Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies

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Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies

Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies are undoubtedly Africa’s most famous Big 5 safari destination.  The reserve is named after the Maasai people, a semi-nomadic tribe of pastoralists who have long inhabited the region, and their word to describe this landscape – “mara” – which means “spotted” – is a reference to the trees and bushes, as well as the shadows of passing clouds, that dot the plains.

Established in 1961, the Masai Mara was a much smaller reserve of 200 square miles. The reserve massively expanded over the years and was given National Reserve status in the 1970s with a section of the land returned to the local Maasai community, creating cohabitation between humans and wildlife. The reserve’s location and vast quantity of wildlife make it one of the most popular game reserves in Kenya today.

Why is Maasai Mara so famous?

The Maasai Mara is renowned worldwide for its spectacular Great Migration, a natural phenomenon where millions of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles traverse its vast plains in search of fresh grazing.

This annual event highlights Mara’s reputation as a haven for wildlife, boasting a diverse population including the Big Five—lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros—alongside numerous other species.

Its scenic landscapes of sweeping savannahs, acacia-dotted terrain, and meandering rivers like the Mara and Talek provide picturesque settings for unparalleled wildlife viewing and photography opportunities.

Beyond its natural beauty, the Maasai Mara is culturally rich, inhabited by people whose vibrant traditions and unique way of life add a distinctive cultural dimension to the safari experience.

Where Is The Masai Mara National Reserve?

Located in southwestern Kenya, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is part of the larger Serengeti-Mara ecosystem spanning Kenya and Tanzania, which is host to the annual Great Wildebeest Migration. Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches 1,510 sq km (580 sq miles), rests at 1,500-2,170 meters above sea level, and borders the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the south.

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem runs from the Mau Escarpment above Kenya’s Rift Valley to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater. Kenya’s Masai Mara is divided into three broad areas by the Talek and Mara Rivers: The Mara Triangle, the Musiara Sector, and the Sekenani Sector.

How do I get to the Masai Mara National Reserve?

By Road:

The Masai Mara is approximately 270 kilometers from Nairobi, and the journey typically takes about 5-6 hours, depending on road conditions and traffic. The route commonly taken is the Nairobi-Narok-Bomet Road.

From Nairobi, travelers drive to Narok town, a bustling hub about 150 kilometers away, where they can stop for refreshments and refueling. From Narok, the drive continues for another 80 kilometers to the Sekenani Gate, the main entrance to the Masai Mara.

By Air:

Several airlines operate daily flights from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to various airstrips within the Masai Mara. These flights typically take around 45 minutes, offering passengers stunning aerial views of Kenya’s diverse landscapes and the expansive plains of the Mara.

Upon arrival at one of the reserve’s airstrips, such as Olkiombo, Keekorok, or Mara Serena, travelers are usually met by representatives from their respective lodges or camps who provide transfers to the accommodation. 

Best time to go to the Masai Mara?

To avoid crowds, the low-season months of April to May and November to December see fewer visitors than the rest of the year. While this isn’t the best time for wildlife viewing, there are always animals around. April and May are the wettest months, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular scenery and an abundance of baby animals. 

Midsummer can get busy though, so come at the beginning or end of that period with its full-on wildlife without crazy crowds. Even during the high season, some areas of the Mara are busier than others, but for an exclusive safari experience, you can book into one of the private conservancies bordering the Masai Mara.

Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies

Masai Mara National Reserve Explained

The Masai Mara National Reserve is the jewel in Kenya’s safari crown. Immortalized by wildlife documentaries the world over, Kenya’s Masai Mara is sought after by thousands of people every year. The Masai Mara National Reserve is located in Narok County in the southwest of Kenya. The game reserve covers an area of 1510 km² or 583 mi² and lies within the Great Rift Valley.

Sharing a border with Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, the Masai Mara National Reserve is government-owned and run. This means that the reserve is subject to several rules and regulations that affect both tourist numbers and behavior. For a start, anyone can pay fees and have access to the Masai Mara National Reserve.

However once in the reserve, safari vehicles are restricted to the roads, night drives are prohibited and there are no game walks offered. No cultural experiences are offered within the reserve and cattle grazing by local communities is forbidden. During the high-season migration months from July to October, the Masai Mara National Park gets very busy and there is no restriction on the number of vehicles at wildlife sightings.

However, being in the Masai Mara National Reserve puts you closer to the Great Migration river crossing points on the Mara and Talek Rivers. You will also be closer to the very popular hot-air balloon launching sights and there are plenty of safari bush camps within the reserve to accommodate the vast numbers of East African safari tourists.

Two major rivers – the Talek and the Mara – cut through the Masai Mara National Reserve, splitting it into three sectors: the Sekenani Sector, which lies to the east of the Talek River, the Musiara Sector, which is sandwiched between the two rivers, and the Mara Triangle, which is west of the Mara River.

The Narok County Council controls the Musiara and Sekenani sectors. At the same time, the more remote Mara Triangle is administered by a non-profit conservancy company, the Trans Mara County Council.


