The Masai Mara National Reserve and its neighbouring conservancies form Kenya’s flagship conservation area and one of the top safari destinations in Africa. Its wide-open plains provide a sanctuary for an abundance of animals like elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, hyena and the Mara’s famous big cats: lion, leopard and cheetah. And between about August and November every year, the Mara is a much-welcomed pit stop for unending masses of wildebeest that follow the rains on their death-defying, 2 900-kilometre (1 800-mile) circular journey.
Thousands of visitors come to the Mara every year to enjoy some of the most authentic safari experiences in Africa. Here are a few reasons why we love a Masai Mara safari:
1. Enjoy Fantastic, Year-round Game Viewing
Game viewing in the Masai Mara is excellent all year round thanks to its varied landscapes, wide open spaces, temperate climate and diverse population of resident game. Its champagne-coloured savannahs are home to safari heavyweights like lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo, plus popular species like zebra, giraffe, hyena, eland and gazelle. Rhino sightings are scarce, but these endangered animals can be spotted – if you’re in luck – in the Mara Triangle.
The Mara is renowned for delivering exceptional big cat (lion, leopard and cheetah) sightings. Cheetahs are particularly well adapted to the region’s flat plains, which makes the Masai Mara one of the best places to see these nimble predators. They often seek vantage points on fallen trees, termite mounds, and even game drive vehicles! It’s a highlight of any Masai Mara safari to watch the world’s fastest land mammal chase down its prey.
- Rich resident wildlife, temperate climate, diverse landscapes and wide-open spaces make it a terrific year-round safari destination.
- Incredible big cat sightings – lion, leopard and cheetah.
- Large concentrations of elephant, buffalo and giraffe.
2. Witness the Great Wildebeest Migration
From about August to November, one of nature’s greatest spectacles reaches the Masai Mara. The sheer number of wildebeest arriving in the area is staggering; the herds are so big they can be observed from space! The Wildebeest Migration is a dramatic mass movement of almost two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle in a seasonal annual cycle driven by rainfall. To reach the Mara’s fresh grazing from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, the wildebeest must make dramatic river crossings, facing enormous crocodiles that lie in wait.
- Accommodations with easy access to river crossing points.
- Get a bird’s eye view of the herds on a hot-air balloon safari.
- Stay in a private conservancy to escape the crowds and enjoy activities not permitted in the national reserve like going off-road, night drives and nature walks.
Note: availability of well-located safari camps in high season (June to October) is limited. If you want front-row seats to the Wildebeest Migration, you should book your Masai Mara safari at least a year in advance.
3. Experience a Hot-air Balloon Safari
You can combine thrilling land-based game viewing in 4x4 vehicles with Maasai-guided nature walks, and crown your Masai Mara safari with an unsurpassable hot-air balloon experience. The best flight paths follow the course of the Mara River, allowing you to peek down into the forests, float past vultures’ nests and observe the early-morning routines of boisterous hippos. After touching down onto the plains, you’ll be treated with a delicious bush breakfast with champagne.
- Get a bird’s-eye view of the Mara’s breath-taking landscape and even spot wildlife.
- Watch the sunrise unfurl across the boundless plains.
- Enjoy a champagne bush breakfast after landing.
- The perfect safari experience for a honeymoon or anniversary.
4. Meet the Maasai People
The Maasai are a semi-nomadic ethnic group who inhabit most of Kenya and northern Tanzania, and are well-known by travellers for their distinctive customs and dress. Although cattle ownership is still a central aspect of their culture, increased safari tourism has led many Maasai to become expert safari guides and camp managers. While on a Masai Mara safari, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with Maasai guides and camp staff, plus get the chance to visit local villages for a fascinating glimpse of traditional Maasai culture, lifestyle and traditions.
- Visit local villages to experience traditional Maasai culture.
- Many safari camps give back to local communities.
5. Stay in a Private Conservancy
A conservancy is a very specific type of land and wildlife conservation area. Landowners enter into contracts with safari operators in return for monetary compensation and other assistance. This could include anything from educational and healthcare programmes to livestock and grazing management. The Masai Mara National Reserve can get crowded during safari high season (about June to October), which is why we recommend staying in one of the neighbouring private conservancies.
- Enjoy superb, crowd-free game viewing.
- Have easy access to the national reserve for Wildebeest Migration scenes.
- Go off-road game viewing, night drives and guided nature walks – not permitted in the national reserve.
- Contribute directly to local communities and conservation.