Maasai Mara National Reserve - Guide, Things To Do, Accommodation, & FAQs
Get ready to explore the majestic beauty of the Maasai Mara National Reserve! Located in Narok County, Kenya, this incredible wildlife reserve is filled with captivating sights and sounds that are sure to take your experience to new heights. From the rolling hills of acacia trees to the flourishing wildebeest migration, there’s something magical and inviting about this beautiful corner of Eastern Africa.
Every year thousands make their way through Masai Mara looking out for predators, observing prideful lions sunbathing in the open plains, and marveling in awe at elephants roaming free in the park’s plentiful shrub land. Visiting this landmark will leave you with unforgettable memories that will transport you back to a time where nature teemed with life!
This guide will give you an overview of Masai Mara National Reserve, things to do in the area, accommodation options and common FAQs so you may make the most of your Maasai Mara escape!
Contact Us to Book the Best Safari to the Masai Mara National Reserve
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About the Masai Mara National Reserve – Introduction
Maasai Mara Reserve is one of the most iconic and well-known game reserves in Kenya. Located approximately 270 km southwest of Nairobi, the Masai Mara is a home to an abundance of wildlife including the ‘big five’ – lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant.
The reserve is characterized by its sweeping grasslands and wooded hills, which are interspersed with rivers and streams. And it is a great place to go on safari as it offers stunning vistas and the opportunity to observe some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife in their natural habitat.
The Masai Mara covers an area of 1,510 square kilometers and is divided into several areas, including the Maasai Mara proper, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Loita Plains, Sekenani and Talek River. The Mara National Park was declared a protected area in 1961 to help conserve its natural habitats and wildlife. The Maasai people are custodians of this land, and Maasai Mara is their home.
Masai Mara National Reserve Location and How to Get Here
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large game reserve in southwest Kenya, bordering Tanzania. It’s the most famous and most visited park in Kenya, as it is home to incredible wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Masai Mara National Park is located at the northernmost part of the Great Rift Valley and is about 270 km from Nairobi. The most convenient way to get here is by road.
It takes around 6 hours from Nairobi, and you can also fly to the attraction with direct flights from Nairobi. The flights take only 45 minutes and they are boarded at Wilson Airport. There are several airstrips you can land in Masai Mara like Ol Kiombo, Musiara and Keekorok. You should always know the accommodation you wish to stay in before booking your flight to Masai Mara.
Things to Do at Masai Mara National Reserve
Visitors to the Masai Mara can enjoy a variety of exciting activities. Below are the most popular things you should do during your tour of the reserve.
Morning, Afternoon, Full-Day, and Night Game Viewing
Animal viewing is one of the main draws and the reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, zebras, gazelles and elephants. The activity is done during game drives, classified as:
Morning Game Drive
A morning game viewing is ideal for those who want to view the Maasai Mara’s many species of animals. This game drive lasts up to 4 hours and is usually done in the early morning when most of the animals are out and about and the sun is rising.
Afternoon Game Drive
An afternoon game drive also lasts up to 4 hours and allows you to observe the Masai Mara’s animals at the peak of their activity. This is especially recommended for those who want the best viewing experience and witness the sunset.
Full-Day Game Drive
A full-day game drive allows you to experience the Masai Mara Park in Kenya in its entirety. This game drive lasts up to 8 hours and offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing, from the early morning to the late afternoon. You take lunch in the jungle.
Night Game Drive
A night game drive is for those who want a more adventurous wildlife experience. This game drive lasts up to 4 hours and is done after the sun has set. This allows you to view nocturnal animals such as leopards, bush babies, and bushbucks. The game is mainly done in private conservancies.
Hot Air Balloon Safari
Balloon rides are one of the most iconic activities in the Masai Mara. This activity lets you witness the stunning wildlife from up high, allowing you to appreciate the beautiful landscape of the Masai Mara Park. The activity starts early in the morning and lasts for up to one hour. Upon landing, you are welcome with a bush breakfast accompanied by champagne.
