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When I envision my time in Africa, I see the vast rolling savannah of Masai Mara dominated by endless grassy plains. I see the Great Rift Valley and the wildlife activities surrounding Mara River. I picture the ever so beautiful Oldoinyio Escarpment where survival is a constant daily battle among the wildlife in that area. I have created so many unforgettable memories that I was able to bring home with me. Memories of zebras and wildebeests crossing the dangerous migratory path of the Mara River or cheetahs ducking down in long grasses targeting their prey about to start their game of chase and survival. I have also gathered a great experience during my recent Masai Mara safari which I will share here.
The favorable climate of Masai Mara in south-western Kenya is ideal for year-round game viewing. The temperatures during the day is comfortable while the nights are much cooler. Rainfall affects vegetation and water resources therefore resources like these affect wildlife movement and concentration to a great extent. When water and vegetation is scarce, wildlife travel from the deep interior hideouts to more open areas in search of food and also gather around the last remaining water sources like at Mara River, Sand and Talek River. These conditions makes it the best time for safari game viewing in Masai Mara. During this time, there is a greater wildlife visibility in the savannah with minimum tracking time. Moreover, roads and trails are more favorable to vehicles.
The long cool-dry season from July to October is considered to be the best time of the year to visit Masai Mara for Safari also insects like mosquitoes are less during the day season. June to August – The average daytime temperature is 77º F (25º C) and the nighttime lows are around 50º F (10º C). September to May – The average daytime temperature is from 79º F (26º C) to 82º F (28º C) and temperatures drop at night to 55º F (13º C)
The great wildebeest and zebra migration reaches the Masai Mara, Kenya in late July – early August and remains until October when they move back to the Serengeti in Tanzania. During this period there is a great chance of watching wildebeest crossing the migratory paths of the unforgiving Mara River. General game viewing is fantastic and there is an opportunity as well to view the Big Five: Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino. Safaris during these months are one of the world’s most thrilling experiences and include photography, wildlife, bird watching and cultural safaris.
During my three unforgettable days on my safari trip to Masai Mara, I gained a once in a lifetime experience. Here is my itinerary in a nutshell:
AT 7:30 am my tour guide driver picked me up from my Nairobi hotel and departed for Masai Mara. While driving through the mountains, we stopped at the view point of Great Rift Valley. We made another stop in the town of Narok for lunch at the Seasons Hotel. Finally, around late afternoon after about 7 hours of driving, we arrived at Rhino Tourist Tented Camp in Masai Mara where I stayed two nights.
Late afternoon arrival at Rhino Tourist Tented Camp in Masai Mara where I stayed two nights.
Checked in to a tent (numbered as 1954), it was a budget accommodation so nothing fancy, just a double bed and a single bed in a tiny tent with a toilet, shower and a washroom. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included with my stay. After an hour of rest we planned to go for a late afternoon game drive.
We entered the Masai Mara National Reserve (the entrance fee for foreigners is US$ 80 if your accommodation is outside the park) for an exciting evening game drive. It was an incredible experience.
I was amazed by the superb scenery in the wide open savannah. There were many safari activities and various wildlife to view, with a large range of prey animals which is why it is considered Kenya’s best game park. Masai Mars is a buffet for large predators, such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, crocodiles and other powerful hunters.
During the safari I frequently saw impalas, topis, giraffes, elephants, zebras, buffalos, warthogs and other grazing herbivores.
We returned to the camp in the evening. Electricity produced by generator is only available 3 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the evening. So by 10 pm, I was inside the mosquito net for a good nights sleep.
From 08:00 until 18:30, I enjoyed a full day game drive across the huge grassland and rolling hills. I was lucky to spot many wildlife like lion, elephant, cheetah, leopard, buffalo, rhino, zebra, gazelle, giraffe plus the hippos and crocodiles in the Mara River.
Our guide found a safer location in the rolling grassland to stop for lunch and distributed a packed lunch provided by individual camps. On our way there we saw many lions and other dangerous animals and thats why we really had to be very alert during our lunch.
Highlights of the day was to spot Leopard and Rhino. Among the all big five Leopard is the most difficult one to spot, even you track down one but can’t get a good view unless you are lucky, as during the day they rest in thick brush or in trees after their usual hunting activities at night.
While driving through the grassy plains our guide was listing to the radio broadcast, all in a sudden he turned around and started going off road. He told me that someone spotted a Rhino so he is heading to that direction. I was excited because this would be my first time seeing a Rhino.
The Maasai are the ancestral people of the Mara. History remembers them as fierce warriors and tough pastoralist. To this day many lodges around the Mara employ the local Maasai from the communities as their “askari” or security guards. Maasai are well known for their rich cultural heritage. Their deep ties to the wilds of Africa and living around the national parks of Kenya and Tanzania are intertwined with the safari industry. You can find them living all around the Masai Mara reserve and many lodges arrange cultural visits and sell their crafts in camp. We found Masai working in all positions, including our guides, at the camps we stayed at in the Mara.
