If you’ve ever dreamt of wild Africa and long to experience a grassland safari like no other, meet a unique tribe of people like none other, and expand your senses spotting zebra, eland, lions, cheetahs and gnus under a warm, hazy sun, then the Masai Mara is your next destination.

Established in 1961 to protect wildlife from hunters, the Masai Mara is the reason many visitors come to Kenya and its beauty and abundant wildlife won’t disappoint. Designated as the seventh New Wonder of the World because of the amazing spectacle of more than 1 million wildebeests, half a million gazelles, and 200,000 zebras migrating, the Mara is certainly a confident No 1 in our list of the best African and indeed worldwide travel destinations. In fact Masai Mara has been named the best travel destination in the world by many publications including the Sydney Morning Herald’s Travel section.

 Quick facts:

  • The Mara is Kenya’s premier wildlife park.
  • It’s also the home range of the fiercely proud Masai people, a nomadic tribe of proud Nilotes who’ve fiercely held on to their own traditions and customs and are celebrated worldwide for their reluctance to give in to Western influences.
  • The Masai Mara is in the southwestern Kenya, in the Rift Valley with Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains running along its southern end.
  • The Mara hosts plenty of hippos and crocodiles is the site for the annual migration of over a million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras an extremely dangerous undertaking.
  • You are almost guaranteed to see the Big 5. Lions abound throughout the park as do leopards, cheetah, hyenas, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, topi, baboons, warthogs, buffalo, zebra, elephants, and of course hippos and crocodiles in the Mara River.
  • Best time to visit? Between July and October when the wildebeest and zebra are at their highest number and offer plenty of food for lions, cheetahs, and leopards. The best time to view animals is either at dawn or dusk.

Things to Do:

  • Game Drives: If you have flown straight to the Masai Mara Reserve then your safari package will usually include several daily game drives. make sure you ask to see the Big 5. The phrase Big Five game was coined by white hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size - and the collection consists of the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. There’s no guarantee you’ll see all 5 as these are elusive animals but If you’ve rented your own vehicle then it is recommended you find a map of the reserve or take an askari (guard) with you, for protection but also to help you spot these beautiful creatures in the wild.
  • Walking Safaris: If you enjoy a little adventure try a walking safari with a Maasai guide. The best ones are outside the reserve boundaries.
  • Cultural Tours with the Maasai: Visiting a traditional Maasai village or enkang is frequently included in a safari package to the Masai Mara. While not really an authentic experience you may learn something about the Maasai – their history, traditions, food (don’t say no to a ourd of blood and milk!) and the reasons they have remained true to themselves.
  • Hot Air Ballooning: a popular pastime that provides a sometimes pricey yet most unique experience. Every lodge and camp will be able to set up a flight for you. The balloons usually fly at dawn and last about an hour. Upon landing most balloon companies offer a champagne breakfast as well.

How to get to there:

  • Drive – at least 6 hours by car from Kenya’s capital city Nairobi and because the roads can be rough, especially in the wet season and should not be attempted unless you have a 4WD vehicle.
  • Fly – You may choose to fly into the Masai Mara National Reserve because of the access or quality of the roads. However flying makes your safari quite a bit more expensive and you miss out on some of the adventure of traveling in one of Africa’s more remote areas. Many safari packages include air but you can also purchase a ticket locally. Kenya Airways also offers scheduled daily flights each taking about 45 minutes.

Where to stay:
There are many luxury AND budget accommodation places in the Mara however we just wanted to highlight some of the best:

  • Royal Mara Lodge situated within the Mara North Conservancy. The Royal mara lodge (winner of best wildlife conservancy in Kenya 2011 by EcoTourism Kenya), is the best location to most readily discover the Big Five mammals. http://www.royalmara.com/
  • The Karen Blixen Camp – named after the Danish author who wrote the Out of Africa, one of the most famous stories ever told of Africa, the Karen Blixen Camp is an eco-friendly luxury camp, that gives a sense of the exiting explorer days when the savannah was seldom visited and elaborate and comfortable camps were set up providing a luxurious and stylish retreat after each day’s adventure. http://karenblixencamp.com
  • The Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp is located in the remote north western area of the Masai Mara Reserve. Views of both savanna and forest are breathtaking and truly give you a spectacular Kenya safari experience. These luxurious safari tents offer private verandas and are laid out on immaculate grounds for the ultimate luxury tented safari experience in the great outdoors. http://www.kichwatembo.com

Other places include the famed Governors’ Camp, and the Sarova Mara Camp, and opening later in 2012, Richard Branson’s much anticipated 15-tent luxury camp in a reserve next to the Mara.

Masai Mara – Park Entry Fees
As of April 2012:

  • Non-residents: Adults (18+) – US$ 70, Children (17 and below) – US$ 40, Student – US$ 40
  • Residents: Adults – Ksh. 1000, Children – Ksh. 500, Students – Ksh. 500
  • (If you don’t enter the Reserve and view the wildlife from outside you may still get charged a fee for staying on Maasai land by Maasai tribesmen.)

 

5 Responses

  1. Luxury safari

    Interesting facts about the Masai Mara, thanks for sharing. Love the photo of the lions too! I’d love to take a hot air balloon safari!

    Reply

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