Bush Breakfast, Bush Lunch, & Bush Dinner
Enjoying a bush breakfast, lunch, or dinner is the perfect way to experience Maasai Mara’s rustic charm in the reserve. These activities are usually done in one of the many exclusive camps and lodges located within the Masai Mara. They are set to provide you with a front-row seat of the reserve, the Mara River, or other attractions in the Masai Mara.
Birdwatching tour in the Mara National park is great for birdwatchers. The Masai Mara is home to over 450 species of birds, some of which are migratory, so expect to see plenty of feathered friends during this activity. Some common birds found in the area are vultures, hawks, bustards, cranes, and eagles. The activity can be done in the early morning or late afternoon when birds are most active.
Walking safari is another great activity you can enjoy during your tour of the reserve. This outing allows you to explore the Masai Mara National Park on foot and up close, giving you a unique chance to observe the wildlife and their behavior. There are Maasai guides who will accompany you throughout your journey, sharing with you their knowledge about the Maasai Mara and its inhabitants.
Cultural Visit to Maasai Village
Another activity you can do in Masai Mara National Reserve is a visit to Maasai villages. This experience allows you to learn about the Maasai culture, their way of life, and some of the Maasai customs. You will also get to witness Maasai men and women performing traditional Maasai dances. Additionally, you can buy souvenirs from Maasai villages, like beaded necklaces and bracelets.
Witness the Great Migration
The Maasai Mara Reserve is home to the world’s most spectacular wildlife spectacle, the Great Migration. You might witness the wildebeest migration during your safari of the reserve.
The Wildebeest Migration in the Masai Mara- Month-by-Month Guide
The migration of over one million wildebeest and zebras from Serengeti National Park to the Masai Mara in Kenya is one of the greatest spectacles in the world. Below is a monthly guide of the migration, so you can plan your great migration safari accordingly:
July: The wildebeest start to move northwest from the Serengeti, crossing the Mara River into Maasai Mara National Reserve. July marks the start of the great migration in Kenya and is the perfect time to witness the crossing of the Mara River.
August: The majority of wildebeest and zebra have crossed the Mara River into Masai Mara. The animals will stay in Maasai Mara until October, when they start to move back to the Serengeti.
September: The great migration is at its peak, with large herds of wildebeest and zebra camping in the park. By now, the crossing of the Mara River is over.
October: By October, the herds start to move back south. The Masai Mara Reserve is still a great place for sightings, with plenty of predators including lions and cheetahs taking advantage of the abundance of prey.
November & December: The Masai Mara is relatively quieter during these months, as most of the wildlife has moved back to Serengeti. Maasai Mara still offers plenty of opportunities to see other wildlife, like elephants, giraffes, and antelopes.
January to March: The Masai Mara Park is still quiet, but there are plenty of animals and things to do in the reserve. This is the best time to come for a safari if you want to avoid crowds and the long rains.
April to June: This period is marked with long rain. The Masai Mara is still great for game viewing, but the roads can become impassable during the long rains.
The Top Masai Mara National Park Accommodation
The Masai Mara Reserve is a large wildlife reserve in Narok country in south-western Kenya. The Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya offers great accommodations located in the reserve, outside the reserve, and the near conservancies like the Mara Triangle, as well as the Mara River.
Top 4 Budget Accommodations in the Masai Mara
Most budget accommodations are located outside of the Masai Mara, but they offer a great opportunity to explore Maasai culture and experience the region’s unique wildlife. Here are the top four budget accommodations in the Maasai Mara:
Maasai Village Camp
Maasai Village Camp is a budget-friendly Maasai-run camp situated in the Maasai village of Olokurto, on the edge of the boundaries of the park. It offers comfortable and clean en-suite tents, with a chance to experience Maasai culture up close and personal. The camp also organizes Maasai-led guided walks through the village and nearby Masai Mara, allowing you to observe Maasai culture, learn about Maasai customs and view the abundance of wildlife.
