The Masai Mara is one of the world’s most famous safari destinations. The diverse wildlife provides excellent game viewing, and some say it’s the jewel in Kenya’s crown.
We loved the warmth and friendliness of our Kenyan guides and camp staff, the remoteness and exclusivity of the conservancies and the unique experience of staying in them rather than in the National Parks. The birding was superb, and we enjoyed two good walks with our sharp-eyed and knowledgeable Masai hosts (accompanied by an armed ranger), The food in both camps were remarkably good.
Wildlife viewing in the Masai Mara National Reserve and surrounding conservancies is magnificent at all times. However, from around July to early October, this is also where you’ll find the world’s largest annual mass land migration - the amazing spectacle of around two million animals as they make the long and arduous journey from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and back.
- Masai Mara private conservancies versus the Masai Mara National Reserve: The nine private conservancies adjacent to the national reserve double the habitat available to the wildlife. They are a hugely important part of the Masai Mara now - for the wildlife, the environment and the Maasai - and in our opinion offer some of the best wildlife viewing experiences you can have here. The conservancies are owned by local Maasai tribespeople and leased to safari operators. Here you can enjoy more private game viewing away from the masses, and only 5 vehicles per wildlife sighting. Night drives and bush walks are on offer which are not allowed in the reserve itself. Staying in a conservancy contributes to the lives of the local community and offers a more exclusive safari experience. We often recommend a mix of time in the national park and a conservancy, especially if you're here at the time of the migration and want a chance to see a river crossing.
- Masai Mara wildlife: The rich ecosystem of the Masai Mara and surrounding conservancies are home to the Big 5 and over 95 species of mammals. Birding is top-notch too with around 550 species recorded, some resident and some migratory. There are even well-protected rhinos here. If you love big cats this is where you’ll find large numbers of lion, cheetah and leopard. In particular, a few of the private conservancies (Olare Motorogi, Mara North and Naboisho) are known to offer remarkable opportunities for seeing big cats.
- The Great Migration: An awe-inspiring and unforgettable site. The reserve is awash with millions of wildebeest and zebras and the predators that they attract. This is nature at its most raw, a struggle for survival. The famed river crossings occur at the Mara and Talek (and Sand) rivers, mostly in mid-July to September. They can happen at any time, and you need to be by the rivers in the national reserve for this sight. Even if you stay in a private reserve, we can build in time for you in the national park.
- When to visit the Masai Mara: See our When to Go page for more detail, but in essence, wildlife is good all year round. However, if the epic migration is your reason for visiting then look at July to October. If you want a time when there are far fewer people but the wildlife still tends to be really good and the weather favourable, we have a penchant for November and February. Really though, any time is fine but you probably want to avoid the rainy months of April and May (unless you don't mind getting wet and want a good deal).
- Additional experiences: Take the opportunity to experience the culture and traditions of the Maasai people. It’s also possible to enjoy a hot air balloon ride over this remarkable landscape to get a birds-eye view of the astonishing wealth and diversity of wildlife.