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Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the best wildlife destinations in the world, located in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. The open grasslands make up this national reserve and the abundance of wildlife ensures that visitors can catch a glimpse of the more than 95 mammal species.

However, what has made the Maasai Mara National Reserve famous is the annual Great Migration from the Serengeti of the Thompson’s gazelles, wildebeests and zebras; and the big cats like the cheetahs, leopards and lions.

The local Maasai people called the land Mara, which means ‘Spotted’. The Maasai Mara is indeed ‘spotted’ with various animals and the grassland is dotted with thorn trees, scrubs, and cloud shadows. This gives a breathtaking and excellent backdrop for wildlife photographers.

The Maasai Mara Game Reserve

Established in 1961, the Maasai Mara National Reserve now covers 580 square miles in size, able to accommodate the over 1.5 million animals that arrive in July during the Great Migration.

The park is large enough to be home to the members of the Big Five; that is the cape buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinoceroses. Alongside them are cheetahs, hyenas, foxes, jackals, warthogs, topis, elands, Thompson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, impalas, waterbucks, oribis, reed-bucks and zebras. The Esoit Siria Escarpment is regarded as the best viewing point for game especially if you have an interest in the cheetahs and lions.

The Talek River and Mara River are the major rivers draining the reserve, and it is the perfect place to find the crocodiles and hippopotamuses.

There are also over 470 bird species that roam the reserve making it an ideal destination for bird watchers. The notable ones are the lilac-breasted roller (the national bird of Kenya), African pygmy-falcons, crowned cranes, hornbills, long-crested eagles, marabou, ostriches, secretary birds, storks and vultures.

 

Location of the National Reserve

From the capital city Nairobi, the journey to Narok, Maasai Mara National Reserve covers approximately 264 kilometres and takes slightly 6 to 7 hours by road.

It is worth considering making some stopovers like at Lake Naivasha, which is after 2-hour drive, 95 kilometres from Nairobi. There you can enjoy a boat ride that allows you see the hippos, African fish eagles and the giant kingfisher. The next stopover can be at Narok city which is 143 kilometres from Nairobi city before heading to the game reserve.

Air travel to the game reserve by catching one of the 35 weekly flights scheduled from Nairobi to Masaai Mara. There are two airlines to choose from, and there are two airports to set off from, that is Wilson and Jomo Kenyatta International airport. The air ticket cost is in the range of USD 387.

The flight can take 50 minutes covering a distance of 125 kilometres. The all-weather airstrips you can land on are Serena and Kichwa Tembo.

The Best Time to Visit

The peak season is usually between July and early November during the Great Migration when you can catch a glimpse of the animal movements especially the wildebeests. Over 1.5 million animals arrive in July and leave in November.

This is a dry season, meaning that the bush is less dense, allowing visibility of the animals; and it becomes interesting when they gather around waterholes to catch a drink.

Between December and February is a wonderful moment to look out for the big cats though they can be spotted all year in a circular fashion. During this time the scenery is green and beautiful. Migratory birds fly against a background of clear skies.

To maximize your experience in one of Africa’s most famous parks, you are encouraged to book a 3 to 4-day Safari. This will allow you ample to check out the richness of the Maasai Mara’s wildlife.

Adventure Tourism Activities

These are the things you need to engage in when at the Maasai Mara National Reserve

Safari Drive

How else will you find the iconic animals like cheetahs if you do not a drive into the park? There are highly trained and experienced guides that make this a seamless activity.

For wildlife photographers, this is an event you cannot pass on since it offers the best picture moments.

The Wildebeest Migration

This an annual event that has happened without disappointing. Involved wildebeests, gazelles and zebras, which migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania in a continuous cycle in search of rains and fresh grass.

July to October is a period when both tourists and predators are eager to take part in the migration.

Wildebeest Migration

Hot Air Balloon Ride

The aerial view of this game reserve is a fantastic experience every tourist – especially those making wildlife videos or even photography – should plan for.

Just before dawn, the hot air balloon sets off as the rising sun lights the game reserve. You will love the sight of wildlife, forests and rivers below; and understand why the locals called it Mara.

Cultural Visits

The Maasai community has lived in the area for many years and still preserve their traditional culture, customs and norms. They live in Kraals arranged in a circular fashion fenced by acacia thorns, a traditional defence against lions which attack their cattle. They are semi-nomadic people and live under a land management system that is communal.