Located on the banks of Talek River, which is one of the main rivers flowing into the Masai Mara, Crocodile Camp offers you a chance to explore the Mara and its wildlife in an intimate setting. It is situated about 260 kilometers away from Nairobi city, outside the boundaries of the park, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At Crocodile Camp you will view the abundant birdlife and wildlife, including Maasai giraffes, spotted hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and more. The camp also offers activities such as game drives and Maasai cultural village visits.
Maasai Mara Adventure Camp
Maasai Mara Adventure Camp is a budget-friendly camp situated in the town of Maikop, close to the boundaries of the park. It offers comfortable and clean en-suite tents, with the opportunity to explore Maasai culture, visit Maasai villages, and enjoy the Masai Mara Reserve’s abundant wildlife. The camp also organizes Maasai-led guided walks through Masai Mara, allowing guests to observe Maasai culture, learn about Maasai customs and view the abundance of wildlife.
Maasai Mara Ecolodge
Maasai Mara Ecolodge is a budget-friendly eco-lodge situated outside the boundaries of the park. The lodge offers comfortable and clean en-suite tents, with incredible views of the national reserve & the Maasai people’s traditional lifestyle. The accommodation organizes Maasai-led guided walks through the reserve, allowing you to observe Maasai culture, learn about Maasai customs and view the abundance of animals.
Top Mid-Luxury (4- 4.5 Star)Accommodation in the Maasai Mara
If you are looking for more luxurious accommodations than budget, there is an extensive variety of mid-luxury (4 – 4.5-star) lodges and camps available in the Masai Mara. Here are the top four mid-luxury accommodations you can choose from:
Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp
Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp is situated in the Masai Mara, overlooking the Oloololo Escarpment and the Maasai Mara plains. It offers luxurious tented accommodation, with an extensive variety of activities like game drives, Maasai village visits and Maasai-led guided walks. The camp also offers a variety of dining options, with delicious Maasai-inspired cuisine and breathtaking views of the Maasai Mara.
Sentrim Masai Mara Lodge
Sentrim Masai Mara Lodge is a 4-star lodge situated on the banks of the Maasai Mara. It offers comfortable and luxurious tented accommodation, with a variety of outdoor activities like Maasai-led guided walks, game drives and Maasai village visits. The lodge also offers a range of Maasai-inspired cuisine, and Maasai-led cultural village visits.
Masai Mara Sopa Lodge
Masai Mara Sopa Lodge is a luxurious 4.5-star lodge situated in the Masai Mara. It offers comfortable and well-equipped accommodations with a wide array of amenities and services. The activities to do while staying at Masai Mara Sopa Lodge include game viewing, bush walking, bird watching and Maasai culture visits.
Keekorok Lodge is a 4.5-star lodge situated within the borders of the Masai Mara, with beautiful and comfortable tented accommodation. The lodge offers game drives, Maasai-led guided walks and Maasai village visits, as well as a variety of Maasai-inspired cuisine.
Ashnil Mara Camp
Ashnil Mara Camp is a luxurious 4.5-star tented camp situated inside the borders of the Masai Mara. It offers comfortable and well-equipped tents with a wide array of amenities and services. The best activities to do while staying at Ashnil Mara Camp include Maasai-led guided walks, Maasai culture visits, game viewing and bush walking.
Mara Serena Safari Lodge
Mara Serena Safari Lodge is a luxurious 4.5-star lodge situated in the Mara Triangle. It offers well-equipped suites with breathtaking views of Maasai Mara. The lodge offers game drives, Maasai-led guided walks and Maasai village visits, as well as Maasai-inspired cuisine. It is the best lodge for anyone looking to witness the wildebeest migration first-hand.
Sarova Mara Game Lodge
Sarova Mara Game Lodge is a luxurious 4.5-star lodge situated on Maasai Mara National Reserve, with comfortable and well-equipped accommodation. The lodge offers game drives, Maasai-led guided walks and Maasai village visits, as well as Maasai-inspired cuisine.