The Mara Triangle

The area known as The Mara Triangle spans 510 square kilometers, approximately one-third of the entire Masai Mara National Reserve. In the past, this region was the scene of widespread poaching leading to the death of thousands of animals each year. In 2000 a group of local leaders banded together to make a difference to promote the conservation of the Mara Triangle.

The collaboration of these leaders led to the establishment of the non-profit Mara Conservancy. It was the first step towards a groundbreaking partnership between the public and private sector, between conservation professionals and the local Maasai community, to successfully conserve and manage one of the most animal-rich areas of the world.

The Mara Triangle is where the Great Migration herds enter and depart the Masai Mara National Reserve from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, making it a perfect location to witness this incredible wildlife display. The Mara River crossings are among the migration’s most dramatic events, so staying in the Mara Triangle on safari will offer you front-row seats to the show.


Musiara Sector

The Musiara Sector is a prime area for game viewing in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Located between the Talek and Mara rivers in the southeastern part of the reserve, this sector is renowned for its iconic swampland teeming with wild bird species and other wildlife. It offers excellent game viewing opportunities, particularly in the Musiara Marsh, and is one of the best spots to witness the spectacular wildebeest crossings at the Mara River.

Being near the Mara River makes the Musiara Sector a key location during the great migration season, which occurs from July to October. During this time, large herds of animals migrate from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara, providing numerous opportunities to observe big cats hunting their prey.

Within the Central Plains of the Musiara Sector, the savanna of Paradise Plain is prime cheetah territory. Rhino Ridge is ideal for spotting black-backed jackals, spotted hyenas, and bat-eared foxes. Lookout Hill offers a great vantage point for watching hippos in the Olpunyaia Swamp and observing the wildebeest river crossings during the migration months.

The Central Plains, bordered by the Sand, Talek, and Mara Rivers, make up the largest part of the reserve. The Musiara Sector’s abundance of wildlife also makes it the perfect home to the ‘Marsh Pride,’ a group of 25-30 lions and cubs made famous by the BBC’s documentary ‘Big Cat Diary.’ Buffalos and various other creatures can be seen taking lazy mud baths in the swamp puddles, adding to the sector’s rich wildlife diversity.


Sekenani Sector

The Sekenani Sector is generally the main point of entry into the Masai Mara National Reserve for those traveling by land from Nairobi. Mara Sekenani serves as the primary access point for overland traffic arriving from Nairobi, making it the busiest sector in the reserve. The area is hilly to the east, descending through dense acacia and Leleshwa forests before opening out into open grasslands to the west.

This sector houses the main gate of the reserve and experiences significant traffic, especially from travelers coming from Nairobi. Unfortunately, the landscape in this part of the reserve is considered less interesting and less appealing for safari travelers.

It is carpeted with large hotel lodges and low-budget tented camps. Uncontrolled local development and a steady stream of tourists in minibusses have caused it to lose the untouched appeal that other areas of the reserve offer in abundance.

The Leleshwa forest in this sector is home to a variety of wildlife species and is particularly a haven for birders. However, the area is the busiest and arguably the least attractive part of the Mara. Overall, while the Sekenani Sector is an essential transit area, it is not recommended to spend more time than necessary here, as the reserve offers much more to explore in other locations.

Wildlife In The Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies | Animals & Birds

The Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies are renowned for its incredible diversity of wildlife, making it a premier safari destination. The Big Five are at the heart of this ecosystem: Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, and Cape buffaloes.

Lions are particularly abundant, with approximately 850-900 individuals living in Pride which can include up to 20 members. These social big cats are often seen lounging in the shade or hunting in groups, with the females taking on most of the hunting duties. Leopards, although more elusive, are frequently encountered in the Mara. Known for their grace and stealth, these solitary hunters prefer wooded savannahs and rocky outcrops, often dragging their prey into trees to avoid scavengers.

Elephants are another common sight in the Masai Mara, and these magnificent creatures are known for their strong family bonds. Led by a matriarch, elephant herds are composed of females and their young, while adult males usually live alone or in small bachelor groups.

Rhinos, particularly the black rhino, are more elusive but can be found in the dense thickets of the reserve. These solitary animals have poor eyesight but excellent hearing and a strong sense of smell, making them wary and ready to charge at any perceived threat.

Cape Buffaloes, one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, are also prevalent in the Mara. They are often seen in large herds, especially near water sources, and are known for their unpredictable and aggressive nature.

One of the most spectacular events in the Masai Mara is the Great Migration, which takes place from July to October. During this period, over 1.5 million wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles migrate from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara in search of greener pastures.

This mass movement involves dramatic river crossings where animals brave the perilous Mara River, teeming with crocodiles waiting for an easy meal. The sight of thousands of animals moving in unison and intense predator-prey interactions makes the Great Migration a must-see spectacle for any safari enthusiast.

Predators are a major draw in the Masai Mara, and the reserve boasts a high density of lions, cheetahs, and leopards. Cheetahs, the fastest land animals, are often seen in pursuit of prey in the open plains. Hyenas and jackals, key scavengers in the ecosystem, are also frequently spotted.

