Maasai Mara National Reserve also spelled as Masai Mara is the most popular wildlife destination in Kenya located in South west region bordering the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the south. 

Masai Mara National Reserve is a vast scenic expanse endless and gently rolling African savannah plains measuring 1510 square kilometers, the reserve is a unique wildlife haven famous for its spectacular natural diversity of wildlife and because of this, it is a premier Kenya safari destination

Masai Mara national reserve is a wildlife haven popularly known and loved by travelers from all over the world for hosting large prides of predators such as lions, leopards and cheetahs and hosting the Great Wildebeest Migration– the world’s largest migration of wildlife ever witnessed. Over 2 million wildebeests together with thousands of gazelles and zebras migration through the Mara- Serengeti ecosystem on their yearly journey. 

Masai Mara National Reserve has been voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.   

Masai Mara lions

Masai Mara lions

Masai Mara derives its name from the local Masai people who migration to the region from the Nile Basin, the Maasai are the ancestral inhabitants of today’s Masai Mara national reserve and they describe the area as Mara which is the native translation for spotted when looked at from a distance. The Maasai people live in communities in norther, central and southern Kenya as well as northern Tanzania. 

The Maasai people are pastoralists who believe they own all of the cattle in the world, they rely on their cattle as they regard them as a treasure. Before the area designated as a protected area, they were forced to leave for the areas around the reserve. 

History of Masai Mara National Reserve 

Masai Mara National Reserve was established as a wildlife refuge in 1961 with only 520 square kilometers until it was increased to 1,821 square kilometers towards the east laying foundation for a game reserve. During this time, management of the reserve was situated in the Narok County Council. In 1974, a portion of the reserve of 159 square kilometers and another 162 square kilometers later in 1976 was given back to the neighboring communities. By 1984, only 1,510 square kilometers remained for the reserve and is what makes the Reserve.

Masai Mara National Reserve makes up the Greater Mara – Eco – System together with the Mara – Triangle and several Maasai Conservancies including Koiyaki, Mara North, Lemek, Olkinyei, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Ol Derkesi, Siana, Maji Moto, Kerinkani, Oloirien, Kimintet and Naikara. 


What to see in Masai Mara National Reserve? 


There are over 95 mammal species in the reserve which boasts of a wide range of wildlife including an abundance of herbivores and predators. Popular animals in Masai Mara National Reserve include Masai giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, gazelles, lions, leopards, roan antelopes, elands, gazelles, Nile crocodiles, black rhinos, Kirk’s dik-dik, tree hyrax, baboons, monitor lizards among others. 

Masai Mara National Reserve excellent sightings of Africa’s Big 7 together with predators. 


Masai Mara National Reserve is a bird – watcher’s paradise with over 470 bird species and is listed as one of Kenya’s Important Birding Areas with permanent and migratory recorded bird species including both regionally and globally threatened species inlcuding over 53 birds of prey and 12 species of Cisticola such include; 

  • Abdim’s Stork
  • African finfoot
  • African wood owl
  • Ayres’s hawk eagle
  • Cinnamon-breasted bunting
  • Denham’s bustard
  • Giant kingfisher
  • Grey-crested helmet-shrike (NE)
  • Grey penduline tit
  • Hildebrandt’s starling
  • Jackson’s widowbird
  • Lazy cisticola
  • Ostrich
  • Purple grenadier
  • Red-throated tit
  • Ross’s turaco
  • Rosy-throated longclaw
  • Rufous-bellied heron
  • Rufous-throated wryneck
  • Saddle-billed stork
  • Schalow’s turaco
  • Secretary bird
  • Silverbird
  • Southern ground hornbill
  • Swahili sparrow
  • Tabora cisticola
  • Temminck’s courser
  • Trilling cisticola
  • Usambiro barbet (NE)
  • White-bellied go-away bird
  • Woolly-necked stork
  • Yellow-mantled widowbird
  • Yellow-throated sandgrouse among others 

The Great Wildebeest Migration

The annual Great Wildebeest Migration is a remarkable wildlife occurrence and the top safari highlight of Masai Mara national reserve, it is also the reason to why millions of tourists from all over the world visit the reserve. 

Every year between the end of July and the end of November, over 2 million wildebeests joined by thousands of zebras and gazelles among other angulates migrate from Serengeti national park in Tanzania to Masai Mara National Reserve in search for green pastures and water. 

The great Wildebeest Migration is one of the nature’s most spectacular sights as the herds totaling to over 20,000 roar across the plains of the endless plains at a time, once they reach the Mara River filled with Nile crocodiles. They face the deadliest episode of the whole as many herds are killed by the fierce Nile crocodiles and the high speed running water, only the strong and lucky herds survive. Around the end of October, the herds start crossing back to Tanzania. The actual date of the migration is dictated by the weather (rain and thunderstorms) and does not always occur on time. 

What to Do in Masai Mara National Reserve 

Game Drives 

Masai Mara national reserve is a leading game viewing destination in Kenya and is the highlight activity to do in the reserve, game drives are done in three sessions that is morning, afternoon/evening and night game drives. 

Game drives are done with a helped of an experienced safari guide – driver and conducted in a 4WD open – roof safari vehicles.

