Best time to visit the Masai Mara

Best time to visit the Masai Mara


Temperature & Rainfall

At night, and for early morning game drives, fleeces are needed – with woolly hats and warm gloves a bonus. Late March-May bring downpours and floods with scarpering wildlife; you’ll get some cheap deals though if you’re willing to brave it. The shorter rainy season is in November – with less disruption, a greener landscape and again, cheaper prices. The best time to visit the Masai Mara to see the migration is July-Oct; it’s incredibly popular though, so try late Sep-Oct, or even late June, to witness the wildebeest without the crowds.

Things to do in the Masai Mara


WHAT TO DO IN THE MASAI MARA & WHAT NOT TO

Things to do in
Masai Mara…


Go on a game drive. The Masai Mara’s raison d’etre is its incredible wildlife; it hosts the Big Five as well as the million wildebeest that thunder through on their annual migration from the Serengeti, joined by zebra and antelope. Vulture swirl menacingly above, while the Nile crocodiles – who only eat twice a year, during the river crossings – remain statue-still, awaiting their unlucky prey. Big cats are a Mara speciality – with cheetah joining leopard and lion in the savannah. Hippos snort in the rivers, while the highly endangered black rhino can be tracked up in the hills. While it can get busy along the Mara River at peak crossing times, there are plenty of meaning the wildlife experiences are exclusive and unspoiled by encroaching safari vehicles.
Bring some stories. Kenyan culture involves a lot of sitting around a fire and telling stories; this is a land of oral history and folklore, and if someone shares the gift of a story, the best way to thank one is to tell one in return. So swot up on your storytelling skills to show gratitude to your hosts!
Bring the kids! The Masai Mara is one of the most child-friendly safari spots in the whole of Africa, with family rooms in safe, welcoming lodges, wildlife experiences designed to inspire young minds, and the opportunity to learn how to track game through the bush. Children will also love meeting the Maasai and learning about their daily life, from milking goats to warrior spear throwing.

Things not to do in
Masai Mara…


Ignore the locals. For too long, local communities have been shut out of both tourism and conservation in Africa, when in truth they have a very valuable contribution to make to both. Employment created through tourism creates sustainable income – which deters poaching. And in the conservancies surrounding the reserve, Maasai land is leased to safari companies, meaning the Maasai can earn money while continuing to practice traditions on their ancestral lands. What’s more, visitors have much to learn from these custodians who have lived alongside the Big Five for centuries, and meeting them is as memorable as encountering the Mara’s wildlife.
View it all through a lens, as Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus, explains: “My top tip for watching the migration would be to ban photography for an hour. Too many people just shoot Africa through a lens and come back with 7,000 images – but don’t actually just sit there and take it all in. So I make everyone put their cameras down, turn their engines off and just sit there and watch it.”
Stay in your vehicle. The Masai Mara’s status as a national reserve means that it’s not bound up in the same rules as a national park – and activities such as off-roading, night drives and walking safaris are permitted. You certainly can’t wander off into the bush alone – but a walk with a Maasai guide will let you experience the reserve from a whole different perspective, as you learn to track animals based on prints – and poo – and have the spine tingling thrill of being on foot around the Big Five.
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Masai Mara travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN KENYA

The Mara vs. the Serengeti


Amanda Marks, from our supplier Tribes Travel, recommends the Masai Mara for families: “What Kenya has over Tanzania in that sense is that there are more places that do specific child-friendly activities, in terms of the lodges. So you’d be better off in Kenya with kids. They do things like making molds of footprints, making elephant poo paper and making bows and arrows. There are lots of places offering activities like that.”
Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus, helps travellers decide between Kenya and Tanzania: “From the safari point of view, the biggest difference in somewhere like the Masai Mara compared to the Serengeti is the ability to drive off road. That’s a massive difference. In the Masai Mara you can drive off road which allows you to get much better game viewings from there, whereas in the Serengeti and Manyara you can’t. The other difference is that on the Kenyan side it’s far easier to watch the river crossings during the migration – you get far better viewings.”