In recent years, African wild dogs have made a return to the area, adding to the rich predator-prey dynamics that make the Mara so fascinating. The presence of these predators ensures that visitors are treated to thrilling and educational wildlife encounters.

Beyond the iconic Big Five and the spectacle of the Great Migration, the Masai Mara is home to a diverse array of other wildlife. Other stars include the distinctive Masai giraffe, plum-colored topi, Coke’s hartebeest, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, zebra, impala, Kirk’s dik-dik, bushbuck, waterbuck, and red duiker. The Reserve also boasts plentiful monitor lizards, baboons, vervet, blue and red-tailed monkeys, nocturnal bush babies, and tree hyraxes.

The Mara River is home to large populations of hippos and crocodiles, which can be observed during river crossings or while they bask along the riverbanks. The reserve also supports a wide variety of antelopes, from the diminutive dik-diks to the large and majestic elands.

For avid birders, the Masai Mara is home to around 500 resident species including large terrestrial species like ostriches and kori bustards, almost 60 species of raptors including the impressive bateleur, long-crested eagle, and vultures as well as a plethora of smaller colorful and diverse species like lilac-breasted rollers and violet-backed starlings. The best time for birding coincides with the wet season from November to April when European and North African species descend on Masai Mara to breed.

The Masai Mara offers a safari experience that is both unique and unforgettable. Visitors can enjoy game drives that bring them up close to the wildlife, while hot-air balloon safaris provide a bird’s-eye view of the vast plains and the animals that inhabit them. Below are some of the safaris that we offer:

Masai Mara Hot Air Ballon Safaris | Click Here
1 Day Masai Mara National Reserve Safari from Nairobi | Click Here
1 Day Masai Mara National Reserve Fly-In Safari from Nairobi | Click Here

Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies

Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies Activities | Things To Do

Early Morning Game Drives

Early morning game drives in the Masai Mara are a spectacular way to experience the reserve’s wildlife at its most active. Starting around dawn, typically around 0615 Hours, these drives offer the chance to witness the stunning African sunrise and observe animals as they begin their day.

Predators such as lions, leopards, and cheetahs are often seen hunting in the cool morning air, while herbivores like elephants, giraffes, and zebras graze on the open savannah. The drives usually last until 0900 Hours, after which you return to camp for a hearty breakfast.

These excursions are guided by experienced local rangers who provide insights into the behavior and ecology of the wildlife, enhancing the overall experience


Afternoon Game Drives

An afternoon game drive in the Masai Mara is a captivating experience that typically begins around 1530 Hours, offering a unique opportunity to witness the vibrant wildlife as the day cools down.

During this time, many animals become more active after resting in the shade during the heat of the day. The “golden hour” just before sunset provides excellent lighting for photography, with the long shadows and soft light enhancing the natural beauty of the landscape and the animals.

These drives often feature sightings of the Big Five—lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffaloes—along with other wildlife like cheetahs, zebras, and wildebeest. The cooler temperatures also make for a more comfortable safari experience.

Typically conducted in 4×4 vehicles, these drives are led by knowledgeable guides who share insights about the animals and their behaviors, making the experience educational as well as thrilling. The afternoon drive concludes around 1830 Hours, allowing guests to return to their lodges in time for dinner and to relax after an exciting day in the bush​


Night Game Drives

Night game drives in the Masai Mara are quite a thrill and provide a wonderful opportunity to spot nocturnal animals, which are more active at night than during the day. Some of the nocturnal wildlife you are likely to see include aardvarks, leopards, hippos, bat-eared foxes, silver-backed jackals, honey badgers, striped hyenas, banded mongooses, bush babies, bush pigs, caracals, genet cats, cape hares, porcupines, civet cats, aardwolves, and owls.

Please note that night game drives are not permitted inside the main Masai Mara National Reserve. They only take place inside selected private conservancies such as Mara North Conservancy, Mara Naboisho, Siana, and Olare Motorogi Conservancy.

Night game drives typically start between 1900 Hours and 2100 Hours and last around 2 hours. The 2100 Hours night safari occurs after dinner, while the 1900 Hours one takes place before dinner. Private vehicles are not permitted on night game drives unaccompanied, and it is mandatory to have an authorized guide and driver to accompany guests and provide the night safari in line with local conservancy rules.

These night game drives are conducted by experienced local guides in 4×4 Land Cruiser or Land Rover vehicles fitted with powerful lights for proper vision at night, and these lights are fitted with animal-friendly red filters.

In the Masai Mara, some of these guides are expert local Maasai wildlife guides. Before your game drive, your driver guide or local guide will always brief you on the activities, depending on the location of your accommodation.


Balloon Safaris

The pickup time from your hotel/ lodge or camp in the Mara is usually between 0500 Hours to 0530 Hours while the drop-off time is between 0930 hours and 1030 Hours. You meet up before sunrise and coffee is served while you watch your hot air balloon being inflated and prepared for flight. After a safety briefing, you should be airborne in time to witness the sunrise.

