African Safaris

Masai Mara Safari: The Right Way to Plan Your Trip

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Taking a Masai Mara safari is one of the most interesting things to do in Kenya. In fact, when it comes to landscapes and local widlife, there is simply nowhere better to spend a few days. However, due to the popularity of the experience, taking a masai mara safari can be a terrible disappointment for some tourists.

That is to say; without the proper research, you will find unreliable operators and frustrating travel experiences at every turn. Also, it can be a challenge to pinpoint companies who will take time to organize a safari in the Masai Mara that you will remember for the right reasons.

For this reason, and after five years working as an overland tour leader in Africa, I wanted write about the best way to organize a masai mara safari.

Masai Mara Safari & How to Avoid Disappointment

Masai Mara Safari

You can take a safari to the Masai Mara at any time of year. The conservation area is overflowing with wildlife such as lion, elephant, leopard, zebra, hyena and giraffe. Quite often, my previous guests have said that this was the best place to see lion in Africa. Keep in mind, I had taken these same guests through Botswana and even the Serengeti.

Best Time to Take a Masai Mara Safari

The Wildebeest Migration takes place between July and November. During this time, more than two million wildebeest, gazelle and zebra will travel between the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. In case you might be asking yourself, these two regions are beside each other and divided by the infamous Mara River.

Short rains arrive in the month of November and this is when the last of the Wildebeest travel south into the Serengeti. However, calving season also takes place in the Masai Mara in December and January which is also an incredibly green and luscious period. Due to the healthy population of wildebeest, lion and other predators remain close by at this time.

Deciding Between a Lodge or Camping in the Masai Mara

If you can afford a company who stays at a particular lodge, my advice is to go for it. However, just also know that sleeping in a tent is incredibly interesting in Africa. It may not be as comfortable but with the price being significantly less, you might find more value in this option. Either way, the accomodation is pretty impressive and camping is a lot of fun.

About Taking a Hot Air Balloon in the Masai Mara

Once again, if money is not an issue, I recommend this incredibly beautiful experience. You will start the morning with a 4am drive to the take-off zone before enjoying some of the most memorable scenes I can remember in Africa. Surprisingly, you can also see so much from up above and it offers a new perspective of the Mara. However, you need to organize the hot air balloon ride ahead of time and the price is usually upward of $400 per person.

Choose a 3 Day Masai Mara Safari

Honestly, don’t even bother taking a day trip. In fact, if a tour operator even suggests this as an option, hang up the phone. Taking a 3 day Masai Mara Safari will give you time to see everything. Further, it will allow you time to travel to the Mara River which is often too far for shorter trips. Also, you will obviously have two nights in the wild on a 3 day tour which is much more enticing than a quick in-and-out overnight stay.

“How” is More Important Than What You Get to See

As you may know, the Masai Mara National Reserve is the flagship for conservation areas in Kenya. You will find stunning landscapes and local wildlife throughout but you must remember that how you see this region is just as important as what you get to see. In other words, you do not want to be thrown into a tiny matatu which is not designed for a masai mara safari and you want to avoid careless tour guides who do not have a passion for what they do.

Here are some tips and advice to help you choose the best company to organize your Masai Mara safari:

Choosing the Right Tour Operator for a Masai Mara Safari

Africa is quite a primitive place and running a tour can be especially challenging in this part of the world. You should expect delays on a daily basis and things to go wrong on occasion. However, having witnessed so many unreliable tours in Africa, let me tell you that choosing the right tour operator will make all the difference.

To avoid disappoinment, do not travel with budget tour companies for this particular experience. Choose a company who provide and cook the meals. If you want to avoid camping, research the precise lodge you will be staying at and never make any payment unless the departure is guaranteed.

Ask the Operator About the Safari Vehicle

Just so you know, due to the layout of safari vehicles, there is usually a middle seat in the back which is a frustrating spot for wildlife viewing. When this seat is spare, you have nothing to worry about. To avoid disappoinment, make sure that you confirm the type and size of your vehicle for the masai mara safari. Ideally, you will have a Landcruiser and at least one seat spare in the vehicle.

Confirm the Group Size for Your Masai Mara Safari

As already mentioned, you want to know how many people are in the vehicle. However, are you comfortable with joining a convoy of safari vehicles? In some instances, a tour operator can send multiple vehicles on a Masai Mara safairi at the same time. This might mean that you are sharing a campfire with twenty people instead of eight. To avoid disappointment, confirm the group size and whether you can expect time and space on your Masai Mara safari.

Know Your Tour Guide

After working as an overland tour leader in Africa for so long, I fully realize the importance of this one. Tour guides have the potential to ruin your Masai Mara safari. True, every guide is different but trust me, you want one who cares about the trip. To avoid disappointment, ask the operator about your guide and do not settle for anything less than a glowing report about a specific individual.

If you have any questions about your Masai Mara safari or indeed anywhere in Africa, let me know in the comments!


Derek Cullen is an experienced overland tour leader in Africa. He is best known for cycling across Africa and writing about travel in Africa for many online media publications. If you would like advice or information for your trip to Africa, you can speak with him directly through the LiveChat box!


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  2. andy

    October 17, 2018 at 3:03 am

    Loved your travel guide. It will definitely help me on my next trip.

  3. Jojo

    October 18, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    I think your tip about knowing your tour guide is so important. A good/bad tour guide can make or break a trip. Not just about how knowledgable they are about there they are guiding you but like you said, someone who cares about what they are talking about will provide a much better experience.
    Jojo recently posted…Hoi An :: Start of my Mi Quang ObsessionMy Profile

  4. Chris

    October 19, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Man, what a place! This is essential for people who plan to travel to a country with not clearly regulated travel industry. Out of curiosity, what’s average price for a 3 day tour?

  5. Nicole Brewer

    October 19, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    I visited the Masai Mari a few years ago in Kenya. These are great tips! I was fortunate enough to stay in a safari lodge but didn’t get a chance to do the hot air balloon there. This looked like a great time!

  6. Danijela

    October 20, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Love this! Kenya is still on my bucket list, so this is more than useful. I can see how information such as the time of the migration can be important, since I would love to see zebra in the wild. Will have to remember that it takes place from June to November. Saving this for later as well, thanks! 🙂

  7. Anshula

    October 22, 2018 at 3:41 am

    This is such a helpful article! I can’t believe that two million animals travel between the two parks! That must be an astounding sight. I love the tip about confirming the group size (for some reason I always thought that the group size was equivalent to the vehicle size).

  8. Pau

    October 22, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Hope I go to Masai Mara sometime in this life. So jealous! What was the most interesting thing you saw in terms of wildlife in Masai Mara? What would you say is unique comparing to other safari destinations?


    October 23, 2018 at 8:58 am

    I do agree with your point about the tour guide in fact for any tour you take anywhere I think the tour guide is very important. Have got a little one so planning a Masai Mara trip after a few years when she grows up.. Might bug you with my questions then 🙂

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