How to Plan the Perfect Safari in the Masai Mara

by | Aug 3, 2023 | 0 comments

Going on safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya will easily be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. I’ve dove the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, seen the ancient sites in Egypt, eaten my way through Italy and learned to surf in Costa Rica, and none of those experiences come even close to my safari in the Masai Mara.

My husband and I went to Kenya right after we got engaged so it felt like a magical little pre-honeymoon. It was such an exceptional experience that it would have been worth flying to Kenya just for the four day safari in Masai Mara and flying home after—and Kenya is a LONG way away!

Okay, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you on why you must go on safari to Masai Mara, Kenya and to keep reading, let’s get into everything you need to know to have a seamless safari experience in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

landscape of masai mara kenya

Beautiful late morning on the Mara.

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The Weather at Masai Mara

In Kenya the dry season is June through October and the rainy season is November through May.

Though the amount of rain and humidity changes throughout the year, the temperatures tend to stay the same in Masai Mara. Mornings and nights will be chilly at around 55°F while daily highs tend to be between 77°F and 82°F. Overall the weather is very pleasant, though it can feel very hot in the direct sun when you’re out on safari for many hours.

masai mara lion

Lioness in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Best Time for a Safari in Masai Mara, Kenya

You can travel to Masai Mara year round and see tons of wildlife, but the best time of year to visit is from June to October, during dry season. During this time of year, there’s less vegetation so it’s easier to spot wildlife, and less water means less mosquitos—so you’re less likely to get malaria. January and February give a break in the rainy seasons, making these months a great time to visit if you can’t go during the dry season.

Related Post: 3 Easy-to-Miss Requirements for Traveling to Kenya for US Citizens

masai mara the great migration

By some blessed miracle we witnessed the end of the Great Migration in Mid-October. It was such a RUSH!

How to Visit During the Great Wildebeest Migration in Masai Mara

Unfortunately, the dry season is also the most popular time to visit, particularly July through October, because that’s when the the Great Migration happens. This is when 1.5 million wildebeest cross from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya via the Mara River and Talek River. This is the busiest time of year and it can actually get so busy that you end up waiting in queues of safari vehicles to see whatever wildlife is ahead. And you definitely do not want that!

This is why I recommend going on safari in the Masai Mara in the middle or end of October if you want to try and see the Great Migration. This is when my husband and I went and it was so empty and we ended up catching the end of the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara!!! We happened to be right at the Mara River when a big herd of wildebeest decided to cross—it was mind blowing to say the least!

flight to masai mara

Flying over Masai Mara, Kenya.

Where Is the Masai Mara?

The Masai Mara is located in Narok, Kenya along the Great Rift Valley. It’s a six to seven-hour drive from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, or just a 45-minute flight from Nairobi (in a little plane).

women and safari plane in kenya

How to Get to Masai Mara

When it comes to getting to Masai Mara, I wholeheartedly recommend you fly there. Simply book a round-trip flight from Nairobi to Masai Mara out of the Nairobi Wilson Airport (WIL) and the shuttle flights will land in the different Masai Mara airstrips.

little plane to masai mara

This is the small plane we took to Masai Mara.

You’ll most likely be booking a Masai Mara package tour that includes travel and lodgings. This is where you would choose between safari packages that drive you to Masai Mara or fly you there. Flying safaris are a bit more expensive but you save so much time and comfort, and get to the Mara much quicker. If you do end up doing a driving package, get excited because you’ll see tons of the Kenyan countryside along the way!

Related Post: Easy African Safari Outfits for Ladies

woman in swing at governor's camp in masai mara kenya

Me in a swing chair at Governor’s Camp.

The Best Safari Lodge in the Masai Mara: Governor’s Camp

The best lodge in Masai Mara is Governor’s Camp. It opened in 1972 and it’s actually the first permanent safari lodge in Masai Mara, Kenya!

view at governor's camp in masai mara

Baby warthogs running around Governor’s Camp.