Then a change in altitude to search for a favorable wind that will allow you to drift gently over the landscape on your hot air balloon safari. The balloon travels 15 to 25 km depending on wind conditions.

The gentle and silent nature of the Masai Mara Hot Air Balloon flight allows the passengers to view the wildlife from a comfortable distance. The balloon flight takes you over the diverse habitats of the Masai Mara Reserve; the great Mara River, swamps, forests, wildlife, and the African Savannah.

The big five; the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo can be seen frequently along with other animals such as hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, birds, and many more. Sooner or later you have to come down again from your ballooning experience.

Upon landing, a champagne breakfast is served in the open plains of the Masai Mara.  Sparkling wine and fruit juice are served after the hot air balloon safari, depending on weather conditions Once breakfast is over the passengers are taken back to their lodges and camps en route for a game drive.


Wildebeest Migration Safaris

These safaris are organized specifically for visitors wanting to witness the wildebeest migration, particularly the dramatic river crossings. The wildebeest follow a set circular route each year, which they have been doing for over a million years, followed by many other species and, of course, predators. It is impossible to give exact dates and times as each year these differ according to rainfall.

In general, the animals spend from December to May on the lush plains of the southeast Serengeti, grazing, fattening up, and having their babies in February. In late May to early June, the rains on the plains stop, and the animals head northwest to the area around the Grumeti River and from there, in July and August, to the Masai Mara.

It is this migration route that provides much drama, as the animals have to cross both the Grumeti and Mara Rivers, where crocodiles lie in wait. The animals remain in Kenya until the short rains start in November when they make their way back down south.

The Mara River, a crucial part of this journey, runs through Kenya’s Narok County and Tanzania’s Mara Region, spanning approximately 395 km (245 miles) from its origins in the Kenyan highlands to Lake Victoria.

The river, nicknamed the ‘River of Death,’ plays a vital role in the Great Migration, as countless wildebeest brave its steep banks and treacherous waters filled with lurking crocodiles, creating one of nature’s most dramatic spectacles.

The Mara River serves as the main barrier for wildebeest herd crossings in the middle of the year, but smaller breakaway groups also cross the Talek and Sand Rivers. The river sustains a rich diversity of wildlife year-round, with its banks lined with lush vegetation attracting elephants, hippos, and a myriad of bird species.

Early morning mists rise above the water, where hippos wade and crocodiles bask in the sun, creating a tranquil yet dynamic habitat that teems with life and offers an immersive safari experience​


Bird Watching/ Bird Walks

Birdwatching in the Masai Mara is a paradise for bird enthusiasts, boasting over 470 bird species. With almost 500 bird species, including a daunting 47 species of birds of prey, the Masai Mara’s treetops, bushes, and skies offer a feast for birdwatchers’ eyes. The savannah birds range in size from the world’s largest bird, the ostrich, to tiny sunbirds that are hard to spot with the naked eye.

Birdwatching in the Masai Mara is a year-round delight. Visitors can look up to see bateleurs soaring high above the grassy plains and scan the savannah to spot any of the six species of vultures scavenging the carcasses of prey animals.

While you are bound to see special feathered friends any time of year, the best birdwatching season is from November through April. This period coincides with the rainy season when European and Northern African migratory birds arrive, and many birds can be seen in their ‘breeding’ plumage.

The grasslands are home to turkey-sized Ground Hornbills, Secretary Birds, Kori Bustards, Jaunty Crowned-Plovers, and flocks of White Storks. Spectacular flocks of Crowned Cranes, Saddle-Billed Storks, groups of Yellow-Billed Storks, and Sacred Ibis can be spotted in the swamplands.

The Musiara Marsh is an excellent spot for birdwatching, being the only place in Kenya where the Rufous-bellied Heron breeds and where the endangered Madagascar Squacco Heron can be spotted between October and May.

Along the Mara River, birdwatchers can spot any of the seven species of kingfishers, from the Giant Kingfisher to the tiny Pygmy Kingfisher. The forests lining the river are home to the colorful Ross’s Turaco and the Schalow’s Turaco.

The most impressive birds of the Mara are the birds of prey, including the mighty Martial Eagle, which is strong enough to prey on young impala and dikdik, and the iconic Bateleur, known for its gliding flight across the African skies.


Nature Walks

A bush walking safari is an adventure-packed activity where participants embark on relaxed, guided walks in a wildlife conservation area to see wild animals more naturally without using vehicles.

There are two types of nature walks offered at Masai Mara: nature walks within the camp and those outside the main reserve. The duration for walks within the camp is approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, while walks outside the main reserve last approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours, covering a distance of 9-15 km, and include a packed breakfast or lunch depending on the timings, with game drives en route to and from the walking safari location.

These nature walks are preferably done early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is not too hot. It is important to note that walking safaris are prohibited in the main reserve and the Mara Triangle.

Only private conservancies surrounding the main reserve may allow for well-planned and supervised walking safaris, while camps and lodges, even inside the main reserve, offer shorter nature walks, often just an hour long, within the immediate vicinity of the safari property.

