The spectacular beauty of the Masai Mara stems from hundreds of sights; the graceful stroll of a giraffe, the sleek sprint of a leopard and the attractive arrogance of the lion.
It’s a pleasant idea to get away from boring meetings, demanding bosses and the tedium of daily life. Africa is the continent where the first human remains were found and the land certainly retains the charm and mystery that attracted hundreds of explorers from the west.
One of the most well-known wildlife sanctuaries in the world, the Masai Mara boasts an area of nearly 1500 square kilometres and is sprawled on the western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. The vast, silent grasslands are teeming with wildlife. Nearly 1.5 million animals move through the Masai Mara including what’s called the big five, namely the lion, buffalo, rhino, elephant and leopard.
There are beautiful resorts in the Masai Mara ranging from medium budget ones to luxurious tourist shelters. Most resorts offer you a full board system of meals (which is just as well as there’d would be nowhere to go in the jungle!) and offer tastefully appointed rooms with hot showers and comfortable beds.
Journey from Nairobi to the Masai Mara
The journey from Nairobi to the Masai Mara takes roughly between 5 to 6 hours depending on where your resort is located. Most ‘Kombi’ drivers prefer to leave between 7 am to 8 am so as to reach the Mara by lunch time.
A ‘Kombi’ is a Nissan van designed to accommodate from 9 to 15 passengers. These vehicles are authorized to enter the Masai Mara and open out on the top to allow for easy viewing.
Most Kombis are equipped with walkie-talkie systems and the driver will often use his radio to communicate with other drivers in the sanctuary. the drive from Nairobi winds its way down ‘Rift Valley’; the second longest fault line in the world.
You can enjoy the panoramic views as you come down the mountains. It’s a good idea to take along drinking water (most tour companies will stock the van with a lot of bottles of drinking water) plus a light jacket. Early mornings and evenings tend to get slightly nippy but day time temperatures are very warm.
Resorts in the Masai Mara
There are a lot of really good places to stay in the Masai Mara. Here’s a closer at the best lodges:
The Sarova Mara
These are tented accommodations located near the gate. The tents are luxurious and house single or twin beds plus a bathroom/shower. Meals are served in the restaurant and dining area which is aesthetically designed to blend into the wooded environment.
Piping hot tea and coffee are served with cookies or biscuits thorugh the day.
The Mara Simba
‘Simba’ in Swahili means lion. The Mara Simba is located towards the middle of the Masai Mara; neither too deep inside nor too much on the outside. The accommodation is the form of one storey cottages with a ground level plus one level up.
The rooms are an absolute pleasure to relax in and the toilets/showers are hot and luxurious. Rooms are equipped with a balcony where you can relax after your game drives and enjoy the peaceful chirping of birds or if you’re lucky, the occasional sighting of a hippo in the waters behind the resort.
Food is a delight with an exotic blend of western, African and Indian cuisine. The dessert table is well-stocked with fruit pies, cakes and custards and you often enjoy an impromptu Masai dance performed by locals.
The Mara Serena
This is a favorite among tourists to the Masai Mara. Situated 50 km deep into the jungle, you have to cross the Mara river to get to the Mara Serena Lodge. Very often, visitors spot a lot of wildlife even on their way to Mara Serena.
The Mara Serena is one of the most scenic resorts in the Masai Mara and is built on a slight incline. Due to its elevation, you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of a large chunk of the game park.
On a sidenote, the Mara Serena is home to ‘ Hyrax’; a small rodent type animal that is somewhat similar to a mole.
Tips for Kenya Travel to the Masai Mara
Here are a few tips if you are planning a trip to Africa’s best-loved tourist hotspot:
- The current exchange rate between the Kenyan Shilling and the US dollar is roughly calculated like this: 1 USD = 86 Kenyan Shillings
- The best time to visit the Masai Mara is mid-June to mid-August because this is when the migration takes place; thousands of herbivores cross between Kenya and Tanzania. The carnivores naturally follow
- Ensure that your tour operator provides you with a friendly and enthusiastic driver. The trips to Masai Mara depend on how good your driver is and a cordial driver can make all the difference. He will take initiative to drive you to remote corners to view different animals
- All locals speak and understand English (Swahili is the official language of Kenya)
- You can buy souvenirs and curios at the curio markets in Nairobi; resorts do have shops but they tend to be expensive. If you’re looking for just one or two pieces, they’re good enough
A trip to the Masai Mara is a lifetime memory. The exotic wildlife, friendly locals and luxurious resorts contribute to what can only be described as a unique experience. The dark, forbidding beauty of the jungle coupled with the delicious food and well-appointed rooms combines to make your Kenya holiday an experience to be savored, remembered and recounted to all your family, friends and colleagues.