One of the most cost-effective lodging choices in Masai Mara is camping in the National Reserve. As a strong advocate for budget safaris, I have crafted this article to provide you with comprehensive insights on camping in Mara Reserve. Discover how and where to camp, along with all the essential information you need to make the most of your experience.
This post is part of the series on camping at Kenya’s National Parks
Can I camp in Masai Mara National Reserve?
Yes, camping is allowed in Masai Mara National Reserve and while it should be the popular choice for budget travelers, a few safarigoers explore traditional camping in the Mara. Having gone camping on two of its public campsites within the Reserve, I can highly recommend trying them. I was thoroughly impressed by the simple yet practical amenities they offered. Moreover, the impeccable cleanliness of the public restrooms left a lasting impression on me.
Types of camping options in Masai Mara:
Public campsites are the easiest to book as they do not require prior booking and some could never be full as they have a capacity of up to 50 people. Below are some of the amenities you can expect in a public campsite in the Mara;
- Kitchen shade with no cooking utensils
- Long-drop toilets
As mentioned earlier, the public campsites within Masai Mara National Reserve offer basic amenities such as toilets and showers. These are often located near rivers or waterholes, allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views while camping. Some of the popular public campsites include Oloololo Gate Campsite($30), Eluai Campsite($15), and Iseiya Campsite($10). See details of each campsite here
You’ll need prior booking for private campsites and could be quite expensive compared to public campsites. They also require an upfront deposit and are often preferred by professional campers who come to set up a whole kitchen – preferably with a group and a chef. However, with booked campsites comes the luxury of having your personalized experience in the Mara.
Private campsites include Kijito, Kishanga, Kampi ya Mungu,Olarro, Tor’s Camp, Kiboko, Hornbill, Ndovu and Dirisha Campsites.
Charges and Fees Camping in Masai Mara:
The fees charged to use campsites in the Mara vary depending on whether the campsite is a private or public one. Public campsites are more affordable and will cost as little as Kes. 1000 per adult for locals, while foreigners could pay up to $30 per night.
On the other hand, private campsites come at an extra cost of about $40 for foreigners and Kes. 1500 for locals per tent, making them ideal for group bookings. However, these prices may vary depending on the season and your nationality.
A few tour operators rent out camping gear that you may need including tents, chairs, cool box, tables, gas tanks and burners, cups, plates, and cooking utensils. Some even offer to set up camp at a fee of Kes. 500 per person, which is still much cheaper than private campsites.
Note that some private campsites require an upfront deposit fee and may require to be booked at least 3 months in advance.
Note that the fees vary also for students, children, and East African Community members. Be sure to inquire about the updated rates before your trip.
Non-professional visitors are required to pay a non-refundable booking fee of 10,000 KES for one campsite and one group, valid for a maximum of one week. Professional campers, on the other hand, are subject to a non-refundable booking fee of 40,000 KES for one campsite and one group, valid for a maximum of two weeks.
To cancel your campsite booking, please notify them by sending an email. Please note that cancellations made within 6 months of the scheduled arrival date will be subject to a cancellation fee of $1,000 USD.
Within the wilderness area, there are three special campsites: Kampi ya Mungu, Kishanga, and Kijito. These campsites are exclusively reserved for the clients who stay there. For those fortunate enough to occupy these special campsites, a range of activities awaits. Safely escorted walking safaris along the escarpment and captivating game drives are permitted until 7:30 PM. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and the thrill of the wild.
To reserve these exclusive campsites, a non-refundable booking fee of 50,000 KES or USD 500 per day is required for a maximum of 2 weeks. The booking remains valid for the duration of your stay, including the time it takes for our camp staff to set up and dismantle the tent.
Choosing a Campsite:
When choosing a campsite in Masai Mara National Reserve, take note of the location and amenities provided. Some campsites are located near rivers or waterholes where you can easily spot wildlife from the comfort of your tent. Others may have shared bathrooms and toilets, while some have their own private facilities.
Lastly, don’t forget about accessibility. Some remote campsites require off-road driving and may not be suitable for cars that are not 4×4. Make sure to check with the campsite if they have any restrictions before booking.
Security when camping:
As part of the security measures in private campsites, it is mandatory for all campers to hire two dedicated rangers to ensure the safety of the area during nighttime. The rangers, who will be on duty throughout the night, diligently watch for any potential encounters with wild animals. You will directly pay the rangers, at a rate of 2,000 KES per ranger per night, and they will provide you with a receipt. Please note that there is no need to book the rangers in advance as Mara Conservancy will take care of their transport and meals.
The rangers are armed and are trained to handle any potential danger. However, it’s always important to follow basic safety precautions when camping in the wild. Keep your tent zipped up at all times and avoid leaving food or scented items out in the open.
It’s also recommended to bring a whistle or an air horn with you for emergency situations. In case of any issues, don’t hesitate to contact the campsite staff or the security rangers.
This measure is to ensure the safety of campers from potentially dangerous encounters with wildlife. It is important to note that camping in Masai Mara National Reserve should be done only in designated campsites and not in any other areas.
Additionally, it is always advisable to carry a first aid kit with you when camping. The nearest medical facilities may be located far from the campsite, so being prepared for any emergencies is crucial.
Mara Camping Rules:
Below are 10 camping rules I obtained from MaraBookings.com website in charge of Mara Triangle – the northern part of the Reserve.
- 1. Firewood is not to be collected from inside the park.*
2. Extinguish fires after use and never leave the fire unattended
3. Bury your toilet.
4. No bathing in the river.
5. Do not feed the animals or lay bait.
- 6. Secure your food and equipment from animals.
