BBC’s Big Cat Diaries were filmed at The Masai Mara.
Now experience the Masai Mara while staying in the best Maasai Mara National Reserve Hotels.
Masai Mara Traveler’s Guide
The Masai Mara National Reserve
From the earliest days of colonial hunting expeditions, to the modern ecotourism’s African Safaris, Kenya has held a special and distinguished place among the big Game Destinations of Africa and indeed the World. And there has always been a special corner within this special nation: the Masai Mara.
The Masai Mara Game Reserve is a vast national park located in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. The game park offers visitors numerous attractions and has a reputation as one of the best wildlife destinations in the world. A visit to the Mara is the ultimate adventure due to its bountiful wildlife selection, stunning sights and endless plains that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Covering about 1,510 sq km, the Masai Mara Game Reserve is host to the spectacular Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration. The spectacle involves about two million wildebeest crossing the River Mara for greener pastures, and is widely considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The Masai Mara Game Reserve was created in early 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary and although the exact boundaries have marginally shifted in the intervening years, the prestige and global awareness of the region has only grown.
Masai Mara Hotels
BBC’s Big Cat Diaries were filmed at The Masai Mara.
Now experience the Masai Mara while staying in the best Maasai Mara National Reserve Hotels.
Masai Mara – Serengeti Ecosystem
Masai Mara Game Reserve is divided into conservation and reserve portions. It is also home to the famous Maasai tribe who call the lands home. Masai Mara Game Reserve is so well-known that it is often called simply ‘the Mara’.
Kenya is nestled along what is sometimes called the ‘spine of Africa’. It is located centrally, along the eastern strip of the continent. Despite common adages and popular conceptions, this part of Africa is dominated by the broad and open expanses of grassland commonly called ‘savanna’, interspersed with groves of trees, miles-wide lakes and mighty rivers.
Kenya’s neighbor Tanzania sits just to the south. The Masai Mara National Reserve is located in the southwestern corner of Kenya, sharing a border with an equally world-famous wildlife refuge in Tanzania, the Serengeti National Park.
Under the fierce sun, heat prevails, and the world-renowned wildlife of the African plains shuttle from watering hole to watering hole and from one rain season to another. Each year, between the months of July and October, more than a million Wildebeests escorted by large numbers of Zebras and Gazelles congregate and migrate northwards from drier parts of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve.
The wildebeest trek, which is driven by nature’s instinct in search for food and water, is naturally synchronized. The early stage of this migration spectacle is pieced together and ‘flagged-off’ from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which makes part of the bigger Serengeti – Mara Ecosystem.
The Wildebeests making up the migration spend most of their time in the open plains of Serengeti National Park before starting the greatest and longest journey from Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara at the end of the rainy season when Mara’s Savannah is decorated by green-browning grass.
Best Time to Visit Masai Mara
Having said that, one may naturally ask: when is the best time to visit the Masai Mara?
The Masai Mara is one of the greatest game reserves in the world. It is a year-round safari destination and you can always find Kenya safari packages to take advantage of. However, knowing the best time to visit Masai Mara based upon what you want to see and what your budget is can help you to have a more impressive safari vacation.
When is the right time to Travel to Masai Mara? This is a matter of opinion. There is both a high season (Wildebeest Migration) and the low season.
High Season – Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration
The Wildebeest Migration is often referred to as The Great Migration due to the sheer number of wildebeests that you will see at once. This is considered the best time to visit Masai Mara if you have a chance to do so. This happens between late July and early August as well as the end of November. The timing can vary from year to year due to rainfall patterns.
The Masai Mara Migration at the River is considered a highlight. This takes place at the Mara River Crossing as they come from the Serengeti and then cross into the Masai Mara National Reserve. The brown waters of the river are treacherous for the wildebeest due to the crocodiles waiting for them – some of which are five meters long. The survivors will cross into the reserve and by September, the large mass of animals have broken into smaller groups.
One thing to be aware of during the Wildebeest Migration is that, due to it being high season, there are going to be more vehicles and more people. This means that views may be blocked by other vehicles and there will simply be more of a wait everywhere you go. However, being able to be a part of the migration can be a once in a lifetime experience and you are sure to get some breathtaking photos.
