As one of the most extensive and well stocked parks in Kenya, it’s not surprising that the Masai Mara is a focal point for tourists. Important, therefore, to plan carefully to avoid disappointment.
In this, the first part of our Masai Mara review we share with you our opinion on the choices of timing and methods of travel to this fantastic location.
Inevitably, the most well stocked and iconic wildlife parks will always be the first port of call for those new to safari and keen to see the Big 5, as well as those dedicated wildlifers who have to tick it off their bucket list.
This has led to an overcrowding, both in terms of tourists and the camps to cater for them – that can mar the experience for you if you don’t choose wisely.
When to go?
There’s an inescapable logic to when to go to the Mara and when you go very much depends on how you’ve put your wish-list together.
If being part of the Great Migration in dry sunny conditions that aren’t too hot when wildlife viewing is at its best – then expect to be among hundreds of other tourists, with jeeps vying for position on narrow tracks with lots of noise from both vehicles and occupants.
Peak season for the Mara is between June and October, with the migration heading back to the park in July and staying until October.
Whilst the migration offers unprecedented numbers of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and antelope, the Mara can present significant numbers of wildlife at other times of the year.
Wildlife is easily spotted in the dry months, as the bush is less dense, life is more pleasant with fewer mosquitoes and there are wall-to-wall sunny skies.
The trade off is to go to the Mara from November to May – when the bush is more lush and colourful and its therefore a little more difficult to spot wildlife, albeit its still plentiful.
At this time of year you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with other visitors and the place is more dignified in its ambiance.
Newborn calves and other offspring will be seen and its great time for migratory birds.
If you avoid March/April/May (the ‘long rains’ when some of the camps close anyway) you’ll also avoid the worst of the bad weather and it shouldn’t hamper your safari.
There are two rainy seasons, the other, the ‘short rains’ that last about two weeks from October to December shouldn’t interfere with your travel and viewing too much.
Temperatures are equable and manageable throughout the year with minimums of about 11 degrees C at night, climbing to a maximum of 28 degrees C during the day. These are sensible temperatures, especially as the Mara straddles the Equator but don’t be blase about protecting yourself as its the altitude that moderates temperatures here but intensifies the effect of UV rays.
How to travel?
The Masai Mara is a National Reserve (not a National Park) and is technically owned by the Maasai tribe who are still present in numerous villages within the reserve.
It differs in this regard from the Serengeti in Tanzania (with which it is contiguous) where no Maasai are permitted to live.
It’s a vast area, covering approx. 1,500 km2 (583 sq. mls) and has a diverse terrain with a landscape of grassy plains and rolling hills, crossed by the Mara and Talek rivers.
Because of its size and depending on your availability of time you might find it easier to arrive at and traverse the Mara by light aircraft.
The journey by air from Nairobi (Wilson Airport) takes approx. 45 mins, compared with a 6 hr drive.
You can drive within the park or you may choose to fly between any of the seven or so airstrips and hook up with the jeeps of the lodges in which you stay for game drives.
The lodges will meet you at the various airstrips and return you to them for onward travel.
Your itinerary can be designed around the light aircraft schedules, albeit the routing changes frequently, so timings might vary by an hour or so from day to day – almost on a whim!
Personally, we found a mix of the two to work for us – by flying to and from the Mara but having our own vehicle throughout our stay within it – we’re always just too worried about missing something!
Having our own vehicle also brings the important benefit of being able to dictate when and where we go within the park, to be able to stop when we wish and for however long we wish, without having to worry about the feelings or preferences of others.
It just depends how sociable, or tolerant, you are!
Photography is a major factor in any travel we do, so the ability to sit still and quiet when and where necessary is invaluable to us.
The photo here gives you some idea of how socially unacceptable this would be in a car with other less photography-minded individuals – or even those who wanted to take their own pictures!
It’s a small consideration but one that can become significant if you haven’t factored it into your own preparations when planning your safari.
Can we help you?
If you’re planning your own trip to the Masai Mara or you’d like to know more about anything we’ve mentioned in this post then please contact us – but why not ask us to arrange your own tailor-made travel – to immerse yourself in the wonders of history and safari in East Africa?
Why not download the TLC World guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to submit your own personal itinerary request