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A pride of lions in Masai Mara.
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  Masai Mara NR
Size: 1,510 km2/583 sq mi.
Best time to visit: Good all year round, but August to October is the best time.
Wildlife: Cats, big herds, many species, birds of prey.

Getting there: The main road from Nairobi to Masai Mara has been improved in recent years, and road construction work continues, but long sections are still very, very poor. If you have back problems, or other reasons to avoid shaky and bumpy roads, you should consider flying to the Mara instead of travelling by road.

It's a six-hour drive from Nairobi to the Sekenani gate, which is the closest entrance into the park. If you're staying in western Masai Mara, for example in Serena Safari Lodge, add at least another hour. The main roads within the park are mostly fair dirt roads. Smaller bush tracks can be very poor.
There are daily scheduled flights between Wilson Airport (WIL/HKNW) in Nairobi and several airstrips in Masai Mara. The flying time is one hour.
Masai Mara map
Masai Mara map.
Kenya map
Kenya map.
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Maasai Mara
By Kenya Birds.
  Glossary
Safari glossary
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Kenya:
Masai Mara National Reserve
Masai Mara National Reserve, also known as the Mara, is Kenya's prime safari park. It is included in most safari tour packages to Kenya.

Masai Mara is situated towards the west in southern Kenya, bordering Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Masai Mara and Serengeti belong to the same ecosystem, of which Mara is the northern tip, and share a rich wildlife that includes many big cats and huge migrating herds of wildebeest and zebras.

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Grassland and savanna
Much of Masai Mara is open grassland and savanna, set in an undulating landscape between mountains in the east and the beautiful Oloololo escarpment (where some of the scenes in Out of Africa were shot) in the west. Two permanent rivers cut through the landscape; the Mara and the Talek. These are lined with trees, such as yellow-barked acacias (or yellow fever trees), or riverine forest. The Mara River has a number of points where the migrating herds of wildebeest and zebras cross during the park's peak season from August to October.

Off-road driving is permitted in the area north of the Talek River and east of the Mara River.

Wildebeest in western Masai Mara.

The great migration
In July each year, vast herds of wildebeest and zebras move into Masai Mara from Serengeti in the south, to stay grazing the Mara grasslands for a few months. When the 'short rains' come in late October or November, the herds begin their long trek back to the plains of southern Serengeti, leaving Masai Mara until next year.

These ever-wandering herds are called the migration, and comprise up to 1.5 million wildebeest and a few hundred thousand zebras (the numbers vary between years, depending on rainfall and grazing). The Mara is a good place to see the migration, as the concentrations of animals can be very high, and as some of the spectacular river crossings, as seen on many nature documentaries on television, take place in easily accessible areas within the park.

Cats
Masai Mara is also known to be a very good park for seeing lions. The lion population is big and healthy, and most or all safari-going visitors to the Mara get to see lions, usually more than once. Some lions follow the migration, and thus leave the park when the big herds turn south towards Serengeti, while others are residents and can be found in the park all year round. The patches of orange-leaved croton thicket that can be seen in many parts of the park are good spots to search for resting lions.

The open landscape also suits cheetahs well, and they are regularly seen. Also the leopard, the third of the three big cats in Africa, can be seen, preferring tree-lined rivers and wooded or rocky areas.

A less well-known cat is the serval, which can be seen with some luck. It is small and shy, and therefore difficult to spot. Also the African wild cat is sometimes seen. Both these cats are considerably smaller than the lion, leopard and cheetah.

Two cheetah cubs in Masai Mara.

Other mammals
Masai Mara may have the most varied mammal wildlife among all parks in Kenya. Chances are good to see hyaenas (the park has a strong hyaena population), jackals, giraffes, baboons, different types of antelopes, gazelles and more. Hippos can be seen in the rivers, as can crocodiles. Around the rivers, the vegetation attracts waterbucks, elephants, impalas and reedbucks.

The giraffe subspecies found in Masai Mara is the Maasai giraffe. The most classic safari route in Kenya includes parks where all in all three different subspecies may be seen; the Maasai giraffe in the Mara, the Rothschild giraffe in Lake Nakuru, and the reticulated giraffe in Samburu or Shaba.

