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Masai Mara Safari Tours & Holidays

4.6/5  –  291 Masai Mara Reviews

If Africa had a Big Five for safari parks, the Masai Mara safari would easily make the final cut. It’s a classic safari destination and one of the best places to see lions, leopards and cheetahs, as well as being home to iconic savannah country that long ago came to define the East African safari. It also has the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino), a good mix of public areas and private conservancies, and extraordinarily rich accommodation offerings.

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8 Questions About Masai Mara Safaris

Answered by Anthony Ham

When is the best time to see the Great Migration?

“A word of warning: no one knows the exact moment when the herds of wildebeest and zebra, more than 2 million strong, will cross the border from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park into Kenya and the Masai Mara. And nor can anyone predict with certainty the precise weeks when the wildebeest will funnel down the banks of and across the crocodile-infested Mara River. But there are some reasonably reliable parameters to help when choosing the time to visit in order to maximize your chances of witnessing one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet. In most years, the herds arrive in the Mara around mid-July and into August. This stage is when the massed crossings of the Mara River usually occur. In September and October, the herds usually remain in the Mara, a moving mass of wildlife that is quite extraordinary to see. By late October and almost certainly by November the herds leave Kenya and return to Tanzania.”

More about the best time to visit the Masai Mara 1

What opportunities are there to meet local Maasai people?

“The Maasai are indeed the most soulful human presence in Masai Mara safaris and meeting them and getting to know something about their lives is a highlight of any visit here. Many lodges and safari companies employ Maasai as guides and drivers, and also as employees in their lodges and tented camps. Most can also arrange visits to local Maasai communities – ask your safari operator if this is possible before booking your Kenya safari. It can be difficult to interact meaningfully with the Maasai on such occasions, although you can learn a great deal if you take the time to talk with those guiding you, serving your food or cleaning your rooms. If you want to organize something yourself, there are a number of simple accommodation and Maasai homestay places just outside the Masai Mara’s Sekenani Gate, where you can spend time with a local family and gain an unfettered insight into their lives.”

2

How can I avoid the crowds?

“The easiest way to avoid the crowds is to plan your Masai Mara safari to avoid the period when the migration is in full swing. If that’s not an option, it is almost impossible to shake off the convoys of safari vehicles that surround the Mara River crossings – you might just have to grin and bear it if that’s why you’re here. That said, while all of those vehicles line up along the riverbank, much of the rest of the reserve can be surprisingly quiet. Another option is to stay outside the reserve on one of the private or community conservancies that surround the Masai Mara National Reserve to the north and east. Some of these – Mara North, Naboisho, Olare Orok and Olderikesi, in particular – have some of Africa’s highest population densities for Big Cats and, though expensive, are only accessible for those staying in one of the conservancy’s small lodges or tented camps. And if you’re staying here, you can always enter the reserve to see the migration, and then return to the relative quiet of the conservancy when you’ve had enough.”

3

What animals can I expect to see in the Masai Mara?

“Big Cats are the highlights of Masai Mara tours – there’s a reason the BBC filmed 'Big Cat Diary' here. Sightings are by no means guaranteed, but healthy lion populations mean you’d be very unlucky not to see a pride or two. Further, the long sightlines of the endless grasslands are ideal for spotting cheetah, while the tree-lined rivers that snake through the reserve are perfect leopard habitat. There’s also elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo, crocodile, jackal, all manner of gazelle, spotted hyena… It all adds up to something of a safari smorgasbord, with the very real possibility that you could, on a good day, see the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) on a safari drive before breakfast. It’s why you’d need a very good reason not to pencil in the Masai Mara on your itinerary when planning your Kenya tour.”

More about the Wildlife of the Masai Mara 4

How long is the drive to the Masai Mara?

“Some safari companies, lodges and tented camps will try to tell you that you can drive from Nairobi to the Masai Mara in just three hours, but I’ve never managed it in much less than five. The last stretch of road from Narok to the gates of the Masai Mara is unpaved and, despite constant promises that things will improve, access remains slow. Remember also that your lodge may lie deep within the reserve, adding extra driving time to the journey. It is also possible to drive via Nakuru, visiting Lake Nakuru National Park on the way, but the journey will generally take longer to get to the reserve proper, although it is a shorter journey if you’re traveling to the Mara North Conservancy. It is, of course, possible to fly into one of the Masai Mara’s airstrips from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and avoid the road journey altogether.”

