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Masai Mara Travel Essentials


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Ideal duration: 2-3 days

Best Time: June-October Read More

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Maasai Mara

"The Land of The Lush Wilderness "

Masai Mara Tourism

Masai Mara is a vast national game reserve located in Narok, Kenya, covering an impressive area of 1,510 square kilometres (583 square miles). It stands as one of Africa's most famous and significant wildlife conservation and wilderness areas. The reserve is renowned worldwide for its exceptional populations of iconic African Big Five, including lions, leopards, cape buffaloes, rhinos, and African bush elephants. Masai Mara hosts the Great Migration, where more than two million wildebeest, zebras, and other antelopes migrate through the region, securing its place as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and one of the ten Wonders of the World.

The Masai Mara, often referred to as the 'kingdom of lions,' showcases their dominance over the grasslands of the reserve. Considered to be one of the most well-maintained national reserves, Masai Mara attracts travellers from around the world. It is known for its stunning landscapes, including the Great Rift Valley and the Mara River, which serve as a crucial watering hole for the animals and over 570 bird species.

Entry Fees to Masai Mara National Reserve:
Park Entry Fee:
Non-residents (staying inside the park) - $70
Non-residents (staying outside the park) - $80
Resident – KSH 1200
Citizen – KSH 1000

Non-residents (staying inside the park) - $40
Non-residents (staying outside the park) - $45
Resident – KSH 500
Citizen – KSH 300

Vehicle Fee:
Less than 6 seats - KSH 400
6 to 12 seats - KSH 1000
13 to 24 seats - KSH 3000
25 to 44 seats - KSH 4000
45 seats and above - KSH 5000

Special Activity Charges:
Game Drive Ranger: Above 6 hours – KSH 3000, Below 6 hours – KSH 1500
Horse Riding (without rider) – KSH 1500

Entrance Gates to Masai Mara National Reserve:
1. Sekenani Gate: Sekenani Gate is located in the Sekenani area of the reserve, providing access to the eastern side of the park. It is the closest gate to the town of Narok, situated approximately 155 km (96 miles) away.
2. Talek Gate: Talek Gate is situated near the Talek River area, offering entry to the central region of the Masai Mara. It is conveniently close to the town of Talek, making it an ideal option for travellers staying in or near the town.
3. Oloololo Gate: Oloololo Gate provides access to the western side of the reserve and allows entry from the Oloololo Escarpment area. Visitors can explore the beauty of the western part of the Masai Mara through this gate.
4. Musiara Gate: Musiara Gate is located near the Musiara Swamp, offering entry from the northwestern side of the reserve. It is a convenient access point for exploring the wildlife-rich northwestern region of the Masai Mara.
5. Sand River Gate: Sand River Gate is positioned near the Sand River area, providing entry from the southeastern part of the reserve. It allows visitors to explore the southeastern region of the Masai Mara.
6. Ololaimutia Gate: This gate is located in the northeastern part of the Masai Mara National Reserve. The gate is situated near the Ololaimutia River and serves as an entry point to the eastern region of the reserve. Ololaimutia Gate is closest to the town of Talek, making it a convenient option for travellers staying in or near Talek.

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Things to do in Masai Mara

1. Game Drives Safari

Game drives are half-day or full-day excursions in the national reserve, lasting 3 to 6 hours during early mornings or late afternoons. They provide opportunities to spot the "Big Five" (lion, leopard (Read More), elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros) and other wildlife, like wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, and antelopes.

2. Hot Air Balloon Safaris

Hot Air Balloon safaris take place early in the morning, before sunrise, providing bird’s eye views of the wildlife and landscapes at daybreak. The duration of these safaris is usually 1 to 1.5 (Read More)hours. Following the balloon ride, a delightful champagne breakfast awaits in the bush.

3. Walking Safaris

Guided by experienced guides and armed rangers for safety, visitors can embark on walking safaris to explore the park on foot. These safaris focus on tracks, plants, and smaller wildlife, providing in (Read More)sights into the ecosystem, traditional Maasai culture, and tracking techniques. Walking safaris are typically shorter in duration, lasting around 2 to 3 hours, and are conducted in specific areas of the reserve for safety reasons.

4. Cultural Safaris

Cultural safaris in Masai Mara allow visitors to visit the nearby villages, interact with local Maasai communities, witness ceremonies, and experience their rich heritage. The duration varies from a f (Read More)ew hours to half-day or full-day experiences.

