| 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Camp has 37 tents overlooking the savanna or the river.
Governors' Camp has 17 tents tucked around a waterhole.
Il Moran Camp has 10 extra spacious and luxurious tents, set in forest along
- 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
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
Richards 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
Web site: www.richardscamp.com