Low-Season – Masai Mara
Tented Camps and Lodges in Masai Mara are open year round and this is the chance to customize an African safari to meet your needs. Any time outside of the summer months is considered low-season. You can see the lions, elephants, hippos, and much more. There are so many things to see while you are at the reserve, so it’s all about the animal watching.
It provides the ultimate backdrop for an African safari. Whether you want to camp outside, sky dive, go hot air ballooning, or enjoy some gold, the options are plentiful.
Many times, during the low season, the African Safari Packages are going to be considerably more affordable and that is because there won’t be as many people. The lower accommodation pricing is to lure more people out to the gorgeous African Reserve – and it works, year after year.
The Masai Mara National Reserve allows you to go out on the drives and you can camp in the wilderness with a guide for an overnight, three nights, and longer. This is your chance to see the zebras up close, watch as the cats take down a kill, and various other parts of nature that you won’t see just anywhere.
Honeymoon in the Masai Mara.
Masai Mara is one of the best destinations for a honeymoon in Kenya. If you are considering Masai Mara for your honeymoon, you should choose wisely hotel or camp you will end up in. The honeymoon period is an intimate time and you don’t want to be stuck in an over booked hotel especial if your wedding falls in the high season. To keep your honeymoon special, go for the small luxury tented camps. You will get personalized attention and value for your money.
Planning to Visit the Masai Mara
When you are planning an African Safari, it is all about determining what features are the most important to you. If you want to be able to say that you witnessed the Great Migration, then it’s a must to visit the Masai Mara during the high season, a July/August timeframe. However, the rest of the year can provide benefits when you want to experience an African Safari. This means you can find amazing things to see and do regardless of when you come – and some of the African safari packages may be more affordable, too.
In truth, the wildlife and the natural warmth of Kenya’s people can be enjoyed anytime, but as nature has carried along for countless years in predictable cycles, so does the Great Mara Migration follow this reoccurring pattern.
The peak migration period is between mid-July and early September, and so this is the best time to visit for those who want to witness the Great Migration at its peak. However, if you are looking to enjoy the views of the Masai Mara and have a more private setting to view wildlife, you might want to travel during the green ( April – June ) or shoulder season (October – March).
The Mara River Crossing: Great Migration
The highlight of the Migration, which is overly considered as the best time to visit Masai Mara, is the Mara River dramatic crossing where crocodiles lie in ambush for their ‘grass-thirsty’ prey in the swelling waters.
The bold and dangerous migration culminates in a time of plenty for predators; the grazers that make it across the steep river banks and escape the crocodiles of Mara River have to keep scanning through the long grass and contend with the regal lions and their coordinated attacks, the lone leopards with their stealthy moonlight treachery, cheetahs, hyenas, among other carnivores, all taking advantage of abundance within their food chain.
Masai Mara National Reserve Hotels
Once having decided on the appropriate time to visit, one must consider the appropriate accommodation for his or her trek into the reserve.
Which is the best Maasai Mara National Reserve Hotels to stay in? From which Masai Mara hotel would I get to view animals with ease?
The selection of tented camps and lodges in Masai Mara offer a surfeit of choice. The tented camps can be easily categorized as such or as luxury tented camps. Mara Intrepid Camps, Tipilikwani Mara Camp and Sarova Mara Game Camp all provide comfortable boarding and ready access to the Mara in the former category. The Mara Explorer Camp, Neptune Mara Rianta Camp and Mara Engai Wilderness Lodge will, to a venue, provide five-star luxury service and surroundings while preserving the safari, frontier feel of an open camp. Mara Serena Safari Lodge would be appreciated by those who need the creature comforts connoted by a series of enclosed walls but still wish to visit the reserve.
For couples on Honeymoon, there are a number of Maasai Mara National Reserve Adults Hotels only Camps that would give you the desired experience. We are here to guide you accordingly on the right honeymoon package in the Masai Mara.