5. Birdwatching Safaris

Masai Mara's bird-watching safaris provide a chance to observe over 570 bird species with experienced guides. Travellers can choose from half-day or full-day excursions to explore the diverse avian li (Read More)fe in the reserve.

6. Horse Riding in Masai Mara

Horse Riding Safari in Masai Mara is an exciting way to explore the African wilderness and beautiful savannahs around the Masai Mara National Reserve. Best to take around sunrise or sunset; it gets th (Read More)e tourists up close and personal with herds of elephant, zebra, giraffe and gazelle. Each session lasts approximately 2 hours and includes breakfast on the plains.

7. Mara River

The Mara River in Masai Mara is a prime spot to witness the Great Migration from July to October. Over two million wildebeest, zebras, and antelopes cross the river, attracting predators like crocodil (Read More)es and lions. The best time for the most thrilling encounters is early mornings or late afternoons.

8. Mara Triangle

The Mara Triangle in the western part of Masai Mara offers stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife. Travellers can enjoy picnics by the Mara River, observe hippos and crocodiles, and encounter eleph (Read More)ants, buffalo, and giraffes on game drives.

9. Musiara Marsh

Musiara Marsh in the northern part of Masai Mara is a birdwatcher's paradise, hosting a diverse avian population, including waterfowl and birds of prey. Game drives here offer sightings of the "Big Fi (Read More)ve" alongside captivating birdlife.

10. Olare Orok Conservancy

The Olare Orok Conservancy, neighbouring Masai Mara, presents a variety of activities, including game drives, nature walks, and night safaris. Within its diverse habitats, visitors can encounter wildl (Read More)ife and witness nocturnal creatures during the night safaris. The Conservancy offers a more private and exclusive wilderness experience.

11. Oloololo Escarpment

Oloololo Escarpment, on Masai Mara's western border, offers stunning panoramic views of the savannah and wildlife. Scenic drives along the escarpment allow visitors to admire the park's beauty from el (Read More)evated vantage points, especially during sunrise or sunset for breathtaking vistas.

12. Enonkishu Conservancy

Enonkishu Conservancy, located nearby, offers diverse habitats and great opportunities for wildlife spotting and nature walks. With a focus on conservation, the conservancy provides a more intimate an (Read More)d less crowded safari experience. Visitors can enjoy activities like birdwatching, exploring the savannah, and learning about the local ecosystem.

13. Ol Kinyei Conservancy

Ol Kinyei Conservancy, another neighbouring area to Masai Mara, offers game drives, hot air balloon safaris, and cultural visits to Maasai villages. Abundant wildlife and picturesque landscapes make i (Read More)t a haven for nature enthusiasts and photographers. Balloon safaris at sunrise provide a unique perspective of the reserve's beauty.

14. Olare Motorogi Conservancy

Olare Motorogi Conservancy is famous for its thriving predator populations, including lions and cheetahs, making it an excellent spot for game drives and bush walks.

Must Know Before You Travel to Masai Mara

  • Timings: All park gates remain open from 06:00 AM to 07:00 PM throughout the year.
  • Payment Mode: US Dollars and Kenyan Shillings are accepted, along with cashless modes like credit cards and local Mpesa phone payment.
  • Fee Validity: Masai Mara Park fees are charged upon entry and are valid for 24 hours.
  • Tour Operator: It is recommended to book through reputed tour operators as they bundle park fees, accommodation, and safari car and driver fees for a hassle-free adventure.
  • Commuting within the Reserve: Moving around in Maasai Mara National Reserve must only take place by car, preferably 4-wheel safari vehicles, as walking outside campsites is prohibited due to wild animals.
  • Shopping: Purchase beads and jewellery from local villages ('manyatta') to support local communities instead of buying trinkets from camps and lodges.
  • Weather Consideration: Roads in the reserve can become flooded or muddy during the rainy seasons in April, May, and November.
  • ATM & Currency Exchange: There are no ATMs in or near Masai Mara, so it's recommended to withdraw cash at the airport in Nairobi or exchange money at the Bureau de Exchange located at NBO upon arrival.
  • Drinking Water: Bottled water is recommended for drinking throughout the trip to avoid tap water or adding ice to drinks.
  • Mobile Coverage: Safaricom and Airtel have wide mobile coverage in Mara, but there are some areas with no mobile coverage.
  • Pre-Booking: Plan 12 – 18 months in advance, especially during peak periods like the 'Great Migration,' as safari camps operate at high occupancy levels.
  • Vaccinations: Consult a travel clinic well in advance for recommended vaccinations, including yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid, polio, hepatitis, and anti-malaria prophylactics.