Maasai giraffe and the Oloololo Escarpment in Masai Mara.

The Big Five
Many safari-goers want to see the Big Five, which means the five mammal species African elephant, rhinoceros, African buffalo, lion and leopard. All of them can be seen in Masai Mara, but it takes some luck, as the few rhinos still remaining are hard to find. Leopards can also take some luck, as they are secretive and mostly active at night. To see rhinoceros, you may want to include a visit to Lake Nakuru National Park in your itinerary, where chances are much better. Lake Nakuru is also known to be a good place to see leopards, increasing your chances to see Big Five even more.

Birds
Mara is rich in birds, and even birding on normal safaris, where the main focus is the big mammals, can be very rewarding. More than 450 species of birds have been recorded within the park, 55 out of these birds of prey.

Some of the species you may spot during game drives are ostrich, sacred ibis, hadada ibis, red-billed duck, Egyptian goose, secretary bird, lappet-faced vulture, black-shouldered kite, martial eagle, bateleur, African fish eagle, kori bustard, African jacana, spotted thick-knee, crowned lapwing and laughing dove.

Ground crew using the burners to fill a balloon before take-off.

Balloon safaris
Balloon safaris take off from a couple of different points in Masai Mara most days. They cost quite a lot, while offering a nice adventure and a way to experience the park in a completely different way. You can expect lovely views, and may see animals below that would have been hard to spot while game driving.

The balloons start from Fig Tree Camp, Keekorok Lodge, Little Governors' Camp, and Mara Serena Safari Lodge.

Walking safaris
Walking the bush is not allowed within Masai Mara; the park rules only allow game viewing from safari vehicles. But once you are outside the park border, which isn't fenced, walking is allowed. Some safari operators and travel agencies are thus offering walking safaris in the areas surrounding the park, ranging from shorter walks for a couple of hours to several days on foot, including overnight stays in small bush camps.

Far from the crowds
This is a way for you to experience the Mara and the African bush from a completely different perspective. Masai Mara is a popular safari destination, and home to many lodges and tented camps. That means, you will probably see a lot of other visitors and safari vehicles around inside the park. Walking safaris are done in other areas, where there are few or no roads, so you will find yourself far from the crowds. Combined with campfires, hyaenas whooping outside your tent at night and the thrill of walking the bush where all sorts of animals can be found, this makes the walking safari a true adventure.

All walking safaris are escorted by armed guards. Some operators use Maasai warriors for escorts, offering the opportunity to learn more about this tribe and its knowledge of the African bush.

Dawn at Keekorok Lodge in Masai Mara.

Lodges and camps
Accommodation is offered in many lodges, tented camps, camping sites and bandas in and outside of Masai Mara. Lodges and camps are listed on this page. Those situated inside the park borders are marked MMNR below.
 
Eastern Masai Mara

Sarova Mara Game Camp.Sarova Mara Game Camp (MMNR) in north-eastern Masai Mara is set on a low hill. It has 75 tents, of which 15 have extra space and more exclusive interior. All tents are large safari tents with ordinary beds, electric lighting and a private bathroom with shower and WC.

More about Sarova Mara Game Camp

Web site: www.sarovahotels.com

Masai Mara Sopa Lodge is a large lodge just outside the eastern park border of Masai Mara, not far from the Ololaimutiek Gate. The standard is good tourist class. The lodge has 100 rooms in two-room buildings, all with ensuite bathroom, an ornamental fireplace and a veranda. There are also a dozen suites. Sopa Lodge has three bars, restaurant with seating indoors and outdoors, garden swimming pool and souvenir shop, and offers activities such as bush walks, balloon safaris, and visits to Maasai villages.

Web site: www.sopalodges.com

Siana Springs is a tourist class tented camp some 15 km/9 mi north-east of Masai Mara. It has 38 tents with ensuite bathrooms, dining indoors and outdoors, bar, conference tent, souvenir shop and swimming pool. The camp offers bush walks and night and day game drives.

