Masai Mara National Reserve Kenya – Lodges, Wildlife & Best Time to Visit
Masai Mara National Reserve is the playground to watch World Cup of wildlife and is nature’s epic of masterpiece. Masai Mara (151000-hectare) is located within the south-western side of Kenya and together with the popular Serengeti National Park form the Continent’s most diverse, breathtaking and most endowed ecosystem in addition to possibly being the top safari big game viewing destination in the whole World.
The area rises about 1500 to 2170 meters above sea level. Its landscape is mainly marked by rolling hills, magical River crossings and of course numerous animals as well as adventures than any film would ever show.
Masai Mara National Reserve is part of the Greater Mara ecosystem that also includes the Mara Triangle as well as numerous Masai conservancies that include Oloirien, Lemek, Kimintet, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Kerinkani, Mara North, Siana, Ol Derkesi, Maji moto, Koiyaki and Naikara.
Masai Mara National Reserve history
This reserve was named in respect to the Masai people, the aboriginal people of the area. These people were surprisingly not the original occupants of the region but rather migrated from the Nile basin. The name “Mara” actually means “spotted” in the Masai dialect, owing to the numerous short bushy trees that dot the savannah landscape.
At the time this area was gazetted into a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1961, it only covered an area of 52,000 hectares and this also included the Mara Triangle. In the same year it was extended to 182100 hectares, then it became a Game Reserve.
When Narok County Council took over control of the Protected Area, part of it was rewarded a “National Reserve” status in 1974 while the remaining area of 15900 hectares was given back to the surrounding Maasai local community. Two years later, another 16200 hectares was reduced from the Reserve hence leaving it with the present-day size of 151,000 hectares.
Amazing Tourist attractions to see within Masai Mara National Reserve
Masai Mara National Reserve is undeniably one of the most popular and significant protected Areas and safari destinations in the African Continent. It is known for jaw-dropping attractions such as;
The outstanding wildlife species that are hosted in Masai Mara National Reserve are cheetahs, African leopards, impalas, lions, Cape buffaloes, wildebeests, black and white Rhinoceros, Thomson’s and grant’s gazelles, Roan antelopes, African striped weasels, Topis, Honey badgers, African civets, Defassa waterbucks and serval cats.
Other animals include bushbucks, Hippos, spotted hyenas, Nile crocodiles, genets, Aardwolves, lesser and greater kudus, caracals, African wild dogs, bat-eared foxes, Mongoose, black-backed jackals, genets, African golden wolves, impalas, zebras, side-striped jackals, African civets, Coke’s hartebeests, Aardvarks, duikers, bat-eared foxes, Masai giraffes, common elands and Topis among others.
About 570 bird species call Masai Mara National Reserve home but the common ones are Lilac-breasted rollers, over 60 raptor species, long-crested eagles, secretary birds, crowned cranes, Ostriches, Marabou storks, hornbills, African pygmy falcons, long-crested eagles, to mention but a few.
The Great Migration
Known as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa as well as one of the ten Wonders of the World, the great migration in Masai Mara National Park is a must-see attraction during Kenya safaris.
Remarkably exciting things to do in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Hot Air Balloon Tours
These tours over the sweeping Mara plains allow visitors to watch numerous animals from the comfort of a hot air balloon. For visitors yearning for thrilling and romantic discover of the wilderness, the hot air balloon tour is the best way to go about it. It’s not just the tour you should be excited about but also the bush breakfast that comes along with it.
Visit to the traditional Masai tribal community/village
The Masai are undoubtedly one of the most incredible and exciting tribal groups in the African Continent, living in parts of southern Kenya and can be visited during tours of Maasai Mara National Reserve.
The pastoralist warrior tribe has one of the most exciting cultures and for your safari, visit the nearby village to learn about their unique ways of life, traditions and customs, local cuisines and also stop by the curio shops to purchase their art and crafts.