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Wildlife in Masai Mara National Reserve

The Maasai Mara is home to the famous Big Five: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalos. Additionally, it features the "Big Nine," which includes lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, rhinos, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, and hippos. Lions are commonly sighted and have become accustomed to human presence. The Great Migration in July and November attracts over two million wildebeest, zebras, and antelopes, providing a feeding spectacle for hungry crocodiles in the Mara River.

The Mara Plains are bustling with wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, impalas, and Thomson's gazelles. Other animals like giraffes, zebras, hippos, different antelopes, primates like copper-tailed monkeys, Grant’s gazelles and many such animals are commonly seen. The reserve's birdlife is rich and diverse, with over 570 species of birds of prey, Abdim's storks, African darters, black-chested snake eagles, black-headed herons, and many more.

History of Masai Mara

Masai Mara was first established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1961. It was a fairly small area. It was later extended and then converted into a game reserve area. The status of a National Reserve was granted to Masai Mara in 1974.

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How to Reach Masai Mara

How to Reach Overview

Nairobi is the main entry point to Kenya. Reaching the Masai Mara National Reserve is approximately 270 kilometres (168 miles) from Nairobi. The reserve has several airstrips in and around to reach from one of Nairobi’s Airports – Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Nairobi Wilson Airport. By air, the journey takes around 45 minutes and is the preferred mode of transportation. Masai Mara is also accessible by road with a distance of about 270 kilometres. It can be reached in 5 to 6 hours with private vehicle hire or guided safari tours as popular choices.

How to reach Masai Mara by flight

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the main entry point to Kenya with flights from all major countries in the world that can be booked from Skyscanner. For domestic travel, Nairobi Wilson Airport caters to domestic flights, and airlines like Kenya Airways, AirKenya, and SafariLink offer options for local journeys. The Masai Mara has several airstrips in and around the national reserve, including Keekorok, Siana, Musiara, Ol Kiombo, and Serena. The flight from Nairobi to the Masai Mara airstrips takes about 45 minutes and costs around $400 per person for a round-trip.

It can also be reached from other cities like Samburu, Lewa Downs, Nanyuki or Mombasa or Diani.

How to reach Masai Mara by road

From Nairobi, travellers can access the Masai Mara by road, covering a distance of about 270 kilometres (168 miles). The journey takes around 5 to 6 hours via Narok. Visitors can choose between private vehicle hire, self-drive (not recommended), or joining a safari tour with transportation included.

How to reach Masai Mara by bus

How to reach Masai Mara by waterways

Local transport in Masai Mara

The only convenient mode of transport here is travelling by car. Safari jeeps are available, best suited for their kind of terrain and you can ride to and fro in them. Note that walking around on foot is dangerous and should not be done, because of the wildlife. Another option would be to travel in a hot air balloon, especially if you�d like to see the entire reserve and the animals in one go.

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FAQs on Masai Mara

What activities can I do in Masai Mara?

Visitors can enjoy game drives, guided walking safaris, balloon safaris, and cultural visits to Maasai villages for an immersive wildlife and cultural experience.

Can I see the Big Five in Masai Mara?

Yes, Masai Mara is a great place to spot the Big Five: lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, and rhinoceroses, along with other iconic African wildlife.

What is the best time to visit Masai Mara

The best time is during the dry season (June to October) for excellent wildlife viewing, with the Great Migration occurring from July to October.

What is the Great Migration in Masai Mara?

The Great Migration is an annual movement of millions of wildebeest, zebras, and other wildlife between Serengeti and Masai Mara, driven by seasonal changes in search of food and water.

How much does it cost to visit Masai Mara?

Entry fees to Masai Mara vary by accommodation and residency, generally ranging from $70 to $80 per day for non-residents and around $40 for children staying inside the park. A budget of $150 to $250 per person per day is an average estimate for a comfortable visit, covering accommodation, meals, and activities.

Where is Masai Mara located?

Masai Mara is situated in southwestern Kenya, adjacent to the border with Tanzania, where it extends into the Serengeti National Park.

Masai Mara vs Serengeti? Which national park should you choose?

Masai Mara offers a concentrated wildlife spectacle during the Great Migration, while Serengeti provides a vast, diverse ecosystem for year-round wildlife encounters. Choose Masai Mara for witnessing the dramatic river crossings and Serengeti for a comprehensive safari experience.

When does the great migration happen in Masai Mara?

The Great Migration typically occurs from July to October, when large herds of wildebeest and zebras cross the Mara River into Masai Mara from the Serengeti.

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