Masai Mara is one of Africa most outstanding safari destination with top level game experiences all year round. The park is an extension of the Mara – Serengeti ecosystem famed for the great wildebeest migration which is one of the largest overland movement in planet earth. Encompassing mostly Savannah plains with dramatic hills southwards and the flora rich Mara river cutting across from east to northwest the landscape here is quite diverse and breathtaking. Furthermore, the inviting Masai people that abodes these areas and offer the perfect opportunity to interact with one of the few African communities that has maintained traditional ways of life. In this guide we shall discuss some of the things you can engage in for an optimal Masai Mara experience.
a) Go for game drives
Game drives are the dominant activities in the park. With over 1510 square kilometers land masses the park is extensive enough to keep you engrossed for up to 3 days each day bringing new experiences. Masai Mara is the only park in Ken ya where you are guaranteed of spotting most of the major animals in a single game drives. The park is also the only place where there is an impressive big cat population almost guaranteeing an encounter with a hunting scenes. Game drives in the national reserve are in closed safari land cruisers with pop up rooftop for photography. However, if you are staying in one of the greater Mara conservancies you can go for open sided drives inside the private wildernesses. Game drives in Masai Mara are at best in the morning and evening when the nocturnal big cats like lions and leopards are highly active making their last and first hunts while the diurnal grazers like gazelles and wildebeests are in still roaming the open Savannah.
b) Drift along the winding Mara river on hot air balloon
Soaring up above the Mara plains for an aerial view of the entire wilderness is one of the most mesmerizing experiences you can have while in Masai Mara. Most of the balloon operators in greater Mara has their flight path along the Mara river marked with unending scenes of flora and wildlife teeming the lush riverbeds and oxbow floodplains. The shared experience takes place early in the morning when the wind currents are steady and the game view is optimal. This experience costs somewhere between 390 USD and 450 USD which might sound quite expensive for a one hour experience but it is truly worth it. Importantly, Balloon rides offer one of the best opportunity to photograph the migratory herds over the migration season.
c) Go bird tracking
Masai Mara is home to about 500 bird varieties of which 47 varieties are raptors. The park is home to seven globally threatened species: Pallied harrier, Jackson’s window bird, corncrake, Grey crested helmeted shrike, lesser kestrel, pond heron and red throated tit. Here an avid birder has some of the best opportunity to explore different types of birds living in different adoptations. Your safari guide will take you to different birding hot spots inside the park and surrounding. Sparingo swamp, Musiara swamp, Siria escarpments and the Mara confluences are some of the locations you shouldn’t miss out.
d) Go of the beaten path and enjoy the experience on foot
Walking safaris in Masai Mara give visitors the authentic connection with a natural African wilderness and all manners of creatures that dwells in it. Depending on individual fitness, walking safari could range from a short stroll in the vicinity of the camp to multiple days fly camping safari inside one of the major Mara conservancies. Walking safaris will enable you take the finer details of small animals and birds which might not be identified from the top of a safari vehicle. Walking safari also enable you watch and photograph major animals and migratory herds at a near range position. Accommodations in the private conservancies offer the best walking safari as you are more flexible to enter into the most desolated corners of the wilderness and in a wider area scope.
d) Horse riding through the plains
It is in deed an elating experience galloping through the Mara plains amidst spellbinding scenes of resident and migratory wildlife. Horse safaris in Masai Mara are offered by camps stationed in the private conservancies. Most of the horses are highbred Boerperd that are properly trained to jungle through the remote wilderness. Here you are able to easily follow the wildebeest as they run across the wildernesses enabling you to experience the migration in a totally different way. Some of the major horse operators include Safaris unlimited and Kaskaz safaris .
e) Go for a night game drive
Night drives take place in the private conservancies or camps inside Masai Mara game reserve that has a large concession area. The Masai Mara night drives enable guests to experience the wilderness in the desolate hours after nightfall. Over this times the jungle is filled with alluring serenity and defiantly seamless sounds of night creatures that often takes over when you shutdown the vehicle engine. This is also the best time to watch big cats roaming around in their gloriously shinning eyes. A drive around the Mara or Talek riverbeds also present the only opportunity to sight hippos outside the water most probably grazing on the river banks.
f) Go for a photo safari and stock the memories
Masai Mara has great photo opportunities similar to what you see in National geographic movies. The private conservancies offer great photography experiences whereby there are custom made photography safari vehicles to assist you capture the best moments. These vehicles only has front and back bars to hold on the canvas roof leaving opening all directions. They are fitted with camera rest that can complement tripods, has three or four 360 degrees swivel seats, charging pots and drop down sides for low angle perspectives. Although you can not go for open- sided game drives in the public you will still capture some great images from the rooftop. Particularly, the game reserve has the perfect spots to capture the river crossing event.
g) Take some moment of sun downing or taking meal from an elevated location
Enjoy your breakfast/ lunch/ a candle lit dinner in a select location in the Masai Mara. Whether you are booked at a facility on the magnificent Siria escarpments on the west of Masai Mara or on the steeps of the hills that dots the south and eastern section of greater Mara, a relaxation in one of the elevated sites brings a highly inspiring and therapeutic experience. Here you enjoy unmatched serenity in the open savannah and in full view of the Mara wilderness on the lowlands. Sun downing by the campfire will also present an opportunity to watch the glorious transition to darkness with alluring views of the star filled sky and the exciting sounds of night creatures.
h) Go airborne in a helicopter
The experience take you through the scenic Mara plains enjoying the view of the wildlife across the Savannah and the beautiful landscape ranging from the winding Mara river studded by dense riverine to the towering Siria escarpments. The helicopter safari is ideal for couples/ family/ small party that would like to enjoy the view of the Mara plains in style. Unlike the balloon safaris, helicopter could be a completely private experience and hovers over a wider area of the wilderness. Helicopter ride can also be a several hours experience.
i) Visit Masai Boma
The Masai community have been living in this areas over hundreds of years. The semi-nomadic community is one of the few African community that have their culture still intact. After spending the entire day on game drives you can take an escape drive to one of the nearby Masai Boma where you can take part in Masai naming ceremony, engage in local dances and buy cultural artifacts. Importantly, income generated in the Masai Bomas give local people a dependable source of livelihood and develop social amenities like schools and hospital. This make them appreciate and engage in conservation efforts as well as avoiding negative activities like poaching.