Other Things to do in Masai Mara
Having been situated in your room or tent in the Mara, the first thing one might ask is: what do I do in the Masai Mara? Though this question may appear self-explanatory or even superfluous on the surface, the fact is many people do not wish to follow the wildlife – as majestic as it is – for their entire time in the Mara. As said before, the incredible warmth of the Kenyan people means that a fair amount of people-centric activities can be undertaken.
The Masai Mara is partially named after the Masai people. Spend a day or a day and a night observing and learning about their traditions and cultures of the Maasai People.
Game drives are not all the Mara has to offer. You can spice up you Safari by adding a balloon safari to your itinerary.
Spectacular hot-air balloons offer you an unrivalled view of the Mara. Balloon rides are done at the crack of dawn so an early transfer from the lodge to the Balloon launching site will be done.
The 1 hour balloon experience offers a stillness and tranquillity that cannot be found elsewhere as you float above the plains, rivers and forests of the Mara. The changing sky colours as you watch the sun rise are nothing short of magical.
On landing you will be treated to a sumptuous champagne breakfast before returning to the lodge
In the afternoon you will get a chance to visit a Maasai village nearby. It will offer deep insight into the lives and culture of the Maa people who are not only the main inhabitants but also have managed to co-exist with the wildlife. You can also buy a few curios and trinkets from their market.
Walking safaris are also available for people keen on staying fit. Sun downers can also be organized for clients who just want to relax in the bush. Couples on honeymoon will also find the sun downers very romantic.
Flying to Masai Mara
So how are you making your trip to the Mara this year? We are here to guide you on the right choices to make your Masai Mara experience memorable.
By air or by land, you will be sure to enjoy every mile of your journey when visiting Kenya’s adventure-filled countryside.
Most of the international flights to and from Kenya arrive through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) while a good number land at the Moi International Airport in Kenya’s Coastal City, Mombasa.
To fly to most of the bush and wild destinations like the Masai Mara and Samburu one needs to be transferred to Wilson Airport.
Domestic Destinations, including National Parks and Reserves in Kenya and the general East and Central Africa Region, are served from Wilson Airport.
Named after the founding lady pioneer, Ms Florence Wilson, Wilson Airport is conveniently located in Nairobi and has become one of the busiest Airports in Africa, by movement of Aircrafts.
Masai Mara Flights – Choosing the right one
Masai Mara flying packages are the best option for those who don’t want to waste any time before getting to their destination, and when traveling asa couple or Sole, it is also the best way to save money.
With many flights from Nairobi to Masai Mara Game Reserve, it should not be difficult to find the perfect option for you.
We will only highlight the popular scheduled flights/airlines that fly the to the Masai Mara with a good reputation.
There are two main things to consider when choosing the right airline.
- Your Budget
- Flight Timing
Flights to Masai Mara
When flying to Masai Mara or to other nearby locales, no airline is able to compete with Air Kenya in terms of security and efficiency.
Air Kenya offers 3 Daily Flights to Masai Mara
Air Kenya will allow you to connect to all major locations including Amboseli, Diani, Kilimanjaro, Lamu, Malindi, Meru, Nanyuki, Samburu, and of course Masai Mara, it comes with everything most flyers would need to start their very own adventure.
Safarilink specializes in small aircraft that are designed to take world travelers to the heart of Kenya’s untamed natural landscape, including all of the usual destinations as well as scenic Lewa Downs, Lodwar, Louisaba, and Naivasha.
Safarilink offers 2 Daily Flights to Masai Mara
The great thing is that even while specializing in the most wild and remote destinations, they maintain a high level of safety, with qualified engineers certified by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
Known as Kenya’s “premier safari and private charter airline”, Fly Sax serves an impressive array of safari and beach destinations that include Amboseli, Masai Mara, Comoros, Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa, and Ukunda Diani.
FlySax offers 2 Daily Flights to Masai Mara
Nairobi to Masai Mara flights cost anything between $400 to $200 depending on the season.
Mombasa Air Safari
Mombasa Air Safari planes are lightweight to allow for short takeoffs and landings from any location. While you can reach all of the usual safari destinations through Mombasa Air, if you are going to Tsavo West, this is the company for you. With a fleet of five aircraft, they are well equipped to get you to the heart of Kenya.
