Masai Mara National Reserve is the most famous of Kenya’s reserves, has been called the most magnificent wildlife theater in the world. Masai Mara (Masai Mara) is known as Africa’s Greatest Wildlife Reserve, situated in southwest Kenya. The park is famous for the abundance of lion, the Great Wildebeest Migration and the Masai people, well known for their distinctive custom and dress, it is without a doubt Africa’s most famous safari destination.
The Masai Mara is one of Africa’s most famous parks. The wildlife viewing is superb throughout the year. The grassy plains and regular rainfall supports a huge population of herbivores, in turn attracting many predators. All three big cats are relatively easy to see. The yearly wildebeest migration coming through the park is one of the world’s most amazing wildlife spectacles.
The Wildebeest Migration
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is home to the annual wildebeest migration where 2.5 million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles follow the rains in search of new grass. They make their way from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara somewhere around July and August and usually arrive in September. The crossing of the Mara River along the way is one of the highlights of this spectacular event. They slowly head back into Tanzania around October.
The Masai Mara is one of the best parks in Africa for seeing big cats. Even leopards are generally relaxed, and their behavior can easily be observed. Cheetahs are often spotted on the open savannah eyeing off their next meal. Of the other Big Five, elephant and buffalo are plentiful, but black rhino is trickier and can only be found in certain areas.
The Masai Mara is Kenya’s flagship park. Sightings of four of the Big Five are pretty much guaranteed. The black rhino is more elusive, but can sometimes be spotted in the Mara Triangle. The reserve is one of the best for big cats, but sightings of smaller predators like bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, and spotted hyena also tend to be rewarding. Antelope include impala, reedbuck, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, and topi, while buffalo, elephant, and giraffe are relaxed and easily spotted.
The legendary wildebeest migration is one of the world’s most amazing wildlife encounters. Sometime in July and August, millions of animals leave the Serengeti and head into the Masai Mara around September. The crossing of the Mara River along the way is the most spectacular part of the migration. Around October, the migration slowly heads back into the Serengeti again.
It should be noted that, although the pattern is well known, the exact timing of the migration is unpredictable as animals move with the rain looking for greener pastures.
Best Time for Wildlife Viewing – Masai Mara National Reserve
Wildlife viewing in the Masai Mara is good throughout the year. The best months for the wildebeest migration are September and October. June to October is relatively dry and offers the best general wildlife watching.
The best time to visit The Masai Mara is during the driest months, from late June to October. These are the best months for wildlife viewing because the vegetation is thinner and animals gather around rivers and water holes. It does offer good wildlife viewing throughout the year, but the rainy months (March, April, November, and December) make some of the roads difficult to navigate. The wildebeest migration and the river crossings, in particular, are difficult to time, but your best chance to witness this spectacle is in late September and October.
The park adjoins Tanzania’s Serengeti, and Animals are free to roam between the two countries. Like the Serengeti, the Masai Mara is a region comprised mostly of acacia-studded grasslands interspersed by woodland. The Mara and Talek Rivers are the lifeblood of the park. The Masai Mara is particularly famous for its annual migration, often considered one of the natural wonders of the world, when almost 1 and a half million wildebeest, Zebra and Gazelle migrate northwards around July of each year, in search of fresh pasture. Predators, including lion and cheetah, follow in hot pursuit.
In October, the animals return. Whether you visit the Masai Mara in time to witness the Great Migration or not, you will most certainly see a massive variety of wildlife, including the ‘big five’ and around 450 recorded bird species.
Masai Mara National Reserve Lions
In and around Game drives, walking safaris, and fly-camping are offered by most camps and lodges. Hot air ballooning is also possible. You will likely get the chance to visit local Masai villages or witness Masai performances. The Mara combines well with a trip to the Rift Valley Lakes and/or Samburu National Park. A few days of relaxation on Lamu, Mombassa, or Zanzibar makes a wonderful finale to the safari.
Masai Mara Safari
An area of gently rolling hills, watered by the Mara and Talek rivers, the Mara opens onto the wild Serengeti plains. Situated in southwest Kenya, the Masai Mara is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserves, offering an abundance of the big cats, the Great Migration, and the Masai people with their distinctive customs and dress. Around July each year, over two million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle begin to migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture and return to the south around October. Many hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena, follow the Great Migration, which is one of the most impressive natural events in the world. Masai Mara is home to the Big Five, along with hippo, crocodiles, cheetahs, jackals, bat-eared foxes, numerous antelope, and the distinctive Masai giraffe. The tours on our site are but a few selected by our knowledgeable agents to showcase the potentials available for your African safari. Contact us to start planning the custom made dream vacation tailored just for you.
Bird Watching Safari Tour
The Masai Mara isn’t one of Kenya’s birding hotspots. However, with more than 500 bird species recorded, this isn’t a bad place to mark off a lot of Kenya’s savannah species from your bird list. The park is particularly rich in raptors with 57 species present. Bateleurs can often be seen soaring above the grassy plains and predator kills are a good place to find up to six species of vultures scavenging. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
The Masai Mara is located 270km/167mi northwest of Nairobi. The road is notoriously bad and the driving time is about five hours. Most people fly to the park. It is also possible to drive from Lake Nakuru NP. The distance is about 235km/150mi and the driving time is roughly six hours. Getting to Nairobi is easy, as the city is a major African transport hub. International arrivals usually land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. From Nairobi, it’s easy to catch a domestic flight to Masai Mara.