Web site: www.heritage-eastafrica.com

Sekenani Camp is a tented camp on the boundary of eastern Masai Mara, about 5 km/3 mi south-east from the Sekenani Gate. It offers good standard. There are 15 tents, all with ensuite bathroom with bathtub. There is also a restaurant, a bar and a patio area where a campfire is lit at night. Sekenani offers bush walks guided by local Maasai.

Mara Bushtops is a luxury tented camp built on top of a hill a few km/mi outside of north-eastern Masai Mara, a ten-minute drive from the Sekenani Gate. The camp has 12 luxury tents, offering wide views (and a telescope), a wooden deck with sunken bathtub, indoor and outdoor shower, and a 24-hour butler service. There is a restaurant with outdoor veranda and wine cellar, bar, lounge and swimming pool with a view.

Web site: www.orion-hotels.net

Ol Seki Mara Camp is a seasonal luxury tented camp on a hill north of eastern Masai Mara, in areas off from those visited by most safari-goers. The camp has six very spacious tents, designed in modern and slightly minimalist safari style. There are also dining and library tents. The camp offers day and night game drives, bush walks, visits to local villages and sights, etc.

Web site: www.olseki.com

Mara Porini Camp is a good tented camp set along the banks of a permanent spring in the Ol Kiney wildlife conservancy north of eastern Masai Mara, 18 km/11 mi from the Sekenani Gate. There are six tents with private bathrooms and solar electricity lights. The activities include day and night game drives and bush walks escorted by Maasai guides. The camp is set right in the bush, and as this is an area where few other safari-goers come, it offers a good safari experience.

Web site: www.porini.com

Oseur Camp (referred to as Mara Chips Camp in some sources) is a tourist class camp outside the Ololaimutiek Gate of eastern Masai Mara. Three units of tents have their own dining and bar facilities. The location outside of the park allows for activities such as bush walks.

Mara Hippo Lodge is a basic tourist class lodge situated outside eastern Masai Mara. It has 40 rooms with ensuite bathrooms, and a souvenir shop and swimming pool.

Web site: www.marahippo.co.ke

Leleshwa Camp is a good tented camp in a conservation area bordering north-eastern Masai Mara. It has seven tents (including one suite), which are battery powered (but 240 V charging is available in camp) and have ensuite bathrooms. The camp has dining and lounge tents with large verandas. The activities offered include day and night game drives and bush walks.

Web site: www.leleshwacamps.com

Mara Gypsy Luxury Safari Camp is being built (planned to open during 2008) with eight tents on the border of Masai Mara.

Web site: www.maragypsysafaricamp.co.uk

Southern Masai Mara
 
Keekorok Lodge.Keekorok Lodge (MMNR) was the first lodge built in Masai Mara. It is situated in the south-eastern part of the park, and has some 160 beds. The rooms are in bungalows around the lodge garden and the swimming pool. The lodge has restaurant, bar, gift shop and a secluded observation deck, where you may see wildlife in the surroundings.

Web site: www.wildernesslodges.co.ke

Sala's Camp (MMNR) is a small luxury tented camp is southern Masai Mara, close to the border towards Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The camp has seven spacious tents with ensuite bathrooms, and is set in a forested area next to the Sand River. The area is generally good for game viewing.

Web site: www.tamimiea.com

Cottar's 1920's Safari Camp is a luxury tented camp in a private concession bordering south-eastern Masai Mara and northern Serengeti in Tanzania. The camp is small, accommodating up to 12 guests in spacious tents decorated in 1920's style. The overall setting is to give an atmosphere of the olden and golden times. The camp offers safari activities such as day and night game drives in private areas, and bush walks.

Web site: www.cottars.com

Impiripiri is situated in a private concession bordering south-eastern Masai Mara, between the Sand River and northern Serengeti in Tanzania. The camp has seven tents with verandas, private bathroom and solar electricity. There is an appealing safari style with a contemporary touch. The activities include day and night game drives in private areas, and bush walks.