Despite the well-advised precautions in place to safeguard tourists and travelers, nature walks, or bush walks as they are also known, are a highly rewarding activity. There is much more to observe while on foot in the bush due to the more sensory nature of the experience.

Depending on where the nature walks are conducted, it is possible to see plenty of wildlife, not to mention a rich diversity of birds, flora, and fauna. Walks are led by experienced and trained guides, often local Maasai, who have the advantage of being born and bred in the very region that you are exploring.


Cultural Activities

Maasai Culture: Engage with the local Maasai communities and learn about their traditional way of life, customs, and vibrant culture. Visits to Maasai villages provide a deeper understanding of the region’s heritage, with opportunities to purchase handmade crafts and participate in traditional dances.

Visiting Maasai Homesteads (Manyattas)
Homestead visits are perfect for those interested in learning about Maasai culture and way of life.

Cultural Dances
Evening entertainment often includes cultural dances organized by lodges or available at Maasai homesteads.

Cultural Festivals
Festivals like the Maa Cultural Festival and Eunoto provide opportunities to learn about Maasai culture.


Sundowners
Sundowners are romantic dining experiences set up in scenic bush locations, perfect for couples to enjoy an evening drink while watching the sunset.

Bush Dinners/Breakfasts
These meals are set up in scenic locations, allowing guests to enjoy a meal while watching the sunrise or sunset.


Horseback Safaris
Horseback safaris offer a unique way to observe wildlife, guided by rangers or local Maasai morans.


Safaris to Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire National Parks
Visitors can cross into Tanzania to explore neighboring parks. The crossing is at the Isebania border point, as Sand River is not an official border post.


Camping

There are several campsites outside the park gates, offering the least expensive lodging options. Visitors can either bring their tent, rent one, or pay more to sleep in a permanently erected tent. Another lodging option is to organize a homestay with a Maasai family in a village outside the park.

Some adventurous travelers prefer to hire their own 4×4 (and rent camping equipment from Nairobi) and explore the park independently, staying at campsites outside the park or in the Mara Triangle.

Having your vehicle provides plenty of freedom, and camping in the bush immerses you in nature. However, the roads leading into the Masai Mara National Reserve, particularly between Narok and the Talek and Sekenani Gates, are in poor condition. It’s beneficial to have some 4×4 driving experience in Africa and understand the park rules: never go off-road, and give wildlife plenty of space.

Inside the park, camping options are limited to the Mara Triangle, where you can stay in either the public campsite or special campsites (which need to be reserved in advance). If you’re camping inside the park, you need to be entirely self-sufficient, bringing all your food, water, and firewood. Private campsites in Masai Mara reserve require prior booking and a booking fee, while public campsites generally do not.

There are eleven campsites in Masai Mara National Reserve, where three campsites are open for public use, and three are used by professional tour operators. The campsites used by tour operators include Kampi ya Mungu, Kijito, and Kishanga. The public campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Oloololo Campsite (Public) offers you a magnificent view of the sunrise dotted with hot-air balloons in the skies. Viewing the animals in their native land where they are free to roam and live as nature intended is just fascinating beyond words. Oloolo Campsite is a great place to camp, with stunning views and wildlife. A nice breeze off the plain and some great shade trees are available. The rugged and rolling landscape will provide many great pictures.

Facilities available at the campsite include a kitchen shade with no cooking utensils, long-prop toilets, and showers. Oloololo campsite also provides tourists with a chance to interact with the local Maasai community and learn about their culture, livestock, way of dressing, visit the “manyattas,” watch traditional dance performances, and see local arts and crafts.


Eluai Campsite (Public) is one of the public campsites in Mara Triangle, located at the eastern edge. It accommodates up to 15 campers and offers a great view of the Triangle, with plenty of shade from acacia trees. Things you need to bring include camping gear, water, and firewood.


Iseiya Campsite (Public) is the smallest campsite in Mara Triangle, accommodating up to 10 campers. It is ideal for those seeking a remote camping experience. Kijito Campsite is a private site with plenty of shade and privacy, accommodating up to 20 campers. It has a campfire area and offers stunning views of the Triangle wildlife. The campsite is near Mara Serena Lodge and you can buy food items and bottled water at the canteen. The only facility available at the campsite is a long-drop toilet.


Kampi Ya Mungu Campsite (Professional Tour Operators Only), located at the western edge of the Mara Triangle, is a spacious campsite located in a cool, serene area on the western side of the Mara Triangle, with an abundance of wild animals nearby. It is just south of Ngiro-Are road, 8kms from the 50km main junction (mile marker) and can accommodate up to 40 campers. It has a large open area for camping and offers spectacular views of the Triangle and its wildlife.


Kishanga Campsite (Professional Tour Operators Only) is a spacious campsite located in a cool, serene area on the western side of the Mara Triangle. The campsite overlooks Oloolo escarpment with an abundance of wild animals coming for salt lick nearby.


