Are you planning to go for a game drive? Your first stop should be the famous Masai Mara National Reserve. This is the home of wildlife, magical experience, natural beauty, and Maasai fascinating culture, where wild animals like the lions, elephants, hippos, cheetahs, and zebras live.
There is a gentleness in this national reserve appeal.
On your arrival, you meet with the sounds and sights of premier wildlife.
The size of the national reserve can be daunting, but exploring its riches will be worth your time.
Besides animals, Mara Park offers endless spectacular views and plains.
The reserve environment features a whole lot of fauna and flora.
Mara National Reserve researchers have reported that the park is the home for over 100 animal species and 500 bird species, making it one of the largest animal reserves in the world.
Masai Mara wildlife goes through the natural cycle of birth, growth, survival, and death.
Masai Mara national reserve location
This reserve is located in Narok County, Kenya.
It is part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem.
On the south of Masai Mara is the Serengeti Park in Tanzania.
Maasai pastoral ranches also surround it, and to the west, you find the Siria escarpment.
Things to do in the Masai Mara national reserve
There are various activities you can do while in Mara to make your vacation memorable.
What are some of the things to do in the Mara National reserve?
1. Game drives
Also known as Safari in Kenya and other African countries, is where you get to see the Big Fives and other wild animals while driving around the game reserve.
It is your chance to see elephants, lions, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, hippos, giraffes, Nile crocodiles, hyenas, gazelles, zebra, antelopes, among others.
Arm yourself with a quality camera and binoculars, as there is a lot to see in this national reserve.
You will get to take a lot of colourful photos when you are out on the Mara Safari.
When it comes to Masai Mara Safari, you can either drive during the day or at night.
With the help of a trained tour guide, you get to uncover the natural beauty of the Masai Mara national reserve.
The game drive is one of the things that make this game reserve a popular tourist destination.
2. A visit to the Maasai village
Not only is Masai Mara home for wildlife, but the beautiful Masai culture also surrounds it.
A visit to this reserve can’t be complete without learning the Maasai culture.
Maasai is probably the only community in Kenya that stills embrace its culture.
There is something beautiful about the Maasai way of life.
You might have seen great photos of Maasais’ jumping in the air holding spears.
A visit to the Maasai community near the Masai Mara gives you a chance to capture such photos.
The visit will leave you with an amazing cultural experience.
Their Lifestyle is colourful!
As you pull into the parking lot of the Maasai village, you will be greeted with their smiling faces and lively Maasai chants.
The Maasai women will offer women Maasai wraps and necklaces while the Maasai men offer traditional Maasai sarongs.
3. Guided game walk
Get to explore the wildlife and natural beauty of the park with the help of skilled and friendly tour guides.
The tour guides know the Masai national reserve like the palm of their hands.
There is no better way to explore the national reserve than having a guided game walk.
Get to see firsthand the wildlife savannahs you watched on the nature documentaries.
Wildebeest, zebras, impalas, gazelles, giraffes, and the Big Fives, as well as Acacia trees, dot this national reserve.
If you would like to keep these wonderful memories, bring a camera.
Get to capture incredible moments like the wildebeest migration.
Discover everything about this national reserve while listening to its history.
4. Mobile camping
Mobile camping is another thing that makes this national reserve capture the tourists’ hearts.
This is one of the ways to connect with the stunning national reserve nature.
Whether you crave for a jaw-dropping scenery or open landscapes to relax your body and mind, there is a place for you on the Masai Mara national reserve.
You can view the beautiful wildlife from your tent.
If you like the thrill of sleeping in a bushy surrounding listening to the sounds of the wild animals, you can set a camp at the Naboisho Conservancy.
Security isn’t an issue as there will be Maasai guards and guides, making your stay as safe as possible.
However, if you would like luxurious camps, there are numerous camps in reserve, like Mara Plains, Richard’s River Camp, Elephant Pepper Camp, Paolo Parazzi’s Mobile Camp, Naboisho Camp, Roberts Safaris Camp, Offbeat Mara, Salas Camp, among others.
