Visit Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The wind whistles in the thorn trees. On a solitary acacia, a vulture ruffles its feathers. Above are endless skies to match the seemingly endless horizons. This must be the Masai Mara, home to the greatest animal show on earth.
The Mara Game Reserve, as it was originally known, was established in 1961. Today, it’s one of the best-known wildlife areas in Africa, home to healthy big cat populations and an abundance of plains game, bolstered by the arrival of millions of wildebeest during the Great Migration. Visit at any time and you have a good chance of seeing lion, elephant, cheetah, Masai giraffe and buffalo, as well as varied birdlife, hippo and crocodiles along the rivers.
There’s a reason the Masai Mara National Reserve is so well known and popular with visitors. With vast assemblages of plains game, together with their associated predators, it’s perhaps the only region left in Kenya where you can see animals in the same super-abundance as existed a century ago. Point a camera and in one shot you might capture dazzles of zebra and a scattering of impala, wildebeest and gazelles, elephant marching in a line and lanky giraffe nibbling the acacia trees, all against a backdrop of distant hills and vast open plains.
Everything is big here: it’s a landscape of rolling plains and rounded hills, of groves of acacia woodland and dense thickets of scrub. The reserve is bisected by the Mara River and its tributaries, which are margined by lush riverine forest and the site of spectacular river crossings during the migration.
The reserve’s southern boundary is contiguous with Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, which shares the Great Migration herds. It has been developed on the lines of a national park, where, unlike in the bordering conservancies, human settlements are unable to intrude and game-viewing is restricted to game drives and horse-riding safaris.
On your twice-daily game drives, your guide will try to find the animals you most want to see, whether it’s lion (the Masai Mara is home to the largest lion population in Kenya), species not found elsewhere in the country, such as topi and roan antelope, or birds such as kingfishers, hornbills, secretary birds and raptors.
During the Great Migration (usually between July and October), you can focus your game drives along the Mara River, where, as well as river crossings, you have a good chance of seeing predators picking off the weakest of the herds. It’s worth noting that the reserve gets very busy during these months and river crossings are near-impossible to predict, requiring huge amounts of patience.
At any time of year, you still have a chance of seeing all of the Big Five, though leopard seem to be skilled at keeping a low profile. You can also stumble across cheetah, either solitary females (sometimes with cubs) or male coalitions peering over termite mounds.
Most vehicles in the park will focus on spotting these key species. But, sometimes, the best game drives are where you don’t have a set animal goal in mind and simply see what’s out there, sticking to quieter corners for a more laid-back, authentic experience.
Best time to visit Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara, while known for its Great Migration months of July to October, is abundant in all manner of wildlife year-round. You’re most likely to experience rain between March and May, but it shouldn’t impact on your safari experience and the reserve will have fewer visitors at this time.
Suggested itineraries featuring Masai Mara National Reserve
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Masai Mara National Reserve, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Kenya and Zanzibar Archipelago
Kenya and Zanzibar Archipelago
Rwanda and Kenya
Map of Masai Mara National Reserve
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Masai Mara National Reserve
- Mara North Conservancy 28 kilometers away
- Mara Naboisho Conservancy 42 kilometers away
- Loita Hills 101 kilometers away
- Lake Victoria 150 kilometers away
- Shompole Magadi 154 kilometers away
- Lakes of the Great Rift Valley 172 kilometers away
- Lake Naivasha 172 kilometers away
- Lake Nakuru 173 kilometers away
- Nairobi 208 kilometers away
- The Laikipia Plateau 262 kilometers away
- Ol Pejeta Conservancy 271 kilometers away
- Sosian Ranch 271 kilometers away
- Amboseli National Park 279 kilometers away
- Loisaba Wilderness Conservancy 315 kilometers away
- Ol Lentille Conservancy 323 kilometers away
- Il Ngwesi Group Ranch 328 kilometers away
- Lewa Wilderness Conservancy 333 kilometers away
- Borana Ranch 343 kilometers away
- The Chyulu Hills 346 kilometers away
- Karisia Hills 346 kilometers away
- Samburu National Reserve 365 kilometers away
- Matthews Mountain Range 391 kilometers away
- Meru National Park 397 kilometers away
- Shaba National Reserve 399 kilometers away
- Tsavo West National Park 402 kilometers away
- Parks & Reserves of Northern Kenya 402 kilometers away
- Parks & Reserves of Southern Kenya 449 kilometers away
- Tsavo East National Park 454 kilometers away
Photos of Masai Mara National Reserve
Our expert guides to exploring Masai Mara National Reserve
Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Masai Mara National Reserve, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Masai Mara National Reserve at its best.
