WHY VISIT MASAI MARA NATIONAL PARK WITH A RENTED CAR
The Maasai Mara, or the Mara, as most Kenyans call it, is a beautiful national reserve in Kenya, bordering the Serengeti in Tanzania. For first timers, it can be difficult to understand how the Mara ”works” – which entrance gates to use, which roads to avoid, understanding the fees. Before you travel off to the Mara
Imagine fields of waving grass in various shades of yellow to green as far as the eye can see, intersected by rivers and other water sources, and a prolific wildlife, even off-season. The wildebeest migration which starts every year around June – August is world famous. It includes the dramatic crossing of the Mara river by millions of migrating wildebeest, zebras and the trail of predators that accompanies them. But even without the migration, you’re sure to spot these impressive animals roaming the plains.
Entrance gates and entrance fees for entering the Maasai Mara
The greater Maasai Mara ecosystem is comprised of three large sections and a number of smaller private conservancies:
3 Mara Triangle – The Triangle is part of the Northern Mara ecosystem and under management of a private conservation trust. The main gate to Mara Triangle is the Oloololo Gate. When you’re coming from Nairobi, the Sekenani route is fastest. The road from Narok to Sekenani gate is newly tarmacked and smooth. If you’re staying in the Mara Triangle and are driving through Sekenani Gate from the Narok side, do not pay park fees until you enter the Reserve at Purungat Bridge. Also note you have to request a transit permit at the Sekenani gate.
In addition, there are a large number of private conservancies bordering these three main sections, Naboisho being the largest. Visiting these conservancies can’t be done on the go and require pre-booking, which your accommodation can assist with. Generally, these private conservancies aren’t too accommodating for self-drivers. Most lodges in these private conservancies will prefer clients going out with their lodge vehicles.
Entrance fees for the Mara Reserve and the Mara Triangle are USD 80 per person. For an up-to-date overview of entrance, vehicle and camping fees, check the excellent Mara website here. Entrance to the Mara North Conservancy is USD 100 pp. More information about the different Conservancies can be found on the Mara Conservancy website, here.
Can I explore the Mara on a self-drive?
Yes, you certainly can! The Maasai Mara and the Serengeti in Tanzania are probably the most rewarding game parks in the world. Nevertheless, some of the roads leading to this tourism highlight are the worst roads you will experience while driving in Kenya. Also, for a first timer, it can be quite complicated to understand where to go and where to stay in the Maasai Mara. So, while we allow self-drive visits to the Mara, there are arguments in favor of going with a driver, who knows the park and understands the seasonal patterns of the animals. Alternatively, we can recommend to camp at Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp, a 90-minute drive from the Sekenani gate, and visit the Mara with one of their very experienced guides. Or pick up a ranger from one of the Mara entrance gates, to help you navigate your way. The cost for a day guide should range from KES 2500 to 3500 Per day.
Driving times and road conditions to the Maasai Mara Reserve and Mara Triangle are as follows:
Nairobi – Narok (gateway town to the Mara Reserve) is approximately 4 hours. Road condition is good.
Narok to Sekenani gate (main gate to Mara Reserve) is 2 hours. This C12 and C11 road is the recommended route to take and fully tarmacked.
The C13 leads to both Oloololo gate of the Mara Triangle and the Musiara and Talek Gates of the Maasai Mara National reserve. Journey takes approximately 7 hours. This road is in a bad state.
Best time to visit the Maasai Mara
What is the best time to visit the Maasai Mara? Well, depends what you want: wildebeest migration or wilderness feel. Your preferences will guide you through the seasons:
Peak season from mid-June – October. When millions of wildebeests are in the Mara, it attracts many tourists as well.
High season from November – February. Plenty of wildlife and people.
Shoulder season from March – May. Rainy season, so prepare to get stuck in the mud. However, if you are a bit self-reliant, this is a great season to explore the Mara. Wildlife viewing is still good, and less people means you have more to yourself.
The Mara offers superb wildlife viewing year-round. With the best will in the world, you can never be sure of coinciding your few days in the Mara with the crossing and taking this sought-after picture of a crocodile having a frantic wildebeest in its jaws. Expect to pay exorbitant prices for the Mobile Camps that congregate near the river crossing, and to see plenty of other safari vehicles lined up.
I want to combine the Maasai Mara with the Serengeti on my road trip
The Mara is a cross border eco system bordering the Serengeti in Tanzania. Nevertheless, it’s not possible to cross the border to the Serengeti via Masai Mara. You have to drive around the parks, using the Namanga or Isabania border. In case you are visiting the Mara coming from Tanzania, it’s good to know that foreign plated cars do not pay a higher car entrance fee. Foreign registered vehicles do pay a surplus of $ 40 / day when entering the Tanzanian parks.
Camping and affordable places to stay in the Masai Mara
Going on safari in the Mara is a costly affair. The most budget option is to camp at one of the three public campsites inside the Maasai Mara Triangle: Oloololo, Eluai and Iseiya campsite. No prior booking is required for public campsites. You can find more information about camping in the Triangle, here.
The Mara Reserve does not have any public campsites, you would have to find campsites outside the park close to either Sekenani Gate, Talek and Oloololo Gates. Conservancies have private campsites, but they have been booked prior to arrival.
Where can we buy fuel in the Masai Mara?
What if we run out of fuel on our safari in the Mara? The nearest Total and Shell fuel station is at Narok Town. There are smaller, yet more expensive refueling stations at Talek and Sekenani gate. Inside the Mara, you can get fuel at Sarova Mara Lodge or Serena Hotel. The Landcruiser’s have an action radius of 1100-1300 km, so if you fuel up at Narok town, you can enjoy several days of game driving without having to worry about refueling. When you fuel up your Hilux at Narok town, you will have enough for3-4 days of intensive game driving.