The Maasai People

The Mara River

The river begins in Kenya’s highlands and winds up in Lake Victoria and offers a lifeline to many animals in this wonderful game reserve.

If you want to shoot a documentary, this is your place. The annual wildebeest crossing of this river filled with many crocodiles is a spectacular wildlife event.

Birdwatching

With over 470 bird species, birdwatching comes easily. As big game lovers are engaged in that activity, the birdwatchers are uninterrupted, checking out both big birds like the ostrich and the small ones like the sunbirds. You can also catch sight of over 45 different birds of prey.

 

Key Facts to have in Mind

Suitable accommodation can be got at the Maasai Mara National Reserve with over 76 recommended guest lodges. The booking can be done at the time of booking a Safari which ranges from USD 80 to USD 445 per night.

The Mara Triangle is managed by the Mara Conservancy which has checked the guides’ discipline, poaching in the game reserve and managed the road infrastructure.

In regard to the gear to carry, I recommend a good camera to capture the great moments, a wind jacket or a raincoat or sweater, binoculars, a sun hat and sunglasses.

Conclusion

I recommend the Maasai Mara National Reserve to all holidaymakers and travellers around that world. The fares for a Safari tour are flexible while the park entry fees per day are fair too.

Over 700 tourists visit the park every day for a reason. Come find out why!

27 thoughts on “Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

  1. I would recommend that you put your top 2 or 3 choices for who to go to on each of the recommended things to do there; Safari Drive, Cultural Visits, Hot Air Balloons. 

    I would also recommend top 2 or 3 choices of where to stay at those cities you suggest we stop in.

    Even though, you will not get anything for it we as interested people will really appreciate it. Otherwise, i would now have to do more google searches to find safari listings, hot air balloon listings, cultural visit listings. I want a one stop shopping experience. 

    If I leave to do that I might not come back, but if you already have links that take me to those places in a new tab I am bound to come back to your site to explore the next link/travel opportunity.

    1. Les, I appreciate your comment. I am more than delighted to improve your experience when reading content on this site. Adjustments have been made to present the needed listings. 

  2. Oh my goodness!! This post made my day and the video of the cheetahs jumping up onto the vehicle and wanting to get to know the guests warmed my heart so much.
    I’ve wanted to go on an African Safari since I was a young girl. I can’t even tell you why except that when I see pictures or videos of Africa it calls to my soul.
    Just wondering. Is there a time during the peak season between July and November you would say is the best time to go?
    Thanks for making my day:)
    Dina

    1. Dina, let me hope that posts like this keep coming your way until they warm you enough to make you travel to Africa. The beauty about the Maasai Mara is that between July and early November, you can pick any day to come have a lovely time. I know you will one day fulfill you childhood fantasy; I just pray it comes soon.

  3. Hi Edgar

    That is one interesting review about the attractions in Maasai Mara National Reserve. It looks like such an interesting place to visit.  I have never been to Africa, but this article wants me to jump on the next plane and be there to absorb the sights and smells of this beautiful  Reserve.

    I have a question, how long do you suggest people stay there if they want the full experience.

    Thank you for the review.

    Antonio

    1. Antonio, this is the place to top your bucket list, not only due to its great attractions but the positive reviews it gets as well. 
      I recommend 3 days as the least number of days to spend in this National Reserve but I have seen some people go for two weeks. It all depends on your cash and time budget.

  4. Hi Edgar,

    Everytime I read your articles I learn about fascinating things in Africa and now I really want to see all these places you describe with my own eyes, The one activity that caught my eye was the hot air ballon rides. I cannot imagine how wonderful it can be seeing everything from up in the sky, the nature, the animals and all around. 

    Also, you gave very important details about the prices and things to keep in mind. Thank you for all the information, I will revisit this post if I ever plan to visit The Maasai Mara National Reserve and Kenya.

    1. Mariana, when it comes to having the best view of nature and wildlife, nothing beats the hot air balloon ride. You are able to see much more as compared to moving on the ground. It is more enjoyable when you come along with your binoculars. 

