The Maasai Mara is located in Narok County in Kenya, about 7 hours drive from Nairobi by road or 45 minutes via domestic flights. The word Mara is a Maasai word which literally means spotted. The Maasai people, who are the ancestral residents of the areas surrounding the game reserve, referred to this magical place as the Mara because of its picturesque landscape dotted with craters, acacia trees, and of course, the breathtaking wildlife.
The Mara is best known for its vast population of lions, cheetahs, leopards, zebras, bird species and other animals. The reserve constitutes less than 0.01% of Africa’s total landmass, but it is home to 40% of Africa’s wildlife species. Masai Mara is also the arena for the annual wildebeest migration.
During the migration, over 1.2 million wildebeest, zebras, and different species of antelopes cross the crocodile-infested Mara river from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The migration occurs annually, but the best time to view is between May and July when the actual Mara river crossing occurs. As the saying goes, no Kenya safari is complete without a visit to the Masai Mara. The park recently won Africa Leading National Park award for the 6th time in a row at the 25th World Travel Awards. In this article, we look at the top 5 things to do during an African safari holiday to Masai Mara.
1. Game drive
Most people assume that the best time for a Masai Mara safari is July – September during the great wildebeest migration. On the contrary, the Masai Mara national reserve is a haven of wildlife all year round. From January to December, the park will have enough raw dram to feast your eyes and unending adventure. Some of the guaranteed sightings during a safari trip in the Mara include all members of the big 5 – lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffaloes. You will also have a chance to spot the over 96 different species of Mammals that reside here and well over 450 bird species. So, remember to pack your camera.
During your visit, you can opt for an all-day game drives with packed lunch. Alternatively, you can go for a morning game drive which starts at dawn till noon. Early morning is the best time to catch the animals as they move out to feed. You have a good chance to catch a leopard, cheetah or a lion stalking its prey. As the days go by, the sun gets hot and the animals retreat to rest. This is the best time to catch a bit.
Evening game drive showcases Masai Mara in new light. You will see large herds of elephant as they walk back to their sleeping quarters. How about sunset game drives? The adventure that awaits you during the safari trip to Masai Mara is raw and indescribable.
The game drives are typically guided with an English-speaking driver who also doubles up as a tour guide. However, if your budget allows, you can add a dedicated guide for a more luxurious experience. These guided game drives are typically done in custom 4×4 safari land cruiser with an open roof for optimal game viewing. The vehicles get extremely but safely close to the animals, which adds to the thrill of the experience.
As the saying goes, the best way to explore a new place is with the people who were born and raised there. So, if you are planning a Kenya safari to Masai Mara, visit AjKenyaSafaris.com and see their collection of Kenya holiday packages. This tour operator has been in the Kenya travel industry for over 2 decades, and their guides were born and raised in Kenya. So, on a Masai Mara tour with them, expect insider access to the natural wonders of the Mara.
2. Interact with the Maasai people
The Maasai people are the natives of the Masai Mara and they have lived here for several centuries. Even though there are over 42 tribes in Kenya, the Maasai are arguably the only community whose culture has remained immune to change over the years. For instance, they still live in their traditional gated communities (Manyatta) and are still nomadic pastoralists.
The Maasai people have learned to coexist with wildlife, and a teenager can slay a lion armed with only a small machete. They make very beautiful jewelry, sandals and garments so you are guaranteed to find awesome souvenirs to take back home. There are several manyattas around the park and visiting them will help you to get a first-hand experience with this amazing culture. The Mara are the most photographed people in the word – your African safari trip to the Masai Mara will help you discover why.
3. The wildebeest migration
The wildebeest migration is what puts the Maasai Mara on the map. It is one of the most amazing natural spectacles – so breathtaking that it has been listed as one of the wonders of the world. Every year from July – September, thousands of wildebeest that are often accompanied by Grant’s gazelles, elands, impala, and Thompson’s gazelles migrate across the Mara River into the Masai Mara ecosystem (from Serengeti National Park in the neighboring, Tanzania).
The animals migrate in search of pasture and water. Witnessing the migration will bring you to terms with the constant battle in the wilderness that is all about survival for the fittest. In fact, if you had to choose only one time and one thing to do in the Mara, this should be it. Nothing is more exhilarating than witnessing herds of wildebeest jump into the crocodile-infested Mara river in their attempt to cross over to the other side.
4. Hot air balloon
The Mara is a concoction of breathtaking flora and fauna and a hot air balloon is the best way to take in this amazing ecosystem in all its glory. The hot air balloon excursion will most likely start at sunrise. The ride gives you an opportunity to witness the magical grassland savannah of the Mara as it comes to life in the morning sunshine.
You get to take in the beautiful forests, rivers, streams and other physical features that make the Mara habitat for the hundreds of species that you will see as you glide over the park. Most balloon rides last an hour which is ample time to witness the beautiful and majestic animals. Remember to carry your camera because this will give you the best vantage point for award-winning pictures and videos.
Apart from the animals, a hot air balloon is also the best way to see the magnificent Mara river. This river separates the Serengeti from the Mara and it is the venue for the phenomenal annual wildebeest migration.
After an hour of gliding over the Mara, you can end the flight to a hearty and sumptuous breakfast before you continue with the other activities of the day.
5. Guided walking safari
The early explorers explored wildlife on foot or on horseback – and you can enjoy a guided walking safari too! If you think a game drive is exhilarating, wait until you experience a walking safari in the wild. For safety reasons, walking safaris are prohibited in the park but you can still take one in the Mara Naboisho conservancy located insider the Mara game reserve.
Naboisho Conservancy is a 50,000 -acre conservancy in the Mara region and it is an awesome example of how tourism can be harnessed to enhance conservation while at the same time benefiting the local community. Because you are no longer in the confines of your vehicle or hot air balloon, you get to explore lots of wildlife, e.g., bugs, birds, etc. that would be impossible to interact within a vehicle.
So, there you have it – the top 5 things you must do in the Maasai Mara in order to get all the game park has to offer. There are lots of other activities that you can enjoy including horse riding in the park, bird watching, visiting the Mara river, chattering a plane to fly over the Mara, and lots more, but the 5 things highlighted above are the musts. You will, without a doubt, enjoy the Mara so much that you will start planning your next visit even before the first one is over. Visit Masaimarasafari.in and book your Kenya safari holiday to Masai Mara. The brand has been in the Kenya travel industry for a decade and they have holiday packages of all budgets.