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Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is arguably the best place on earth to see wildlife, especially big cats, as the vast prey-filled plains are ideal hunting grounds for lion and cheetah.
Game viewing is excellent year-round but the seasonal arrival of the Great Migration is a true highlight and one of Africa’s top safari experiences. Masai Mara camps and lodges are exceptional in quality and can be the highlight of a Kenya safari holiday. To discuss including a tailor-made Masai Mara safari on your holiday in Kenya contact our team today.
About the Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara National Reserve spans 1,510 km² across south-west Kenya, forming the northern section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. This region is regarded as one of the best safari destinations on earth with stunning landscapes and exceptionally high game density. To the north and east of the reserve are a number of private Masai Mara conservancies. Previously used for cattle grazing, these areas are now dedicated to conserving natural wildlife habitats, with a blueprint for sustainable tourism that ensures local communities benefit from the visitors that come here. The safari experience within these conservancies differs to that of the reserve as there are fewer restrictions in place, meaning greater freedom to explore off-road and a far more immersive safari. Stricter controls on visitor numbers and the lack of other safari vehicles makes the adventure feel much more exclusive too.
Masai Mara Wildlife
There are few places on earth that match the volume of wildlife found in the Masai Mara Reserve, and sightings of Africa’s iconic species are year-round. With over 800 lions, 2,500 elephants and up to 50 black rhino, this is the place to come if you want a Big Five safari in Kenya. Leopards are often spotted in the forested areas of the plains, and there is an abundance of other favourites too, including cheetah, giraffe and around 500 different species of bird.
Antelope in the region includes impala, Thompson’s gazelle, topi, eland and reedbuck. Non-migratory wildebeest and zebra are also present throughout the year and don’t depart with the mass herds of the great migration. Plentiful hyena are found here in the Mara as are other smaller predators such as jackal and bat-eared foxes. Wild dogs have been spotted in the Masai Mara but sightings are rare so it’s a real treat when it happens.
Big cats are without doubt the stars of the show in the Masai Mara Reserve, and one of the main reasons why 300,000 visitors come to Kenya each year. Some of the lion prides have even appeared on TV shows such as Big Cat Diaries, Dynasties and a number of National Geographic documentaries.
The Great Migration in the Masai Mara
The Great Migration occurs in Kenya between the months of July and October, when vast herds of over a million wildebeest, topi and zebra migrate north from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park into Kenya. Game viewing is incredible and undoubtedly the best safari experience in Africa at this time of year. The quantity of prey is an undeniable attraction for predators and the chance of seeing lion, cheetah and leopard hunting are high. To find out more about seeing the migration on your luxury Masai Mara safari holiday click here.
The Maasai People
The Maasai tribe named this region ‘Mara’ which means ‘spotted‘ in the local Maa language, and refers to the open savannahs which are dotted with iconic Acacia trees. The Maasai people are traditional pastoralists, relying on the land for everything from their medicine to the food for their livestock. They play a large role in the running of the reserve and the neighbouring conservancies, and it is the sharing of their knowledge, passed down through generations, which makes a safari in the Masai Mara so special.
Visitors to the reserve and the neighbouring conservancies often opt to enjoy cultural visits to authentic local Maasai villages to learn about their traditional lifestyles and harmonious symbiosis with wildlife. Many of the staff at camps and lodges are Maasai and they are often happy to discuss their culture and tradition with guests.
Best Places to Stay in the Maasai Mara National Reserve
There is a wide selection of Masai Mara accommodation available, from family friendly camps to luxury safari lodges perfect for honeymooners.
For anyone coming to Kenya to see the Great Migration, the camps and lodges within the Masai Mara Reserve provide quick and easy access to the herds. This means you can maximise your time with the animals on your game drives without having to travel long distances. For those seeking solitude away from the crowds of tourists, a stay in one of the Masai Mara conservancy camps or lodges guarantees more intimate sightings of Kenya’s incredible wildlife.
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Best Time to Visit the Masai Mara
The most popular time to visit Kenya is between June and October, to coincide with the Great Migration in the Masai Mara. Game viewing is superb during these months as surface water is scarce and animals tend to congregate closer to rivers and pools, making them easy to spot. Consequently, this is the peak tourism period which means the reserve can become crowded and accommodation more difficult to find unless you’ve booked well in advance, which is advisable if you’re thinking about a family safari in the Masai Mara.
Travel between January and February or November and March is popular with returning visitors, offering excellent game viewing and fewer tourists. Skies can be overcast and short periods of rain are not uncommon but this should not be a deterrent. The overall experience is fantastic and one of our favourite times to travel to the Masai Mara for a bespoke safari holiday.
During April and May rainfall increases all across Kenya, with treacherous roads making travel difficult. Many camps and lodges shut during these months and travel is not recommended.
Weather During the Year
How to Book a Masai Mara Safari Holiday
To discuss your Kenya safari holiday, Masai Mara safari packages and tailor-made itineraries, speak to one of our Kenya experts today by contacting us.