Mama Africa

Travel and Photography Blog

On safari at the Maasai Mara National Reserve

Safari maasai mara

Safari at the Maasai Mara National Reserve

When I was a little girl, I noticed while watching National Geographic that most shows featuring lions, giraffes, elephants and other magnificent animals were filmed at a place called “Maasai Mara”. Since I love animals, I wrote on my to-do notebook: “someday go to the Maasai Mara”. After many years and after having read about lots of diseases, security matters and high prices, it seemed to me that travelling to Africa and going on a safari in the Maasai Mara was an unlikely dream. Fortunately, a few days ago I visited this place and accomplished that dream; I was also lucky enough not to do it by myself, but instead I enjoyed the experience with my husband.

I had very high expectations about the safari and, honestly, at the beginning it was the main reason why I wanted to go to Kenya. My husband was very worried that it might not measure up to what I expected and that I could be disappointed, but luckily it surpassed each and every one of my expectations.

If you like animals and nature, like I do, you must visit the Maasai Mara at least one time in your life. It’s one of those places in the world that will steal your breath away and give you lots of unforgettable memories. The reserve’s size is impressing and its landscapes are spectacular: Africa like you have always imagined it. The number of animals –especially large mammals- that you can see is incredible.

A visit to a Maasai village

A visit to a Maasai village

Some facts about the reserve

– It’s connected, without a fence, to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, adding up to a total protected area of: 16,273 square kilometers (6,283 square miles).

– It has the largest concentration of large mammals in the world.

– The reserve is home to the Big Five: lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhinoceros (the last two are the most difficult to see).

– From July to October the reserve hosts one of nature’s most unique wonders: the Great Wildebeest Migration, in which approximately two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles arrive from the Serengeti.

– It has 95 different species of mammals and 570 species of birds.

– Each year it is declared by critics as the best or one of the best ecosystems in the world for safari experiences.

If you want to know more, you can visit the reserve’s website: www.maasaimara.com

Great Wildebeest Migration at the Maasai Mara

Great Wildebeest Migration at the Maasai Mara

Our safari

We visited the reserve two days in a row, on the 19th and 20th of July. We planned on doing it around these dates because it is the dry season and because the Great Wildebeest Migration occurs during it.

One day we went on an extended safari trip (12 hours), and the next day on a full-day safari (10 hours). So for 22 hours we visited the wonders of this park and searched for the animals that live there.

Since we hired a Suzuki 4×4, we did not share the vehicle with other tourists, only with our driver and a Maasai fellow in charge of scouting the animals.

One of the days that we were in the area, we walked to a Maasai village that was very near to our camp to learn a little more about them.

Mara Explorers' Suzuki

Mara Explorers’ Suzuki

Safari in numbers

We stayed 3 nights at a wonderful camp called the Mara Explorers, situated 3 kilometers from the reserve, for 30 USD a night in a private tent with a bed. (Total: 90 USD)

During the days we were there, we prepared our own breakfast, lunch and dinner. This helped us a lot to reduce our expenses. We bought our groceries at a supermarket in Narok. (Total: 30 USD)

The Suzuki, which we hired through the camp, costed us 120 USD for the first day and 100 USD for the second day. (Total: 220 USD).

The park’s entrance fee is 80 USD per person, per day. (Total: 320 USD)

We gave tips to our driver and scouter after each safari (two safaris, two people: 55 USD) and to enter the village we had to pay an entrance fee of about 6 USD per person. (Total: 67 USD)

Total sum: 727 USD

There are other cheaper options than the ones we chose and others that are much more expensive, it all depends on your budget and taste. Budget travelers normally only visit the park one day, they share vehicles with other tourists and sleep in their own tents with a sleeping bag. People looking for luxury usually go on safari several days, combine several parks and sleep at posh hotels within the reserve. If you want to know more details about how we planned a budget safari, please read this post.

During your safari you'll see many amazing things. Take your camera and spare batteries.

During your safari you’ll see many amazing things. Take your camera and spare batteries.

Some tips for your safari day

– A full-day safari is very exhausting, so try to take a couple of breaks. Because of how the Suzuki is fitted, we had to stand and sit several times during the day, and we held on very tight when we were standing because of the roads’ conditions. The best thing to do is to sit and relax when there are no animals around (when the sun is strongest). It is also good to take a couple of breaks so the driver can rest.

– The sun is very strong even during winter, take sun block. Our vehicle didn’t have a roof, so it was very important to use sun protection. I wore a hat most part of the trip and applied sun block on my face and arms frequently. Considering the amount of time I spent under the sun, I didn’t tan my skin too much.

– It can get very hot, so drink lots of water. We each drank 2 liters of water and it still wasn’t enough. You should take several bottles; better safe than sorry! You can buy bottled water at your hotel or camp.

– You will get hungry, plan your meals. Inside the reserve there are no restaurants and it is not worth leaving the park to get some food (when you get hungry you will probably be several kilometers away from the entrance). It is important to ask your camp to prepare meals for you or, as we did, take your own food. The driver and the guy in charge of scouting the animals will take their own food and they will always look for a shade under a tree in a secure area (away from lions, elephants, buffalos or others) so you can eat.

– You will see many amazing things, take your camera. We love taking pictures so for us it would be impossible to visit the reserve without one. We bought a 55-250 mm lens for the safari and it fulfilled its duty. Since there is a lot of dust, we bought a filter for the lens so that it didn’t get scratched. We also took a video camera to capture unique moments, such as the wildebeest jumping over a small hollow during the migration.

– There are many things to take pictures of, take spare batteries. It doesn’t matter which camera you take, remember to bring spare batteries along. I read a lot about the subject before our trip and for our camera I took 3 completely charged batteries. The first day we spent 1 battery and a half, and the same amount the next day. The surrounding camps usually rely on solar energy, so the charging of personal items might be restricted to certain hours or capacities, so if you can, take spare batteries from home considering that you might not be able to charge them.

– The roads are very uneven, hold on tight. I still have a couple of bruises from our safari trip. I was standing almost the whole time on the Suzuki, to have a great view of the landscapes, generally while holding the camera so that I wouldn’t miss anything, but each harsh movement I would hit my sides. At first it didn’t hurt a lot but the last day it did. The next day I decided to leave the camera on my seat so I could hold on very tight and avoid getting hurt. Ask your provider about the vehicle and its seats, hold on tight especially when the vehicle picks up speed and be careful with your camera, we met a guy whose camera fell during his safari and it broke.

– Some animals will be very far away, take binoculars. Some safari companies provide binoculars but others don’t. In our case we brought binoculars for other activities in Africa, so we also took them for our safari. They helped a lot! To see animals that were very far away, I would use my camera and my husband the binoculars, or vice versa. I will always remember seeing through the binoculars a lion carrying a wildebeest’s head in his mouth while a group of vultures tried to intimidate him from behind.

– There might be some insects, take repellent. Although we didn’t encounter lots of mosquitoes, along with the Great Wildebeest Migration come lots of flies. There are some zones in the reserve that during the migration receive lots of flies, and not a couple, literally thousands of thousands! They are smaller than the usual flies but very persistent. We couldn’t stand them! Neither could our guide. We don’t know if the insect repellent helped or not, but it was the only way we could think to get rid of them.

Written by Stephany

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This entry was posted on August 5, 2014 by in Kenya and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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