Web site: www.impiripiri.com

Central Masai Mara
 
Mara Serena Safari Lodge.Mara Serena Safari Lodge (MMNR) is a lodge offering good standard, situated in western Masai Mara. It has some 70 rooms, all with balconies and views of the park. The lodge has a swimming pool, and a restaurant overlooking a waterhole. It's in an area close to the Mara River, where the migration may be seen during August to October.

More about Mara Serena Safari Lodge

Web site: www.serenahotels.com

 
Mara Intrepids.Mara Intrepids (MMNR) is a luxury tented lodge situated close to the Talek River in central Masai Mara. It has 30 tents with ensuite bathrooms and private verandas. There are platforms for game viewing overlooking the river, restaurant, conference room, souvenir shop and swimming pool. The activities include game drives, night safaris, cultural outings and balloon safaris.

More about Mara Intrepids

Web site: www.heritage-eastafrica.com

 
Fig Tree Camp.Fig Tree Camp is a fairly large tourist class camp situated by the Talek River on the central/northern border of Masai Mara. It has some 70 rooms in tents and bungalows, all with ensuite bathroom and veranda. There is a restaurant, two bars, a souvenir shop and a swimming pool. The camp offers day and night game drives, and balloon safaris.

More about Fig Tree Camp

Web site: www.madahotels.com

Mara Simba Lodge (MMNR) is a tourist class lodge situated on the southern bank of the Talek River in Masai Mara, in a fairly vegetated area. It has 84 rooms in six-room buildings, lined along the river. The rooms have ensuite bathroom and a veranda or balcony facing the river. The lodge has restaurant, bar, souvenir shop, swimming pool and an observation deck facing the river, where floodlights for game spotting are lit at night. There is also a filling station for petrol/gas and diesel, and a workshop.

Web site: www.simbalodges.com

Mara Explorer (MMNR) is a luxury tented camp by the Talek River in central Masai Mara. It has ten spacious tents with luxurious bathrooms, private verandas facing the river and open-air bathtubs. The camp has an open-air riverfront dining area, a lounge and a library, and offers for example game drives, bush walks and balloon safaris.

Web site: www.heritage-eastafrica.com

Rekero Camp (MMNR) is set in riverine forest on the edge of the Talek River, not far upstream from where it joins the Mara River. It's a good camp in a modern and spacious safari style, with seven tents, including one family tent, all with ensuite bathroom. The safari activities offered include game drives, bush walks, visits to local villages and balloon safaris. The camp operates from June to March, with a break for November.

Web site: www.rekero.com

Naibor (MMNR) is set along the Talek River in the same area as Rekeko Camp, and offers a similar stay. The camp has seven spacious guest tents and a dining tent, all in a contemporary safari style. Activities include game drives, bush walks, balloon safaris, and mountain biking outside of the national reserve. Like Rekeko, Naibor is set right in the bush and offers a modern (in contrast to the African colonial style seen in many other camps and lodges) safari atmosphere.

Web site: www.theartofventures.com

Entim Camp (MMNR) is a good tented camp close to the Mara River and the Talek River in central Masai Mara. It has five tents set right in the bush, all with ensuite bathroom and private veranda overlooking the plains and the Mara River. There is also a dining area and lounge/library/bar The camp offers game drives, bush walks, visits to Maasai villages and balloon safaris.

Web site: www.entim-mara.com

Tipilikwani Camp is a good tented camp on the northern bank of the Talek River that borders central/northern Masai Mara. It has 20 spacious tents, of which four are interconnected in doubles for families. All tents have ensuite bathroom and a private deck facing the river and the reserve on the southern bank. The camp offers day and night game drives, bush walks, balloon safaris (from Fig Tree Camp) and visits to Maasai villages.

Web site: www.atua-enkop.com

Mara Leisure Camp has 26 nice tents of different sizes and a few family cottages, lined along the Talek River bordering central/northern Masai Mara. The camp has swimming pool, souvenir shop and lounge, and offers game drives, bush walks and balloon safaris.

Web site: www.maraleisurecamp.co.ke

Ilkeliani is a good tented camp on the bank of the Talek River on the central/northern border of Masai Mara. The camp has 17 tents, all with ensuite bathroom and electricity from solar panels. It offers game drives, bush walks, visits to local Maasai villages, and campfires at night.

