Masai Mara Safaris – Everything You Need to Know about The Mara

The Masai Mara is the perfect destination for you anyone who has ever wanted to see wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes in their natural habitat. Also referred to as the Maasai Mara or The Mara, the Masai Mara is a large national game reserve named in honor of the Maasai people who inhabit the area. In the Maa language, ‘Mara” translates to ‘Spotted”. This refers to how the landscape is spotted with acacia trees, craters, and indentations.

The Maasai Mara is definitely one of the best safari destinations in Africa. It is a naturalist’s and photographer’s paradise thanks to the abundance of lions, giraffe, buffalo, elephants, cheetahs and not to forget the migratory wildebeests and zebras. If taking an African safari has always been on your vision board, then the Masai Mara should be your first destination.

Where is Masai Mara?

Established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1961, the Masai Mara is located in the southwest part of Kenya. Covering an area of 583 square miles (1,510 square kilometers), this national game reserve is a land of endless plains, breathtaking panoramas, and abundant wildlife. The Mara is one of the most renowned safari destinations in Africa. As a matter of fact, several wildlife animals focused TV shows including the “Big Cat Diary” on BBC was filmed here

Recommended Masai Mara Lodges & Camps

You never have to worry about accommodation while on Masai Mara safaris. There are several lodges and campsites catering for tourists in and around The Mara. Here you not only experience the authentic cultural interactions with the Maasai people but also witness nature’s biggest spectacles both during the day and night. Here are some of the best lodges and camps you should consider.

&Beyond Bateleur Camp

Situated on the western border of The Mara, the &Beyond Bateleur Camp is a private concession leased from Maasai landlords. The camp is located at the base of Oloololo escarpment; a walking distance from where the famous Out of Africa scene was filmed. The &Beyond Bateleur Camp is a popular choice because of the unparalleled wildlife experience it offers more so when it comes to the season Great Wildebeest Migration.

The &Bateleur Camp offers access to spacious tents with wooden doors, a shingle roof, and a private deck. The tents are furnished luxuriously with wooden-framed beds, en-suite bathrooms, leather chairs, study tables, and gleaming wooden floors. The accommodation includes dinner and breakfast which are served either on the Banks of the Mara River or on the plains.

Cottar’s Bush Villa

If what you are looking for is an elegant and unforgettable accommodation experience, you will not do better than the Cottar’s Bush Villa. In 2016, the villa won the World Travel Award for Africa’s Luxury Private Villa. The villa is also Global Eco-Sphere Retreat accredited.

The Cottar’s Bush Villa offers a luxury private stay option for a total of 12 guests. Here you will have access to a 25-meter swimming pool, guaranteed privacy and abundance of wildlife. You also get a view to the savannah plains that carry the majestic wildebeest migration. As a guest you also get to enjoy private night game drives, bush walks, fishing and swimming. The villa is rented on an exclusive basis.

Saruni Mara

Image Credit: Saruni

Saruni Mara is a small, boutique lodge with 5 stylish cottages, a family villa, and a private villa. It is situated in the Mara North Conservancy which is a private wildlife concession that borders the Masai Mara National Reserve. In addition to the elegant cottages, the Saruni Mara offers Maasai guided tours to exclusive locations. This is the perfect place to be if you want to learn both about the wildlife and the Maasai community.

Saruni offers honeymoon packages that includes a private dinner, bottle of champaign, back and neck massages, and all-inclusive accommodations in their honeymoon suite.

Sand River Masai Mara

Located close to the Tanzania border and on the banks of a river in Masai Mara National Reserve, Sand River borrows inspiration from the exclusive permanent tented camps of the 1920s. Everything here mirrors heyday camps of the 1920s. The upscale accommodation is perfect for an authentic African safari vacation.

If what you are looking for is an exceptional game-viewing, this is the place to be. The camp has 16 tents that are divided into 2 separate but adjacent campsites. Each area has its own public and dining areas which guarantees exclusivity and privacy. San River Masai Mara is further surrounded by a spectacular variety of wildlife.

Fairmont Mara Safari Club

This remarkable club is located on the foot of Aitong Hills. It has 51 luxurious furnished tents which include en suite facilities, four-poster beds as well as private decks that overlook the hippo filled Mara River. There is an outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and lounge. Exhilarating game drives are included. At the end of the day, guests get treated to beautiful sundowner cocktails as well as the amazing experience of dining in the bush. This is without any doubt a perfect base for safari adventures in The Mara.

Governors’ II Moran Camp

The camp is located next to the Mara River which attracts lots of birds and wildlife. There are 10 executive safari tents that are spread out in the area. Each tent includes a shower with hot water, toilet, private veranda and authentic furniture. You will have a great view of the hippo and crocodile filled river from your tent. Safaris from experienced guides are available. Hot air balloon rides are available.

Masai Mara Animals

The Mara is Kenya’s flagship park not just for the scenery but mostly for the animals. The sighting of the Big Five is guaranteed although the Black Rhino is a bit elusive but can be seen in the Mara Triangle. The National Reserve is best for the big cats. Sighting smaller predators such as black-backed jackal, spotted hyena and bat-eared fox will also be quite satisfying. The antelopes here include the impala, Thomson’s gazelle, reedbuck, topi and eland. You will also be able to easily spot lions, elephants, buffalos, baboons, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, zebras, wildebeest, hyenas and cheetahs.

The most amazing encounter at the Masai Mara is definitely the wildebeest migration. Millions of wildebeests leave the Serengeti into The Mara around September. In October, the migration heads back to the Serengeti slowly. While the pattern of the Great Migration is known, the exact timing is unpredictable. This is because the animals move with the rains as they search for greener pastures.

How Much Does a Masai Mara Safari Cost?

The Masai Mara National Reserve is a premium tourist destination. This means saving money is quite unlikely. Exploring the huge reserve comes at a cost. A cheap safari will cost about $190 per person sharing per day. The price for mid-luxury Masai Mara tour packages start from $250 per person sharing per day. You can pay up to $500 per person sharing per day on a luxury tour package.

The park entrance fees for non-residents are $80 per person and $45 for children aged 3 to 18. Infants under the age of 3 enter for free. Taking time to compare packages and traveling at the right time can help save some money on accommodation.

Which is the Best Month to visit Masai Mara?

The best time to visit the Masai Mara is during the dry months. This is from late June to October. The vegetation is thinner during this time and animals gather around water holes and rivers. Rainy months (March, April, November, and December) make it hard to navigate some roads. If you are interested in the wildebeest migration, you will have a better chance of witnessing the spectacle in late September and October.

How Many Days Do You Need in Masai Mara?

To enjoy the full scope of the Maasai Mara, you need to spend a minimum of 4 days and 3 nights. That will allow you four game drives for the duration of the day and adequate time to rest. The first day is all about resting after a long drive from Nairobi. If you are rested, you can enjoy an evening game drive on your first day too. On the second and third day, you will enjoy morning game drives, rest at midday and take an evening game drive. You will drive back to Nairobi on the fifth day. If you prefer to fly to Masai Mara, you will be fine with 3 days and 2 nights

Which is Better, Serengeti or Masai Mara?

The simple answer is both. Both parks are located next to each other and are considered top African safari destinations. The main difference is that the Serengeti is bigger (30,000 square kilometers / 12,000 square miles). Thanks to the unfenced border that allows animals to move freely, the two parks offer incredible wildlife safaris, breathtaking landscapes, and an overabundance of wildlife. While the two are quite similar in terms of landscape and wildlife, a safari in Masai Mara is cheaper than in Serengeti. If cost is an issue and you are not a fun of multiple flights or long drives, then the Masai Mara will be the best choice.

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