5

What condition are the roads in within the Masai Mara?

“Considering the traffic of 4WD vehicles and safari minivans that crisscross the Masai Mara every year, the Mara’s safari tracks are usually in remarkably good condition. A 4WD is preferable, but if you stick to the tracks, which you really should, then you can easily get around without too much trouble except after rains. The short rains occur in October and November and rarely cause more than a few puddles that are easy to avoid. Rainfall and muddy roads are more of an issue in March, April and, to a lesser extent, May. All of that said, I visited once in April and enjoyed fine weather, quiet trails and excellent track surfaces. It all depends on the year.”

6

What are the best vehicles to have on a safari?

“A 4WD vehicle is always best, and it should usually be one with a reasonably high clearance. It’s even better if it has open sides (which most mid-range and top-end lodges and safari operators use) or a pop-up roof. Even so, the workhorse of many a Kenyan safari is the white minivan that has a pop-up roof – you stand on the seats and can see in all directions, which is ideal for taking photos. Most of these minivans are 2WD vehicles and most have little difficulty in negotiating all but the more rugged Masai Mara trails; however, if you’re the one driving, remember that local drivers are experienced in these conditions and you’ll need to be cautious if driving a 2WD vehicle here, especially in the beginning.”

7

What lodges or camps would you recommend in the Masai Mara?

“There are too many to choose from! When selecting where to stay on Masai Mara tours, remember that the Masai Mara is vast and, if time permits, it may well be worth planning to sleep in a couple of locations in the reserve itself to enable you to enjoy different sectors of the park, plus a couple of the private conservancies. The latter are especially good if you’d like to experience all that Masai Mara safari packages have to offer – stirring scenery, abundant wildlife, Maasai culture – without the crowds. In Mara North, I enjoyed Saruni Mara, while over in Naboisho Conservancy I loved Asilia Naboisho Camp and Kicheche Valley Camp. And in Olderikesi Conservancy, Cottar’s 1920s Camp is a Mara classic.”

8

Masai Mara Safari Reviews

4.6/5 291 Reviews
Expert
Stuart Butler  –  
United Kingdom UK

Stuart is a travel writer and author of numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks, including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

East Africa at its Exotic Best
5/5

Nowhere else sums up the East African dream like the Masai Mara. Always the best place in Kenya to see huge herds of grazers and a seemingly endless procession of carnivores big and small the Masai Mara is the one place in East Africa I...

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Expert
Philip Briggs  –  
South Africa ZA

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

Big Cat Diaries made flesh
5/5

The Masai Mara is where the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries were filmed, and unsurprisingly it ranks as one of the finest reserves anywhere in Africa for big cat sightings. Above all, I associate it with lions: I’ve often encountered four or five...

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Andrea Meroi  –  
Argentina AR
Reviewed: Jan 27, 2019
5/5

Masai Mara is not to be missed. Gerard was always willing, our tastes and interests. He seems to maintain the enthusiasm of a first day. Loves his country and his work, knows a lot of animals and the places you visit. It is a very careful...

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Achola  –  
Iceland IS
Reviewed: Jan 22, 2019
4/5

Masaai Mara the car broke down and was being fixed for 3 hours. While we waited at a village gas station with nothing to do around, this means we missed the safari. for the first day. The only animals we saw were on arrival to Keerok...

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Ray  –  
Philippines PH
Reviewed: Dec 31, 2018
5/5

If there is one place to visit in Kenya, this is it. Never disappoints with its large variety of wildlife. Everybody should try to experience the migration at least once. Even if not migration season still very much worth visiting.

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Mariah  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Dec 13, 2018
5/5

Do the hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara, trust me! We were able to watch the sun rise with the animals and saw them migrating and moving together towards Tanzania due to the seasons changing. This game park was stunning and huge!!!...

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