Mombasa Air Safari offers 2 Daily Flights to Masai Mara one form Mombasa and one from Ukunda
Masai Mara Airstrips
Before booking your Masai Mara Flight, it is important to know where you are going to land. Below is a list of airstrips where flights to Masai Mara land. Different Maasai Mara National Reserve Hotels are served by the airstrips close to them.
- Maasai Mara Keekorok
- Maasai Mara Mara Serena
- Maasai Mara Ol Kiombo
- Maasai Mara Serena
- Maasai Mara Siana
- Maasai Mara Musiara
- Maasai Mara Ngerende
- Maasai Mara Buffalo
- Maasai Mara Ol Seki
- Maasai Mara Olare Orok
- Maasai Mara Kichwa Tembo
- Maasai Mara Cottars
Depending on where in the Mara your Accommodation is, taking your pick of Masai Mara airstrips is the other crucial choice to take into consideration. Each region in the Mara offers its own unique selection of different activities, wildlife, and character, and so picking the right spot for you is a good place to start.
The Olkiombo airstrip, located just north of the Talek River is a great choice for easy access to Mara Intrepids Camp and Mara Explorer Camp, and will be a relatively short drive from Tipilikwani Mara Camp. This particular patch of the Mara provides excellent wildlife viewing year round. Just a short drive from the River Mara, visitors will be able to experience the famous crossing of millions of wildebeest and zebra every summer. Rhinoceroses, elephants, buffalo, and big cats are all on view in the area as well, making it a choice spot for tourists.
If you are interested in visiting the Sarova Mara Game Camp, then The Keekorok Airstrip to the southeast will be a good bet, giving easy access to Lonwalet Hill, Ol Tukai Hill, and many other scenic locations in the area. Situated right in the middle of gazelle migration paths, the expansive yellow plains will leave you feeling free. You will also have the opportunity to learn about the local Massai culture at nearby villages.
The Neptune Mara Rianta Camp offers two major options which include Kichwa Tembo Airstrip and Musiara Airstrip, which each serve the northernmost region of the Mara, along the River Mara. This is the best choice for those looking for a luxury Kenyan safari experience, complete with outdoor spa, al fresco dining, evening barbeques and dance, and all of the scenic landscape you can take in. Large groups of hippos make their home in the area, and are a favorite of all visitors.
Finally, Mara Engai Wilderness Lodge is just a bit more off the beaten path and is most easily accessible from the Mara Serena Airstrip. Once you are there, you will be able to enjoy a plethora of activities including hot air balloon rides, walking safaris, daily game drives, outdoor fine dining, and an authentic Maasai experience.
Driving to Masai Mara
Driving, on the other hand, is the ideal option for those looking to take the scenic route who don’t mind spending a little extra time in transit. After all, the allure of the Mara lies in the rolling plains and daylong game drives, so spending as much time as possible in the expansive Savannah should be no reason to complain! Herds of elephants, gazelle, wildebeest, as well as the occasional big cat or rhino will make your adventure well worth it, and always offer you something new to see.
Masai Mara road packages are most cost effective when it comes to traveling in groups. Costs are split between passengers, and most available transit options can be split between up to eight passengers. Going this route, you will stand to save the most money; however, many choose to travel in groups of six, affording each passenger their own window view. Either way, the total savings should be substantial when compared to air travel, regardless of how many you are riding with.
Best Vehicles for the Masai Mara
The key aspect to understand before beginning your Mara safari is your vehicle specifications. Don’t simply leave the details up to your travel guide, since exploring the Kenyan Savannah is a serious endeavor. Be sure to look for vehicles with 4×4 capabilities, to make sure they can handle the rough Mara terrain.
Land Rover Defenders and Toyota Land Cruisers are some of the most common options, providing an efficient and reliable ride at an affordable cost. However, for slightly competitive rates, going with a mini safari van may be a better option, especially in Kenyan safaris, as opposed to Tanzanian parks.
Since the roads can be rough as well as long, making the best choice possible is important. The Toyota Land Cruiser ends up being the best and most widely used option as they offer the maximum opportunity for off road exploration, alongside ultimate comfort. This is especially true during the wet season, as road conditions will be more difficult and the additional power will be well worth the extra cost.
