The Maasai Mara in Kenya is probably the most rewarding game parks in the world. Nevertheless, some of the roads leading to this tourism highlight are the complicated roads you will experience while driving in Kenya. Also, for a first timer, it can be quite complicated to understand where to go and where to stay in the Maasai Mara. So, while we allow self-drive in Kenya and visits to the Maasai Mara National Park.
Maasai Mara is one of the most famous and important wildlife conservation and wilderness areas in Africa, world-renowned for its exceptional populations of lion, African leopard, cheetah and African bush elephant. It also hosts the Great Migration, which secured it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and as one of the ten Wonders of the World.
Entrance gates for entering the Maasai Mara
The greater Maasai Mara ecosystem is comprised of three large sections and a number of smaller private conservancies:
- Maasai Mara National Reserve – this is under management of Narok County, the gateway town to the Mara Reserve. Its main gate is Sekenani gate in the east. Other gates are Oloolaimutia Gate and Talek Gate (in the east), Musiara Gate (in the North) and Purungat Mara River Gate (in the south).
- Mara North Conservancy – which borders the northern side of the Maasai Mara National Reserve? The North Conservancy hosts the top tier luxurious camps who offer customised, private safaris for their clients.
- Mara Triangle – The Triangle is part of the Northern Mara ecosystem and under management of a private conservation trust. The main gate to Mara Triangle is the Oloololo Gate. When you’re coming from Nairobi, the Sekenani route is fastest. The road from Narok to Sekenani gate is newly tarmacked and smooth. If you’re staying in the Mara Triangle and are driving through Sekenani Gate from the Narok side, do not pay park fees until you enter the Reserve at Purungat Bridge. Also note you have to request a transit permit at the Sekenani gate.
ACTIVITIES DONE AT MASAI MARA NATIONAL PARK
Hot Air Balloon over the Masai Mara
A hot air balloon over the Masai Mara is possibly the most incredible way to see this fantastic ecosystem. Get a better perspective of the area and admire the Masai Mara’s beauty from the sky. The hot air balloon departs from the Little Governors Camp just before dawn with the balloon rising as the first sunlight lights the Mara.
Enjoy the tranquility of a balloon ride as you float above the plains watching the wildlife below. See the forest and the rivers of the Masai Mara on a truly unique experience as we drift in the breeze. See why the Masai named this the ‘Mara’, which means ‘spotted’ as you see the circles of trees, shadows from clouds, and scrubland that create the beautiful scenery.
We will fly for about an hour spotting some fantastic sights and with ample time for many photographs and videos. Offered on many tours, and in keeping with tradition of hot air balloon flights, on your return to land you will be greeted with a champagne breakfast cooked where you land.
The main event of your Masai Mara safari camp experience, game drives take you out and into the Masai Mara to search for the iconic animals. Accompanied by some of the area’s top guides, enjoy unmatched game viewing from camps positioned in the heart of Masai Mara, such as the Mara Eden Safari Camp.
Enjoy game drives in custom designed 4×4 vehicles suited to this environment for incredible game viewing. Your experienced drivers have a love of the environment and many have worked on the Mara for over 40 years.
All members of the Big 5 live on the Masai Mara and you have the possibility of seeing lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros, as well as giraffes, hippos, hyenas, Nile crocodiles, wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, antelopes, and more.
See the Wildebeest Migration
The wildebeest migration is an annual event where over a million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle migrate from Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara in a continuous cycle following the rains and fresh grass.
The migration often takes place between the months of July and October and is anticipated by hundreds of tourists and the Masai Mara’s predators alike. This is also the time when the wildebeest give birth and life echoes all around the Mara. Life not only arrives with the birth of wildebeest, but also with the actions of predators and the arrival of lions and hyenas.
Enjoy Cultural Visits with the Masai
The Masai have been living on the Mara for a few hundred years and still live with traditional customs and traditions, albeit influenced a little from the modern world. While on the Masai Mara, you can visit a Masai community, such as the Mara Rianda.
