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Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

Munich, Germany
Level Contributor
16 posts
8 reviews
Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

Hello,

We just came back from a safari trip in Kenya (Maasai Mara) and Tanzania (North & Central Serengeti/Ngorongoro) - I would really like to share my experience in order to help other people make the best decisions for their once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Note: In this forum I will give my feedback for the Kenya/Maasai Mara part only.

You can combine this trip with either gorilla viewing in Rwanda (if you have available budget, this is what I would do, if I was going back now) or Serengeti visit in Tanzania (I would mostly go to the central Serengeti only, of course this depends on the time of the year and where the animals are) and with many more destinations e.g. lake victoria, zanzibar, tarangire etc.

First of all, I am a nature guy and very focused on the wild life, birds and landscape viewing & photography (my passionate hobby) and less on the cultural experiences. Having said that, if I was going back there, I would really spend at least around 5-6 days in Maasai Mara (will suggest concrete locations/lodges below) to get the best out of it. All in all, I believe that your active "safari" trip should not exceed the 9-10 days, as it then becomes really tiring.

We flew to Nairobi (stayed one night just opposite the Wilson Airport) and then flew to Maasai Mara (several airstrips). Air Kenya, Safari link and other airlines can fly you there and this is highly recommended if you only go for 5-6 days. In general while I enjoy driving through the village, I really recommend you to follow the more expensive route and fly to your destinations - it saves a LOT of time and driving on bumpy/dusty roads might be disturbing.

You can really organize the bookings yourself or with the help of the tented camps/lodges you will choose to stay (just ask them via email).

The area is very beautiful and big - if you want to have the best chance to view the big 5 and a lot more, then you need to cover long distances very early and very late during the day (when the animals are more active). This means that you need to optimize your lodges/tented camps stay to cover a longer distance and maximize your chance to see the wild animals in action.

Another point is that you don't really need to organize it via a safari tour operator - you can really plan it yourselves very easy with the help of the tented camps you will select (they can advise/assist and even book sometimes on the flights and airstrips and they can even provide you the driver and the car for the game viewing - check with them directly).

The two most important points if you are a photographer are:

- to check whether the game viewing is in a shared 4x4 or it is a private one (you need at least one row free in order to freely move to both sides).

- the driver and the animal spotter/guide (better to have two and not one).

We were extremely lucky to have Ben and Edward with us. Very simple people, not driven by the touristic expansion inferno (they don't even work for any operator, they are like free-lancers). They are both local authentic maasai guides with excellent knowledge of the area and its fauna/flora. The positioning of the car for the best angle/light was excellent. I could not have asked for more for my first safari trip. If you want to contact them directly just PM me to send you their phone numbers (whatsup is the best way to contact them) - they can also be your local advisors and may help you better with the trip organization. Please PM me if you would like to have their phone number.

Don't get me wrong, there are hundred of competent and very good Kenyan Safari tour operators and most of them are really good and professional and you cannot go wrong - you can always book with them. There are also tens of very beautiful and nice tented camps and choosing one might be a bit overwhelming, but again you cannot really go wrong there too.

My suggested locations/tented camps (based on my own experience, research and location to cover as much as possible):

- 2 days (to cover mostly the north east part) : Mara Olapa Tented Camp (very authentic and suggested by local people) http://www.maraolapa.com/

- 2 days: Hammerkop Migration Camp http://www.hammerkopcamp.com/ or Mara Eden Safari Camp maraedensafaricamp.com (both really excellent -exceptional)

- 1-2 days: Entim Camp http://www.entim-mara.com/

All above mentioned camps are really beautiful, intimate, authentic, excellent meals, Eco-oriented, in the bush, by the river, almost inside the park and very close to the real action (so you don't need to drive a lot every day and you get to stay there late as the drive back to the camp is a shorter one).

Hope this helps a bit

G

8 replies to this topic
Munich, Germany
Level Contributor
16 posts
8 reviews
1. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

Btw re. the parks fees - they are paid by the tented camps directly (some of them they include the fees in the price, just ask them)

Also, I forgot to mention the time of the year to go there. After several discussions I had in the camps with experienced guides etc, it all depends on what you want to do and see and what is the scope of your safari trip.

- For a family safari trip, the safest is June-August but be aware this season is really busy and plains are crowded (chances to see a big or small crossing/migration are good, if you are interested).

- If you want less tourists in the plains but still full services and good weather, I guess September-October (chances to see a big or small crossing/migration are good, if you are interested).

- For taking good photos without the hassle of tens of jeeps around you during a really low season and still relatively ok weather, then I was told that late January/February is a safe bet (this is when most of the pro National Geographic photographers are apparently visiting the area). May might also be a good alternative, although I was told that still some areas are very muddy from the rains

Late October/November and March/April are rainy seasons and best to be avoided. Having said that, nobody can control the weather and especially the last few years the patterns have slightly changed

Manchester-by-the-Se...
Level Contributor
555 posts
168 reviews
2. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

It appears that all of your suggestions are in the Reserve proper. I'd direct visitors to the adjacent conservancies, which are far less crowded (limited only to the vehicle belonging to camps in the conservancies) and more private. You can take a day trip into the Reserve itself for any of them, but being limited to staying on-road and the crowding at significant sightings is off-putting to me. Plus, by staying in the conservancies the price of a portion of your stay goes to the preservation of the land and the conservancy concept, which benefits locals and promotes better human-wildlife relations.

Munich, Germany
Level Contributor
16 posts
8 reviews
3. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

That is very true. Actually Mara Olapa Tented Camp is a bit further than the reserve itself.

Crowded plains is one of the reasons I want to travel back there during the low season maybe around February.

The reasons I am suggesting these places are that the average tourist goes there only for a few days to also witness the famous crossings/migration (especially during July-October) and being close to the reserve and hence Mara/Talek rivers you have better chances to witness one. Also, taking day trips to the reserve is indeed possible but for some people rather tiring.

Finally going off-road seemed to be not a big issue quite a lot of times (although the rangers were also around). It depends on how good and knowledgeable your driver/guide is

Pune, India
Level Contributor
132 posts
29 reviews
4. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

Your tips are spot on George. They match my experience. If you have a good guide you can escape the crowds in the main reserve as well and really, Jan /Feb is my favourite time to go. The crowds are thin, the cats are usually desperate because the herds have left, so they aren't getting the freebies on offer. And most importantly the grass is short.

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
2 posts
4 reviews
5. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

May I have the contact for the guides? I am going with my family in August 2019.

Pune, India
Level Contributor
132 posts
29 reviews
6. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

You may be already late to book the best guides for Aug 2019. However, try Simon (simonkararei.com) or John Masek (www.notchbushsafaris.com).

Munich, Germany
Level Contributor
16 posts
8 reviews
7. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

@ stellamarie781 I sent you a PM with more details on the guides we had

New Jersey
Level Contributor
91 posts
19 reviews
8. Re: Maasai Mara Safari - suggestions/advices/guidance/planning

George can you send me the info as well? Thanks!

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