The Maasai Mara is Africa’s most famous safari destination. Vast savannahs dotted with rogue acacia trees and a huge diversity of wildlife, the Mara is the quintessential safari experience.
Maasai Mara, at a Glance
The Maasai Mara is the most popular safari destination in East Africa, along with the Serengeti in northern Tanzania.
It is the site of the Great Migration, where over 2 million zebras, gazelles and wildebeest travel from Serengeti to the Maasai Mara each year.
Often called the Jewel of Africa, the Maasai Mara takes its name from the Maasai tribe who have inhabited these lands since the 17th century.
Mara translates to spotted, referencing the scattered acacia trees that mark the landscapes, and that have become the symbol of the Maasai Mara.
Located in Kenya’s South West, the Maasai Mara National Reserve covers just over 583 square miles. Unlike national parks, the Maasai Mara has no fencing and is instead bounded by the Ololoolo (Siria) Escarpment on its western edge and extends south to the Tanzania border, where it seamlessly merges with the Serengeti National Park.
However, the reserve’s northern and eastern borders are surrounded by private wildlife conservancies.The conservancies add 350,000 acres to the greater Mara area, and animals are free to roam anywhere within the Mara ecosystem.
There are fourteen in total, but the top four conservancies, also known as the ‘Big Four’ are: Mara North, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, and Olare Motorogi.
Reasons to visit the Maasai Mara
The Great Migration
The Great Migration is the world’s largest migration of wildlife.
The event takes place from July to October each year. Over 2 million mammals make their way from the Serengeti in northern Tanzania where the dry grasslands can no longer sustain them.
It’s a treacherous journey, particularly at the crossing of the Mara River. Crocs lurk in the murky waters, and when wildebeest numbers are this large, not everybody will make it across alive.
Safaris in the Maasai Mara
The Maasai is one of Africa’s best safari destinations. The reserve has excellent wildlife densities, and there are a number of ways to explore.
Game drives and walking safaris take you up close to the animals, and it’s possible to take to the skies via hot air balloon for aerial views of the savannah. Horseback safaris are also possible here.
Most safaris are centred on the Central Plains, the largest part of the reserve full of dense, bushes, grasslands and a huge variety of wildlife. If you head east, you’ll arrive at the Ngama Hills, a series of undulating hills that extend to the reserves limits.
Slightly more centrally sits the leafy bushes beloved by the black rhino, and further west lies the Oloololo Escarpment, part of the Mara Triangle which borders the legendary Mara River with vibrant-lime coloured grass and woodlands.
Most people spend a few nights exploring the Mara, and you can choose between basic camps, mid-range accommodation, or luxury tented camps and lodges as your base.
The Maasai people are known globally for their vibrant red robes and tremendous bravery as fierce warriors in the wild.
Their way of life can seem unimaginable for many; living amongst the punishing dangers of the natural world.
A Maasai cultural experience is a fascinating insight into the life of the Maasai people, learning about their rich history and culture.
From centuries of living amongst the untamed wild, the Maasai have mastered living off the land.
When to visit the Maasai Mara
The best time to visit Maasai Mara is between July and October, during the Great Migration.
Temperatures remain pretty consistent year-round, and rainfall is all that separates the seasons.
January and February is the driest season. These months offer the best wildlife sightings and great conditions for safari. March to May is the rainy season, and some lodges and camps will close in April when the rains are at their peak.
June to October follows with a short dry season, often punctuated with short, sharp showers. Temperatures are typically cooler at this time of year.