5. Hot air balloon
Hot Air Balloon over the Masai Mara National is another incredible thing to see in the national reserve ecosystem.
In fact, you should include it in the bucket list of the things to do while vacationing in the national reserve.
As you start your Safari drive in the morning, the hot air balloon lets you see the sunrise and rays sparkling and peaking through the blue clouds above Mara.
The beautiful scenery, shadows of clouds, and circles of trees make Balloon Safari a memorable adventure!
It helps you get a better perspective of this national reserve.
Just before dawn, the balloon will depart from the Governors Camp and rise as the first sun rays light the reserve.
Enjoy the ride with your friends and family as you float above the Mara plains watching the wildlife, forest, and Mara River below.
Balloon Safari is a unique experience where you get to see the structure of Masai Mara National Reserve from above as you drift in the Maasai breeze.
You get to understand why the reserve was named Mara (Spotted).
6. Visit River Mara
The Mara River originates from the famous Mau Escarpment.
The river lies across two famous game reserves: Mara & Serengeti reserves.
The river drains into Lake Victoria: Another tourist destination in Kenya.
It is the greatest source of water for the wild animals within the reserve.
During the dry seasons, the Mara River appears shallow but swells up during the rainy season.
The good thing is that the river never dries up.
It doesn’t matter when you plan to visit Mara park as the river will always be there for you to see.
You might have come across a documentary on the Mara River.
The river is quite famous because of Nile crocodiles and wildebeest crossing.
Millions of Wildebeest and Zebra cross the river in their journey for green pastures between Kenya and Tanzania.
There is an abundance of Nile crocodiles in this river!
The river is the heart of the Mara National Reserve.
Not only will you find crocodiles here, but birds and hippos too.
7. Watching birds
There are several types of birds in this national park.
The national park is a popular tourist destination with the second-highest of wild animal species in Africa.
This national reserve is a conducive habitat for hundreds of birds.
According to some reports, there are about 450 species of birds in this game reserve.
It is home for the magpie shrike, rosy-throated long claw, Secretary bird, Rosy Breasted long claw, Southern Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Schalow’s Turaco, Red-necked Spurfowl, Grey-Crested Helmetshrike, White-headed Vulture, Red-Winged Francolin, Bare-Faced Go-away-bird, Temminck’s Courser, Southern Ground Hornbill, chested Swallow, among other bird species.
The reserve Vultures are gorgeous birds.
The vultures look homely and are easy to spot as they follow the lion kills.
Another stunning bird is the ostrich!
The best time for bird watching is from November to April.
Nevertheless, you can watch the birds at any time of the year.
A bird specialist who will highlight anything you need to know about the Masai Mara birds conducts the bird watching adventure.
Although the big animals dominate tourists’ attention, watching the birds is also another activity to enjoy while in reserve.
You will spot birds like ground hornbills on the grasslands and spot different cranes and storks on the swampy areas.
8. Watch the fascinating wildebeest migration
The wildebeest migration is the most thrilling display of park wildlife behaviours.
Hundreds of grant gazelle and zebra accompany the wildebeest during the migration.
From July to October, they arrive at the national reserve from the Serengeti Reserve in Tanzania.
The wildebeest migrates in search of greener grass.
What makes this natural phenomenon more stunning is the crossing of River Mara.
Herds of grazing animals rushing into the crocodile invaded river are a great sight to witness.
The migration isn’t a once a year thing, but annual event.
This is also the period wildebeest mating happens.
The bull wildebeest through a call ritual attracts the cow wildebeest.
9. Horse Safari
Another way to explore this national reserve is by riding a horse.
Masai Mara is one of the few game reserves in Africa, where horse riding is allowed.
A guide and a professional horse rider with years of experience riding horses at the Masai Mara Park will accompany you.
The horses are trained to listen to visitors and are very gentle.
If you are a researcher searching for more information about the Mara Park wildlife, riding a horse will give you a chance to know everything about the reserve.
While riding, you get a chance to touch the friendly animals, study the birds, small insects, shrubs, among other Mara reserve attractions.
