The Maasaai Mara National Reserve is something most of us (especially those of us in love with Nature channels and shows) have heard of as a beautiful national park and territory in Kenya full of animals and stunning beauty and I was lucky enough to be able to go visit it for 3 days and had an amazing experience.
The journey from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara by van is around 6 hours along the Rift Valley and the last stretch is a bumpy and dusty unpaved road where slowly you begin to see giraffes and zebras and the excitement begins! The Maasai Mara is one of the best safaris in Kenya and Africa as other travelers who had done several safaris confirmed to me.
The Big Five refers to when Safaris were about hunting, and not just seeing the animals and they were considered the 5 hardest animals to kill on foot and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size and are: lion, leopard, rhinoceros (both black and white species), elephant, and Cape buffalo.
I was expecting to see some animals, but definitely not so many and so often.
I saw lions, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffalo, wildebeest (gnu) and different impalas, deer like creatures. What I didn’t see were Rhinos or leopards, which I would have loved to see, but I cannot complain at all as I feel incredibly lucky to have seen what I did!
I did a 3 day Safari trip, but when you break it down it’s actually just a little more than 1 day of safari as the first and last day is mostly spent getting to and back from the Maasai Mara. And oddly enough since you are spending so much time in the vehicle, it seemed like enough time.
It was truly an amazing experience. There is nothing like seeing these magnificent creatures free and in their habitat. I noticed that the spots on the giraffes and stripes on the zebras are even more beautiful in person than when you see them in pictures or on television. I was surprised how beautiful they both looked! One of my favorite things was watching how the animals played and often hung out with other species. I understand that they often do this and alert each other about the presence of predators. It was so beautiful to see inter-species friendships and collaboration, I think we humans should learn more about this and look out for each other more!
Fun facts about the names of the animals, especially those who remember
The Lion King.
Simba: Lion in Swahili.
Pumba: Foolish in Swahili, (apparently because warthogs have very short memories).
Rafiki: Friend in Swahili.
How to get there?
The Maasai Mara is in the southwest region of Kenya that limits with Tanzania (this area becomes the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania). You can either fly there, or most of the safaris begin and end in Nairobi and the drive usually takes between 4-6 hours.
When to go? For weather and the Great Wildebeest Migration.
If you can, go during The Great Wildebeest Migration, when approximately 1.5 million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of zebras, elands and gazelles cross the crocodile infested Mara River in the reserve in search of food and water. In general, the herds arrive in late July through August and also parts of September.
Best Time June to October, January to February (All parks)
High Season July to November, January and February (Some of the parks get very crowded especially the Masai Mara, Amboseli and Lake Nakuru)
Low Season March to May (Some lodges and camps in high rainfall areas close down)
Best Weather June to October (Little to no rainfall)
Worst Weather March, April and May (Peak of Wet season)
How to choose your Safari? I did my safari with Lenchada Safaris and I definitely recommend them. They were very good at responding questions and organizing the tour, they had a good and comfortable vehicle, a friendly driver with good English and insights on the animals. There’s also a good website:
https://www.safaribookings.com/ where you can search for your ideal safari.
Where to stay? Camp vs. Lodge
Lodges have more comfort and therefore will be more expensive and are usually included in the tour/safari you do. The tent camps are surprisingly comfortable and there is a permanent physical structure like a roof and underneath the tents are set up that are quite big and actually feel like a regular
room, not a tent, and have their own bathrooms. These tents serve your meals.
I stayed at the Lenchada camp which was part of my package and it was a nice camp.
How much is it?
The 3 day safari seems to be the standard safari and usually starts at around $280 USD (in January 2018) including the park entrances, in groups of around 6 people.
What to pack
–A head-torch / lamp/flashlight is good to have for around your camp at night
-I didn’t take binoculars, but if you have some bring them as useful.
-Your camera, and If you want very good quality pictures, special lenses for long distance shooting.
-Sunblock and things to cover up when the sun is too much and will come in handy as it gets cooler
-Almost all of the time you are in a car so almost any footwear will be appropriate.
-If you have a power bank bring it to keep your electronics charged as you’ll take more pictures than you plan! Most of the camps/lodges will have electricity for you to charge your devices.
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