Kijito Campsite (Professional Tour Operators Only) is located in the western part of the Mara Triangle with a beautiful view of the Siria escarpment. The camp is well known for its high concentration of elephants and buffalo. The name is derived from a windmill that pumps water to the Ngiro-are outpost.


Olarro Campsite (Private) is a private site with stunning views, accommodating up to 12 campers. It provides plenty of shade and is perfect for an intimate camping experience. The camp is located near the Mara River in the southern sector of the Mara Triangle. The campsite is cool for small groups and has splendid views of the Mara River. It has a good access road and is not far from wildebeest crossing points.


Ndovu Campsite (Private), one of the largest campsites in Mara Triangle, accommodates up to 30 campers and offers spectacular views from the tent. It has plenty of shade, making it ideal for those looking to explore and enjoy wildlife.


Hornbill Campsite (Private) has a magnificent view of hippos and crocodiles down the Mara River. Located in the northern part of the Mara River with a clear view of the island formed as a result of Mara River bifurcation, the name is inspired by the presence of a southern ground hornbill nest just close to the campsite. The area is frequented by different bird species, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, and antelopes. It is located between Oloololo Gate and Iseiya Station. It is close to the main lower road.


Dirisha Campsite (Private) is a very secluded private campsite, away from the road, so privacy is guaranteed. Perfect for groups of 15 campers, it is located near Olarro Campsite. It offers plenty of space for camping and breathtaking views of the attractions.


Kiboko Campsite (Private) is located in the southern sector of the Mara Triangle. The site has a spectacular view of the Mara River and is close to some of the best wildebeest crossing points. The wildlife that visits the campsite is amazing with a view of hippos and crocodiles lazing in the water.

The trees and bushes around the camp allow close views of wildlife such as elephants, buffalo, and leopards who visit during the day. The campsite is big enough to host 30 guests. The camp has no facilities and please remember to bring your firewood. It is located between Iseya Station and Purungat Bridge.


Campsite Booking Rules

* Private campsites require prior booking. There are currently 5 private campsites available: Dirisha, Hornbill, Ndovu, Olarro, and Kiboko
* All campers in private campsites must hire two rangers for nighttime security. Mara Conservancy will provide transport and food for the rangers (No prior booking for rangers).
* Block booking is not permitted and will result in the cancellation of all reservations. Block booking includes reserving campsites under different names or leaving a booked campsite to stand empty.
* There are three special campsites set in the wilderness area (Kampi ya Mungu, Kishanga, and Kijito). The campsites are open for booking from July to October. Activities permitted for clients staying in the special campsites are guarded walking safaris along the escarpment and game drives up to 1930 hrs.
* The campsite booking is valid for the time the site is occupied, including the time for the camp staff to put up and take down the tent. All campers in private campsites must hire two rangers for nighttime security. Mara Conservancy will provide transport and food for the rangers (No prior booking for rangers). 

Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies

Masai Mara Conservancies

The Masai Mara ecosystem is home to several conservancies that promote wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism while benefiting local communities. Covering an area of 1,450 km² (560 mi²), these conservancies are owned by over 14,500 Masai landowners. The expansion of the Masai Mara National Reserve to include these surrounding conservancies has been a significant conservation game changer.

These conservancies are on private land owned by Maasai families and have been set aside for wildlife conservation and tourism. The landowners lease their land to safari companies and lodges, who then pay monthly fees. This income directly benefits the local communities, funding education and other development initiatives. In return, the Maasai are allowed to graze their cattle on the land under strictly controlled conditions.

These areas are serviced by tented camps that share traversing rights. Tourist numbers are tightly controlled, and vehicle numbers at wildlife sightings are restricted to five, creating a sense of exclusivity. The low-impact tourism model ensures that wildlife is often more abundant in these areas. Fences within these conservancies usually keep wildlife out rather than the traditional model of fencing the wild.

Within the conservancies, guided walks and night drives are allowed, unlike in the national reserve. Visitors to the national park are not permitted in the Masai Mara Conservancies, but conservancy visitors can cross into the national park.

This allows for unique activities such as bush dinners, off-road driving, and walking safaris. On walks in the bush, Maasai guides track animals and teaches visitors about the ecosystem, its fascinating animal, bird, and insect life, and the medicinal and cultural uses of plants.

The partnerships with local communities first explored in 2005, have grown positively since then. Today, there are 15 wildlife conservancies engaged with 39 tourism partners. Income generated through safari tourism directly benefits the local communities, which in turn benefits conservation efforts. As a result, Maasai communities have benefited from economic upliftment, and wildlife numbers have increased as land that was once overgrazed is now being rehabilitated as wilderness.

Staff and rangers in the conservancies are often recruited from local communities, leading to better cultural interactions with the Maasai. These interactions add an element of authenticity, which can be further enhanced by organized cultural visits to nearby Maasai villages, which are always optional.

The conservancies are concentrated around the northern end of the reserve and extend to the east of the Masai Mara in more remote locations. They cover an area almost the same size as the national reserve itself.

