Safaris in the Masai Mara

Missing ben on 4th April 2011 | 0 comments |

Our complete guide to the Masai Mara. Includes galleries plus the full low down on how long to stay, how to get there and when to go.

The Masai Mara is Kenya’s most popular safari destination and for good reason. It is a vast reserve of endless flat grassland crossed by rivers which play host to wildlife’s most spectacular moments. Within the park you get all the big game tickets, lion, hippo, crocs, rhino, you name it, Masai Mara has it. Perhaps its biggest drawcard is the Wildebeest Migration when vast hordes of Wildebeest roar through the park bringing in its trail a wake of mighty predators. If you’re lucky enough to be in Masai Mara during the migration pick a spot by the river and watch enraptured as crocs and lions compete to pick-off stragglers from the clattering herds of wildebeest.

Wildlife

The beauty of the Maasai Mara is that it plays host to all the mainstream wildlife. There is always a strong chance of seeing lion in the park. Leopard and Cheetah are more rare but sightings are possible.  Elephant, buffalo and wildebeest are common. The rivers and hippo pools play host to crocs and hippos. And of course there is the usual plethora of birds and antelope (big and small).

Masai Mara

Habitat

The most striking feature of the Maasai Mara reserve are grasslands, which roll towards the distance horizon with only the occasional Acacia tree or bush lined river breaking the view. It is the quintessential African landscape that you picture when you think of safari.

Masai Mara

Fitting Masai Mara into your Kenya Holiday

The most popular itineraries combine the Masai Mara with visits to the Rift Valley Lakes of Naivasha and Nakuru. With more time you can also combine the Masai Mara with Mount Kenya or even the Northern parks of Samburu and Meru or Amboseli in the South without having to resort to internal flights.

Masai Mara is around 5-6 hours drive from Nairobi and 3-4 hours from the Rift Valley Lakes at Naivasha and Nakuru. If you are planning on diving all the way from Samburu, Mount Kenya or Amboseli, expect to make a whole day of it (8-10 hours)

The last hour or two of road to the Maasai Mara reserve is awful, so expect a bone rattling drive. If you are interested in trekking, camping out in the wild and culture then there are some fantastic experiences to be had in the wider Masai land on the way to the Park. Options range from half day visits to the eco camp at Magi Moto to 4 -7 day trekking itineraries in the Loita plains. This area also play host to wildlife, giraffe, zebra, antelope and wildebeest are all common as are all the big predators – so you will usually be accompanied by a Masai warrior for security.

Whilst wildlife buffs will want to combine the Masai Mara with at least one of the other big parks such as Samburu or Amboseli, but if you are only interested in a taste of safari then you would be better of combining the Masai Mara with local Masai treks, a couple of days in the Rift Valley Lakes or even climbing Mount Kenya.

How long to stay

How keen are you on wildlife or photography? If you are very keen you will want to give yourself at least two full days in the park, preferably more. For the generalists amongst us, one to two full days is enough time to see most of what the park has to offer.

  • In half a day it is possible to enter the park at Sekani Gate and and make it as far as the Talek River. You can get a small taste of the rolling hills around keekorok and the Posee plains. Even with such a short time, you should get to see a get portion of the wildlife. The Talek River is famous as a meeting point for crocodiles, hippos and thirsty four legged creatures.
  • Given a whole day it is possible to get into the park, cover a large swathe of grassland and make it all the way to the main Mara river which is always a popular spot to observe wildebeest braving the crocodiles on their migration. You can get a good feel for the park with a full day.
  • Given two full days it is possible to do a full loop of the park, perhaps enter at Sekani Gate overnight again at Oloololo Gate, visit the Mara River, Olpunyaia Swamp, salt lick area and Musiara Swamp. Of course with more time, you can track animals for longer and hopefully get the chance to see some predators in action.

