The Mara in May was fantastic, especially since we were there to look for as many species of birds to log on to the eBird app on the May 8 Global Big Day.

Click here to read my story in the Satmag Nation of what happened.

In short, we were in the Mara Conservancy also known as the Mara Triangle that covers 510 km2, representing about a third of the entire Reserve. The Conservancy, since 1994 when it was established has had a major role in reducing poaching, employing communities scouts along the Siria escarpment, paying compensation for livestock killed by predators within a few weeks, maintaining the roads and running it as a world-class wildlife haven.

In addition, it is involved in

  •     Collaring elephants and lions to monitor their movement

  •     Establishing community projects like constructing dams for water, building schools and employing teachers

  •     Holding community baraza

  •     Giving access to the natural salt lick inside the reserve to the community

  •     Providing security for local community

  •     Providing security for camps & lodges

  •   Vaccinated 100,000 community dogs against rabies and canine distemper virus to lessen the risk of spreading diseases to wildlife and people.

    Elephant mom and calf on Global Big Day in Mara Triangle on May 13 2023. Copyright Rupi Mangat

Staying at the Mara Serena Lodge perched on a hill with 360-degree views of the wild country and overlooking the Siria escarpment and the Mara River, we would have logged in 100 species. But the ostrich i.e. the world’s largest bird, the Goliath heron that is the world’s largest heron and the Martial eagle the world’s mightiest eagle failed to show up but were there in full splendour the following day!

GBD is a citizen science project where anybody – even an amateur birder – can sign in on the eBird app and log in the birds they see. Mara Serena is our chosen venue because it offers night game drives perfect to search for the nocturnal birds.

Hippo pod at Mara River on Global Big Day in Mara Traiangle on May 13 2023. Copyright Rupi Mangat

On the night game drive – allowed in the Mara Triangle but not in the Masai Mara National Reserve – the plains were alive with hippos coming out of the Mara River for their nightly feast of grass.

Amongst the nocturnals, we were also treated to a serval that looks like a cheetah cub and two puff adders warming themselves on the road – until we arrived and then they slithered off into the grass.

Of course we saw the famous Mara black-maned lions, the Lappet-faced vulture that is the largest vulture and a leopard with her cub and a lonesome cheetah.

Photo/Rupi Mangat. There’s no shortage of birdlife and we spotted this lappet faced vulture too.

A stay at the Mara Serena Lodge is a treat with sumptuous foods and the Maisha Spa – including the gym to work off calories overlooking the great plains between game drives.

The spa uses the Healing Earth African brand that’s organic, cruelty free and environmentally friendly with the tag, it cares more for the planet and the people than profits.

Way to Mara Serena

With the road tarmacked from Nairobi to Mara Sekenani Gate, you can arrive for lunch at Mara Serena if you leave Nairobi early morning. Or fly from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport either with Safarilink or Airkenya in an hour.

The Mara Triangle has better roads and less traffic. From there you can drive up Oloololo escarpment through Kilgoris, Lolgories to either Kisii or Kisumu, discovering new routes on a map.

Sunset over Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya
Sunset over Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya (Photo by Maya Mangat)

If you choose the route via Kisii, then drive on to Homa Bay where there is a modern hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria the world’s second largest freshwater lake. Homa Bay is a small town that grew from a fishing village. From Homa Bay, drive to Thimlich Ohinga, the only dry-stone walled settlement in Kenya built in the 16th century CE. The Ohinga (meaning settlement in the language of the lakeshore Luo people) seems to have served as a fort for communities and livestock. Thimlich Ohinga is the largest and best preserved of these traditional enclosures. The guides will take you for an exciting walk around this ancient stone city.

You can choose to drive to Macalders’s gold mine to watch artisanal gold miners work the shafts for the ore containg gold.

Or drive towards Mbita Point, making it your base to discover the islands on Lake Victoria like Mfangano and Rusinga, both home of ancient ancestors with rock art caves on Mfangano and fossils found on Rusinga.

You must have a high 4-wheel drive for better game viewing and binoculars so that you do not stress the wildlife by getting too close.

Log on to Global Big Day. It takes place in May and October every year.

You can be part of Global Big Day from home with the free eBird Mobile app. Your observations help better understand global bird populations with eBird Science.

Best time to visit Masai Mara -ANYTIME. The animals are always there but if you want to see the world-famous migration of a million-plus wildebeest coming in from the Serengeti to the Mara, then August, September are your best chances of seeing this phenomenal trek.