This is a community of 48 traditional houses surrounding an area for the Masai’s cattle. This is a great place to visit if you’re interested in exploring the Masai culture to enjoy traditions and customs that have remained as they are for centuries.
Visit the Mara River
The Mara River is one of the documentary world’s most famous because of the annual wildebeest crossing. The river begins in Kenya’s highlands then drains into Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake.
This is a very important water source for animals along the Mara River and grows to double its usual size after heavy rains. The animals you can find here include bird-life, hippos and crocodiles and the river is found in the heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve. A great camp to enjoy the Mara River is the Mara Eden Safari Camp, which is positioned in the forest near the river bank.
The river is mostly known as the crossing the millions of wildebeest and zebra on their cyclical journey between Tanzania and Kenya as they follow the greener grass. Documentary crews often set up across the river to film as the wildebeest approach. Nile crocodiles then congregate at the crossing area waiting to catch their meal creating some spectacular wildlife footage.
The Masai Mara is a great place for bird watching with 470 birds to find. Although it’s the big animals that dominate people’s attention, there are some fascinating birds to find as well. Among the diversity, you can ostriches, the world’s largest bird, tiny sunbirds, and 46 different birds of prey.
The grasslands hide the ground hornbills, which are about the same size as a turkey, kori bustards, secretary birds, plovers, and white stalks. The swampy areas are then great places to spot different storks and cranes, such as saddle-billed storks scouting for catfish.
You can spot the goliath heron, which is the world’s largest, plus sacred ibis, yellow-billed storks, and great white egrets. There are many different kingfishers with seven species of giant kingfishers to see. You can usually spot these on the Mara River itself.
HOW TO GET TO THE PARK
By road from Nairobi
A majority of travelers fly into Nairobi and opt to reach Masai Mara by road via B3 and C12. The city is approximately 306 kilometers (190 miles) away from the reserve, and it can take 6-7 hours to drive. If you want to experience Kenyan countryside, driving is the way to go. Nairobi to Narok is around a two-and-a-half hour drive, which offers plenty of views and scenery, onwards from that, you’ll see the Great Rift Valley escarpment. Be aware that the journey from Narok to Masai Mara can get quite bumpy, and take around three hours, without much to see. If you have a lot of time and want to experience Kenyan landscapes, this is the best option.
By plane from Nairobi
If you’re short on time, the best option is to fly from Nairobi to Masai Mara to one of the airstrips. It takes from 30 to 45 minutes and it’s certainly more comfortable than driving, especially if the primary purpose of your trip is to see wildlife. Flying will provide you with an aerial view of the region that will take your breath away. You can take a domestic flight from Wilson Airport (WIL) in Nairobi to an airstrip closest to your accommodation in Masai Mara.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MASAI MARA NP
What is the best time to visit the Maasai Mara? Well, depends what you want: wildebeest migration or wilderness feel. Your preferences will guide you through the seasons:
- Peak season from mid-June – October. When millions of wildebeests are in the Mara, it attracts many tourists as well.
- High season from November – February. Plenty of wildlife and people.
- Shoulder season from March – May. Rainy season, so prepare to get stuck in the mud. However, if you are a bit self-reliant, this is a great season to explore the Mara. Wildlife viewing is still good, and less people means you have more to yourself.
The Mara offers superb wildlife viewing year-round. With the best will in the world, you can never be sure of coinciding your few days in the Mara with the crossing and taking this sought-after picture of a crocodile having a frantic wildebeest in its jaws. Expect to pay exorbitant prices for the Mobile Camps that congregate near the river crossing, and to see plenty of other safari vehicles lined up.
The sector receiving the least visitors is the Mara Triangle, especially the western part.
Visiting Kenya without exploring Masai Mara is missing something special, and with so many wild experiences to look for, options to move around the park.
Even so, it is important to understand what makes Masai Mara so special. This is how you plan a perfect trip to the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.