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Masai Mara

Choosing which time of year to see the Great Wildebeest Migration is made easy with this safari.

Masai Mara Safari

The Masai Mara National Reserve has unfenced borders with a number of private conservancies, including Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. This vast protected landscape is one of the top wildlife destinations in Africa, and Kenya's flagship conservation area.

Game viewing

Game viewing in the Masai Mara is excellent all year around thanks to the diverse population of resident game - including lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo – plus popular species like zebra, giraffe, hyena, eland and gazelle. The Mara’s big cats are even the stars of a popular wildlife TV series.

From July to November one of nature’s greatest spectacles, the Wildebeest Migration, reaches the Mara - the sheer number of wildebeest arriving in the area is staggering. The migration is a dramatic mass movement of almost two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle in a seasonal annual cycle driven by rainfall. To reach the Mara’s fresh grazing, wildebeest make dramatic river crossings, facing enormous crocodiles to feast on the Mara plains and regain their strength. November's short summer rains trigger the last leg of the migration, when the wildebeest move south to their Serengeti calving grounds. The calving season also happens in the Mara between December and January. Known as the green season, it’s a time when surface water is plentiful and wildebeest, zebra and antelope give birth to their calves, foals and fawns. With so much easy prey around, it is also a good time for predators to raise their cubs and pups, making for wonderful photographic opportunities.

The Masai Mara and its neighbouring private conservancies offer a range of accommodation, from child-friendly to romantic. The park can be crowded in high season, which is why we recommend staying in one of the neighbouring private conservancies where you’ll enjoy the advantage of easy access to the Mara for the superb game-viewing and migration scenes, but can also retreat to the conservancy’s crowd-free setting where off road game viewing, night drives and guided nature walks are permitted. We highly recommend taking a hot-air balloon flight and experiencing an authentic cultural interaction with the Maasai people. Chat to your safari expert about combining a Mara safari with Kenya’s other top destinations, such as Amboseli National Park or a beach break to the glorious sun-drenched islands of the Seychelles.

Quick links to travel advice

Best Time to Visit the Masai Mara

Choosing when to go to the Masai Mara is something that needs to be carefully considered in order to meet your expectations. For general game viewing there is no real ‘best time’ to go; thanks to its abundant resident wildlife and temperate climate, the Masai Mara is widely regarded as a year-round safari destination. Its wide, open plains means there is virtually always something to see, no matter what time of year you go to Kenya (although do heed our warning below about visiting during the annual long rains in April and May).

As the birthplace of safari, Kenya always promises incredible scenery, exceptional guides and good general gaming.

However, many visitors come for the Wildebeest Migration and the best time to visit the Masai Mara for this famous spectacle is between July/early August and the end of November although due to varying rainfall patterns, the exact timing varies from year to year. Some years, the rains might be early and the wildebeest disappear more quickly; at other times, late rain means you will still find ‘stragglers’ (the last of the migrating wildebeest) hanging out on the Masai Mara with the ‘residents’ (those wildebeest who stay put year-round and don’t migrate at all).

Kenya has two ‘sets’ of rainy seasons. The ‘short’ rains are usually expected in November and break the dry mid-year winter, which is considered peak safari season. Clouds build up during the morning, which can be very hot, sunny and humid, only to break in spectacular but generally short-lived downpours in the late afternoon. These showers have several benefits: they wash the air of dust; cool everyone and everything down; and, best of all, trigger the growth of fresh grazing and the filling up of near-moribund rivers that attract herds to drink. Migrant birds return and baby antelopes drop in their thousands. November is fantastic for photographers because you will often have massive tracts of land –and sightings - all to yourself, especially in the Mara’s famed conservancies.

The short rains don’t really interfere with game viewing, even if you may occasionally have to enjoy ‘raindowners’ in your game-drive vehicle rather than the more traditional ‘sundowners’! And you guide will be familiar with the concept of ‘localised rain’: it may be pouring heavily in the distance but he or she can usually ‘drive around’ the rain, keeping you warm and dry.

The next set of rains are conversely known as the ‘long rains’ and usually take place in April and May. As the name suggests, these are far more serious and many lodges and camps may close over this period because dirt roads turn to sticky mud, rivers flood their banks, and the almost persistent drizzle never really allows for a sunny gap for game viewing. Once again, predicting rain is the most inexact of sciences and you may find that one year May is washed out while the next, it’s dry and the very first of the migrating wildebeest are arriving from the Serengeti in Tanzania. It’s this unpredictability of nature that makes safari so intriguing.

Watch our Wildebeest Migration animation for a fun depiction of the timing and movement of this annual event:

Quick links to travel advice

Ensure you're in the right place at the right time: contact one of our African Safari Experts to help you plan when to go on a Masai Mara safari for maximum reward.

