Masai Mara National Reserve
Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara National Reserve is the jewel in Kenya’s safari crown and arguably, one of the best safari destinations in all of Africa. Dominated by vast, open savannahs, the Masai Mara was the inspiration beyond Disney’s the Lion King. This preserved wilderness is located in southern Kenya, bordering Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. This expansive ecosystem is home to a magnitude of animals, including large elephant numbers, lion prides, leopards, antelope, giraffe, zebra, and hippo aplenty.
The Masai Mara National Reserve features two major rivers – the Mara and the Talek River. These rivers are the lifeblood of so many resident animals, and on the riverbanks often lie resident prides of lion and other opportunistic predators. The Mara River also plays an integral part in the Great Wildebeest Migration. Over 1.5 million wildebeest and zebra make the vigorous plunge to cross this Mara River from Tanzania into Kenya’s Masai Mara around July. This is a river crossing of life and death, of fear and courage. Hundreds of crocodiles strike under the murky waters, and big cats hide on the banks to take down wildebeest in the chaos of the crossing aftermath.
The wildebeest herds graze the plains of the Masai Mara from the July to September/ October period. Although the movement of the herds varies each year depending on weather patterns and rains, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sight to see such an enormous gathering of animals in one space. There’s nothing quite like it in Africa.
Aside from the wildebeest migration, the resident wildlife in the Masai Mara National Reserve and the surrounding conservancies is incredible year-round. On a typical game drive, you can expect to see a wealth of plains game like antelope, giraffe, and zebra, as well as a large number of elephants – in fact, up to 3,000 individuals roam free inside the park’s ecosystem.
There are two main options when it comes to accommodation in the Masai Mara. The first is to stay inside the reserve, and there are some fantastic options here like Governors Camp, Naibor, and Basecamp Mara among others. The reserve has, arguably, a denser wildlife concentration which you will get to enjoy on morning and afternoon game drives. The other option is to stay in one of the conservancies bordering the reserve. These are known as the Greater Mara Conservancies, in which there are 14. As these are private reserves, the game viewing feels a lot more exclusive and varied, as bush walks and night drives are offered.
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With a Kenyan father, Indian grandparents, and a Portuguese surname, travel is in my blood. I am enthralled by Africa and would happily talk about this diverse continent’s wildlife, cultures and experiences all day, every day.
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Our luxury safaris to the Masai Mara National Reserve
When to go: June - MarchBest Seller
Amboseli National Park, Meru National Park, Masai Mara, Diani Beach11 NightsFrom £6,660 PPA luxury flying safari which takes you to three national parks in Kenya. These will give you an all-round Kenyan safari experience - an unforgettable experience.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Samburu National Reserve, Masai Mara10 NightsFrom £6,900 PPThis itinerary is a combination of flying and driving, offering safari highlights in Kenya.
Laikipia Plateau, Masai Mara and Diani Beach12 NightsFrom £6,250 PPThis itinerary is a combination of flying and driving, offering safari highlights in Kenya suited for families in particular.
Masai Mara National Reserve7 nightsFrom £4,800 PPA week-long safari in the jewel of Kenya's safari, the Masai Mara National Park, where you will stay at two different safari camps and locations.
Best camps in the Masai Mara National Reserve
The safari accommodation in Kenya is predominantly authentic, luxury tented camps. These are not ‘camps’ as you may know them, but instead are canvassed frames, with the utmost luxury and amenities. These luxury, tented camps have spacious well-appointed en-suite bathrooms, and often with features like outdoor showers, private verandas, and sometimes plunge pools or free-standing baths. The beauty of these tented camps is that you get the full safari experience. You will often have elephants or other animals walk through the camp, and at night, you’ll be able to hear the vibrations of lions calling to one another, or hyena laughing in the distance.
For those looking for a more well-rounded safari, the camps in the Greater Mara Conservancies offer activities aside from game drives. In conservancies like the Mara North, Naboisho, and Ol Kinyei, you have the opportunity to do day and night drives, bush walks, and community visits to see the local Masai people. There are so many safari camps we recommend, but here are a few of our favorites:
When to visit the Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara National Reserve is a year-round destination, with savannahs filled with resident game. The vegetation during the December to March period is thicker and greener, which makes the sightings that little bit more challenging. That said, the safari guides are professional and exceptionally practiced in spotting wildlife. This period is also great for birdlife, as many migrant birds from northern Africa and Europe reside in the park. April and May are the rainy months in Kenya, and many of the camps in the Masai Mara close during this time. From June onwards, the park starts to dry up, and this period – of July to October – is regarded as the best time for game viewing. The later in the season, the drier the park gets, so the months of September and October are usually exceptional in the Masai Mara.
Gemma our African Specialist
What are the Greater Mara Conservancies?
The Masai Mara National Reserve is bordered with a collection of private concessions. These are owned by local communities, and it is these Masai people who lease the land for the purpose of tourism and wildlife-viewing. In turn, this puts money back into the communities and conservation work, to ensure that human/wildlife conflict is at a minimum. There are 14 conservancies, with some of the biggest and most visited including the Mara North and the Naboisho Conservancy. These are accessed via a small aircraft plane, and there are several local airstrips around the conservancy areas.
Which is better – the Masai Mara National Reserve or the Greater Conservancies?
This depends on the time of year you are looking to go, and what sort of experience you are looking for. The wildebeest migration herds make their way into the Masai Mara from the Serengeti around July, and head back around October, so for these months, we’d recommend being inside the reserve to give you the opportunity to see a river crossing. If you are looking for a more varied safari experience, the Greater Mara conservancies are a good option, as they are quieter, and offer activities like bush walks, community visits, and night drives. Give us a call and run and give us as much detail about what you’re hoping for from your safari, and we can give you our professional recommendations.
How much time should I spend in the Masai Mara?
There is really no maximum time to spend on safari, but I would definitely recommend a minimum of 3-4 nights on safari in the Masai Mara. The longer you have on safari, the more opportunity you have to see other species and sightings. If you want to combine several two locations, I’d recommend 3 nights in each camp, and we can organize a transfer between the two camps which would be a game drive en-route. Your typical day on safari will include two game drives – one early morning and one late afternoon.
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