Masai Mara Safaris with Tourdust

This guide to the Masai Mara is intended as a useful resource for anybody planning to visit the Masai Mara for a safari. For those looking to book a safari with experienced guides, full support and private transport from Nairobi, Tourdust can arrange tailored safaris in the Masai Mara as well as regular small group tours, email us on help@tourdust.com. Our recommended Masai Mara safari is a 6 day round trip from Nairobi that includes the Rift Valley Lakes and time with the Masai people in addition to time in the park itself:


Masai Mara4 day Masai Mara Wild Camping Safari from £476pp based on two sharing: Camp out in the bush in this back to basics mobile camping safari with expert wildlife guides and superb safari in the Masai Mara reserve. Fantastic value four day wild camping safari in a stunning private conservancy in the Masai Mara region. Includes road transfers from Nairobi


Masai Mara3 day private Masai Mara Road Safari from £601pp based on two sharing: A classic 3 day safari in the Masai Mara in a private 4wd vehicle with experienced wildlife guides. Accommodation is in a lovely mid range permanent tented camp just outside the park. This safari includes transfer to and from Nairobi and all park fees. 


Masai Mara3 day flying Masai Mara Safari from £654pp based on two sharing: A classic 3 day flying safari in the Masai Mara staying in your choice of lodge or tented camp. Choose from our selection of the best mid range and high end permanent tented camps and lodges. This safari includes flights to and from the Mara from Nairobi and all park fees. 


Masai Mara6 Day Rift Valley and Masai Mara Safari from £768pp: A fantastic well balanced 6 day itinerary that breaks up the journey to Masai Mara with safaris in Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha. Highlights include an overnight at a colonial plantation and camping out in the bus in the Masai Mara region alongside the incomparable Masai Mara game drives. 


Masai Mara11 Day Rift Valley, Masai Mara and Mount Kenya combination from;1760pp:The perfect combination, after trekking the majestic Mount Kenya, journey via the Great Lakes to Masai Mara for An incredible safari. 




When is the best time of year to visit Masai Mara

Undoubtedly the best time to visit the Masai Mara is during the wildebeest migration in June, July and August. However it is still more than worth a visit during the rest of the year. The only exception being towards the end of the long rains in April and May when the roads often become impassable.

  • The migration (late June, July, August and early September): Mid June usually heralds the arrival of the wildebeest migration and this is without doubt the time to visit the park. There are of course disadvantages of all the wildlife – they bring with them hordes of tourists and high prices. So if your idea of a safari is desolate wilderness this is not the time to visit the Maasai Mara.
  • The short rains (late September, October, November): This season is known as the short rains. A little rain falls during these months, usually early in the morning or late in the evening, but nothing to hamper your enjoyment of the Maasai Mara. The roads in the park are also fine.
  • The dry season (December, January, February, Early March): This is also a good time to visit. There is no rain and a good chance of seeing wildlife as it gathers round watering holes. As with the rest of the year, you still have a good chance of seeing all the big game; lion, elephant, crocodile, buffalo, wildebeest, hippo …
  • The long rains (late March, April, May, early June): This is the down season in the park. With regular rain falling pretty much every day. The weather tends to settle into a pattern of rain in the evenings, overnight and mornings. It tends to clear up around 10am and start raining again around 3pm. The big problem is the state of the roads in the reserve, many of which can become impassable even for 4wds. This tends to effect the smaller tracks rather than the main roads running through the park  Still, despite the rains, many frugal travellers choose this time of year to snap up bargain rates at high end lodges. Often at rates less than half what you would pay in the high season.

Accommodation

To provide a summary of all the accommodation options in or around the park would be impossible, there are simply too many. Prices are typically high and each gate tends to be surrounded by a huge number of small resorts and permanent tented camps. Inside the lodge, the options tend to be at the very high end only. Follows are highlights…

Mountain Rock Mara Springs: A permanent fixed camp in the Serena Conservancy area near Sekanani Gate. The tents are erected around newly built en-suite bathrooms, and whilst there aren't luxury frills it is very comfortable

Kimana Mara: A community owned and run camp with ensuite fixed tents. (near Mountain Rock Mara Springs)

Governors' Camp: This is where to go if you have some money to splash around. This is the place to stay in the Masai Mara for that classic luxury safari experience.

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