Top 3 Mid-Luxury (5-Star) Accommodation in Masai Mara
If you want the very best in Maasai Mara accommodation, then you should opt for one of the mid-luxury (5-star) lodges and camps.
Zebra Plain Masai Mara
Zebra Plain is situated in the vicinity of the reserve and offers luxurious tented accommodation with an abundance of amenities and services. It boasts of an outdoor swimming pool, a spa area, and a restaurant serving Maasai-style cuisine. The camp also provides direct access to the Mara, allowing you to experience the wildlife of Maasai Mara and its beautiful landscapes.
Mara Maisha Camp
Mara Maisha is an exclusive tented camp located along the Mara River. The camp is surrounded by rolling hills and Maasai villages, offering a great opportunity to learn more about Maasai culture and traditions. It boasts of deluxe tents with en-suite bathrooms, a restaurant serving gourmet meals, a bar, and a swimming pool. Mara Maisha also offers game drives and guided walks to explore the Maasai Mara reserve in depth and is located in the vicinity of the reserve within the area.
Basecamp Masai Mara
Basecamp is located in the park and offers luxury accommodation in a peaceful and tranquil setting. It has several accommodations, ranging from tents and cottages to Maasai-style villas. Basecamp is well appointed with all the necessary amenities like a swimming pool, a spa area, and an open-air lounge perfect for sunset drinks.
It also provides Maasai-style cuisine and game drives that will take you to the heart of Maasai Mara wildlife. The hotel lets you enjoy walking safaris within its boundaries and the Mara Game Reserve.
Top 4 Luxury Accommodation in Masai Mara
If you are looking for the ultimate Maasai Mara experience, then opt for one of the luxury lodges and camps in the reserve. There are many options to choose from, but here are some of the top ones.
Entim Mara Camp
Entim Mara Camp is located within the Maasai Mara and offers incredible views of the park and the Maasai community. This private, family-run tented camp is conveniently located in Ololaimutia Valley just a few kilometers from Oloololo Gate, the main entrance to the reserve. The hotel’s rooms are all traditionally designed Maasai huts that provide an authentic Maasai experience while still offering modern amenities and comforts.
Guests can enjoy the view of wild animals from their own balcony, or take a nature walk with one of the Maasai guides. Other amenities include a pool, gym, spa, and restaurant. The camp also organizes Maasai cultural experiences such as Maasai dancing and an opportunity to learn bushcraft from Maasai warriors.
Elewana Sand River Camp
Elewana Sand River Camp is located in the reserve, just a few kilometers from Nairobi. It is perched on the banks of the Talek River, offering spectacular views and a unique safari experience. The camp includes luxury tents with en-suite bathrooms and private balconies that offer sweeping views of the park’s wildlife. Guests can also enjoy a range of activities including game drives, bush walks, Maasai cultural experiences, and hot-air ballooning.
The camp also offers a host of amenities including a swimming pool, gym, spa, children’s play area and restaurant. The camp can organize Maasai dance performances on request and even arrange for Maasai warriors to teach guests how to make weapons and build shelters. Elewana Sand River Camp is the perfect choice for those looking for an unforgettable Maasai Mara experience.
Mara Crossing Camp
Mara Crossing Camp is a unique Maasai Mara experience located in the Maasai Village of Olare Mara. The camp offers an amazing view of the Mara River and gives guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in Maasai culture and lifestyle. The camp features traditional Maasai huts with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a lounge and bar area.
Guests can enjoy game drives, Maasai cultural experiences, bush walks with Maasai guides, visits to Maasai villages, hot-air ballooning, and more. The camp also offers amenities such as a pool, gym, spa and restaurant. Mara Crossing Camp is the perfect choice for those looking to get an authentic Maasai Mara experience.
Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp
Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp is located in the Mara reserve and offers unparalleled views of the Maasai Mara plains and the Mara River. The camp features luxurious tents with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a main lounge and bar area. Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp offers a host of amenities including a swimming pool, gym, spa, children’s play area and restaurant.