Where to Go in the Maasai Mara

At almost 15 000km², the Serengeti is an enormous park with distinct regions that each offer a different game viewing experience. You'll need to choose carefully where and when to go in the Serengeti, not least if it's the annual wildebeest migration that you want to see. The herds move in a clockwise direction around the park, their concentrations dictated by season, available water and grazing.

Several of Tanzania's top places of interest in the vicinity of the Serengeti National Park and include the Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge, the latter a famous archaeological site known as the Cradle of Mankind.

Masai Mara Safari Travel Advice

For general information on travelling to Kenya, visit our Kenya travel advice page.

Top Travel Tips for the Masai Mara

Take to the air: hot-air balloon safaris are a Masai Mara speciality and deliver an unforgettable bird's eye view of the migration. Not every lodge offers them - find out from us the ones that do.

Meet the locals - with dignity: make sure your Maasai cultural interaction genuinely benefits the local community and is an experience that is both meaningful and uncontrived. We'll recommend accommodation and operators that do it the right way.

Book early for the migration: a year ahead is normal as suitably located accommodation for the wildebeest migration gets snapped up quickly. Talk to us about getting ringside seats.

Go private: the Masai Mara can get very busy in peak migration season; private conservancies offer low visitor numbers, excellent accommodation and game viewing as good as the main reserve. Night drives and guided nature walks - activities not offered in the public section of the Masai Mara - are also part of the deal.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport: fly into Nairobi's major international airport for the Masai Mara. Once you've arrived, the more affordable, scheduled mini-bus safaris make the 270km journey to the reserve by road - it takes between four and five hours - but most travellers choose to transfer to Nairobi's Wilson Airport and fly straight into the reserve by charter flight, landing at one of the local airstrips and transferring to their lodge by 4X4.

Game drives in the Masai Mara and its private conservancies are conducted in open-sided 4X4s; scheduled safaris use mini-buses with pop-up roofs.

Best Masai Mara Tours & Safaris

Home to the annual Masai Mara/Serengeti Wildebeest Migration, Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve is without doubt one of Africa's classic safari destinations and thus features on most of our top recommended Kenya safari tours. It's also extremely popular the world over which is why we recommend booking your Masai Mara tour or safari well in advance - especially if you want to see the migration.

We'll be happy to recommend Masai Mara travel itineraries that put you at the heart of the migration action but safaris in the Masai Mara also include romantic and intimate escapes where you'll enjoy opulent tented camps set in private concessions. And if you're on a budget, we have affordable scheduled group tours staying at comfortable safari lodges.

We'd also suggest combining a Masai Mara safari with some time in Tanzania's Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater for a huge wildlife experience, and if you'd like a beach break at the end of your trip, why not include Lamu Island or even Zanzibar?

Our selection of top Masai Mara tours and safaris include family-friendly vacations, romantic honeymoons and unforgettable safari and beach adventures. If you don't find what you're looking for, contact one of our experienced Africa Safari Experts and they'll tailor-make you the trip of a lifetime.


Recommended Masai Mara Tours & Safari Holidays


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Tours & Safaris

4 Days Maasai Mara Flyin Safari

Activities travellers enjoyed: Summon all your luck for glimpses of the magnificent lions and cheetahs of the National

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$500

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4 Days Masai Mara Safari

Destinations visited: Enjoy this holiday with beautiful portrayals of nature’s magnificence, witnessing the beauty of

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$8,895

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7 Days Masaimara Lake Nakuru Amboseli

Destinations visited: Lake Nakuru’s luscious Malaika waterfalls and delicate pink flamingos await your visit where

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$8,895

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7 Days Bigfive Kenya Safari

Destinations visited: Lake Nakuru’s luscious Malaika waterfalls and delicate pink flamingos await your visit where

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$8,895

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15 Days Bigfive Kenya & Seychelles

Destinations visited: This is the life: a fortnight filled with prime game viewing in two unique reserves and then a beach

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$8,895

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6 Days Bigfive Kenya Safari

Top reasons to visit: The Big Five Safari is a short, value-for-money itinerary ideal for first timers or those with time constraints. You’ll get

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$8,895

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5 Days Bigfive Affordable Kenya Safari

Top reasons to visit: 5 days / 4 Nights Kenya Safari Masai Mara and the Great Rift-valley lakes tours and safari

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$8,895

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4 Days Maasai Mara Migration Safari

Top reasons to visit: The Maasai Mara is Kenya's most celebrated game reserve / park, it offers the possibility of seeing