To Fly or to Drive To the Masai Mara
Whatever your choice of transport to Masai Mara, the reality will be plenty of adventure, exciting wildlife, and gorgeous new sights to see. The key to planning an African safari is to think about every detail from start to finish, considering all of the top Masai Mara Hotels, camps, and lodges, how you’re getting there, as well as Masai Mara Park fees. While there are many different options to choose from, making the right choice will depend on how you want to spend your time, where you want to invest your money, and what kinds of experiences you want to see for yourself. Now that you know how to visit Masai Mara, the next step is to set a date and pack your bags!
When thinking through how you are getting to The Masai Mara, doing your research and getting the most information possible is the best way to ensure you make the right choice. Each option has its own benefits, and going your own way is important. Whether you want to save time and energy by opting for a Masai Mara flying package, or take the scenic route by car, your journey will be one to remember.
Masai Mara National Reserve Park Fees
Masai Mara National Reserve is currently divided into 2 Sections; the Eastern side managed by the Narok County Council, and the Northwestern side (the Mara Triangle), managed by Mara Conservancy, a not-for-profit management company, in collaboration with the Trans Mara County Council.
The Masai Mara National Reserve is gazetted as a single protected area, although it is actually administered by two different authorities. Fees and by-laws apply to both sides of the Reserve. There may be slight differences in the interpretation and implementation of the by-laws.
Masai Mara National Reserve Park Fees and Tickets are valid for both the Mara Triangle and the Narok (Eastern) side of the Reserve. It is always important to make it clear to Guides at the Gates about the Camp or Lodge you will be staying-in while in the Mara. Masai Mara National Reserve Park Fee and Tickets aren’t however valid for entry at Conservancies OUTSIDE the Mara Reserve (the Mara Triangle and the Narok – Eastern). For instance Visitors must purchase tickets to visit Conservancies outside the Mara Reserve like the Mara North Conservancy and likewise when visiting the Masai Mara Reserve from the outside-conservancies.
Masai Mara Conservancy Fees and Narok County Council Park Fees as published by Mara Conservancy:
East African Citizen Masai Mara Park Fees
Adults: KES 1,000.00
Children and Students: KES 200.00
East African Resident Masai Mara Park Fees
Adults: KES 1,200.00
Children and Students: KES 300.00
Non Resident Masai Mara Park Fees
USD 70.00 (Inside Park)
USD 80.00 (Outside Park)
Children and Students:
USD 40.00 (Inside Park)
USD 45.00 (Outside Park)
What you should know about Masai Mara Conservancy Fees and Narok County Council Park Fees for Citizens, Residents and Non-residents
Children aged between 3 years to 18 years pay Masai Mara Park Fees
Free for Children below 3 years
Masai Mara Park Fees applicable to Citizens of Kenya
National Identification Card (ID) required
Masai Mara Park Fees applicable to Residents of East Africa – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi
Passport and Work Permit or Visa proving Resident status required upon entry into the Masai Mara Game Reserve
Masai Mara Park Fees applicable to Visitors with Passports without Supporting Resident Documents
Masai Mara Park Fees for students is only applicable for individuals of up to 23 years old, supported by a recognized institution, with a valid student ID, and visiting the Masai Mara Reserve on a Trip organized by the School for research which has to be authorized by Mara Conservancy. The authorization has be cleared at least two weeks in advance.
The concession Masai Mara Student Rates won’t be extended to Students visiting the Masai Mara Reserve for personal Holidays.
Masai Mara Park Fees applicable to Guests staying at Lodges and Camps INSIDE the Masai Mara Reserve
Masai Mara Park Fees applicable to Guests staying at Lodges and Camps OUTSIDE the Masai Mara Reserve
Daily Masai Mara Park Fees is valid for twenty four (24) Hours from the time of entering the Masai Mara Game and National Reserve
10 Things to Note when Traveling to Masai Mara
Taking a Safari to the Masai Mara National Reserve can be one of life’s most memorable experiences. To get the most out of your time in Kenya, here are a few simple tips and reminders to keep in mind:
1. Choose the right Masai Mara hotel
Plan your Masai Mara accommodation ahead of time. You won’t have the luxury of quickly checking out and switching hotels, in case you don’t like the hotel you are booked in. The average distance between any two properties in the Masai Mara is around 20 to 30 KM; research online first before you make your booking.