Mara North Conservancy

On the northwestern edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve lies the 74,000-acre Mara North Conservancy, celebrated for its abundant wildlife and classic savanna vistas, and dedicated to community-driven conservation efforts.

This expansive conservancy, owned by 666 landowners and supported by 14 tourism partners, prioritizes habitat restoration and sustainable grazing management to rehabilitate overgrazed lands. Despite hosting ten camps, Mara North ensures ample privacy with nearly 700 acres per tent, offering an exclusive safari experience amidst diverse habitats.

The Conservancy is renowned for exceptional game viewing, highlighted by frequent sightings of big cats and the dramatic Great Migration herds passing through from December to May. Notable landmarks include Leopard Gorge, a lion maternity ground, and the Lemek Hills, a refuge for African Painted Wolves.

Accommodation options like Mara House, tucked away in the tranquil Ol Chorro Losoit Valley, and Mara Toto Tree Camp, situated along the Ntiakitiak River on the border of Olare Orok and Mara North Conservancies, provide luxurious havens amidst pristine wilderness.


Mara Naboisho Conservancy

Located north of the Masai Mara National Reserve, the 50,000-acre Mara Naboisho Conservancy is renowned as a premier safari destination within the Mara ecosystem. Established by over 500 Maasai land-owning families and owned by 636 landowners, it is celebrated for its controlled grazing practices aimed at habitat recovery. With only seven camps offering 877 acres per tent, Mara Naboisho ensures an exclusive safari experience with minimal environmental impact and no overcrowding.

The conservancy boasts a high concentration of wildlife, including abundant big cats, elephants, giraffes, and the densest population of lions in the region. It supports diverse species like caracal, aardvark, serval cats, and honey badgers, and is a paradise for bird watchers with species such as pygmy falcons, Von Der Decken’s Hornbills, and White-headed buffalo weavers.

Accommodation options like Eagle View Camp perched on an escarpment overlooking the Koiyaki River, and Mara Nyika Camp, nestled under the treetop canopy bordering the Maasai Mara, offer modern comforts amidst pristine wilderness. Mara Naboisho Conservancy exemplifies sustainable tourism practices, focusing on minimizing the impact of tourism on wildlife and the environment while providing unparalleled safari experiences.


Mara Siana Conservancy

Mara Siana Conservancy, covering 10,000 acres, involves 1,517 landowners and 15 tourist camps. It serves as an important buffer zone for the Masai Mara National Reserve and the greater Mara ecosystem.

The area has abundant wildlife, including eland, buffalo, giraffes, zebra, and numerous gazelles. The conservancy is home to several resident lion pride, leopards, cheetahs, African-painted wolves, and hyenas.

The Wildebeest Migration route passes through the conservancy between July and October. Established in 2015 by 1,200 landowners, the 7,898-acre conservancy lies east of the Masai Mara National Reserve and offers a more remote and secluded option with only two lodging choices. Enkorok Mara Camp and Mara Bushtops Camp are some examples of the accommodation options that can be found in the conservancy.


Mara Ripoi Conservancy

Mara Ripoi Conservancy is a 13,500-acre wildlife conservancy belonging to about 1,600 local Maasai individuals from the community who have leased it out so that the area can be conserved as a protected habitat for the teeming wildlife.

The Mara Ripoi Conservancy has a large abundance of wildlife, especially the Maasai giraffe, and is an important area for wildebeest and big cats. The conservancy connects to Siana Conservancy and then directly to the Mara Reserve, allowing free movement of wildlife from the Reserve as well as across a wildlife corridor along the Ripole River to Ol Kinyei Conservancy.

This has made Mara Ripoi a critical protected habitat connecting important and large wildlife areas and allowing free movement of elephants, lions, cheetahs, herbivores, and many other animals. Mara Ripoi Conservancy is home to only three small safari camps making this an exclusive experience. The camps are set up with a density ratio in mind, with each guest tent protecting 700 acres of wilderness.

Apart from the 3 small eco-camps, no other tourist vehicles are allowed into the Conservancy so guests have the thousands of acres in the conservancy to themselves. Located within the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, Mara Ripoi is renowned for its diverse landscapes and abundance of wildlife, including being an excellent lion habitat.


Olerai Conservancy

Olerai Conservancy is located in the greater Masai Mara ecosystem of southern Kenya. This 5,000-acre private conservancy lies just west of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and about 15 miles north of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

It provides an untouched natural habitat teeming with African wildlife and is a crucial migratory pathway for species such as wildebeest, zebra, elephants, and antelopes. The conservancy features Lerai Safari Camp, the only permanent safari accommodation within its boundaries.

Established through the goodwill of tribal landowners, Olerai Conservancy aims to expand wildlife ranges and migration routes while promoting sustainable tourism and conservation efforts.


Olare Motorogi Conservancy

As one of the oldest and most successful conservancies, Olare Motorogi (formed from the former Motorogi and Olare-Orok Conservancies) has been a blueprint for other concessions and community conservation in the Masai Mara.