Views at Governor’s Camp in Masai Mara

Governor’s Camp is located right on the Mara River and in one the best safari locations on the Mara. You’ll see hippos and crocodiles in the Mara River right from the property and there are warthogs (they call them pumbas!) and baboons just walking around.

governors camp tented lodge

This is the front patio and entrance to our tent lodgings.

Luxury Tents at Governor’s Camp in Masai Mara

This Masai Mara luxury resort leaves you wanting nothing. The lodgings are permanent tents with thick zippered doors that allow you in and out while protecting the inside from bugs. There’s no air conditioning, but you won’t even notice. The weather in the Mara is perfect (especially in dry season) and you’ll feel comfortable day and night!

Inside the tent, you have everything you need. There is a big, cozy bed, wardrobe for your things and desk. The showers have on-demand hot water and are equipped with locally-made toiletries with natural scents that are out of this world. You can buy bottles of this heavenly body wash to take home in the Governor’s Camp shop. I didn’t and it’s one of my major regrets!

You even have an RO water faucet right in your room so you can fill up your metal Governor’s Camp water bottles with fresh, clean water! (The water bottles are a complimentary keepsake, along with another little item I don’t want to spoil for you!)

governors camp lunch tables

Where you eat breakfast and lunch at Governor’s Camp.

Food & Dining at Governor’s Camp in Masai Mara

The meals are five-star quality, with fresh ingredients and majorly appetizing menu options every day.

Breakfast at Governor’s Camp

On days when you do an early morning safari (which I recommend you do every day) you’ll be leaving camp around 6:30am, so they bring fresh hot chocolate and/or coffee to your room. It’s heavenly. Then, your safari guide will pack breakfast for your trip and you’ll have breakfast in the bush—which is so fun! They set up a big picnic blanket on the front of the truck and pull out a huge spread of fruit, sausage, eggs, toast, juice, coffee and more.

man eating breakfast in the bush

Ryan eating our breakfast in the bush!

If you stay at camp for breakfast, it’s buffet style with someone making custom omelets. There is tons of fresh fruit and juices, and plenty of breakfast options. You’ll eat at your designated table under these beautiful trees right out in the open so you can watch the wildlife.

Lunch at Governor’s Camp

Lunch was probably my favorite meal at Governor’s Camp. There was a set three-course menu every day, but you could choose the entree. You’d start with a soup or salad, then have the entree and a fresh dessert. One of my main regrets of this trip is not asking for seconds of the fresh coconut gelato one afternoon—it was to die for.

Dinner at Governor’s Camp

For dinner, all Governor’s Camp guests eat under a big dining hall tent. While we were there, most nights we ordered off a menu and one night it was buffet style.

After dinner (or any time of day, really) there’s an on-site bar where you can get killer cocktails and kick back. During the day, there’s a great spot to sit on a little landing that overlooks the Mara River.

man and woman with Masai safari guide in Kenya

Ryan and I with our Masai safari guide James on the last day.

Governor’s Camp Safari in Private Vehicle

Our safari guide, James, was absolutely amazing! He was so respectful of the wildlife and reserve rules while making sure we saw EVERYTHING. We had great conversation with him throughout the whole trip and really felt like he tried to make our experience extra special.

On our last day of full safari, we had seen all the Big Five except a leopard and rhinoceros, and we really wanted to see a leopard. James was ON IT talking to all the other guides via phone to find out if anyone had seen a leopard. We looked around for hours and finally had this AMAZING encounter with a leopard walking right behind the truck after finishing a fresh meal.

masai mara leopard

Not 10 minutes after this experience we got a call that the wildebeest migration was headed for the Mara River right near where we were. James made sure we were front and center to witness one of nature’s greatest wonders. I still get chills thinking about it!

To put this in perspective, the Masai Mara is HUGE so the fact that we happened to be right near the spot in the river where the crossing was happening was a true miracle. Especially since a crossing takes less than two or three minutes and then it’s over!

masai mara elephants

Elephants in Masai Mara, Kenya.

How to Choose the Best Safari Lodge in Masai Mara

While I think Governor’s Camp is the absolute best choice for your first Masai Mara safari experience, there are tons of stunning lodges in the Mara.