3 days Masai Mara tour
The 3 Days Masai Mara Tour takes you on Wildlife Tour in Masai Mara National Park in Kenya where you watch various wildlife animals wandering around their natural vegetation habitat.
Day 1: Transfer to Masai Mara National Park
Day 2: Game Drive in Masai Mara National Park
Day 3: Departure to Nairobi
Day 1: Transfer to Masai Mara National Park
The 3 Days Masai Mara Tour starts in Nairobi to Masai Mara National Park and en-route enjoy views at the green vegetation terrain, birds and when you reach the Park, have an en-route Game Drive watching wildlife and when you reach, proceed to check-in your lodge for Dinner and Overnight. Keekorok lodge.
Day 2: Game Drive in Masai Mara National Park
Spend the day in Masai Mara, Kenya’s most popular game sanctuary where you will have the best opportunity of spotting the Big Five – lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant.
Game drives are flexible, with the option of going out with picnic lunch boxes to spend entire day in the park, or you can choose to have early morning and late afternoon game drives. You will also have the option of visiting a local Masai village (US$20 per person). After the remarkable expedition, proceed for Dinner and Overnight at Keekorok lodge
Day 3: Game Drive and Departure to Nairobi
Wake up have breakfast then with your luggage, embark on a transfer to Nairobi to board your flight back home.
7-Day Accommodated Self Drive Safari Kenya
This self-drive safari Kenya is for those with a desire to experience the best of Kenya in just one week while staying in quaint charming accommodation. Starting our journey 50kms from Nairobi on the edge of the Great Rift Valley before driving a short distance to Lake Naivasha where we enjoy high tea at Elsamere, home of “Born Free”. We take an early morning walking safari to spot hippos, giraffe and zebra and more, continuing through Hells Gate National Park to the 7th natural wonder of the World, the Masai Mara, site of the Great Wildebeest Migration. The Masai Mara is well known for its Big Cat population, set amongst stunning classic African savannah landscape. We self-drive safari through this wondrous wildlife park before departing for Lake Nakuru. We visit a working farm and a local women’s knitting project before entering Lake Nakuru National Park, teeming with pink flamingoes, white rhino, giraffes and buffalo to name a few.
Be entertained by orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage
Mingle with pink flamingos, giraffe, eland, gazelle and impala on a gentle walking safari in Green Crater Lake reserve
Enjoy high tea at Elsamere the original home of “Born Free”
Be mesmerized by millions of wildebeest and zebra as they negotiate crocodile infested rivers in the Masai Mara Reserve
Search for the Big 5 – lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant – and the Little 5 – lion ant, leopard tortoise, rhino beetle, buffalo weaver and elephant shrew
Visit a local women’s knitting project while staying on a working Kenyan farm
Seek out critically endangered Black and White Rhinoceros in Lake Nakuru National Park on a self-drive safari through Kenya
Immerse yourself in Kenyan culture with bartering for souvenirs and indulging in a traditional feast.
Day 1: David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Lake Naivasha
After our introduction to our crew and 4-wheel drive vehicles, we visit rescued orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage before driving along the edge of the Rift Valley to the idyllic Lake Naivasha.
Day 2: Green Crater Lake and Elsamere
An early morning start to Green Crater Lake where we meet our local guide and go on a fascinating walking safari surrounded by giraffe, eland, gazelle, warthogs – and many more – calmly grazing. The area is also home to a number of indigenous plants used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes; our guide will give us intriguing explanations and demonstrations. In the afternoon we venture to Elsamere for afternoon tea while overlooking Lake Naivasha.
Day 3: Hells Gate National Park and Masai Mara Reserve
Departing Lake Naivasha we enter Hells Gate National Park for a game drive before taking isolated dirt roads through small rural villages and settlements eventually meeting the tar road and continuing to Masai Mara Reserve. Arriving at the gates mid-afternoon, we embark on our first exciting game drive in the Mara on our Kenya migration safari.
Day 4: Masai Mara Reserve
We have the entire day to leisurely game drive through Kenya’s premium game park. During the months of June to December we are rewarded with the Great Wildebeest Migration – millions of zebra and wildebeest on their annual pilgrimage. The Masai Mara is a rewarding park anytime of the year with its vast concentration of resident wildlife calling this area their home.
Day 5: Njoro
Continuing on our guided Kenya migration safari, we enjoy a morning game drive before bidding farewell to the Masai Mara and making our way to the village of Njoro, a mere 20kms from Lake Nakuru National Park. We stay on a working farm characteristic of the early English colonisation period in Kenya. You will be forgiven if think you are in the English countryside rather than rural Kenya! We are taken on a guided tour of the farm and visit a remarkable women’s knitting project.
Day 6: Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is most famous for its high concentration of black and white Rhinoceros. It will not be long before entering the game park that we spot Rhinoceros families grazing in the open plains. It is hard to believe these creatures are critically endangered. The park also boasts tens of thousands of pink flamingos, leopard, lions, rare Rothschild giraffe, bushbuck and many more.
Day 7: The Great Rift Valley
Our final day is spent indulging in Kenyans’ favorite activities – bartering for souvenirs at local curio markets and enjoying a traditional lunch of BBQ meat, sukima wiki (local collard), ugali (maize flour) and kachumbari (a tasty tomato and coriander salad). We arrive back at our guest house overlooking the Rift Valley in the late afternoon, we enjoy a sundowner while gazing at the incredible view, the perfect way to complete The Migration Self Drive Safari Kenya.
END OF YOUR JOURNEY