  • morning game drive starts early at 06:30 am and takes around 3 to 4 hours, this is the best time to see animals most especially predators as they are at their most active, grazers are heading out to feed while the predators head back to their hideouts. 
  • The afternoon game drives start at around 2:30 to 3:00 pm ending at 6:00 to 6:30 pm. During this time, animals congregate around various waterholes to drink water and also cool off.
  • The Night game drive are done in the dark hours of the night at 6 to 7 pm and ends at around 10 pm. With a help of a spotlight, you get to spot predators and nocturnal animals such as lions, leopards, hyenas among others. 
game drive in Masai mara

game drive in Masai Mara

Witness The Great Wildebeest Migration 

Witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration is one of the most memorable and spectacular wildlife moments to enjoy once in a life-time, the reserve hosts the world’s finest wildlife spectacles between June and November where over 2 million wildebeest together with thousands of Thomson gazelles and zebras migrate from the Serengeti national park in Tanzania to Masai Mara National Reserve with river crossing at Mara River. 

Wildebeest Migration is an annual journey which is filled with numerous obstacles such as the crocodile infested Mara River where thousands of wildebeests lose their lives to the fierce crocodiles in the waters of the river and predators around the banks of the river. 

Hot air balloon Safaris 

Hot air balloon safari is a fascinating way to explore the endless plains of Masai Mara, this activity offers an aerial view of the reserve’s endless plains and animals. 

The safari experience lasts for about one hour and is concluded with a champagne bush breakfast served in the savannah plains of Masai Mara national reserve. Hot air balloon safari is an ideal safari experience for honeymooners and families, the activity is also perfect for photographers. 

Bird watching 

The Reserve offers exhilarating bird watching experience, with over 500 bird species including more than 50 raptors the reserve is a birder’s paradise. The reserve’s rich bird life is hosted in the reserve several ecosystem zones including open savannah, river banks, the Great Rift Valley escarpment and rock sides. 

Bird watching safari in Masai Mara national reserve is provides birders with an opportunity to spot many colorful birds including Madagascar Pond-Heron, Pallid Harrier, Jackson’s Widowbird, Red-throated Tit, Grey-crested Helmet-shrike, Corncrake, Lesser Kestrel, Caspian Plover, White Stork, restricted-range Jackson’s widowbird, Grey-crested Helmet-shrike among others. 

Maasai Cultural Encounter 

The Maasai people are one of the few tribes on the African continent with traditions and cultures which are still intact, they have distinct culture that is not found anywhere in the world. The Maasai people used to live in the areas of the reserve and currently the live in communities around the reserve.

On your visit to the Masai Village, you will enjoy their intriguing cultural norms and practices, discover their unique traditions, learn about their life style, how they collect fresh blood from animals, participate in milking their cattle and be entertained by local dances and drama. 

Guided Nature Walks

Guided nature walks are the best way to explore the vast incredible wilderness of the reserve, the activity offer tourists an opportunity to get up close and personal encounters with wildlife, birds and the stunning landscape as you explore the reserve on foot with an armed guide-ranger. 

Guided nature walks are done in the conservancies around the main reserve and on the walks visitors get an opportunity to spot a variety of several birds and animals such as elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs among others. Also visitors get to take in the sheer beauty of the pristine wilderness. 

Horseback riding 

Horseback riding is the eco-friendliest way to explore Masai Mara National Reserve, this activity allows visitors to explore the endless plains on the back of a horse and get up close to the animals. 

On the back of a horse, visitors enjoy seeing antelopes, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, leopards, hartebeests and lions among others. 

When to visit Masai Mara National Reserve for a safari 

Masai Mara National Reserve is an all year –round destination meaning it can be visited any time throughout the year, however for the best Kenya safari experience. The gorgeous endless plains of Masai Mara are best visited between late June and October which is a dry season, in this season the vegetation cover is thinner and animals congregate around rivers and waterholes making it easier to spot them during game viewing safaris. 

During the wet months of March, April, November and December, some of the roads to and through the reserve become impassable. 

For visitors intending to witness the Wildebeest migration most especially the river crossings, the ideal time to see is in late September and October. 

How To Get To Masai Mara National Reserve 

Masai Mara National Reserve can be accessed by both road and by air.

By road – the Mara lies about 270 kilometers northwest of Nairobi the capital of Kenya, from Nairobi it is a drive of approximately 5 hours through Narok town where you will have a stopover at the Rift Valley view point for spectacular views of the rift valley. 

By air – there domestic and chartered flights to Masai Mara from Wilson Airport located south of Nairobi, to several airstrips serving the reserve including Keekorok Airstrip, Serena Airstrip, Musiara Airstrip, Kichwa Tembo Airstrip, Siana Conservancy Airstrip, Ol Kiombo Airstrip and Ngerende Airstrip 

Where to Stay in Masai Mara National Reserve 

Masai Mara National Reserve has many camps and hotels perched along the  Mara and Talek rivers and in the private conservancies around the main reserve, these accommodations range from Budget, midrange and luxury. 

Accommodations in Masai Mara National Reserve include 

  • Saruni Mara camp
  • Naibor Camp
  • Ol Seki Hemingways Mara
  • Angama Mara 
  • Mara Maisha Camp 
  • Mara Simba Lodge 
  • Talek Bush Camp  
  • Mara Serena Safari Lodge among others