Web site: www.ilkeliani.com

Basecamp Masai Mara is a fairly small basic tented camp set by the Talek River in central/northern Masai Mara. It has an ecological approach, and is built from local materials and uses solar power. An observation tower faces a good savanna area where much wildlife may be seen.

Northern Masai Mara
 
Olonana.Olonana is a smallish luxury tented camp on the banks of the Mara River just outside north-western Masai Mara. It has 14 tents with private bathrooms and verandas right by the river. The public areas include restaurant, riverside lounge decks, and swimming pool. Bush walks and game drives are offered.

More about Olonana

Web site: www.olonana.com

Governors' Camps (MMNR) are four luxury tented camps within a private concession area along the Mara River in northern Masai Mara.They offer activities such as game driving, bush walks outside of the park, balloon safaris taking off near Little Governors', and cultural visits to Maasai villages.
Governors' Camp has 37 tents overlooking the savanna or the river.
Little Governors' Camp has 17 tents tucked around a waterhole.
Governors' Il Moran Camp has 10 extra spacious and luxurious tents, set in forest along the riverbank.
Governors' Private Camp accommodates 4 to 16 guests, and can only be booked by one group at a time.

Web site: www.governorscamp.com

Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp is just outside the park border of north-western Masai Mara, on the foot of the beautiful Oloololo Escarpment. It has 40 tents, of which 12 are luxury tents. All have ensuite bathroom and private veranda. There are indoor and outdoor dining areas, bar, souvenir shop and a swimming pool. The camp offers day and night game drives, bush walks, balloon safaris and visits to Maasai villages.

Web site: www.kichwatembo.com

Bateleur Camp at Kichwa Tembo is a smaller and more exclusive sister camp to Kichwa Tembo. There are two groups of nine luxury tents with elegant style and personal butler.

Web site: www.kichwatembo.com

Mara River Camp is a tourist class tented camp just outside the park border of north-western Masai Mara. It is set right in the bush close to the Mara River, and has 16 tents with ensuite bathrooms and solar power electricity. The main activities are day game drives, bush walks and cultural visits to Maasai villages.

Mara Buffalo Camp is situated north of Masai Mara. It's operated by a tour operator, and open only to its clients.

David Livingstone Safari Resort is a tourist class lodge on the bank of the Mara River, north of north-western Masai Mara. There are some 80 rooms with ensuite bathrooms and verandas. The lodge has restaurant, bar and souvenir shop, and offers game drives and visits to Maasai villages.

Web site: www.mugumotree.com

Mara Siria is a luxury tented camp set on top of the Siria Escarpment, where it overlooks the Mara River and parts of Masai Mara. The camp has 10 tents and two bungalows, all with ensuite bathroom, solar lighting and private veranda. It offers game drives, bush walks, visits to Maasai villages, mountain biking and balloon safaris. There are special "children's camp" weeks.

Web site: www.mara-siria-camp.com

Karen Blixen Camp is a luxury tented camp of 22 tents along the Mara River, north of the Oloololo Gate of north-western Masai Mara. The camp has restaurant (overlooking a hippo pool in the river), bar, lounge, swimming pool, massage and Internet. Bush walks, day and night game drives and visits to Maasai villages are offered.

Web site: www.karenblixencamp.com

Royal Mara Safari Lodge is a tented lodge situated along the Mara River north of north-western Masai Mara. It has eight spacious tented rooms built on elevated wooden decks along the river. The rooms are designed in a rough wooden African style, and have ensuite bathroom, safe, electricity and veranda with river view. The lodge offers game drives, bush walks, balloon safaris and visits to Maasai villages. There are nearby marshes, of interest to birders.

Web site: www.royalmara.com

Mara Safari Club, or Fairmont Mara Safari Club, is a luxury tented lodge north of the Oloololo Gate of north-western Masai Mara. It has 50 tents in a kind of hotel interpretation of colonial safari style, all with ensuite bathroom. The lodge has restaurant, bar, heated swimming pool, massage, library with Internet, and conference facilities. Safari activities offered include game drives, balloon safaris and bush walks.