2. Get the right vehicle to drive around the Masai Mara
If you’re going on a safari, you can’t just drive any type of vehicle. You cannot afford to get stuck in the Mara. If that happens, it can take hours before someone comes to your rescue. Make sure you’re getting a 4×4 vehicle that will get you from your starting point and bring you back home. The weather in the Mara can be unpredictable so get the right vehicle. We strongly recommend the Safari Land Cruises (Toyota) which have an appetite for the rough terrains.
3. Go for Masai Mara boutique hotels during the high seasons
When you head out to the wild, you want to enjoy the serene, calm feeling of nature and personalized treatment. It’s really not worth dealing with the overcrowded hotels and messy food situation during the most popular time of the year. If you’re going to visit during the high season, you should try some of the smaller luxury camps in the Masai Mara for a more pleasant personalized experience.
4. Always remember, Masai Mara animals are wild
Don’t try to touch them, feed them or play with them during your safari. This is their home, and you are just visiting, so be respectful and take in the breathtaking views without putting yourself in danger. If you come across any animal’s unattended “baby” irrespective of how cute they look, don’t touch them!
5. Don’t get lost in the Masai Mara
The best way to avoid this is to travel with a guide who knows where to go and how to safely get there. Remember, you are surrounded by nature and not a lot of civilization, so straying too far from known areas could easily leave you lost and in danger, without access to easy communication.
6. Don’t miss your flight from the Masai Mara
If you have chosen to purchase a flying package, make sure you are on time, because it can be difficult and expensive to reschedule a flight.
7. Never lose the Masai Mara park fees receipt
The park rangers will want to verify that you have properly made your payments, and this will be difficult to do if you don’t have a receipt to show them. Guard that receipt.
8. Don’t be late coming from game drives
Especially if you have opted for a self-drive safari, it is extremely important that you follow the rules of the Masai Mara National Reserve, which means you have to complete your game drive during the allotted safari time frame. During your evening game drives, always get back to the Camp or hotel on time. 6 pm.
9. Don’t step on the grass – stick to the designated tracks
This rule is for your own safety, as the tracks are there to provide you with safe passage through the natural habitat of wild animals. During the Masai Mara migration of the wildebeests, there is even more animal traffic, which means this rule is even more crucial to follow.
10. Leave the Masai Mara with memories only
Please feel free to take as many photos as you want during your stay at the Masai Mara, and enjoy your time to the fullest, but you absolutely should not bring home any souvenirs that you’ve found at the wildlife reserve. No plants, bones or animals should leave the Masai Mara – please respect the space and leave it exactly as you found it.
If you follow these rules, there’s no question that you’ll have an incredible safari vacation and you’ll leave the Masai Mara wishing you could stay a little longer.
Masai Mara Conservation Efforts
The Serengeti – Mara Wildebeest migration, in search of better pastures and breeding grounds is perceived as Africa’s and more so, the world’s greatest Migration. The Exodus of the Wildebeests, also known as GNUs and a number of other Herbivores stretching the plains of African grasslands for Kilometers, each year, has earned the Great Migration of Masai Mara and Serengeti an equal place as an Eighth (8th) Wonder of the World.
The Kenyan and Tanzanian governments, along with others in eastern Africa, have made a commitment to the preservation of the Mara ecosystem particularly and the savanna more generally. Planned road construction has been cancelled and a good deal of wildlife research is regularly undertaken. Because of this commitment and the incredible safari opportunities, the wildlife to be seen on Masai Mara Safari packages is unparalleled. Many of the most famous African species are represented here, including the famous ‘Big 5’ made up of lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and black rhinoceros.
A good number of Maasai Mara National Reserve Hotels are actively participating in the conservation effort.
The heart of the African savanna awaits the traveler at this point. We are available to handle any of your other queries regarding the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Whether a ‘first time’ or ‘repeat’ visitor, our Experience in customizing Masai Mara Safari Packages and long stay African Safari vacation packages will meet your expectations!