The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a jewel in the crown of African safari destinations. Known simply as The Mara to the locals, this sensational corner of Narok County, Kenya, is home to Africa’s Big Five, the world’s greatest concentration of big cats, and is world renowned for the incredible sight of the Great Migration. The park offers visitors the chance to observe dozens of species of wildlife in their natural habitat and is a photographer’s’ dream destination. Come and experience the grandeur of nature in this unspoilt wilderness.
What to Do
The Great Wildebeest Migration
The largest wildlife migration of its kind in the world, and now deemed to be one of the ‘Seven New Wonders of Nature’, the Great Migration is the main highlight of the Maasai Mara. It’s a truly spectacular sight – between 1.5 and 2 million wildebeest are on the move, joined by around:
- 350,000 Thomson’s gazelle
- 200,000 zebra
- 12,000 eland
The animals are constantly on the move; seeking new sources of food and water compels them to make the annual journey from the Serengeti National Park in neighbouring Tanzania, to pastures new in the Mara. Sadly, many will not survive the journey. Along their route, the animals are forced to cross the Mara River, where many of them will be taken by the crocodiles who lie in wait for them.
For those that do succeed in crossing the river, another peril awaits; large numbers of lion, hyena and other predators anticipate the migration and the survivors are relentlessly hunted in the Mara. Only the fittest will survive and many animals who arrive in the Mara weak with hunger will have no chance. Luckily, there is safety in numbers and the vast majority of the animals survive to continue the amazing cycle again next year.
“Witnessing the Great Migration is an experience of a lifetime and the sights and sounds of nature, in all its raw intensity, will be forever etched in your mind.”
The African Safari To Suit You
As you would expect, people come to the Mara specifically for the extraordinary wildlife experience, and there are safaris tailor-made to suit where you want to go, what you want to see and how much you wish to spend.
There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to the safari experience – after all, variety is the spice of life – and nature. You can choose anything from a 3 day to 14 day safari, and there are also specific special interest safaris available, such as volunteer work safaris, bird watching safaris, cultural safaris and even dedicated big cat safaris. It is also possible to drive yourself around the park in your own vehicle, but having a local guide to lead you to the best areas of the reserve is an enormous advantage. You will get to see so much more on a guided game drive.
“More than 95 species of mammal and over 570 recorded varieties of bird call the Mara home.”
To truly appreciate the scale and beauty of the Mara, you have to see it from above. One of the most unforgettable experiences to enjoy during your visit to the Mara is a hot-air balloon safari. Imagine how incredible it would be to drift silently over the savannah above the heads of the game grazing below you; this is a great opportunity to snap some really unique photos of the wildlife. You will be picked up bright and early so you can experience the thrill of watching the sun rise over this unique, vibrant landscape. Afterwards, treat yourself to a lavish bush breakfast before returning to your base camp.
If you’re keen to gain a closer, more personal understanding of the environment and its people, another popular option to explore the Mara is to join a walking safari. Your experienced Maasai guide will lead you through one of the neighbouring conservancies, as walking is not permitted inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It is a wonderful way to learn more about the flora and fauna, the intricacies of the Maasai culture, and an excellent way to wear off any of those holiday excesses
What to See
The Big Five have become icons of the African safari experience – with hundreds of thousands of people visiting the continent every year, just to catch a glimpse of these remarkable creatures.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the best opportunities to discover all of Africa’s fiercest and most respected animals in one place. It’s home to many a pride of lions, huge herds of elephants, the increasingly endangered black rhino, the leopard and the African buffalo. But beyond the Big Five, there are hundreds of other species of wildlife to discover on a your perfect safari.
“The Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches over 1,510 sq. km, rising up to 2,000 metres above sea level.”
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is also renowned as a home for abundant numbers of our larger feline friends – this is Big Cat country. The Mara has the highest lion density of any reserve in the world – bad news for the game, but great news for visitors! You are almost guaranteed some good sightings, particularly if you plan your visit for December to February, when it is drier, the grass is shorter and all the cats are constantly on the move, following the calving wildebeest.
Where to Stay
There are a large number of accommodation options available when you visit the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Whether you’re travelling as a couple, with the family, or flying solo, there are options to suit all tastes, requirements and budgets.
The luxury options available include beautiful private houses, luxury bush lodges and tented camps with all the frills – all our sites are designed to make comfort the priority. If you’re working to a budget, there’s a wide selection of friendly campsites for you to choose from – you can bring your own camping gear or hire equipment upon arrival. Looking for something in-between the two? No problem – there are also many excellent mid-range tented camps and lodges to consider, the perfect basecamp for your Kenyan safari.
Camping allows you to appreciate the truly wild side of your Maasai Mara experience. This is your chance to wake up to the delightful sights and sounds of the Mara, having slept peacefully under a sky filled with stars. The camps are often spectacularly situated; many sit in incredible elevated positions, overlooking the great plains of the Mara or one of the rivers that intersect the dramatic landscape.
In an environment like the Mara, it’s very important that you eat and drink, well and regularly. Each of the camps and lodges has an on-site professional chef, with most of the accommodation now available on a bed & breakfast or full board option. As unlikely as it may sound, many of the luxury lodges and camps also offer expert spa facilities, where you can enjoy personalised treatments using unique local products – the perfect way to end a busy day in the bush. At some of these spas, you can even enjoy a relaxing massage with a view over the great African plains and riverbeds of the Mara.
How to Get There
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is situated in the south west of Kenya, at the northern border of the Serengeti National Park. The reserve is about 270 km from the capital of Kenya, Nairobi. The city, popularly known as ‘the Green City in the Sun’. is a vibrant and rapidly modernising place. The capital is bursting with character, culture and cuisine – the perfect place to dive in and experience the delights of urban Kenya before you head out into the wilds of the Mara.
It takes between 5.5 and 6 hours to drive to the reserve from Nairobi, so flying is the much quicker and simpler option – you can be there in just 45 minutes if you choose a fly-in safari.