Web site: www.fairmont.com

Serian is set in a private 26 km2/10 sq mi wilderness area north of the Oloololo Gate of north-western Masai Mara. The camp has eight tents with private safari style bathrooms, and a main building with mess deck, fireplace and expansive views. There is also a smaller camp, Ngare Serian, with four tented suites on the bank of the Mara River, meant for families, private parties etc. Serian offers safari activities such as game drives, fly camping, bush walks, balloon safaris and game flights.

Web site: www.serian.net

Mpata Safari Club is set north of north-western Masai Mara, on top of the Siria Escarpment. It's a luxury lodge with rooms in 23 bungalows, restaurant, library, bar and swimming pool. The lodge offers game drives, bush walks, balloon safaris and visits to Maasai villages.

Web site: www.mpata.com

Elephant Pepper Camp is a good tented camp north of north-western Masai Mara, set in a wilderness area away from other lodges. It's a small camp right in the bush; expect a good safari atmosphere. The eight tents are spacious (one family/honeymoon tent is 80 m2/860 sq ft) and have ensuite bathrooms. There is also a mess tent with family style dining and help-yourself bar, and campfires in the evenings. The safari activities offered include day and night game drives and bush walks.

Web site: www.chelipeacock.com

Offbeat Mara Camp is a small tented camp in a private group ranch north of north-western Masai Mara, off from other lodges and camps. There are 6 large tents with ensuite bathrooms and solar electricity, a mess tent for dining, bar and library, and a campfire area. The camp offers day and night game drives, bush walks and access to balloon safaris.

Web site: www.offbeatsafaris.com

Porini Lion Camp is situated by the seasonal Ntiakatiak River in the 80 km2/31sq mi Olare Orok conservancy bordering northern Masai Mara. There are ten tents with ensuite bathrooms, private verandas and solar electricity. The safari activities include day and night game drives in Masai Mara and in the conservancy, where few other visitors are seen, and bush walks.

Web site: www.porini.com

Olkurruk Mara Lodge is set outside north-western Masai Mara, on top of the Oloololo Escarpment. It takes some driving to get to the park gate. The lodge has 19 thatched bungalows, all with ensuite bathroom with solar-heated water. There's a good views of the park, but vegetation obscures the view from some areas.

Mara West is a good tented lodge set on top of the Oloololo Escarpment, 5 km/3 mi from the Oloololo Gate on the border of north-western Masai Mara. It's has six tented cottages with ensuite bathrooms. The lodge offers walks in its surroundings and cultural visits to Maasai villages.

Web site: www.marawest.com

Kicheche Mara Camp is a good tourist class tented camp set in a grove of wild olive trees on the Aitong Plains north of north-western Masai Mara. The camp accommodates up to 22 guests in tents with ensuite bathrooms. There are also lounge/library and dining tents. The camp does game drives and bush walks.

Web site: www.kicheche.com

Kicheche Bush Camp is a small tented camp in the Olare Orok conservancy just north of northern Masai Mara. The camp is set right in the bush, and has six tents with ensuite bathrooms and a lounge and dining tent. The safari activities include game driving, bush walks and fly camping, i.e. overnight stays in small tents away from camp.

Web site: www.kicheche.com

Saruni is a good lodge situated in a remote valley some distance from north-western Masai Mara. It has six spacious cottages with quite elegant interiors, ensuite bathrooms and verandas with great views of the surroundings and of a waterhole that attracts wildlife. A main building has dining room and library. The lodge has a nearby sister tented camp called Campi ya Tembo, which has three luxury tents with private bathrooms and large verandas with views. The safari activities include day and night game drives, and bush walks.

Web site: www.sarunicamp.com

Richard’s Camp is a small tented camp north of north-western Masai Mara. There are six tents with ensuite bathrooms and solar electricity. The camp offers day and night game drives, bush walks, visits to Maasai villages and fly camping.

Web site: www.richardscamp.com

 
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Page updated 18 February 2009