​Overview – Masai Mara NR

Anthony Ham
Expert
By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Kenya.

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Anthony is the author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Masai Mara National Reserve is one of Africa’s most famous parks and it’s undoubtedly one of the continent’s best places to see animals. The wildlife viewing is superb throughout the year. The grassy plains and regular rainfall support a huge population of herbivores, in turn attracting many predators. All three big cats are relatively easy to see. The yearly wildebeest migration coming through the park is one of the world’s most amazing wildlife spectacles.

Best Time To Go June to October (For general wildlife viewing) and August to October (For wildebeest migration)
High Season June to October and December to March
Size 1,510km² / 583mi²
Altitude 1,435-2,143m / 4,708-7,031ft

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent wildlife viewing throughout the year
  • Annual wildebeest migration (from July or August to October)
  • Open savannah makes for easy wildlife spotting
  • Wide variety of accommodations for different budgets
  • Hot-air balloon safaris
  • The park gets busy, especially during high season
  • Access road is bad so a fly-in safari is recommended
  • Roads can be in terrible condition, especially after rain

Masai Mara NR Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

The Wildebeest Migration

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is where 2.5 million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles follow the rains in search of new grass every year. They make their way from Serengeti National Park (in northern Tanzania) to the Masai Mara, and they usually cross into Kenya in July or August. Although the timing is never guaranteed, August and September are when you’re most likely to see the herds undertaking the famous crossing of the Mara River in Kenya. They slowly head back into the Serengeti around October.

Wildlife

The Masai Mara is one of the best parks in Africa for seeing big cats, especially lions. Even leopards are quite used to vehicles and you can see their natural behavior, while cheetahs inhabit the open savannah, hunting or seeking their next meal. Of the other Big Five, elephant and buffalo are also plentiful, but black rhino is trickier and they only roam in the Mara Triangle area.

Scenery

Grassland savannah dominates the landscape in the Masai Mara, but pockets of acacia woodland, riparian forest around the Mara River, and rocky hills intersperse the plains. The Maasai word ‘Mara’, meaning spotted, refers to these dots in the landscape. In the north, the Oloololo Escarpment (also called the Siria Escarpment) marks the northern boundary of the Mara. The stunning views from the top take in the whole ecosystem.

Weather & Climate

The Masai Mara has a generally mild climate that doesn’t vary too much from a comfortable 26°C/79°F in the region’s Dry season (June to October). Differences in temperature are mainly due to changes in altitude in the park, with conditions getting cooler the higher you climb. The Wet season (November to May) comprises a shorter and a longer rainy period that are broken up by a brief dry spell.

Best Time To Visit

The Dry season (June to October) is the best time to visit the Masai Mara. The roads haven’t yet deteriorated because of rain, and thirsty animals crowd around the local waterways. The second half of the Dry season is often when the incredible annual wildebeest migration passes through. January and February, the interlude between the short and long rains of the Wet season, is also a good time to visit.

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Masai Mara NR Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Expert
Gemma Pitcher  –  
Australia AU

Gemma authored several Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

Cheap, cheerful and ideal for first-timers
3/5

Plenty of travel writers and tour operators can be a bit snobby about the Masai Mara. It’s East Africa’s most popular and best-known park, with easy access from Nairobi and a plethora of cheap accommodation options. All this combines to...

Full Review

Latest User Review
Preethi  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Jun 10, 2024
5/5

lots of wildlife

Full Review