How to Plan your Masai Mara Budget Safari in Kenya
In this blog post, I am going to share my personal experience of a Masai Mara safari in Kenya. As per my plan, I did this safari without involving a travel agent or taking a safari package. I used to do it as the local Kenyans do it. Masai Mara is a bucket list activity. On the other hand, it is much costly to give it a try for budget travelers. Thousands of visitors come to the Masai Mara annually for some of the most authentic safari experiences in Africa. The Masai Mara National Reserve covers about 370 000 acres in the south-western of Kenya.
The Masai Mara’s terrain is mostly open grassland with small seasonal rivers. These rivers include the famous Mara River that provides the chief obstacle for the wildebeest herds to cross during the great migration. It is one of Africa’s top wildlife destinations and Kenya’s flagship conservation area. It’s much easier to spot the Big 5’s members lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and Rhino(although it was difficult to spot this member). So, it is the Masai Mara and here we are to experience a safari.
How to get to Masai Mara from Nairobi?
Masai Mara is about 230km from Nairobi and it takes about 5 hours to reach there. However, there are certain ways of transportation to Masai Mara and we can choose any option as per our travel need and style.
By Air to Masai Mara
Many of the safari tourists go to Mara after landing on one of the airstrips of Masai Mara. In this connection, they flew from Wilson Airport Nairobi and then transfer to their camps within the National park. Air Kenya operates a couple of flights per day on either side. in peak season, Air Kenya increases the flight frequency. Flights landed on the Masai Mara designated airstrips and then travelers transferred to their lodges by 4*4 vehicles.
You can rent a vehicle from Nairobi. For an off-Road SUV, the rental might start from 100$/day. You can get a better rate from your hotel. Furthermore, you can use this vehicle for your game drives too.
Getting a Taxi
You can get a taxi from 6000~10000 KES($60~100) from Nairobi. It is up for 4 people. In this way, you will reach Masai Mara in 5 Hours. Previously, this time was not less than 9/10 hours. However, thanks to the Kenyan government that they have built a beautiful road up to Masai Mara. Consequently, the travel time is reduced a lot than previous.
By Public Transport
This was the option I worked on and exercised during my travel to Masai Mara. Firstly, we have to take a Matatu for Narok. I took a ticket from Narok-line Matatu service from Charles Rubia Road( Place pinned on the map). One way fare was 500KES($5) and they will provide you the ticket. Luckily, I got the front seat that was an awesome option. We reached Narok Village in three hours that was located 145km from Nairobi.
We will arrive at Easy coach(place pinned at Map) bus terminal in Narok Village. From where we have to follow the Kaplong-Narok- Maai road. After a few minutes, we have to take a left turn for Narok Bus Station. It is hardly a 5-minute walk and around half a km distance. Then, from Narok bus station, we can get a seat in a shared taxi to Sekenani Gate for 500KES($5). The distance from Narok to Masai Mara(Sekinani Gate) is about 85km and it takes about to hour to reach there. Alternatively, you can opt for a seat in Matatu at 400KES($4). However, it definitely will get more time to fill the all seats before starting this journey.
Alternatively, you can visit Masai Mara from Lake Naivasha or Lake Nakuru side too.
How to get around Masai Mara?
In addition to the Rent a Vehicle option, we have exclusively two options here
- To get a Package Safari from a reputable travel agent.
- To take a shared seat with a like minded group. You can get a game drive seat from the campsite of your stay. If you come to a day before your safari then you can get a seat at around 50$ or less. I visited the Masai Mara on the shoulder season of october. At that time, I couldn’t get a seat base oppurtunity. So, I have to arrange a jeep for my self. In peak season, you can get a full jeep from 180~200$ for a full day game drive. Jeep can accommodates to 6 persons that can lower the per person cost. On the other hand you can get a Jeep for a hald day game drive too at 100$. During my visit there were the rate of 150$/75$ for a full day/Half day game drive. Thanks to my Hostel(Semadep Mara Camp), they arrange me half day game drive at $60. So, we enjoyed a memorable game drive from 06:00 to 13:00.
Best Time to go for Masai Mara Safari?
No doubt the best season is July to October when the Great Migration came into action. In addition to this, you can visit Masai Mara in other months of the season. However, the rainy season, April to June can affect your plan, so it is not ideal for a safari.
Where to stay in Masai Mara?
Yes, it is a critical question. How to Choose your desired area in the Masai Mara to visit will influence your safari experience and consequently cost of the safari. Inside the park, the costs per night are far higher as compared to the outside of the park. So, for budget travelers, it is advisable to make a booking outside the park near any of the park gates. Consequently, they can extend their stay and choose the day of the visit to the park. Please note, there are no supermarkets or shops in the area. So, you have to take your meals from your hotel or get a stock of snacks from Narok.
In Masai Mara, I booked my stay at Semadep Mara camp. I got a good rate with a full board package. By staying there two nights, I fully recommended it there on-time service and economical tips.