Tips on when to go


Roman Biondic, from our supplier Eyes on Africa Travel, shares his thoughts on the best time to visit the Masai Mara: “The wildebeest come from July sometimes to the end of October but July and August is when people travel. It’s just crazy. This year one of our drivers counted the cars waiting in the morning for the river crossing – he counted 180, 200 cars in the Masai Mara. It’s a really great thing to see – but the amount of people that come during those two months is too much. September is a better time to visit as there are not so many people, and in October too – even June they are already starting to cross. Just spread it out a little bit outside the school holidays!”
Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus: “I like to go from 5th to the 15th December. It’s seen as the end of the light rainy season and it’s just incredibly quiet – there’s no-one around. The grass is fairly short so the wildlife viewing is absolutely fantastic. Sometimes you can have 30 vehicles in July and in early December you’ll have two. Lots of people talk about the green season and the rainy season down there – but I’ve always gone on those weeks as it’s so much quieter.”

The Great Migration


Andrew Appleyard, Exodus: “For me, the migration is obviously one of the top five wildlife sights in the world – and it’s quite unbelievable. You can actually see the migration from miles away as you can see a huge spiral of vultures in the sky, so you can see where the river crossings are. Then you’ve got the huge Nile crocodiles there which only actually eat twice a year – which is during the river crossings. They have one of the lowest metabolism rates of any animal. They’ll even bury the wildebeest or zebra in log jams in the river so they nicely soften up, then just tear it off. You can actually smell it from quite a long way off – all the rotting carcasses in log jams on the river.”

Getting out of your car


Roman Biondic, from our supplier Eyes on Africa Travel: “It’s all about guiding, walking, trekking – everything is on foot there. You come in; you’ve already been driving from park to park, spending long periods in the car. So here you have the opportunity to walk. You go up the hills, down the plains following the wildlife on foot. The guides can explain all about the medicinal use of the trees – the bush medicine. It’s very good for the kids – they just love it! The people there know how to handle kids. They love their own kids, and the love any other kids that come to visit them. Families always say that there they get some time to relax, while their kids hang out with the Maasai. The Maasai are grownups – but they behave like kids!”

Masai Mara travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful MAsai Mara travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
“The balance between the culture and the game drives was perfect. It made us realise that there is more to Kenya than the wildlife. The highlight obviously for many would have been the game drives, of which we saw 2 kills and much more but for us the overall warmth and passion of all African people that we met will remain in our memories forever.”Dorian Oates
“I would have to rate the interactions with the Maasai tribes people as being the most surprisingly meaningful and educational components of the trip. I was expecting our interactions to feel awkward and "touristy", but that part of the trip was an eye-opener about the current issues and concerns of these people. We had frank, meaningful and very interesting discussions.”Shelley Munro
“Spend time talking to everyone you meet, especially during the cultural tours, everyone has an interesting story and they will make you think hard about what you thought you knew about Africa.” Mark Collier
“Bring some pictures of you and your family back home to show to people. I found that the people we met were generally curious about what our home was like. During the homestay, we were given several pictures of the host family's extended family to bring home with us. Unfortunately, we had no pictures to return.” - Erik Hadley
“It is useful to stock up with a good supply of 100, 200 and 500 shilling notes before leaving Nairobi, because they are useful if you feel the need to tip people or even if buying beadwork etc from the Maasai or Kikuyo. They are unlikely to have change of very large notes.”Raymond McEvoy

“Bring a wildlife guide book and have a look through before you arrive so you know what to look for (there is more to see than giraffes and big cats!). Bring a Swahili dictionary or phrase book. Just knowing a few words really helps relations with local people.”Holly Foat

“Listen to your driver-guides! They are extremely knowledgeable and you will be amazed at how much you can learn from them, they have all studied for many years to be able to take groups out and tell you about a vast number of animals, birds and plants.”Amelia Shepherd
Photo credits: [Elephants in the Masai Mara: ] [Masai village: Sarah.Ahearn] [Wildebeest river crossing: Richard Toller] [Crocodile river crossing: shankar s.] [Mara camp: saragoldsmith] [Masai mara sunset: Christopher Michel]
Written by Vicki Brown
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