Masai Mara On a Budget
Masai Mara experiences the warmest weather in December and January, with temperatures averaging 85° Fahrenheit. June and July tend to be the coolest time of year, with temperatures in the 60's. The best times to visit are between July and October, when temperatures are fairly mild and it stays fairly dry.
SightsAs a natural reserve, Masai Mara's number one sight is wildlife viewing, also commonly referred to as "going on safari". Masai Mara is home to a wide variety of animals, including hippos, crocodiles, zebras, lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, and many more. To get the best chance at seeing all of these animals, plan multiple trips over a few days that go out in the morning, afternoon, and night.
There are three parks in total, each one with their own entrance fee which lasts for just 24 hours at a time. It is well worth looking for a lodge or camp site within in the reserve boundary as they will often include the daily park fee a daily tour fees in the accommodation price. Some tour companies also offer the park fee included in the price, but be sure to confirm this before heading out for the day. Otherwise, it is common to be provided accommodations in a "luxury camp" near one of the entrance gates for a very affordable price.
ConservanciesThe Masai Mara Reserve is divided into multiple different conservancies, with accommodation options located in each one. Landscapes differ across the conservancies, allowing you to see a wide variety of animals throughout the reserve. The primary conservancies are:
The Mara Triangle makes up the north west part of the reserve, and while it is a little more off the beaten path, it offers incredible game viewing. That's because Mara limits the number of vehicles allowed in the area, meaning you get a more authentic experience on your game drive.
The North Conservancy is on the western part of the reserve and best known for offering some of the best night tours and occasional walking tours.
Lemek Conservancy is a more private conservancy settled in a scenic valley full of wildlife.
Olderikesi Wildlife Conservancy is in an interesting area as it borders the Serengeti, which results in incredible views and a wider range of ecosystems to explore.
Naboisho Conservancy which is a beautiful area on the eastern part of the reserve known for their lovely Acacia trees.
ActivitiesAlthough the main activity is game viewing, it doesn't mean you have to do it from the ground. Instead, take a hot air balloon ride at dawn to watch the stunning sun rise and see the animals from above.
While at the reserve, you can visit a Masai village near the Oloolaimutiek gate. The Masai people are very welcoming and happy to greet visitors. A visit to this village, or one of the other similar villages, is usually included in package Safari tours. The Masai people are known for their great hunting skills, their distinctive red Scottish plaid cloth, and their ability to jump quite high in the air.
Food and DiningThere is one restaurant in the reserve, called Isokon Restaurant, which is known for their plentiful options that are usually western inspired. Other food options are based on your accommodation; most camps and lodges offer a wide range of food options from western inspired to local flavors.
TransportationYou can take a flight from Nairobi or Mombasa to the Masai Mara Airport, a small airport located outside of the reserve. From the airport, you take a car ride to your accommodation. You can also take a 5-6 hour drive from Nairobi to the reserve and get in through one of the five entrance gates. Packaged tours will usually arrange all of your transportation for you, naturally.
Getting around is done only by vehicle, or hot air balloon for those not afraid of heights! It is actually forbidden to walk around outside of accommodation grounds due to the animals in the reserve. It is best to book your transport before arriving, which can be done through your accommodation or a travel agent.
Many small and local travel agencies in Nairobi can book you on a multi-day Safari trip for a very affordable price with only a few days notice. Sometimes it is possible to leave the same day if you book early in the morning and if a spot is available.
If you're looking for onward transportation down into Tanzania from Kenya, you have several options. Private tour buses are available, or you can take public transportation on smaller minibuses and shared taxis. For more information on this, read this great guide to crossing the Isebania border from Kenya to Tanzania.