Masai Mara and locally known simply as the Mara, is a large national game reserve in Narok, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the area, who migrated to the area from the Nile Basin. Their description of the area when looked at from afar: “Mara” means “spotted” in the local Maasai language, due to the many short bushy trees which dot the landscape.
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.
The Greater Mara ecosystem encompasses areas known as the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the Mara Triangle, and several Maasai Conservancies, including Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Mara North, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, and Kimintet. The Maasai people make up a community that spans across northern, central and southern Kenya and northern parts of Tanzania. As pastoralists, the community holds the belief that they own all of the cattle in the world. The Maasai rely off of their lands to sustain their cattle, as well as themselves and their families. Prior to the establishment of the reserve as a protected area for the conservation of wildlife and wilderness, the Maasai were forced to move out of their native lands.
Tradition continues to play a major role in the lives of modern-day Maasai people, who are known for their tall stature, patterned shukas and beadwork. It is estimated that there are approximately half a million individuals that speak the Maa language and this number includes not only the Maasai but also Samburu and Camus people in Kenya
Maasai Mara is one of the most famous national reserves not only in Kenya but the entire world as one of the most visited parks in Africa. … Maasai Mara is considered as the most popular safari destination in Kenya that provides tourists with authentic true African wildlife experience mixed with exciting cultural tours.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT THE PARK.
February-Best time to see the herds, since it is calving season and you will sight millions of brown species spreading across the sweeping acacia, with the biggest concentration of predators anywhere on the plains. Since it is the start of the calving season they will be migrating to the Savanah and the crossing is guaranteed. May-The rains usually turn people away, but the animals are still around and so are the predators. Prices are heavily discounted in Kenya and Tanzania.
July-October-The Wildebeest, Zebras, Antelope are in the Northern Serengeti plains at this time, and some move across to the Mara Masai for grazing, and it becomes likely they will migrate back to the Serengeti in September/October. This dramatic crossing is considered by many the most desirable time to view the migration, as they move in both directions.
Should I stay in a mobile camp or permanent lodge? A common misconception is that the mobile camp moves around day by day, week by week. This does not happen. They have set positions that are pre-planned set dates that do not make it flexible. The permanent camps and lodges emphasize great service and food, a comfortable bed and shower, and flush toilets. The Tents-For many people sleeping under the canvas and seeing a million stars is a part of the safari experience.
Each tour operator provides a specific type of service, accommodation, drives, and vehicle transfer. Contact your local African wildlife specialist and the experts will guide you in the right direction.
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.
HOTELS AT AND AROUND THE PARK.
Neptune Mara Rianta Luxury Camp
Mara Intrepid Tented Camp
Sarova Mara Game Camp
Olare Mara Kempinski
Mara Ngenche Safari Camp – Maasai Mara National Reserve
Mara Serena safari lodge
Things to do
- 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.
- Safari Drive
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 a Luxury Stay at the Governors Private Camp Ration.
The Governors Private Camp allows a private and very comfortable experience of the Masai Mara. With the camp manager as your host, personal attention is the selling point of this exclusive camp.
The camp is positioned where many different animals come to drink and where the hippos bring their calves to enjoy the water. The surrounding forest is full of beautiful birds, such as trogans, hornbills, and turacos. The Governors Private Camp then provides some of the Masai Mara’s best guides to make the most of the wildlife-filled environment. The trackers are expertly trained to find amazing wildlife and you’re sure to see some of the Mara’s favorites.
The camp can be booked either individually to share the camp with others or can be booked exclusively by one group to occupy 6 of the tents to offer a premium and exclusive experience.
- 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.
Visitors are often struck by the colorful lifestyle of the Masai. Many camps have an outreach program helping to conserve surrounding forests while providing a reliable source of fuel for the community. For example, a biogas plant collects methane gas from cow dung produced by the cows kept in the center of the village. This not only helps keep the area clean, but also provides a much needed energy source without cutting down the trees.
Your visit to a community with this type of program helps fund this ongoing project by way of an entrance ticket. For the Mara Rianda, money from community visits has also helped built a nursery school for 120 children. The system also helps purchase food in times of need and can support 98 different families.
- 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.
- Big Game walking safaris
A walking safari is a great way to get onto the Masai Mara in the same manner as early explorers. Enjoy exploring the area on foot with highly trained guides. As you are no longer inside a custom designed safari vehicle, enjoy more excitement as you explore the Masai Mara looking for some fantastic wildlife. The walking safaris are offered as an extra activity at the Little Governors Camp and your walk is followed by a full cooked champagne bush breakfast.
The Little Governors Camp offers a luxury safari camp with a little more exclusivity than the Governors Camp. There are 17 luxury en-suite tents around a large watering hole, which is a perfect spot to see wildlife. Because vehicles are left across the bank on the Mara River, enjoy a little more peace and quiet and hopefully some more wildlife sightings close to the camp itself.
The camps themselves have hardwood decks and large verandahs to watch the wildlife. This particular camp has become a favored place for a family of warthogs because of the lack of fencing. Because of its focus on sustainability, Little Governors Camp has been awarded a Silver Eco-Rating from Eco Tourism Kenya.
- Bird watching
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.
The vultures are then easy to spot as they zone in on lion kills and guests are often surprised by the sheer number of these birds to see. Several different vultures have been identified so far.
The birds of prey are often the favorites and you can see the large martial eagles over the Mara, which are the largest in Africa. These birds are so powerful that they prey on young impala and different birds. Not just a home of this giant, you can also find the tiny pygmy falcon at home here.
- Visit Mfangano Island on Lake Victoria
The Mfangano Island is a land area in Lake Victoria to enjoy a relaxing experience after or before your experience of the Masai Mara. The completely different environment makes a fantastic compliment to your adventures on Africa’s savanna.
Lake Victoria is the world’s largest tropical freshwater lake and sits on the border of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania in Africa’s Great Lakes region. The lake is drained by the famous Nile River and is home to around 200 different species of fish. The lake is extremely important for the regional economy with various industries relying on the water.
Because of its size, Lake Victoria is home to some beautiful geographical features, such as many different reefs and different Islands. If you choose, you can take tours from the camp to explore the region and see the beauty of Lake Victoria.
Mfangano Island Camp is a luxury Island retreat nestled in beautiful tropical gardens and provides exceptional views of Lake Victoria. The activities from the camp include fishing for introduced Nile perch, learning about the traditional island culture, bird watching to see some of the 350 different birds, visiting a historical site of ancient rock art, or simply relaxing in your luxurious Island camp.