara National Reserve in South western Kenya hosts a good population of African bush elephant with it population being more than 2500 according to the last recorded head count data. Elephants are one of the Africa’s most iconic species, the biggest land animal in the world. The biggest can grow up to 7.5 metres long ,3.3 metres high at the shoulder and weighs 6 tonnes.

The Big Five of Masai Mara National Reserve
The Big Five of Masai Mara National Reserve

African Bush elephant live in groups led by the females. The matriarch is usually the biggest and the oldest leading other females called the cows and young adult males known as bulls. In sub Saharan Africa the species live in a family of about 10 individuals. Elephants eat grass ,roots ,fruits and barks.

An elephant has a gestation( is the period between conception and birth) period of 24 months. Female elephants are mostly fertile when they attain the age of between 25 and 45 years, while the males have to reach at least 20 years to start competing for mating.

Elephant trunk is the most versatile organ of the all mammalian creatures ,it is a multi purpose tool which acts as a nose ,arm and hand. An Elephant eats 150kg and drinks 40 litres of water per day. Elephants live up to 70 years.


The leopard ( Panthera pardus) is a member of the cat family found in the sub Saharan Africa. It is considered to be a shy animal with short legs , long body and large skull. It is known for its distinguished camouflage fur, broad diet, opportunist hunting behaviour and ability to adapt to different habitats.

A leopard has soft fur especially on the belly ,than on the back. The colour range from pale yellowish to dark brown with black dots grouped in rosettes. It is whitish around the belly and the tail is shorter than the body, it’s pupil are round.

Leopards are hard to spot but in Masai Mara National Reserve, they can be spotted anytime of the day. Bella is the most famous and known Leopard in Masai Mara National Reserve, it is spotted along riverbanks .It is distinct because of it unique tail and it has gained it fame for being filmed and recorded by many Documentaries.

A leopards gives birth to one or two cubs after a gestation period of 90 days .The young cubs depend exclusively to breastfeeding until when they are about 100 days old when they are slowly introduced to meat. They are known for their immense strength, which enable them to carry a prey double its size up the tree.


The African Buffalo ( Syncerus caffer) is one of the big five animals of Masai Mara National Reserve. It is one the most dangerous animals in Africa ,they move in groups called herds. African Buffalo has an height of between 1 to 1.7 metres, its length fro head and body length from 1.7 metres to 3.4 metres and the tails is between 70cm to 110 cm. The front hooves are wider than the rear, this is to support the front part of the body which is heavier than the back .

They are more than 28,000 Buffaloes in Masai Mara National Reserve. The horns of the large bulls usually come closer at the base forming a shield referred to as the boss. The horns diverge downwards and then smoothly curve upwards ,at the age of 5 to 6 years the horns are fully grown but it is at 8 to 9 years that the bosses would have fully grown and harden.

The Buffaloes have several group behaviours, for example during resting the Females stand up, shuffle and sit. They sit in the direction that they think they should be going, after some time of shuffling the females Stan and move in the direction that they decide and it is not based on age, dominance or hierarchy.

The herds stick close together, which makes it hard to be hunted by predators. The calves are always placed in the middle of the herds and the herds responds to a cry of a distressed member and tries to rescue it. Adult bulls may spar for play ,dominance or actual fights. They approach each other when sparring with their horn down ,the twist their horns from side to side ,the calves also can engage in sparring but the females  rarely spar at all.

African buffaloes give birth only during the rainy season, the females reach a

reproductive maturity at 5 years with males mature at 4 to 6 years. The calves suckle by pushing their heads under their mother’s legs from behind. They have an average lifespan of 11 years, but others have been recorded to have reached 22 years. 


Rhinoceros commonly abbreviated to only Rhino is herbivorous feeding on leafy materials and unlike most of the herbivores, Rhinos lack front teeth and they rely on their lips to pick up its food . They have a thick protective skin ,a small brain of 400 to 600g ,one or two thick horns of between 1.5 to 5cm.

Rhinos is one of the most sought animals by poachers who target and kill them for their Horns. Their horns are sold in the black markets especially in Asia, they has led to Rhinos being among the most endangered species.

There about 35 to 50 species of black Rhinoceros in Masai Mara National Reserve, it is the least in number among the Big Five in the Mara conservation Area .

An Adult back rhino has an average height of between 1.5 to 1.7 metres, It has a length of between 3.5 to 3.9 metres  and weighs between 850kg to 1600kg. Both male and females may have one or two horns which are made of keratin similar to nails and hair with the front growing between 60 to 140cm.The Black rhino is smaller than the white rhino.

Rhinoceros have partially blind and that is the main reason why Rhino charge for no reason ,however they have good sense of hearing and smell.

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