Welcome to Masai Mara, Kenya! If you’re seeking an authentic African adventure, filled with breathtaking landscapes, incredible wildlife, and rich cultural experiences, then look no further. Masai Mara is a true gem, a destination that will ignite your sense of wonder and leave you mesmerized.
With its vast savannahs, dotted with acacia trees and rolling grasslands as far as the eye can see, Masai Mara National Reserve offers a photographer’s paradise. But it’s not just the scenery that captivates; it’s the abundance of wildlife that calls this place home. From majestic lions, graceful cheetahs, and towering giraffes to majestic elephants and elusive leopards, Masai Mara is a true haven for animal enthusiasts.
Immerse yourself in the fascinating Maasai culture, where you can interact with the locals, witness traditional ceremonies, and learn about their exceptional way of life. And if you’re lucky, you might even witness the Great Migration, a spectacular event where millions of wildebeest and zebras cross the Mara River in search of greener pastures.
I explored the wonders of Masai Mara in November 2022 with my friends at Kumbukumbu Tours. From spending time with the beautiful Maasai people to seeing majestic animals up close, it was a life-changing experience, and I can’t wait to share it with you. These are the top things you must do in Masai Mara, Kenya.
Masai Mara National Reserve is a renowned wildlife destination located in southwestern Kenya. It’s named after the Maasai people, a pastoral semi-nomadic tribe known for their colorful clothing, elaborate beadwork, strength, and resilience. The second half of the reserve’s name comes from the Mara River, which flows through it.
Masai Mara covers an area of approximately 1,510 square kilometers and forms part of the larger Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. It is famous for its abundant wildlife, including the “Big Five” (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhinoceros) and the annual Great Migration. It’s known for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and incredible opportunities for game viewing and photography. It is a must-visit destination for all nature and culture enthusiasts.
As famous as Masai Mara is for its wildlife, you can’t visit this spectacular place without meeting the people it’s named after. In one of the most rewarding experiences in my travel career, I got to meet members of the Maasai tribe, learn about traditional dances and local cuisine, and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Maasai way of life. I also got to see how they preserve their traditions in the modern era.
The Maasai tribe is composed of various clans spread across Kenya and Tanzania. Kariya, our local contact, donned traditional clothing and intricate jewelry, and carried a machete as took us around the village. First, he introduced us to the local chief.
Within the village, there are roughly sixty people across ten families. I learned that they live in unique houses constructed using cow dung as a building material. We were invited into a local house and got to see its sitting room, kitchen, and guest room with a bed. It had a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Then, they invited us to have a meal with them! Members of the tribe cooked a local lamb dish outdoors. They prepared it over a fire with stones and served it with a corn-based mash called ugali. The combination of starchy ugali with the tender, juicy meat was amazing in its simplicity and tasted amazing. Afterward, Kariya even presented us with a traditional Maasai shawl!
You’ll need a place to stay during your time in Masai Mara. I highly recommend Oldarpoi Mara Camp, a luxury safari camp that captures the true spirit of East Africa. They offer first-hand views of the annual wildebeest migration, safari excursions, and immersive experiences with the local Maasai people. The camp offers three different accommodations: Superior Cottages, Superior Tents, and VIP Wageni Camps.
I stayed in a Superior Tent, a large luxury tent with multiple rooms. It even had a separate room for people traveling with kids. We also had lots of furniture and even a separate bathroom.
The dining at Oldarpoi Mara Camp is a top-notch experience. Much of the food is made with Western palates in mind, with grilled chicken, roast lamb, celery soup, and tomato rice on the menu. I also loved the chana dal. But the best part about dinner is that members of the Maasai tribe put on a cultural song and dance performance afterward! In another positive, the camp is just five minutes from the Sekenani Gate where you enter the park!
Staying at luxury safari camps and paying for game drives can be expensive, for sure. But it’s important for travelers to know that, just because you’ve paid for a game drive, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to see many animals. It’s very much luck of the draw, which is why I recommend going on as many as you can afford in Masai Mara. It’ll raise your chances of encountering the animals you want to see!
That said, on my first evening in Masai Mara, I was fortunate to spot several giraffes, buffalo, a hyena, hartebeest, and an Egyptian goose. After a while, the landscape transitioned to open savannah, where an older male lion calmly strolled past our vehicle! I was in awe of how close he got!
But the real treat came the following morning during my second game drive. Almost immediately, we came across warthogs, an African elephant with her baby, and a large herd of buffalo. We also saw an amarula tree, known for being a favorite of elephants and used by the local tribe to make an alcoholic drink.
As our morning continued, we also saw antelope, topi, hyenas, zebra, wildebeest, a herd of elephants, two male cheetahs, and an ostrich. At the Mara River, we even came across two of the area’s more dangerous animals, crocodiles, and hippos.
But the highlights came near the end of our session, when we saw a rare black rhino crossing into Tanzania. Sightings of these massive creatures can be rare, so seeing one is a real treat!
The other highlight of my Masai Mara game drives was getting to see a pair of mating lions! We spent several minutes observing them from a distance. Seeing lions mating in the wild is also extremely rare, so coming across them is something I’ll never forget!
After your evening game drive, I suggest experiencing a Sundowner. This is essentially a social gathering involving food, drinks, and music in the park at sundown. I was fortunate enough to experience one with members of the local Maasai tribe. The tribe members sang, danced, and performed around a fire, sharing their vibrant culture with e. Their energy and passion were contagious.
Later, they showcased their incredible jumping abilities. I couldn’t believe how high their vertical leap was! I couldn’t come close to the heights they reached. After giving up on matching their jumping skills, we topped off the experience with some amarula. The Maasai make this creamy drink from the sausage-shaped fruit found on the trees I had observed earlier. It was smooth and creamy, and reminded me of Bailey’s. It was the perfect ending to my unforgettable adventure in Masai Mara.
While the urban centers of Nairobi and Mombasa are exciting and fast-paced, Masai Mara is the crown jewel of Kenya. There’s something extremely serene about this beautiful, untamed land. With its gorgeous wildlife, stunning vistas, and immersive cultural experiences, there’s nothing quite like it.
I can’t recommend Masai Mara enough to anyone considering a trip to Kenya. Meeting the people who have lived on the land for generations was a lesson in strength and resilience. And, as an animal lover, getting to see rare lions, rhinos, and other amazing creatures made my time there a magical experience. Book a trip to Masai Mara to experience it for yourself!
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