The camp also organizes Maasai cultural experiences like Maasai dancing and an opportunity to learn bushcraft from Maasai warriors. The camp provides a unique Maasai Mara experience with its game drives and hot-air balloon rides, allowing guests to get up close and personal with the park’s amazing wildlife. Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp is the perfect choice for those looking for an unforgettable Maasai Mara experience.
Top 3 Luxury-Plus Accommodation in Masai Mara
You might want to stay at the luxurious places in Masai Mara during your safari. These are often located inside private conservancies like The Mara Triangle, Mara North Conservancy, and others. The best thing about the conservancies run by the community is they provide the best view of animals, especially during the wildebeest great migration season. The Masai Mara is managed by the Narok County Council and Trans Mara County Council.
Angama Mara Camp
Angama Mara Camp is located in the Masai Mara, offering breathtaking views of the reserve and the area near-by. It features luxury tents with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a lounge and bar area. The camp also offers amenities such as a swimming pool, gym, spa and restaurant. Angama Mara Camp also provides Maasai cultural experiences like Maasai dancing and an opportunity to learn bushcraft from Maasai warriors.
Mara Expedition Camp
Mara Expedition Camp in the Masai Mara offers a unique Maasai Mara experience with its luxurious tents and views of the Maasai Mara plains. The camp features a pool, spa services, activities like Maasai Mara game drives and hot air balloon safari.
It is also in the prime location to offer the best view of the Great Migration in Masai Mara Reserve. Mara Expedition Camp also provides Maasai cultural experiences such as Maasai dancing and an opportunity to learn bushcraft from Maasai warriors.
Elewana Elephant Pepper Camp
Located on the edge of Maasai Mara Reserve, Elewana Elephant Pepper Camp offers a unique Mara reserve experience with its luxurious tents and unmatched views. The camp features a pool, spa services and Maasai cultural experiences including Maasai dancing and an opportunity to learn bushcraft from Maasai warriors.
Elewana Elephant Pepper Camp also offers game drives in the national reserve and hot air balloon safari, allowing guests to get up close and personal with the wildlife. It is the perfect choice for those looking to enjoy a luxurious Maasai Mara experience.
Maasai Mara National Reserve Frequently Asked Questions
The next section looks at the most asked questions to ensure you plan the best safari in the Mara National Park.
1. What is a national reserve?
A National Reserve is a protected area set aside by the government to conserve wildlife and ecosystems. The Masai Mara is one of Kenya’s most important reserves, protecting the Mara ecosystem and the Maasai people, an indigenous people living in the Great Rift Valley. The Mara Reserve is managed by the Narok County Council as well as the Trans Mara County Council.
2. How important is the national reserve?
The Masai Mara is a vital part of the Mara ecosystem and essential for protecting its wildlife and the community. The area is home to a large variety of wildlife including lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes and many more. The Maasai people are also able to maintain their traditional way of life and use the land for grazing and farming.
3. What is the difference between a national park and a game reserve?
A national park is an area set aside for the protection of wildlife and ecosystems. It is usually managed by a government body and is typically open to visitors for recreational activities like camping, hiking and guided safaris. A game reserve is an area of land that is managed specifically for the protection of wild animals.
It is usually private land and may not be open to the public for recreational activities but only for game viewing and safari trips. Some of the private lands on the edge of the Masai Mara include the Mara Triangle and Mara North Conservancy. The Masai Mara is a community land managed by the Maasai Community and Narok County Council.
4. What is a nature reserve used for?
A nature reserve is an area that has been set aside to protect and conserve its wildlife, ecosystems and landscapes. It may be used for educational purposes, to study the environment and its inhabitants, and for recreational activities such as bird watching. The Masai Mara is a protected area where travelers can experience the Mara country and observe its wildlife in their natural habitat.
5. How do I get from Nairobi to Maasai Mara?
The reserve is located in the Great Rift Valley, about 240 kilometers from Nairobi. You may take a 6-hour drive or 1-hour flight from Nairobi to the Masai Mara, which is faster than using the road for the Masai Mara safari.
