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Masai Mara or the Serengeti – which national park should I visit?

The Masai Mara National Reserve and the Serengeti National Park are two of the most recognizable and visited parks in all of Africa. Although they are located in different countries, they both share the same ecosystem and so share characteristics when it comes to the geography, topography, landscape, and wildlife species it homes.

Because both national parks are iconic, a very common question asked is ‘which national park should I go to: The Masai Mara or the Serengeti?’ Here are a few things to consider when deciding.

Wildebeest Nomad Lamai
Wildebeest Pioneer Camp

Do you want to see the wildebeest migration?

With over 1.5 million wildebeest, accompanied by over 200,000 zebra and other species of antelope, the wildebeest migration is the largest migration on Earth. The herds migrate around the plains of the Serengeti National Park and the Masai Mara every year, and although their movements differ slightly depending on the arrival of the rains, we can quite reliably estimate where they will be on a monthly basis. If seeing the wildebeest migration herds is high on your safari bucket list, this will be the deciding factor of whether you go to Tanzania or Kenya.

The herds cross the Mara River into Kenya anywhere from around late June/July, and stay there until October/November when they head back into the Serengeti. Throughout the rest of the year, the wildebeest migration herds are in Tanzania, migrating around the different areas of the park. The period of January to March is their calving season, which takes place in the Ndutu Plains in southern Serengeti.

Images: Nomad Lamai (left) and Pioneer Camp (right)

Tortilis Camp Elewana
Legendary Serengeti Maswa

Do you want to combine other national parks?

A trip to the Masai Mara or the Serengeti is certainly the jewel in the safari crown. We would recommend a minimum of 3-4 nights in either park, but the longer you can stay, the better as it allows you to experience more wildlife sightings, camp experiences, and get to know the place a lot better. It’s worth staying a longer period of time in one camp however if you would like to experience different camps, guiding and areas, then combining camps inside and outside of the national park is a nice combination.

For example in Kenya, you can stay inside the Masai Mara Reserve (in somewhere like Governors Camp) and then head further out to the Masai Mara Greater Conservancies to stay in a camp there. The benefit of this is that you can enjoy different areas and game viewing activities. While the reserve is usually denser in terms of wildlife numbers, the conservancies allow you to do bush walks and night drives, which are not permitted inside the reserve. This combination is easier to do in Kenya. While there are private reserves bordering the Serengeti (such as Grumeti and Maswa in the west and south respectively), the majority of camps are located inside the national park.

Images: Tortilis Elewana (left) and Legendary Serengeti Maswa (right)

The Palms Zanzibar
White Sands Zanzibar

Do you want to add some beach time?

The great thing about both the Masai Mara in Kenya, and the Serengeti in Tanzania, is that they can be both be combined with the beach for a twin-center trip. From the Masai Mara, you can fly to the southern coast to relax on Diani/ Watamu Beach which are both beautiful spots, with white-sand beaches and a great variety of accommodation. You can also fly back to Nairobi within an hour or so, which is then connectable to other beach destinations like the Seychelles or Mauritius.

From the Serengeti, you can take an internal flight to Zanzibar Island – a tropical island off the east coast of Tanzania’s mainland. Depending where you are in the Serengeti, this flight will stop off quickly in either Arusha or Dar es Salaam, but the best thing about this routing is that you can be on safari in the morning, and sipping a cool cocktail by the afternoon. There is plenty to do in Zanzibar – from relaxing on the beaches, to exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stone Town.

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