Covering 33,386 acres, this conservancy offers exceptional wildlife viewing with large numbers of lions and elephants. It has one of the highest concentrations of animals and the lowest tourist densities in the Mara, with a 94-bed limit and one room per 700 acres.

The conservancy focuses on sensitive tourism development and close partnerships with local communities. Olare Motorogi provides a pristine and wildlife-rich environment, serving as a buffer zone between the Masai Mara National Reserve and wildlife corridors. Visitors can see big cats, elephants, rhinos, and occasionally wild dogs.


Ol Kinyei Conservancy

Ol Kinyei Conservancy, the first established within the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem, is a result of a partnership between 171 Masai landowners and a safari operator. Since its formation in 2005, It promotes wildlife conservation by allowing animals to roam freely across Masai properties without fencing. The ban on Masai cattle has enabled the land to regenerate after years of overgrazing, leading to a thriving population of wildlife including gazelles, buffalos, leopards, lions, and occasionally rare wild dogs.

The Conservancy hosts the annual Great Migration of gazelles, zebras, and wildebeests between June and October, and the lesser-known Loita Hills Migration in January, attracting between 100,000 to 250,000 animals.

Accommodation options are exclusive, with only two luxurious tented camps offering eco-friendly amenities and personalized safari experiences guided by knowledgeable Masai guides. Activities include game drives, guided nature walks, visits to Masai villages for cultural experiences, and sundowners to enjoy breathtaking African sunsets amidst wildlife sightings.


Pardamat Conservation Area

Covering 26,000 hectares, the Pardamat Conservation Area is known for its hilly and forested landscapes popular with elephants. It connects Naboisho, Lemek, Ol Kinyei, and Mara North conservancies to the Mara Triangle and the Masai Mara National Reserve.

The area focuses on community-driven conservation through tourism, involving 850 landowners and two tourism camps. The mixed conservation model ensures the survival of the greater Masai Mara ecosystem.


Nashulai Conservancy

The Nashulai Conservancy, spanning 6,000 acres, is a critical wildlife corridor and elephant nursery. Founded, directed, and run by the Maasai, this conservancy protects a vital migratory corridor. It is relatively young and involves 71 landowners.


Olderkesi Conservancy

Situated in the far southeast corner of the Masai Mara National Reserve, north of Tanzania’s Serengeti, Olderkesi Conservancy covers 7,000 acres and involves 6,000 landowners. It focuses on sustainable conservancy management through direct community involvement.

The conservancy, community-run and conservation-driven for over 20 years, is rented to Cottar’s Wildlife Conservancy Trust and covers multiple habitat biomes, making it a haven for wildlife and part of Kenya’s Great Migration circuit.


Oloisukut Conservancy

Oloisukut Conservancy covers 23,000 acres and borders the Mara Triangle to the south, the Trans Mara East district to the north, and Mara North Conservancy to the east. The conservancy focuses on community engagement and upliftment through conservation and self-help.

It provides a haven for elephants by securing traditional movement corridors. The conservancy involves 65 landowners and has two tourism camps.


Ol Choro Oiroua Conservancy

Covering 17,000 acres in the northeastern section of the Masai Mara wilderness, Ol Choro Oiroua Conservancy is managed by Seiya Limited under the guardianship of Fairmont Kenya. The revenue generated from guest accommodations funds wildlife protection, security efforts, road maintenance, and community projects.

The conservancy enhances the lives of the indigenous Maasai tribe through various community projects and education initiatives. It involves local schools like Enkerende Primary School and supports local economic projects to empower the community and manage tourism impacts.


Enonkishu Conservancy

At the northern end of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, the 6,000-acre Enonkishu Conservancy focuses on improving cattle management to regenerate the ecosystem and wildlife while providing sustainable income from grazing and conservation fees.

The Conservancy offers diverse habitats for ungulates, thickets for predators, and abundant wildlife, including giraffes, buffalo, elephants, and a pride of lions. Enonkishu is named “healthy cattle” in Maa and involves 42 landowners and two tourism partners.

It provides varied habitats, including wooded acacia savannah, open plains, riverine acacia forest, and rocky hills, with the Mara River along the northwest boundary. Rare sightings include caracal, aardvark, serval cats, aardwolf, and wild dogs.


Lemek Conservancy

Lemek Conservancy covers 6,027 acres and focuses on budget accommodation and low-impact safari viewing. It runs along a tree-lined section of the Mara River and comprises mostly open savannah.

High concentrations of plains wildlife are present, especially during the migration months from July to October. The conservancy offers pleasant African landscapes and is home to numerous bird species, including buffalo, warthog, hippo, antelope, elephant, cheetah, leopards, and lions.


Olarro Conservancy

Olarro Conservancy, located just over 120 miles west of Nairobi, spans 20,000 acres of private wilderness within the Maji Moto Group Ranch. This area has been preserved by the local Masai tribe for centuries.

Olarro Lodge sits within this larger area, while Olarro Plains is within the Siana Group Ranch. The conservancy is at the heart of the Masai Mara’s action and is part of the wildebeest migratory path.

Masai Mara National Reserve & Conservancies

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