  5. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries regarding the Maasai tribe/community and their culture. I love their dances -the photo you included reminded them to me. Is it possible for a traveler to spend time with them? I believe that their culture and relationship with nature can teach us a lot

    1. Effie, the Maasai have a unique and interesting culture, and of course, they have nice dance moves.
      I know of the Enkereri Maasai village that lives approximately 3 kilometres from the main park entry gate into the Mara Conservancy. Ewangan Village is in Sekanani, close to the main park entry gate into the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. These villages host visitors in their traditional Maasai huts and you will enjoy their traditional food of rice, ugali (stiff maize porridge), potatoes, vegetables and meat when a cow or goat is slaughtered in the village. Maasai chai (tea) is always readily available. If you carry your touch, it will be fine since there is no electricity there.
      During your stay you should join in their daily activities like taking the cattle out to pasture, fetching water, milking the cows, lighting the fire (without matches), practising with a bow and arrow, repairing the cow dung huts.
      They will also share with you fascinating insights into their culture and maybe you will learn their dance when a traditional ceremony takes place during your stay.
      For USD 60 a night, I think it would be worth it!

  6. I will be going on vacation around July but I haven’t decide where to go but coming across your site you have given me an opportunity to determine where I will explore,you have brought a place I have never thought of to my mind, it will be a great opportunity to explore Kenya although I have never been there and I believe I will have a good experience there.

    1. Lok, if it is a great vacation you want come July, have the Maasai Mara in mind because you won’t be disappointed. Reviews I have read from first-time visitors of this National Reserve have been positive with most wishing they could spend more time. There is a variety of what to see and what you expect is what you get and more!
      I wish you all the best with your travel plans.

  7. Hi there.

    This is a really lovely post. I have heard so much about wildlife in Africa, but this is the first time I am hearing about Maasai Mara. It such a beautiful place to be. Travelling from Nairobi to Mara should be view as excursion because of the long journey and series of stopovers that I can make by seeing Hippos and the Eagles would serve as great experience before arriving at Masa it self 

    1. Kehinde, the magic starts the moment you set off from Nairobi. there are good places one can make a stopover and relax and take in nature and wildlife experiences. 
      I hope this place makes it on your bucket list soon if you are to see the eagles and hippos.

  8. Hey Edgar,

    Thanks for a really great review and presentation of this National Park. I’ve always wanted to go for Safari and see all those wild animals in flesh. I do look forward to a lot of these attractions, especially at the wild beast migration period. I’d also love to do a hot air balloon ride, and see all those animals from above.

    Which of the attractions you mention, would you suggest?

    Thanks

    Marios

    1. Marios, the hot air balloon ride is marvellous and I would recommend you go for it. That together with the Safari drive would leave you a satisfied visitor.

  9. Great Content and Information!
    I found the post very detailed and Informative. I have not been to Kenya though but I have heard about the place several times,  I have been anticipating to travel down there just to feed my eyes with beautiful sight of nature and series set of mammals. According to your article,  It seems to be  interesting place to be. Thanks for sharing. 

    1. Tunde, I am glad that you found this post informative and has sparked the desire to travel to see for yourself the beauty of nature and wildlife. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Your enthusiasm and knowledge for the National Reserve is evident in the way you write.

    I do really enjoy the way the subjects flow together though, and especially the detail and interest with which you write.

    Just little tweaks you might consider.

    Overall though, I enjoyed reading through the article! The amount of work you’ve done and the passion you have for your subject are inspiring, to say the least.

    Best regards.
    Rick

    1. Rick, I draw a lot of lessons from your comments that have helped improve the content building process of this site. I appreciate your comments and look forward to always getting feedback from you in future.

  11. It’s my first time to know about the Maasai Mara National Reserve to be honest! I have been living in Asia for many years and never been to Africa, but having a trip to that place is always in my bucket list. I would like to take safari drive if I travel there next time!

    1. Chars Lu, it delights me that you have a visit to Africa on your bucket list. I am sure just a single visit would get you planning for more trips; meaning more safari drives.
      I wish you the best as you organise your travel calendar.

  12. Narimaun, thank you for your kind feedback. I am glad you found this post pleasant to you. I pledge to provide more informative and resourceful posts to keep you engaged.

  13. Wow, thank you for such an interesting, informative read. The Maasai Mara is a beautiful place that I would love to visit someday. Great insights into the culture and habits of its inhabitants.

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