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Maasai Mara
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Maasai Mara safari


... is one of the best known and most iconic experiences in Africa. This is an absolutely beautiful area which thumps with wildlife and can still deliver a great safari, so long as you plan carefully to avoid the few sticky traffic areas.

Maasai Mara is the portion of the Serengeti ecosystem which lies in Southwest Kenya, immediately north of the border with Tanzania.

Of course the area is best known for its enormous wildebeest migration, in which close on 2.5 million herbivores munch their way along an 800km route around the greater Serengeti, driven by the continuous search for drinking water and the quality of grazing.

The main body of the migration is formed by around 1.7 million wildebeest, who are rather dull-headed creatures, It is the 500,000 zebras who appear to be the main decision makers in terms of routes and timings.

The migration is accessible here on the Kenyan side during the Jul/Oct dry season months, attracted by the presence of the Mara River and the long grass plains.

During the converse Nov/Jun seasons, when the migration is over on the border in the Serengeti, there is plenty of resident wildlife in the Maasai Mara, with lions, leopards, cheetahs and elephants usually topping the bill.

When to visit ...

Jul/Oct ... is the classic time to visit Maasai Mara, the height of the dry season and the period during which the main wildebeest migration should be visiting from further south in the Serengeti. It is a very strong period for wildlife, although it is also the time at which visitor numbers peak.

Nov/Jun ... is the green season and rain showers can come at any time, although centred on Mar/May, when rain can really become quite heavy and prolonged. Unusually the wildlife viewing here remains strong throughout this period, although finding predators can become a little more challenging whilst the grass is long. Nov/Feb is a very nice and peaceful time to visit, although visitor numbers do of course rise over the Dec/Jan holiday season. June can also be very pleasant, although often with residual showers.

Read more about when to visit this area ...

Area by area ...

The first thing to appreciate about Maasai Mara is the it is a very busy safari area. Although it represents only an eighth of the total Serengeti ecosystem, it is home to more than half of the total safari lodges and camps.

Some of the vehicle clustering here during the peak migration months has to be seen to be believed, it never ceases to amaze us how guides and guests find this to be acceptable.

But if you plan your safari carefully, it is still more than possible to have a superb safari experience in the Maasai Mara at any time of year.

It is in the areas inside the national park itself that you are most likely to encounter traffic, so during high season we usually recommend limiting the time you spend here to as little a single day, primarily in the hope of seeing migration river crossings ...

Mara Confluence ... is the core national park area which lies to the east of the Mara River, with beautiful landscapes, good chances of migration crossings and some excellent camps.

Mara Governors ... also lies on the east bank of the Mara River a little further north, a famous area for wildlife and ballooning, with a number of long-established mid-range camps.

Mara Triangle ... is the section of the reserve which lies to the west of the Mara River, with the same lovely landscapes and wildlife, with low vehicle traffic in the south, but potentially busy around the northern Oloololo Gate.

Mara Keekorok ... is a generally less interesting sector of the main reserve further east, centred on a very large lodge of the same name, but often being invaded by fleets of minibuses entering through Sekenani Gate.

The other half of the Maasai Mara is made up of private conservancy areas, which contains the majority of the smaller, higher quality and more authentic camps.

The visitor density in these private conservancy areas is very much lower, vehicle clustering of any type is rare and there is just as much wildlife.

Even more importantly, the camps out here are free to offer off-road driving, walking safari, bush meals and night vehicle safari, which makes for a much richer and more rounded bush experience ...

Mara Olare Orok ... is a prime private conservancy with superb undulating landscape, rich wildlife and a really good range of camp options.

Mara Motorogi ... is an extension to Olare Orok, with which it shares traversing rights, and which contains just one upmarket lodge.

Mara North ... is a substantial private conservancy to the northwest of the main reserve, with excellent wildlife and an unusually broad range of excellent camp options.

Mara Naboisho ... is an excellent private conservancy to the northeast side, containing a handful of high quality small camps and where walking is a particular speciality.

Mara Southeast ... is a relatively remote and little-visited conservancy, sometimes referred to as Cottars, after a very upmarket camp in the area.

Mara Ol Kinyei ... is a small conservancy to the northeast of the main reserve, containing camps from a single mid-range operator.

Mara Northeast ... is a relatively remote part of the Mara and feels very separate from the main reserve. Wildlife viewing may be more of a challenge, but it is very peaceful.

Mara Ol Chorro ... is a relatively small conservancy in the extreme northwest of the Mara area, not the most beautiful and with an uncomfortable mix of large lodges and camp.

Mara Lemek ... is another small conservancy in the northwest corner, generally containing lower cost accommodation options.

Mara Sekenani ... is the extremely busy area outside the main gate into the eastern side of the Mara, which handles the majority of the overland traffic coming down the Nairobi road.

Mara Talek ... is a similarly busy and unattractive area, soiled by uncontrolled development and also handling a large flow of budget overland traffic.

How we like to include the Maasai Mara in trips ...

The vast majority of visitors to better the camps in Maasai Mara arrive by light aircraft and stay for either 2 to 4 nights in one camp or 4 to 7 nights in a mix of two or three camps.

About a third of the visitors combine the Maasai Mara with safari areas across the border in Tanzania, such as Serengeti and Ngorongoro, sometimes also including a trek on Mount Kilimanjaro and time down on the Tanzania Coast.

A further third of visitors combine the Maasai Mara with other popular Kenyan safari areas such as Meru, Samburu, Laikipia North and Amboseli, sometimes also adding time down on the Kenya Coast or Zanzibar.

A final third of visitors to Maasai Mara, usually those with with more of a passing interest, only stay in the one safari area, combining it with work or other obligations in Nairobi or with a beach stay on the Kenya Coast or further afield in Zanzibar or even Seychelles, Mauritius or Dubai.

The Maasai Mara is rarely combined with the mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, since these areas connect much more conveniently with the Serengeti.

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Tony Fishlock
Tony Fishlock, Finance Director
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