With its vast open plains scattered with wildebeest, antelope and acacia trees, Kenya is the classic image of a safari. You can safari in well-known areas like the Masai Mara and venture off-grid, as safari specialist Arista explains.
Accommodation choices for Masai Mara National Reserve
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Masai Mara National Reserve. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Brimming with authenticity, this rustic camp has a secluded location close to the main Masai Mara National Reserve, offering spacious tents with plenty of privacy.
A small, intimate tented camp with a focus on environmental sustainability, Kicheche Bush Camp's tents are spread over a kilometre of land. The eco-friendly camp is unfenced, runs completely on solar power and is located amongst some of the most diverse wildlife in the bush.
A small, very comfortable tented camp, Kicheche Valley Camp serves as a good mid-level option for guests looking to experience the Mara in an authentic environment. You may even be lucky enough to see some incredible wildlife from the camp as animals venture close to the grounds.
Situated high on a ridge in the Masai Mara’s Naboisho Conservancy, this luxurious camp provides a peaceful retreat while still being in the heart of the action when it comes to wildlife viewing.
Set in a truly stunning position on the edge of the Great Rift Valley overlooking the Masai Mara, Angama Mara is an exclusive, owner-run safari lodge offering a luxurious base from which to explore this incredible reserve and its variety of game.
Hidden in a picturesque valley within the Mara North Conservancy, Kicheche Mara Camp offers a classic bush camp experience in a prime game viewing location. While authentically simple, the camp’s welcoming hosts and low guest capacity give it an air of exclusivity.
This small, authentic camp has an exclusive feel, being one of very few camps set within the private Mara Naboisho Conservancy. Here you can enjoy fantastic game viewing, and the family safari programme means children and adults alike can explore the area’s rich wildlife and culture.
Bateleur Camp is located just outside the Olololo gate to the park, in a Masai concession area. The plains in front of camp are often frequented by warthog and zebra and wildebeest are never far away.
Governors' Camp was the first tented camp to be established in the Masai Mara National Reserve. A new chef-training programme has brought the level of the food here to excellent standards, so you can be sure to enjoy some great food after a long day on safari.
Rekero Tented Camp is located inside the Masai Mara Game Reserve, very close to the confluence of the Mara and Talek rivers. It is a firm favourite with repeat visitors to Kenya.
Little Governors' has a superb position above a small swamp where, during the day, you often see animals coming to graze and drink. Overall it is one of our favourite camps in the Mara.
Porini Lion Camp is located in the Olare Orok Conservancy, which borders the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Service is personal, the food is good and you will be well taken care of.
Elephant Pepper is a lovely little bush camp set just outside the northern boarder of the Masai Mara Game Reserve. During the day they offer game drives and walks with excellent local guides.
Offbeat Mara Camp is a luxury tented camp situated on the Olare Orok water system, on Koyiaki Group Ranch, north of the Masai Mara Game Reserve. The camp is owner-run and very friendly.
Saruni Mara is a luxurious tented lodge set in the Koyiaki Group Ranch, adjacent to the Masai Mara. Activities include guided bush walks, game drives, while fly camping is also possible.
Serian is an exclusive wilderness camp set alongside a secluded valley flanking the Mara River in the Mara North Conservancy. Each of the eight tents is fitted with large double beds flanked by twin bedside tables and a writing desk.
Naibor is a spacious and stylish safari camp, located on the banks of the Talek River in the Masai Mara Reserve. The food and service is superb, as is the guiding. We warmly recommend it.
Ideas for experiencing Masai Mara National Reserve
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Masai Mara National Reserve, and which use the best local guides.
Watch out for the giraffe hiding in the trees, antelope on the plains and roosting birds. As the sun comes up the views are superb - one of the most beautiful sights in Africa.
ME to WE provides you with the opportunity to experience life with locals in rural Kenya, working on sustainable projects that benefit these communities in the longer term.