The Masai Mara takes its name from the Maasai tribe, whose tall, elegant physique and traditional bright red attire has captured the heart and attention of photographers from National Geographic to the BBC. Their ancestral savannah lands straddle the Kenyan-Tanzanian border. It’s an incredibly rich ecosystem of rain-fed grasslands, rivers, and trees, where millions of animals come to graze.
It’s in this part of Kenya where the very first photographic safaris took place, and the country still leads the way in new activities, experiences, and fine lodges. Here are just a few of the reasons you should make the Masai Mara your next destination in East Africa.
Epic wildlife sightings
The Masai Mara is a year round destination, but the best time of year to visit depends on what you want to see. For many of our guests, the biggest draw is the Great Migration (July to October) when as many as 1.3 million wildebeest, 500,000 gazelle, and 200,000 zebra make their way here from the Serengeti Plains. The scale of the herds is breathtaking, and so too is the noise and energy when they stampede.
Big cats and other predators do follow the herds through the Masai Mara in hope of an easy meal, but you’ll spot more of them in the months from December to February. The reason for this is that it’s much drier and the grass dies down, so the camouflage of the lion, cheetah, and leopard is far less effective.
The Masai Mara is the northernmost part of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, a land of open grasslands and seasonal streams and rivers. The grasses turn from brown and yellow to bright green once the rains come, and occasional undulating hills give shape to the horizon. The light is best in the early morning and late afternoon, especially when a herd of giraffe walks by, casting their long shadows.
Remarkable places to stay
Accommodation options in the Masai Mara vary from luxurious year-round lodges with superb facilities, to adventurous bush camps which move with the herds throughout the Great Migration. Governors’ Camp is one of the oldest and finest choices, with tents right on the Mara River, a colonial style, and excellent service. We are also huge fans of the solitude at Naboisho Camp, in a private conservancy bordering the national park, where you can stay in one of nine tented suites or head out into the wild fly camping.
The Maasai people
Visiting the Masai Mara can be a rich cultural experience, and there’s much to learn from the tribal communities who live here. Known as tall, fierce warriors with a strong sense of style, the Maasais’ pastoral way of life is changing as they are forced to engage with the modern world to survive. That said, they still celebrate their traditional rites of passage, sing and dance, and many Maasai wear their distinctive red dress and intricate beadwork on a daily basis. Visiting a Maasai village you might well have the chance to try your hand at cattle herding or listen to an elder telling stories. You can barter for goods in the local market, meet school children and families, and may be invited inside someone’s home. Journeysmiths only works with camps and lodges who engage actively and respectfully with their host communities, so you can be assured of a warm Maasai welcome wherever you go.