Another game drive early in the morning between 06:30 to 09:30 then come back to our camp, after breakfast leave for Nakuru National Park.
Did you know the cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. They can run 70 mph (110 kph) and they can reach its top speed in just 3 seconds!
Masai Mara is one of the largest tourist sites in Kenya and Africa. This is where visitors will get a chance to witness the famous wild beast migration. Masai Mara National Park has all types of wild animals including lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants, leopards, zebras, birds, rodents and many others. Visitors will get a chance to enjoy Game Drives where they will be taken to wildlife rich spots and even get near enough to wild animals. Visitors will also enjoy Balloon safaris which is a fantastic way to enjoy the entire Masai Mara National Park on a birds view for approximately an hour. Walking safaris are another great way to explore Masai Mara. You will get a chance to walk through the Park guided by friendly guides and enjoy exploring the ecosystem as you get some exercise.
100% Cotton Scarf Head Wrap protects your head and neck from sun, sand, wind and dust. specially this scarf type wrap provide protection from early morning or late afternoon cold wind during the game drive in a open top safari van.
I would recommend to pack a high end pair of safari Binoculars for your gave drive. It is definitely okay without it and still enjoy the safari to its fullest but for watching wildlife up-close particularly birds watching makes it much more interesting. Many animals are shy and usually hides in the bushes so a binocular certainly helps to isolate your subject from a distance.
A daypack or backpack is very handy during safari game drive. It also protects your sensitive gates from dust and keep them organized on the bumpy roads. Usually I have one and since the roads in the game park is so dusty so I cover them with a plastic trash bag for extra protection.
If you are a travel photographer then in my opinion multi pocket safari vest is one of the thing you must carry. The multi pockets helps me to organize my small camera gears also protect them from dust and sun.
This rugged bean bag is for supporting a DSLR, mirrorless or video camera on a vehicle particularly on a safari vehicle, car window, chair, table, tree limb, fence post or on the ground. It is quicker to use than a tripod when you are in a safari park where you are not allowed to step outside of your van.
This Fujifilm mirrorless camera is for photography enthusiasts who plan on take many pictures without having to carry heavy gears, a small portable hard drive.
Packing a tele zoom lense is important for wildlife photography. Most of the time you will be in a location far away from our wildlife subject and this when your telecom will come in many.
If cost is not an issue then Nikon D850 is the right camera that you need to bring for your once in a lifetime wildlife photography in Masai Mara National reserve.
A tele zoom is all you need to capture great close up pictures of wildlife without stepping out of the safari van. It definitely worth to take one with you. If you can’t afford to buy it there are options to rent it for a week or two. Check out at your local camera dealers.
It’s important to know that for safari in Masai Mara or any other game drive you don’t need a heavy duty hiking boots as you will be restricted to step out of your safari van. A good durable pair of trainers is all that is needed. Check out Women’s Hiking Shoe or Men’s Merrell Hiking Shoe.
Deep vein thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in deep veins, is a known risk of longer flights. One of the recommendation is to wear compression stockings while traveling.
If you are enjoying your dinner at a local restaurant or in a game drive in Masai mara you definitely need to apply insect repellent in Kenya. Do some research and buy the products that work best against mosquitoes and ticks.
Consider getting one of this adapter Universal Adapter with Dual USB Charging Ports for USA EU UK AUS and if you are traveling to South African safari you may need to consider one of those unique South Africa Adapter.
You will want to take lots of photographs so make sure you take plenty of memory cards for your camera. Don’t forget to pack charger and extra battery.
Pack a couple of long sleeved shirts and a pair of long trousers. The evenings can be chilly and they are also good for keeping mosquitoes and other insects at bay.
Most of the African national reserves are in malaria risk area. Please consult your doctor before your trip and do not forget to take some preventive medication with you.
During your travel you may end up in a situation when you need to hand wash your clothes. Small packs of Tide liquid detergent is enough to wash a few items in the sink when traveling.
The roads to Safari parks could be very much dusty and also while game drive you will be going through unpaved dusty roads hours after hour so it’s a good idea to keep few trash gags to protect your gears, pack pack or luggages. I used 50 gallons bad and to protect smaller items I used 20 gallon plastic trash bags.
Rhino Tourist Tented Camp, Masai Mara
Masai Mara During this 3 days safari, I stayed 1 nights in a Rhino Tourist Tented Camp and one night in Mara Chui Camp. The accommodation included all three meals breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Electricity was produced by the generation and was only available between 5:00 am – 8:00 am and again between 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Once lights are off at night there is no other activities out there. There are no hotels, restaurants or shops around. Looking at the picture it’s obvious that I had to use mosquito net at night.
Mara Chui Camp, Masai Mara During this 3 days safari, you will be accommodated for 1 nights in a camp (Mara Chui Camp) and One night in Rhino Tourist Tented Camp. The accommodation included all three meals breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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