How Much Is the Entrance fee to Masai MAra?
Entrance fee to Masai Mara is 80$ per person per day. If you reside in the National Park then this fee will be $70 per day. Masai Mara has five gates to enter the National Park. All gates open at 6.00 AM in the morning and close at 6.00 PM in the evening.
Top Things to do in MAsai MAra
Watch Wild Hunting Game Drive in Masai MAra
Game drives are the topmost activity in Masai Mara. Lucky are the persons who find this activity while on a Masai Mara Safari. Early morning and around sunset are the time when wild Carnivores are ready to hunt their food. Although, we couldn’t watch a direct game drive on our safari day. Yet we reached to point where we saw a wake of vultures that were eating their food part after a game drive by wild carnivores.
Spotting Big 5 of Masai MAra
To spot the Big 5 of Masai Mara is a wish list for every traveler who goes for a safari in Masai Mara. I asked our driver, will we be able to spot all the big 5? He replied, we will try our best but it might be tough to locate Rhino these days. The list of Big 5 includes
How I spotted my Big5?
We were so fortunate that we spotted the Rhino as the first one from our Big 5 list. Although it was at a far end, yet we were able to get a close shot with our zoom lens. Buffalos were our next Big 5 spotting. Soon after the Rhino, we came across a herd of wild Buffalos. It seems less charming unless you understand that buffalos are not pet animals from whom we get fresh milk. By seeing their huge horns you can guess the level of wilderness and strength in them.
After that, we passed by a couple of elephant parades. They even crossed our way and were just in front of our vehicles. During our stay at the National park, we spotted many such herds.
The lion was our fourth Big 5 animal. At first, we spotted a couple of lionesses and then a group of 5 lions. The lines were taking a deep sleep while we spent a fair time around them to wait for their wake-up call.
Leopard was the last animal of our Big5 and we have to drive a lot of time for its search. Our driver was in constant communication with other drivers in the park. Finally, we got a call from somewhere and reached a location where a smart Leopard was ready to welcome us from a tree. So, after spotting all the big 5 we were relaxed and wander into the park for other countless animals.
Animals in MAsai Mara
Other than Big 5 of Masai Mara we were able to spot the following animals and birds in the National Park
- Many Dazzles of Zebras
- A few towers of Giraffes
- A large confusions of Wildebeest
- Many sounders of Warthogs
- A wake of vultures while eating out the residual of a game drive
- Different species of Impala
- A few troops of monkeys
- A countless species of Birds
Visit to Masai Village
To visit a Masai Village while your stay at Masai Mara is an essential activity for tourists. You can book this tour from your guesthouse at a cost of 10~20$. So, you will go to a designated Masai village with your guide. The price of the guide is also included in the booking price. On this tour, you can meet with Masai people, see their living style, and visit their homes.
Masai people welcome you with Masai Dance and Adumu Jumping. They will honor you with the hat of the lion’s skin and you will learn the history of how they transformed from animal hunters to animal lovers. Finally, you will visit the Manyata( the traditional huts of Masai Tribes. Last but not the least, they will show you a couple of survival techniques like a fire starting trick.
At the end of your visit, you may be expected to buy some souvenirs from the villagers market inside the Masai Village. Although it is not mandatory to buy anything. However, they expect some buying from you.
Hiking and Nature Walk
A guided nature walk with easy hiking is another important activity in Masai Mara. While on your nature walk, you can spot many birds that are the habitant of Masai Mara. In addition, your guide will brief you about the different species of plants and trees of this area. So, it could be a complete combo of the flora and the fauna of Masai Mara.
Hot Air Baloon Ride
A hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara might be an unforgettable experience for a tourist. I personally, couldn’t experience this activity. Although I spot a couple of Hot Air Baloon at a far distance when I was going to my game drive. It is advised to check rates from your lodging facility. Although most of the online sites quoting 410$ cost for an hour ride yet I know, you can get a lower quote while you will be there. In mid-July, there will be a chance to spot the great migration from your Baloon ride too.
Few Tips to Visit Masai Mara
- Mosquito lotion is a must thing while you are on your safari to Kenya.
- You have to start your safari as early as possible in the morning
- If you are not on a full board package then you can purchase your eatable from Narok. In this way, you can cut short your cost.
Cost of My trip to MAsai Mara
I did my budget 2-Nights, 3Day Safari for 230$. However, this cost can be further reduced, if you share your Jeep ride cost with other tourists. Furthermore, I was a solo traveler and stayed in a single room, so for a couple, the average cost may reduce to some extent. Likewise, camping will reduce your cost to a fair level. Hope you can plan your budget safari by yourself after reading my blog post.
|Nairobi to Narok Matatu (Two Way) 500 + 500 KES
|Narok to Sekinani Village Shared Taxi(Two Way) 500 + 500 KES
|2- Nights 3-day hostel stay…Full board
|Half-Day Jeep ride to Masai Mara
|Entrance Fee to Masai Mara
|Grand Total for Masai Mara Safari