When you’re looking at Masai Mara, Kenya lodges, I recommend focusing on the location of the lodge and quality of the food and service. You want to stay somewhere that’s in the Mara, not a far drive away. Ideally, you want to stay somewhere on a river or near an area where wildlife congregate.

Giraffes in Masai Mara, Kenya

Giraffes in Masai Mara, Kenya.

How to Book a Masai Mara Safari

If you want to book a Masai Mara package tour or find affordable Kenya safari packages, I recommend you start your search on SafariBookings.com. This website aggregates hundreds of safari companies all offering different kinds of safari packages. It’s so easy to use because you can select your criteria while searching to narrow down results.

It can be overwhelming looking at so many safaris but if you use their heart icon on each safari, it saves your top choices into a Favorites List where you can then narrow down further.

masai mara lion

We witnessed this lion mating with a female—it was insane!

What to Look for When Booking Your Kenya Safari

Before booking a safari, I strongly recommend you thoroughly read through the itinerary, read tons of reviews on the accommodations (a very important piece of your trip) and Google search reviews for the particular safari company the package is through.

woman and man in safari vehicle in kenya

Our transfer to Wilson International Airport to fly to Masai Mara.

Our Masai Mara Fly-In Safari With Wildlife Safari

We found our safari through SafariBookings.com and chose it specifically because it was four nights in the Masai Mara at Governor’s Camp. We knew that Masai Mara was going to have the best game drives in Kenya and we wanted to spend as much time in the Mara as possible, rather than spend time at other reserves or in transit.

Our safari was through Wildlife Safari and the service was outstanding, start to finish. We ended up booking another safari tour through them with a stay on Lake Naivasha, bicycle ride through Hell’s Gate National Park and an afternoon safari in Lake Nakuru National Park. You can book right through their website or find packages from them on SafariBookings.com.

wildebeest and zebra in masai mara

It’s so cool to see all different animals coexisting in the Mara.

Kenya Safari FAQs

What are the requirements for traveling to Kenya?

The requirements for US citizens traveling to Kenya include:

  • At least six months validity on your passport
  • At least two blank passport pages
  • A Kenya tourist visa
  • Yellow Fever vaccination is only required if you are coming from a country with “risk of yellow fever transmission”, which does not include the United States. So you are not required to get the Yellow Fever Vaccine to visit Kenya if you are coming from the United States (I did not get it).

How to prevent malaria in Kenya?

Optionally, you can take a drug to prevent Malaria, which is a disease transmitted by mosquito bites.

You definitely do not want to catch malaria, however, you should thoroughly research any anti-malaria drugs you are considering because they can have awful side effects and you do not want to feel awful on your trip!

Alternatively, you could travel in the dry season, cover your skin really well and wear clothes soaked in Permethrin, like this insect shield scarf. For reference, my husband and I were in Kenya in mid-October and neither of us caught malaria. I took chloroquine (which may or may not be effective against malaria in Kenya due to drug resistance) and my husband took no preventatives.

masai mara crocodiles

How to get a Kenya visa for US citizens?

US citizens must apply for a Kenya tourist visa electronically via http://evisa.go.ke/. The single-entry visa costs $51.

You must remember to do this before your trip because you cannot get a visa on arrival in Kenya. Your airline in the US likely won’t allow you to board without your visa anyway. You can find all the instructions you need on the Kenya Embassy of D.C. website.

The only time visas will be granted on arrival is when the visa system is down or hacked, like this recent instance.

What power adapter do you need in Kenya?

Kenya uses outlet type G and you will need an outlet adapter to use your electronics. This is the outlet adapter I use and recommend.

Is it safe to travel in Kenya?

Yes! It’s safe to travel in Kenya, especially when you stay on the well-worn tourist path and book your safaris and activities through reputable companies. While in Nairobi, we took Ubers to different restaurants in the city and museums and never felt unsafe or had any issues. Just mentally prepare yourself to be in a African country with a different culture and stay open minded!

If you’re about to book a safari in Masai Mara, Kenya and have any questions, shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help!

giraffes in masai mara

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