Domestic Flights – Masai Mara National Reserve
If you are on a package tour, you will probably find that charter flights you are taking between parks are booked by your tour operator. There are nine airstrips in and outside the park catering to the different lodges. Most domestic flights, including flights to the Masai Mara, leave from Wilson Airport (WIL), 6km/4mi south of Nairobi. Scheduled flights can be booked via several domestic carriers:
Malaria & Vaccinations – Kenya
The information on this page is just a brief, general guide and should not be used in replacement of a consultation with your travel doctor. The government organizations and travel clinics below are trusted resources for complete and up-to-date info about travelers’ health in Kenya.
Malaria Risk in Kenya- Masai Mara National Reserve
High risk throughout the country except in high altitude areas over 2,000m including Nairobi, Nairobi NP, Laikipia plateau, and Mt. Kenya. Most safari parks are high-risk zones. The highest risk of transition is during the rainy season from September to April. See the websites below for more detailed advice.
In our opinion, Kenya is generally safe to visit. The tourist industry is very established and visitors are very well looked after. Several governments have advised against traveling to some cities and remote border areas, but tour operators will only take you to places that are considered safe. For more info on these travel warnings, see the advisory links below. There is a crime in big cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa, but most issues can be avoided by following basic safety precautions. More than a million tourists visit Kenya every year, and the vast majority of visits are trouble-free.
Staying Safe on Wildlife Viewing Activities – Masai Mara National Reserve
Your safari guides will ensure your safety at all times – all you have to do is follow their instructions and always keep your distance from wild animals. When on a self-drive safari, only leave your car where it has been designated as safe to do so.
Staying Safe in Cities and Towns – Masai Mara National Reserve
As is the case all over the world, big cities tend to be crime hotspots. Although most issues are minor, such as petty theft and pickpocketing, some areas of Nairobi and Mombasa are best avoided unless on guided activities. When venturing out in the city, you should follow a few simple safety precautions: seek advice from your hotel before heading out; don’t wear valuables and only take the money you need with you; don’t walk after dark, rather take a taxi. For more safety tips that apply to African cities in general:
Weather & Climate – Masai Mara National Reserve
Due to the altitude, the climate in the Masai Mara is slightly colder and wetter than might be expected this close to the equator. Daytime is pleasant with temperatures in the mid to upper twenties, while it cools off significantly at night.
Dry season –June to September
This is an enjoyable time to be in the park with lovely weather. Typically, there are sunny days and it’s rarely very hot. Don’t forget to pack winter clothing for early morning game drives.
June, July & August – It can still rain, but mostly it is sunny and dry. Afternoon temperatures reach an agreeable 25°C/77°F, but the cold can hang around in the evenings and early mornings when temperatures of around 12°C/54°F are common.
September & October – Still a dry time of the year, although rain is possible some days. Temperatures increase slightly in October and hover around 27°C/81°F (and higher), before they decrease with the beginning of the rain. Chilly early mornings persist (around 12°C/54°F).
Wet season –November to May
There are many overcast, cloudy days. Afternoon showers are the norm. Daytime temperatures don’t vary much. The nippy early mornings have temperatures around 13°C/55°F. Bring warm clothing.
November & December – ‘Short rains’: The rains normally break at some point in November. Average afternoon temperatures are around 27°C/81°F.
January & February – Rainfall eases between the short and long rains, although showers do still occur. The exact timing of this drier period is somewhat challenging to predict.
March, April & May – ‘Long rains’: April is the wettest month. It doesn’t often shower all day, but rainfall is regular. Tracks might become slippery and difficult to navigate. Early mornings are a bit warmer – average temperatures are about 13°C/55°F.
How to Get There – Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara is located 270km/167mi northwest of Nairobi. The road is notoriously bad and the driving time is about five hours. Most people fly to the park. It is also possible to drive from Lake Nakuru NP. The distance is about 235km/150mi and the driving time is roughly six hours.
Getting to Nairobi is easy, as the city is a major African transport hub. International arrivals usually land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. From Nairobi, it’s easy to catch a domestic flight to Masai Mara.
Malaria & Safety – Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara is a very safe park to visit, in our opinion. Most people fly to the park, which is not only the most comfortable but also the safest way to travel. Self-drive visitors need to take caution when driving to the park. The road is very bad, and a breakdown is not out of the question. Although the distance (under 300km) isn’t that far, it is advised to leave Nairobi early in the morning.
Malaria & Vaccinations – Masai Mara National Reserve
Several vaccinations are needed before coming to Kenya in general and to a lesser extent the Masai Mara. Malaria is the biggest health concern for visitors to Kenya, and antimalarials should be taken. Using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective) and covering up at dusk is also highly recommended to minimize the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.
Wildlife Trips of Kenya Safaris Viewing
Please respect safety precautions regarding wildlife watching. There is no need for paranoia, and actual incidents are very rare. However, keep in mind the potential danger and unpredictability of animal encounters. Listen to the advice of your guide and use your common sense.