6. How long is the drive from Nairobi to Mara?
The drive is approximately 6 hours, depending on the route taken. The most direct way is to take the Maai Mahiu road and then turn off at Maasai Mara.
7. How many days is enough for Masai Mara?
Masai Mara safari trips usually last 3-4 days, although some safari companies offer packages for up to a week. It is advisable to spend at least three days in the Mara reserve to ensure you have enough time to explore the reserve, observe its wildlife, and visit the Mara River.
8. What is the Maasai Mara Wildlife?
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is home to over 95 species of mammals, 556 species of birds, and many reptiles, amphibians and insects. The Maasai Mara’s most famous animal residents include the Big Five – elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos and rhinos. Other wildlife to look out for include zebras, cheetahs, wildebeest, hippos, hyenas and many more.
9. How much does it cost to go to Masai Mara?
The cost of a Masai Mara safari trip varies depending on the length of your stay and the type of accommodation you choose. Prices typically range from $100-400 per day, with a 3-4 day stay costing around $300-500 per day.
10. Which animals are found in Masai Mara?
The area is home to a variety of wildlife including lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and other animals are found in the Mara reserve and surrounding areas like Mara North Conservancy and Mara Triangle. The Masai Mara Reserve is also a great spot for birdwatching, with over 500 species of birds recorded in the area.
11. Are there Panthers in Masai Mara?
The wildlife in Masai Mara includes large predators like lions, cheetahs and hyenas. Unfortunately, there are no panthers in Kenya and Tanzania.
12. Are there snakes in Maasai Mara?
The wildlife of Maasai Mara includes a number of reptiles, including several species of snakes. The most common snake found in the Masai Mara is the Puff Adder, which is a venomous but relatively harmless species. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings during your Masai Mara safari in Kenya
13. Are there monkeys in the Masai Mara?
Yes, there are several species of monkeys found in Masai Mara National Park. These include colobus monkeys, baboons and vervet monkeys. It is possible to observe them in the Mara reserve and surrounding areas like the Mara Triangle and Mara North Conservancy.
14. Kenya and Tanzania: Which is better?
A safari in Kenya and Tanzania is one of the most memorable experiences you can ever have in the world. Kenya and Tanzania both have their unique charm and appeal that makes each of them perfect destinations to explore. In Kenya, you can take safaris in the Masai Mara National Reserve and explore the Maasai culture, while in Tanzania you can observe animals like lions, elephants and zebras in the Serengeti.
15. Which is the top reserve in the World?
For the most memorable safari, consider visiting one of the most visited parks in Kenya – Masai Mara. It ranks as one of the top attractions thanks to its many attractions like Mara River, wildlife, and birds. Mara River Crossings are the most exciting during the wildebeest migration from the Serengeti.
16. Which wildlife can I see at the Mara River?
The Mara River is part of the park and you might see different wildlife, including the Big Five at the river. During the wildebeest migration, the river is known for its huge crocodiles and wildebeest. With the right safari package, you shouldn’t miss to see the migration at the river.
17. Are Maasai Mara and Masai Mara the same?
Yes, Maasai Mara and Masai Mara are both referring to the National Reserve in Kenya. Masai is the correct spelling while Maasai is an alternative spelling.
18. Which are the big cats of the Mara?
There are different animals that can be seen in the park during a tour. However, some safari enthusiasts come to see the big cats, which are leopards, lions, and cheetahs.
19. Which other destination should I combine with the Mara?
There are many national parks in Kenya that can be combined with Maasai Mara like Amboseli National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Samburu National Park, and others. For a combined safari, you might want to consider Maasai Mara and Maasai tribe visits as well.
20. How far is Maasai Mara from Nairobi?
Maasai Mara is approximately 280 miles away from the capital city of Nairobi. It takes around 5-7 hours to drive depending on the speed and route you take. It is recommended to have an overnight stay in Maasai Mara if possible, as it will give you more time to explore the Maasai Mara National Reserve.