In my opinion, Masai Mara in Kenya provides the best Safari experience. Of course, you can argue that you will find similar wildlife in the many other safari parks throughout Africa. And of course, these parks will certainly have their own unique reasons to pay a visit. However, for various reasons the Masai Mara park seems to beat them all!
The key reason for going on safari is obviously the wildlife! Masai Mara has all the wildlife you could possibly wish for, and loads of them. The park has all the big 5; Lions, Buffalo’s, Elephants, Leopards, and Rhinos. Although, minor downside, the latter is very rare to see due to poaching issues. Furthermore, you will see countless zebras, wildebeests, ostriches, hyenas, jackals (we even saw baby jackals) and numerous birds. We also saw multiple cheetahs.
Top Tip: I would particularly advise going to Masai Mara in the migration peak season (Jul-Sep) when there is an abundance of wildlife! We were lucky to have a “front row” spot at a massive crossing of wildebeests and Zebras. Just as you see them in a National Geographic documentary! In addition, this dry period means less vegetation, hence you are far better able to spot the wildlife!
Do book a high-end safari camp or lodge! As they will usually hire better guides, which spot wildlife super quick and will help beat the crowds (I even doubt they even exist in Masai Mara, but we did not come across any jeep “traffic jams”). I do not often recommend particular accommodations, but we very much liked our camp and its guide(s)! We stayed at Naibor camp, which is nicely situated next to a river with hippos and crocodiles (which provides an amazing lunch setting with excellent food!)
The camp has no fences, which means you can hear wildlife roam through the camps. (No worries there are Masai guards, the tents are closed and checked at night and the animals do not enter tents). We even got an antelope grazing in our garden…
Freedom for the Guides and Vehicles
Likely one of the main reasons why Masai Mara (and perhaps Kenya in general) stands out from other parks in Africa, is the freedom the guides seem to have. Unlike other parks (e.g. Ngoro Ngoro Crater in Tanzania) the park does not have a limited number of roads which guides have to stick to. On the contrary, there are many small roads, and where it seems fit to the guide, they are able to go off-road. This is ideal to get really close to animals. So close even that we almost ran over two lions, when spotting another member of their pack. (Look closely, you will see 3 lions, right next to our car)
Another great feature of the Masai Mara is to be able to enjoy the park outside of the car at “safe” spots. We had breakfast and sundowners outside of the car at great locations!
Top Tip: also do check what type of vehicles your camp (or tour operator) is using. We had likely the best possible type: an open Land Cruiser. Which means no obstructions and even a fridge to enjoy sundowners! To put it in contrast, we also saw minivans, with sliding windows (really not convenient for spotting wildlife!)
No “tipping issues”
We could have been just lucky, but compared to Kenya’s neighboring countries, we seemed to have incurred far less “tipping related” issues. Especially contrary to Tanzania. We did not receive any annoying “pushy” behavior when it came to tips. Our camp just had a discrete tipping box, and as far as I can remember the guides did not even mention tips. Also, no “tips” were asked by airport personnel.
This makes your whole holiday experience a lot more relaxing! No kidding, this on its own would already be a good reason to choose Kenya above other African countries.
How to get there
So I hope I convinced you!… How do you get there? We flew to one of the various airstrips in the national park. Which is less than 1 hour from Nairobi’s small Wilson Airport. (But you can fly in from many Kenyan locations).
It is possible to go by car, but I would definitely go by airplane. It is much more convenient, and fun, as you likely will spot many large herds of wildebeest, antelopes, and zebras from above.
You can book your air tickets yourself (could be slightly cheaper), or let your accommodation take care of this!
What to bring
In my books, a safari is just another holiday but some items you should definitely bring!
- Soft luggage – A backpack is likely your best choice, as this can be easily fitted in the small airplanes and is lighter. (The safari airlines can be quite particular on max 15kg and/or soft shell luggage)
- Camera – Do bring your camera as you will be taking lots of fabulous photos!
- Binoculars – Definitely a must-bring item, consider bringing one for each person in your travel group.
- Warm Clothing – Perhaps you would not expect it, but it can get quite cold. Especially early mornings and late afternoons when you are driving in the open Jeep. So bring a wind jacket and long pants.
- Mosquito spray – Contrary to what we read we did not come across any mosquitos but better to be on the safe side. (Especially with various mosquito-related diseases on the African continent).
Saving costs in Masai Mara
The best way to save costs is to make the most of your time in the park (and limit the number of expensive nights in the park).
Top Tip: Try to time your flight arrival and departure timings so you fit in the maximum safaris.
As an example: We stayed (only) 2 nights and really saw all you could wish for during multiple game drives!
- We arrived around 11h on Day 1 – had a small game drive #1 from the airstrip to the park
- Enjoyed lunch, got settled, enjoyed the surroundings (in our case the hippo pool)
- At 16h we went on evening game drive #2 (until 19h)
- Upon return we had dinner
- Next (early) morning we went for game drive #3 – (e.g. from 6.30 till 11.30)
- Enjoyed lunch again in the camp and relaxed
- At 16h we went for evening game drive again #4
- Enjoyed dinner
- Next morning we went for a game drive #5 and got dropped off at the airstrip around 10.30h
Well, there you have it! You are all set for your next amazing safari adventure!