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A guide to Maasai Mara

safari in Maasai Mara in Kenya

The national reserve to end all national reserves, this is Maasai Mara, the crown jewel of Kenya. Filled with amazing wildlife and blanketed by the widest most gorgeous skies, visiting Maasai Mara is like visiting a dream, and we honestly believe that everyone should experience it at least once in their life.

But when should you go? For how long? What’s the weather like, when is the best time to book a safari? Questions, so many questions, must be running through your mind, but don’t worry because we’ve partnered with Haron Mbugua, one of Contiki’s trusted Trip Managers, to deliver all the answers to you.

Read on for our ultimate guide to Maasai Mara and get those Kenyan Highlights in your calendar! 

What is Maasai Mara?

Maasai Mara is a national reserve in Kenya, and one of the most famous and popular safari destinations in Africa. As it’s a national reserve this means that there are laws in place to preserve the nature and wildlife that live in the area.

It’s huge, over 1500 square km, and there’s loads to do from game drives to specialty safaris (like on horseback!), yoga retreats, and camping. And of course, it’s home to the Big 5, and many more animals. So, basically, Maasai Mara is heaven.

sleeping lions on safari in Kenya

Image source:Amy Irwin

When is the best time to go to Maasai Mara?

The best time to go on safari kind of depends on what you want to do and see, but for Maasai Mara, the best time to go is ALL. YEAR. ROUND. No joke!

“The best time to go on safari is anytime between November and February,” says Haron. “This is because it’s very green – the scenery is very beautiful, but the grass is also shorter so there’s better chances of actually seeing animals. Also, this is a good time to see baby animals as well.” He also adds that this time of year is good to visit because “We don’t get a lot of tourists, especially in December.”

That being said, July to August is when the Great Migration takes place, so if you want to see safari animals galore, then this is your time to head to Kenya and Maasai Mara! It’ll be a little busier, but watching the hoards of zebras, gazelles, and wildebeests cross makes it all worth it.

If on the other hand you want to avoid crowds, then the rainy season is the perfect time for you. This happens in the months of March to May, and then again around September to October. So, whatever you’re looking for, there’s a perfect time to travel to Maasai Mara for you.

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What is the weather in Maasai Mara like?

Maasai Mara is perfect for all you sun-bums out there because the great golden orb literally never stops shining! The lowest temperatures average around 14 degrees celsius, and the highest around 36 degrees celsius. As the country is very close to the equator, the seasons don’t change all that much, so you’ll always be pleasantly warm.

The only times you might get wet are during the country’s rainy season which is generally between the months of March and May, and then again in October, though the rain only really falls for two hours a day and then it’s bright sunshine again!

sunset over Maasai Mara, Kenya

Image source:Contiki

Costs and accommodation in Maasai Mara

Both of these will kind of depend on the time you go: the heaviest tourist season in Kenya is around the summer months from May to October. “This is because of the migration routes,” says Haron, “That’s when we see the most tourists, and because demand is high, the costs are high.”

You can get a range of different accommodations from standard hotels, to hotels right beside the savannah – like Sentrim Mara Camp, which is the stay Contiki offers. Lodges in the wild, you’ll be able to hear nature move all around you for a serene and unique sleeping environment. “You can see the sunrise and sunsets which are incredible, and the open savannah with trees and beautiful skies. It’s magical. It’s something different.”

And, if you travel with Contiki on our Kenyan Highlights trip, your accommodation and travel costs are already included, and so are your meals, so you just have to budget for all those special extras. Easy.

What should I pack for Maasai Mara?

If you’re visiting Africa for the first time it’s important to be prepared, especially if you’re planning a safari getaway. Generally, you can pack as you would for a normal holiday under the sun: shorts, bathing suits, loose clothing; but there are a few essentials you can’t forget.

In terms of the clothing you pack, keep it basic. You don’t have to wear full neutral colours (unless you love beige on beige), but it goes without saying that bright colours should be avoided while on safari. That’s a no for you neon-enthusiasts, “these colours should try and be avoided.” Check out our full safari packing guide here for extra tips.

Depending on what you decide to get up to in Maasai Mara it’s also a good idea to pack a pair of longer bottoms and a few less revealing items for any places of respect. It’s also a good idea to pack a jumper for the cooler evenings, and a raincoat if you’re visiting during the rainy season.

lion under tree in Kenya

Image source:Amy Irwin

What kind of animals live in Maasai Mara?

Maasai Mara is an animal paradise, so any safari animal you can think of probably lives there! Getting a glimpse of them all is a bit of a different story as some come out at different times of day, some have amazing camouflage, and some enjoy staying hidden.

But to name a few, there’s leopards, lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, buffalos, wildebeests, hyenas, gazelles, and crocodiles. Phew. Maasai Mara is also filled with an abundance of gorgeous birds: colourful kingfishers, huge ostriches, and imposing birds of prey. 

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When is the best to see the Big 5 in Maasai Mara?

You’ll love this answer: basically any time! “One of the reasons Maasai Mara is so popular is because of the abundance of wildlife that can be seen throughout the year.” Haron continues to say that if you’re after the Big 5 any time of the year, is good!

So this gives you so much liberty to plan your vacation.

elephants in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Image source:Amy Irwin

What and when is the Great Migration? When does it pass through Maasai Mara?

The Great Migration is basically the safari equivalent of the Oscars or the Met Gala: it’s the event of the year where all the animal celebrities (zebras, gazelles, wildebeests) gather and get together and mingle. It’s also known as the Great Wildebeest Migration because, of all the animals that make the journey, the wildebeest are the most abundant.

This event occurs every year and it is the largest animal migration in the world with more than 2 million animals migrating clockwise from the Serengeti to Maasai Mara. Needless to say, this is one of the most sought after sights of the safari world and if it’s not already on your bucket list it should be!

The Great Migration takes place over the whole year basically, but the best time to see it in Kenya is between August and October. “This is one of the attractions that travellers most want to see, and the best time in Kenya is August and mid-September.”

How long should I stay in Maasai Mara for?

How long do you want to experience pure and utter bliss for? The length of your trip to Kenya and Maasai Mara is definitely up to you, but our expert opinion is that a few days hits the perfect sweet spot. Makes sense, then, that our Kenyan Highlights trip takes you around the national reserve for just that length of time! 

This then gives you time to visit some of Kenya’s other amazing National Reserves such as Nairobi National Park and Amboseli. If that adventurous travel bug has bitten you good and you just can’t get enough, then 2 weeks ought to do the trick, and for those with a lust for safari we have the East Africa Safari trip which will bring you around Maasai Mara and Amboseli, but also the Serengeti in Tanzania.

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