This Masai Mara travel guide details how to go on safari in Masai Mara National Reserve and what animals can be seen along with where to stay.

Located in southwestern Kenya, the Masai Mara National Reserve is 580 square miles of preserved savanna wilderness full of lions, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, and wildebeests.   The Masai Mara is one of the most popular safari destinations and considered the crown Jewel of Kenyan wildlife reserves.  Home to the annual wildebeest migration involving over 1.5 million animals, the Masai Mara should be at the top of anyone’s safari bucket list.

a lion in a field of tall grass

Adolescent lion blending in well with the surroundings


The Masai Mara is located 280kms from Nairobi City and takes about 6 hours to reach by automobile.  The country of Tanzania and the Serengeti National Park boarder the Masai Mara to the south.

a map of africa with a location pin

Map of Kenya

When to Visit

The best time to visit is during the Wildebeest migration which usually occurs late July through September.  However, due to climate change, this has become less predictable.  When I visited in June, the migration was in full swing instead of only just starting.  I suggest visiting the nearby Serengeti National Park as well to ensure you get a chance to view the migration.

a lion in a field of tall grass

Full grown male lion on the hunt

The dry season from June to October is preferred since animals are easier to spot near the water holes and there are less insects.  However, this is also the most expensive time to visit.

a group of animals in a vehicle

Watching the wildebeest migration from safari vehicle

a van parked under a tree

Enjoying a picnic lunch while our guide kept watch

Places to Stay

Most lodging options are located in the area bordering the reserve with only a couple located within.  The accommodation options vary from basic camp sites, to luxury camping, or to top end lodges like the Fairmont.

I stayed at the Osero Lodge located just outside the reserve which I would classify as luxury camping or “glamping”  The tent had a large queen sized bed, desk, dresser, shower, and full sized hot tub.  To my surprise, dinner was excellent considering it was prepared in the wilderness

a bed with a canopy over it

Osero Lodge Tent


Kenya has dramatically different landscapes throughout the country ranging from mountainous, desert, tropical, and grasslands.  The Masai Mara has vast plains of rollings grassy hills with rivers cutting across with hippos and crocodiles.  Imagine Tuscany with elephants.  If you travel to one of the taller hills, you can see wildebeest and elephants for miles.  Out of all the places I visited in Kenya, the cats camouflaged really well in the tall grass.

a herd of wildebeest in a field

Wildebeest Migration across miles of grassland

a group of zebras and wildebeest in a river

Watering holes attract many animals

a group of birds on a tree branch in a field of grass

Trees and tall shrubs usually are near sources of water

two cheetahs in a field

Once the Zebra and Wildebeest eat all the grass in one area, the ground is flat like a golf course green.

a lion lying down in the grass

Many lions sleeping near bushes

a giraffe walking in a field

Baby giraffe

elephants in a field

Elephants grazing

Animals Spotted

“Big Five” animals are all found in the Masai Mara which are the lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant.  The Masai Mara is considered one of the best wildlife destinations in the world where there is a good chance to see cheetah, gazelle, hyenas,  jackals, hippo, crocodile, waterbuck, zebra and over 400 species of bird.

a lion walking through tall grass


a cheetah in a field of tall grass


a cheetah in a field


a group of animals in a field


a crocodile swimming in a river


an elephant in a field


a giraffe standing in a field

Masai Giraffe

a group of animals in a field


a group of zebras in a field


a group of hippos standing on a sandy beach


ostrich and buffalo in a field


a bird standing in a body of water

Marabou Stork

a bird standing on dirt

Crowned Plover

a bird standing on a tree

Lilac-breasted Roller

a bird in a field

Southern Ground Hornbill

birds standing in a river

Egyptian Goose

Unique Features

While not unique to all of Africa, the following are unique compared to other reserves in Kenya.

  • Wildebeest Migration
  • Long rolling grassland plains
  • Wildebeest river crossings
  • Abundance of wildlife including 95 species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles
  • Hot air ballon ride over the wildebeest migration (a must do!)
a herd of wildebeest in a field

Wildebeest Migration

a large group of wildebeest in a field

Wildebeest lining up in preparation to cross the crocodile filled river

a animal in the water

Wildebeest cliff jumping into the river and feverishly crossing

a group of animals in a river

Once one wildebeest starts crossing the river, hundreds urgently follow and hope not to be attacked by crocodile

hot air balloons in the sky

Hot air ballon ride over wildebeest migration is a bucket list must!

Animal Behavioral Observations

The best part of going on safari in Africa is not just seeing the animals in their natural habitat, but to observe their behavior.  If you’ve gone to zoos or that Safari in Six Flags New Jersey, the animals just lay around all day and sleep.  Not here.  Millions of wildebeest and zebra are on the move, lions are hunting, stalking prey, or mating,  and elephants are grazing and raising their young.  There is always something going on to observe!

a lion in a field

Lion hunting in the grass. They are great stalkers moving slowly and quietly until they pounce.

a lion in a grassy field

Pair of mating lions

a lion and lioness playing in the grass

When in heat, lions mate every 15 minutes, day and night, for three days. I had a pair of mating lions not far outside my tent one night. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep that night.

a lion lying in the grass

Lions fight to death for mating rights, as you can see from this lions jacked up face. I’d hate to see the other lion he beat up.

a group of birds on a rock

Vultures are everywhere and ready to eat anything in an instant. Once something dies, it does not take long for it to turn into a pile of bones.

a baby elephant and its calf in a river

My favorite animal to observe is the elephant. They stay in tightly knit social herds with grandma leading the way. Baby elephants love to play and are always curious, but never stray more than 1 meter from the mother.


In conclusion, the Masai Mara is one of the greatest places to visit.  Period.  Endless plains filled with millions of animals in all directions make this a truly unique and special place.  The wildebeest migration is one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world and must be seen to believe.  If you are considering going on a safari, especially in East Africa, the Masai Mara surely should be at the top of you list.

sun shining through the clouds over a fieldRelated Posts