Explore and experience the beauty of Mara plains on a horseback, with remarkable game viewing experiences through the endless and stunning savannah.
There is a chance of riding past African bush elephants, wildebeests, Cape buffaloes, lions, warthogs, cheetahs, leopards, Grant’s zebras, gazelles, Defassa waterbucks, Masai giraffes, yellow baboons, African hares, Impalas and so much more.
Game Drives in Masai Mara
Game drives in Maasai Mara National Reserve are usually included in virtually all Kenya safari packages in form of sunrise, afternoon and sunset drives with literally everything that African offers.
Animals such as spotted hyenas, cheetahs, aardvarks, leopards, African bush elephants, lions, Masai giraffes, warthogs, Cape buffaloes, Topis, wildebeests, bushbucks, Defassa waterbucks, African wild dogs, serval cats, bat-eared foxes, impalas, gazelles, striped hyenas, caracals, jackals and many others should be expected during game drives in Masai Mara National Reserve.
Guided Bush Walks
Guided bush walks are conducted within or outside Masai Mara National Park, and last between 45 minutes and 2 hours. The activity is conducted in the company of armed and experienced Rangers as well as experienced and trained guides to protect visitors while they explore the hidden treasures on foot.
Expect to see a profusion of animals, especially Masai giraffes, Defassa waterbucks, cheetahs, African bush elephants, lions, Cape buffaloes, leopards and others, not forgetting the wide range of bird species, flora and fauna.
Best time of the year to be in Masai Mara National Reserve
The best time to be in Masai Mara National Park is between July and October, when the great migration can be witnessed and unforgettable game viewing experiences are achieved although the Protected Area is a wonderful year-round tourist destination.
Top accommodation facilities within Masai Mara National Reserve
There is a wide selection of accommodation facilities within Masai Mara National Reserve and the Conservancies and they include;
Mara Serena Lodge
As one of the most popular places of stay, it is also the only Safari Lodge within the Mara Triangle and is nestled high on a bush-swathed hill with 74 en-suite rooms.
The Cottages are dome-hut constructed within consideration to the architectural design of traditional Masai Manyatta. It was built in 1973 and features a wide range of facilities that include a spacious restaurant, bar, fitness center, spa and outdoor swimming pool.
Other places of lodging include Matira Bush Camp, Rekero Camp, Little Governors’ Camp, Elewana and River Camp, Mara Plains Camp, Angama Mara, &Beyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, Sentinel Mara Camp, Ashnil Mara Camp, Elephant Pepper Camp, Saruni Mara, Mara Expedition Camp, Hammerkop Migration Camp, Mara Intrepids Tented Camp, Kicheche Mara Camp, Sala’s Camp, Mara Big Five Lodge, Mara West Camp, Ol Seki Hemingway’s Mara Camp, Lerai Safari Camp, Porini Cheetah Camp, &Beyond Bateleur Camp, Governors’ II Moran Camp, Porini Mara Camp, Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp, Ngare Serian, Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara, Mahali Mzuri, Richard’s River Camp, Angama Mara and many others.
Entrance fees for Masai Mara National Reserve
The entrance fees for Masai Mara National Reserve cost $80 per person for visitors above 12 years not staying within the Reserve.
Travelers of the same age pay $70 per person entry fees when staying within the Reserve while children between 3 and 11 years pay $45 when staying outside the Reserve and $40 per person when staying in accommodation facilities within the Reserve. Visitors below 3 years are entitled to free entry into Masai Mara National Reserve.
Getting to Masai Mara National Reserve from Nairobi City
Chartered flights from Wilson Airport (Nairobi) to Masai Mara National Reserve take between 45 and 60 minutes. This is the easiest and most recommended means to get to this spectacular Safari destination.
Road trips to Masai Mara National Reserve begin from Nairobi City with 5-6 hours’ on the road. Arrival is through any of the five entrance gates that include Oloololo, Sand River, Musiara, Talek and Sekenani Gates.