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$8,895

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Tours & Safaris

5 Days Masai Mara Wildbeest Migration

Top reasons to visit: The high drama of a river crossing at the Mara River is arguably the highlight of the Wildebeest

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$8,895

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Tours & Safaris

7 Days Masai Mara & Serengeti Safari

Top reasons to visit: The high drama of a river crossing at the Mara River is arguably the highlight of the Wildebeest

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$8,895

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11 Days Kenya & Tanzania Migration

Top reasons to visit: The ultimate Safari experience in Africa. Witness The Great Migration unfold at Tanzania’s northern

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$8,895

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7 Days Maasai Mara & Dian Family Safari

Top reasons to visit: Nothing can be more exhilarating than finding yourself amidst the open grassland of Great Rift Valley

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$8,895

Best Masai Mara Safari Lodges & Camps

The incomparable Masai Mara is without doubt one of the world's greatest wildlife destinations and not much beats the delight of superb, year-round game viewing let alone all the thrills of the Great Wildebeest Migration. Its popularity however means a number of factors must be considered when choosing your Masai Mara accommodation.

Choosing which area to visit and when to go will impact on your experience. The Masai Mara's central region is busiest during migration season and its many lodges and safari hotels cater for large numbers of people. The northern concessions offer more privacy and tucked-away accommodation such as luxury tented camps and decadent safari suites, plus you'll be able to enjoy a greater selection of activities like guided walks and star=gazing. The eastern region is closest to Nairobi and the accommodation is consequently larger in scale, catering for scheduled tour groups and the like.

Remember however that the Masai Mara offers great wildlife viewing throughout the year and your safari experience will certainly be different out of peak season. You might not get the wildebeest herds but there's plenty else to see and a wide range of places to stay at, many of which offer discounted, out-of-season rates.

Our selection of accommodation in the Masai Mara includes safari lodges and family-friendly hotels, colonial-style tented camps and even mobile camps - all you need to do is decide when to go, contact us, and we'll do the rest.


Recommended Masai Mara Accommodation

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Accomodation

Sanctuary Olonana

Top reasons to visit: is an exceptional luxury safari lodge set on a private stretch of the Mara River in the heart of Kenya's

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$500

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andBeyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp

Top reasons to visit: Set on a private concession, with abundant iconic wildlife and panoramic Masai Mara views

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$8,895

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andBeyond Bateleur Camp

Top reasons to visit: Refreshing lap pools in each camp provide cool comfort in between captivating game drives

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$8,895

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Rekero Camp | Asilia Africa

Top reasons to visit: Deep within the Kenya Masai Mara National Reserve, Rekero offers a spectacular location

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$8,895

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Mara Bush Camp

Top reasons to visit: With an excellent, central location, in the world famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve lies

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$8,895

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Little Governors Camp

Top reasons to visit: Located on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve, the camp is accessed by a very short boat

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$8,895

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Accomodation

Ashnil Mara Camp

Top reasons to visit: with 50 luxury tents, is located in the Masai Mara National Reserve and close to the Mara River

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$8,895

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Accomodation

Angama Mara

Top reasons to visit: Angama Mara is a remarkable owner-run safari lodge, perched on the edge of the Great Rift

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$8,895

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Mara Serena Safari Lodge

Top reasons to visit: Discover the Kenya safari of your dreams, a vast, gently rolling landscape of acacia-specked grasslands

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$8,895

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Mara Intrepids Tented Camp

Top reasons to visit: Overlooking the Talek River, at the very confluence of the Mara’s four game-viewing areas, Mara Intrepids

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$8,895

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Kilima Camp Masai Mara

Top reasons to visit: Kilima Camp is a safari camp in Kenya. It has a perfect location in the Masai Mara for

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$8,895

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Mara Explorer Tented Camp

Top reasons to visit: Mara Explorer exclusive five-star camp offers 10 luxurious and well-spaced tents

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$8,895

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Accomodation

Mara West Camp

Top reasons to visit: Mara West Camp borders the remote and wild western edge of Masai Mara National Reserve

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$8,895

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Accomodation

Karibu Mara Crossing Camp

Top reasons to visit: The Maasai Mara National Reserve (also known as Maasai Mara and by the locals as The Mara)

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$8,895

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Accomodation

Kandili Camp

Top reasons to visit: Experience an unforgettable adventure in the heart of Africa reviving its inspiring stories

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$8,895

Masai Mara Travel articles

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Accomodation

Kruger

Top reasons to visit: Animal tracking experience Beach activities Bird

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$500

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Tours & Safaris

Siwandu

Top reasons to visit: Bird watching Boat excursions Game drives Guided walking safaris Private game-drives

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$8,895