10. Watch the African Sundowner
After the day adventures, this is your ‘happy hour’ for relaxing as you enjoy your favourite cocktail.
The Sundowner happens as the sunsets over the Mara Park bush.
Most Mara park camps have unique African sundowner spots where you get to experience the magical African sunset moment.
This is the time to get served delicious African bites, cocktails, and drinks.
During a sundowner is the best time to just sit back, relax, and listen to the sounds of reserve wildlife.
Masai Mara national reserve animals
Masai Park wildlife is what makes the Masai Mara national reserve a popular tourist destination.
All kinds of wild animals dominate the park. Actually, it is one of the major animal parks in Africa.
There are numerous beautiful animals in the Mara reserve from the Big Fives, birds to gazelle, and zebras.
Mara Park offers spectacular viewing of wildlife throughout the year.
1. Big fives
Lions: They are one of the big five animals found in Mara Park. The Mara Park lions live in groups, also known as pride. 3 to 20 lions form a pride! You will find many lionesses and their young ones as well as a few male lions in a pride. The male’s head, guard and protect the pride. When it comes to hunting prey, the lioness will take charge. Nevertheless, sometimes the males assist hunting. A few years ago, it was estimated that there are about 2000 lions in Kenya, and 420 of them reside in Mara Park. The best time to spot lions in the national reserve is between July and October.
Elephant: The second big five animals that can be seen in the national reserve is the Elephant. An elephant is one of the world’s largest animals, which weighs up to 6.6 tons. The trunk of an elephant is something to behold. The trunk is the extension of the nose and upper lip of the Elephant. The Elephant uses the trunk to handle objects, feed, communicate, and fight rivals. It has been reported an increase in the number of African Elephants in the park. The chances of spotting Elephants in the Mara Reserve are very high all year round.
The hippopotamus: Another large animal found in the national reserve. They graze on dry land and eat around 80 pounds of vegetation per day. Hippos are water-loving animals! You will find their upper body floating while the rest of their body is submerged in water. They are the rulers of Mara riverbanks and are constantly fighting with the reserve crocodiles.
Cape buffalo: They are among the big five animals in Masai Mara National Park. In 2017 it was estimated there is over 9400 buffalo in Mara National Reserve. When it comes to being a threat to human beings, among the big fives, Cape Buffalo is the biggest threat. They are known for being protective and territorial. When they feel threatened, they can charge at a very high speed. These herbivore animals graze on the savannah and floodplains of the Masai Mara National Reserve. The chances of spotting Cape buffalo all year round are very high.
Black Rhino: Another large animal found in the Masai Mara National Park. You will find one of the five Rhino species in the national reserve. These African Rhinos are black and have two horns. They use the horns to fight predators like lions. Black Rhinos are herbivore animals: they feed on bushes and trees foliage and grass.
The cheetah is the fastest mammal in the world.
While on a game drive in the Mara Reserve, you will have a close encounter with cheetahs as they run away from predators.
They live in savannas and grasslands of this national reserve and bordering the Serengeti reserve.
The Zebras can be easily spotted because of the distinct black or brown patterns on their coat.
You can relate them with horses and donkeys.
Mara Park lions find the zebras as their favourite prey.
However, a single kick from a Zebra is very powerful such that it can kill the lion.
If you are photogenic, pictures of Zebras will make a great photo album.
You will also find crocodiles in the Mara River.
The crocodiles feed on the herbivores animals’ drinking water on the riverbank.
Also known as gnus, they are a type of African antelopes.
They are quite larger than the common antelopes.
You can relate them with cattle, goats, and sheep.
They have curved horns, bushy beards, and manes.
A group of wildebeest is termed as a herd.
The park wildebeest eat mainly leaves and grass.
Wildebeest are popular in Mara because of their migratory behaviour.
They migrate from Serengeti to Mara and vice versa in search of greener grass.
The wildebeest migration is one of the major tourist attractions in the national reserve.
6. Thompson’s gazelle
This is another type of antelope.
Thompson’s aren’t very large, like the wildebeest.
Mara Thompson’s gazelle is gorgeous.
