Are you eyeing for a legitimate African safari experience? How about a picture-perfect vacation? Africa boasts a widespread caboodle of game reserves and wildlife zones that people flock to every year. With its vast selection of breathtaking game parks, it’s no secret that Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve remains to be the quintessential safari destination. Imagine a wide open grassland and a perennial river teeming with an incredible variety of animals — lions, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, vultures, dik-diks and a thousand more. It’s a spectacle of nature! And that’s just one of the many wonderful things this park offers so it’s really not much of a surprise why Maasai Mara is the best game reserve in Africa. In fact, it has recently been ranked number one during the World Travel Awards (WTA). Why?
Maasai encompasses a magnificent 1510 km² savannah and wildlife reserve that houses not just the Big 5 which includes the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and black rhino, but also about 95 other mammal species. You can easily find cheetahs, hyenas, warthogs, jackals and bat-eared foxes wandering around the wide open grasslands; antelopes, gazelles, impalas and giraffes lounging on the plains; and hippos, turtles and Nile crocodiles taking a plunge or sunbathing on the riverbanks. Aside from these, Maasai Mara also features a prolific avifauna with over 450 species including storks, hornbills, long-crested eagles and even Africa’s national bird, the lilac-breasted roller.
Do you know that during the Great Migration which happens around July through October, millions of wildebeests, Thomson’s gazelles, elands, topi and zebras stampede across the river and plains of Maasai Mara? People await this annual natural event and even refer to it as the “World Cup of Wildlife.” In fact, this remarkable wildebeest migration is now recognized as one of the new 7 world wonders.
If you’re lucky enough to time your Kenya safari holiday in July or August, you’ll be able to witness the eventful and utterly intense river crossing. Why intense? Because it is no ABC for the migrants as they try to cross the river alive. Remember the huge Nile crocodiles I told you about? Yep, they act like blood-curling immigration officers (except they eat you, not deport you). Yikes!
Fulfilling your wildest African dream vacation is super easy in the Mara. You can organize your trip to tailor-fit to your needs and budget with several tour operators to choose. From swimming to skydiving to hot air ballooning to horseback riding, Maasai Mara will definitely leave you delighted. And if you’re traveling with your family, the Mara doesn’t go short on kids’ programmes, too. Apart from these, you can also visit the Maasai tribe and spend time with them over drinks and dancing. Afterall, they are the best companions to a full and authentic African safari getaway, right?
To explore the vast wilderness, you can also choose to take a 4×4 vehicle and go on an interpretive game drive with expert rangers. Otherwise, you can view the limitless horizon on a walking tour with very savvy and extremely entertaining tour guides.
If you’re on a honeymoon, you can’t go wrong with the Mara as it also promises an unmatched romantic holiday. Among the many romantic activities and options, you can arrange a private candle-lit dinner, laze around the white sandy beach and request for fresh flowers. In fact, to substantiate its utterly romantic vibe, some people even get married in the midst of the wild!
The Mara can cater to your housing needs with their comprehensive available selection — from basic campsites to budget lodges to luxury cabins to exclusive villas. You have the option to pick a location, like somewhere near the river or perhaps in a prime wildlife area, and you can also opt to prepare your own food or go with their full board option. If you fancy a good old fashioned camping experience, you can either pitch your own tent or rent one of theirs. Whichever type of accommodation you choose, the Mara features cutting-edge facilities and guarantees a five-star service.
The Mara has 5 primary zones: Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western and Central. Depending on your travel preferences, here’s an overview and a quick breakdown of the most recommended places in the reserve:
- Northern Masai Mara
With 6 private conservancies (Mara North, Olare Motorogi, Ol Choro Oiroua, Ol Kinyei, Mara Naboisho and Lemek), this area accents an amazing flora and fauna in the wilderness and offers breathtaking rivers to plains location. Examples of lodges in this area are:
- Ngare Serian (Premium)
- Elephant Pepper Camp (Deluxe)
- Speke’s Camp (Value)
- Mara Plains Camp (Premium)
- Kicheche Bush Camp (Deluxe)
- Loyk Mara Camp (Value)
Ol Choro Oiroua
- Ngerende Island Lodge (Premium)
- Richard’s Forest Camp (Deluxe)
- Porini Mara Camp (Deluxe)
- Gamewatcher’s Adventure Camp (Value)
- Ol Seki Mara (Premium)
- Naboisho Camp (Deluxe)
- Basecamp Eagle View (Value)
- Mara River Lodge (Value)
- Enkerende Tented Camp (Value)
- Southern Masai Mara
This region has both a private conservancy and the main reserve. As the zone with the lowest density of guests, you can surely relish a solitary getaway.
- Cottar’s 1920’s Camp (Premium)
- Sala’s Camp (Deluxe)
- Enkewa Mara Camp (Value)
- Eastern Masai Mara
Contrary to the southern zone, this area relatively has the highest density of lodges and camps. It features accommodations in the main reserve as well as in a private conservancy.
- Mara Bushtops (Premium)
- Leleshwa Camp (Deluxe)
- Ilkeliani Camp (Value)
- Western Masai Mara
Every accommodation in this zone provides game drives and bush walks to the Mara Triangle — the part that covers one-third of the main reserve and embraces the Mara River.
- Sanctuary Olonana (Premium)
- Kilima Camp (Deluxe)
- Mara Siria Camp (Value)
- Central Masai Mara
Located in the heart of Masai Mara, the central zone is perfect for those who want front row seats during the wildebeest migration. Although you have to prepare yourself for the possible human and vehicle traffic during the event.
- Governor’s IL Moran Camp (Premium)
- Little Governor’s Camp (Deluxe)
- Entim Camp (Value)
A few years back, traveling to Masai Mara is kind of a struggle. Luckily today, a variety of airlines fly daily and directly to this area. What’s even greater is that anyone can easily charter a plane to different locations in the Mara. This is making sure tourists can directly tarry a particular region in the reserve according to their liking. Yey! Airlines flying to the Maasai Mara include Safarilink, Governor’s Aviation and Air Kenya.