They feed on shoots, grass, and leaves.
They are the favourite cheetah’s prey.
And they join the wildebeest migration in search of greener pastures.
The baboons look like monkeys.
In fact, they are old-world monkeys! Masai Mara baboons eat a lot.
They are also not picky.
However, you should not feed or play with them as they can attack if they think you are carrying food.
Seeing this tall mammal is very exciting.
These animals have the tallest necks and legs.
In 2017, it was estimated there over 2500 giraffes in Mara Reserve.
The chances of spotting giraffes in Mara are very high all year round.
Another wild animal you can spot in Mara Park is the leopard.
The chances of spotting a leopard in Masai Mara are medium all year around.
You can spot a leopard between sunset and sunrise.
Use the Masai Mara National Reserve trees as a point of observation.
The leopard has great hearing and vision.
They like the woodland and rocky areas of the reserve.
Other animals you will find in Mara Park include SilverBack Jackal, Vultures, Warthogs, Hyena, Hornbills, Secretary birds, Ostriches, and Crowned cranes.
How to access Masai Mara National Reserve
How can you get to the Mara Reserve? The distance from Nairobi to Mara is 270km.
If you are travelling by road, it will take you about 5hrs to reach Mara from Nairobi.
Otherwise, you can travel by air. Mara Park is a 45minutes flight from Nairobi.
And the good thing is that the Mara flights are scheduled daily.
Along the way, you get to view the beautiful landscapes like Mount Suswa, Mount Longonot, and the Great Rift Valley.
Getting to Nairobi from any corner of the world is very easy, as it is the capital city of Kenya.
Usually, international flights land at JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and from there one can take a domestic flight to Masai Mara.
Most people prefer flying than driving.
Accommodations in Masai Mara National Reserve
Mara is a game reserve rich with all kinds of extraordinary wildlife beauty that you will need more than a day to explore.
Thus, while in Mara, you definitely need a place to stay.
There are a lot of hotels and camps in Mara and the surrounding areas.
You just have to pick the one that fits your needs and budget.
Masai Mara accommodations include:
1. Hotels & Lodges
Wonderful wildlife as that of Mara deserves to be explored for some days or even weeks.
You will need a great place to relax.
This natural reserve has many luxurious hotels, 5 stars, and even 3-star hotels you can check into, and if you need a hotel near the Masai Mara.
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There are numerous great hotels with a trusted reputation in Narok town.
The good thing with luxurious hotels like Cottar’s 1920s and Mara Kempinski is the great amenities and facilities like satellite TV, WiFi, laundry and dry cleaning, security, among others.
If you would like to watch the wildebeest migration up-close, you should check into the hotels located along the migration route.
Other Mara and surrounding area hotels include Fairmont Safari Club, Keekorok Lodge, Oltome, Maendeleo Parkview Hotel, AA Lodge Maasai, Serena Safari, Sopa Lodge, Ngerende Island Lodge, among others.
If you are craving for the wild experience, then you should book a camp.
There are more than 100 camps in Mara.
Staying in a camp is the best way to get exclusive access to the Mara bush.
There are luxury camps in Mara where you will live like a VIP such as:
- Porini Lion
- Sand River
- Sala’s Camp
- Ashnil Camp
- Tipilikwani Camp
- Olumara Tented Camp
- Leisure Camp
- Sentri Camp
- Elephant Pepper Camp
- Naboisho Camp
- Rekero Camp
You can also check into the oldest permanent tented camp in reserve; Governor’s Camp.
It is the best camp for wildlife viewing.
The camps located along the wildebeest migration route like the Fig Tree Camp are suitable for the wildebeest migration lovers.
Masai Mara National Reserve Final Verdict
The Masai Mara National Reserve is home to the most beautiful wildlife in the world.
Most notable travellers have rated Mara as the best game reserve in Africa.
Surrounded by the Maasai community, the place humbles even the notorious travellers.
You get to see the beauty of nature in the eyes of the spectacular wildlife.
The atmosphere comprises of fascinating culture and beautiful environment.