7. No night game drives.
8. Do not stray more than 25 metres from your camp.
9. No loud music.
10. Take all rubbish with you – do not burn.
Some campsites require you to bring you own trash bags and to take them with you when leaving. This is part of the park’s effort to keep the environment clean and preserving its natural beauty.
Best time to go camping in the Mara:
The best time to go camping in Masai Mara National Reserve is during the dry season, which runs from July to October. This is when the weather is pleasant and there is less chance of rain, making it easier to set up tents and enjoy outdoor activities.
This period also happens to be during the Wildebeest Migration, which is a spectacular event to witness. Millions of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Masai Mara in search of greener pastures.
What to expect while camping:
Camping in Masai Mara National Reserve offers a unique experience that allows you to be immersed in the stunning landscapes and wildlife of the park. Expect to wake up to the sounds of animals in the morning, and have close encounters with elephants, lions, giraffes and other wildlife.
The facilities are not that developed as such with minimal investment on showers and toilets. Toilets are the very basic and you won’t find hot showers but this is what makes it exciting! You get to fully embrace the wild and disconnect from modern luxuries.
Activities while camping:
There are numerous activities you can engage in while camping in Masai Mara National Reserve. The most popular is game drives, where you can explore the vast savannah plains and spot a diverse range of wildlife.
You can also go on guided walks or hikes if you are camping in a conservancy as walks are not allowed within the Reserve. This is a great way to get up close and personal with nature and learn about the flora and fauna of the area.
For more adventurous souls, there are options for hot air balloon safaris, horseback rides, and even cultural visits to nearby Maasai villages. These activities offer a unique perspective on the park and its inhabitants.
Tips for camping in Masai Mara:
- Make sure to pack appropriate camping gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, and basic cooking equipment.
- It is recommended to bring insect repellent as there may be bugs and mosquitoes around.
- Carry enough drinking water and food supplies, as the facilities in the park are limited.
- Dress in neutral colors and avoid bright colors that may disturb or attract wildlife.
- Respect the rules and regulations of the park, such as not feeding or getting too close to animals.
- Make sure to have a reliable means of communication, as there may be limited cell phone reception in some areas.
10 Safety precautions:
As with any camping trip, it is important to take necessary safety precautions while staying at Masai Mara National Reserve. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Follow the instructions of park rangers and campsite staff at all times.
- Do not leave food or any scented items unattended, as this may attract wildlife.
- Keep a safe distance from animals and never approach them on foot unless accompanied by an experienced guide.
- Stay in designated camping areas and do not wander off into the wilderness alone.
- Keep a first aid kit handy and make sure to have emergency contact information.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially during night time when animals may be more active.
- Do not leave campfires unattended and always put them out completely before leaving the site.
- Pack appropriate clothing for different weather conditions, as it can get cold during the night in the reserve.
- Avoid consuming untreated water and always carry a sufficient amount of drinking water with you.
- Respect the local culture and traditions, including the Maasai people who call this land home. Overall, staying vigilant and following these safety precautions will help ensure a safe and enjoyable camping experience at Masai Mara National Reserve. So pack your gear, follow the rules
Why camp at Masai Mara?
Camping at Masai Mara National Reserve offers a unique and immersive experience unlike any other. Here are some reasons to consider camping at this beautiful destination:
- The chance to witness wildlife in their natural habitat up close is an unforgettable experience.
- Camping allows for a more authentic and intimate experience with nature, rather than staying at a luxurious lodge or resort.
- The stunning landscapes and sunsets at Masai Mara make for breathtaking views while camping.
- Camping is also a more affordable option compared to other accommodations in the area.
- It allows for flexibility in planning your safari activities and exploring different parts of the reserve.
- Camping provides an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, providing a peaceful and rejuvenating experience.
How to get to Masai Mara:
There are several ways to get to Masai Mara National Reserve, depending on your preference and budget.
- The most common method is by flying into Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and then taking a short flight from Wilson Airport to the reserve. This option offers convenience and saves time, but it can be expensive.
- Another option is to take a long drive from Nairobi, which takes approximately 4-6 hours. While this is a more budget-friendly option, it can be tiring and may not be suitable for those with time constraints.
How to book a campsite in the Mara:
Marabookings.com manages all bookings for campsites located in the Mara Triangle. You can book their campsites by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling/whatsApp +254 100202578. You can read more on its website here.
Campsites outside the Reserve vs Inside the Reserve:
There are two main options for camping in Masai Mara: campsites located outside the reserve and those inside the reserve.
- Campsites outside the reserve are usually run by private companies and offer a range of amenities such as hot showers, toilets, and sometimes even WiFi. They may also provide meals and organize safari activities for guests.
- On the other hand, campsites inside the reserve are managed by Narok County or by Conservancies and offer a more rustic camping experience. These campsites have basic amenities such as pit latrines, but guests need to bring their own tents and camping equipment. However, staying inside the reserve allows for a more immersive experience with wildlife.
Kambu Camp in the Mara allows you to choose between a wild camping experience or a traditional camping experience with some convenience compared to what is offered by campsites inside the reserve. You can learn more about Kambu Camp and book a stay here.
About Kambu Campers Camping Safari Package to Masai Mara:
Kambu Campers offers a unique camping safari package to Masai Mara National Reserve. This package allows guests to experience both the convenience of staying outside the reserve and the authentic feel of camping inside the reserve.
The Camping Safari Package includes:
- A stay at Kambu Camp, located just outside the reserve, which offers hot showers, toilets, and comfortable tents. Guests can also enjoy delicious meals prepared by the camp’s chefs.
- A 4-day/3-night or 3-day/2-night guided safari inside Masai Mara National Reserve but can be customized. Guests will have the opportunity to spot the famous Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino) as well as other wildlife such as giraffes, zebras, and wildebeests.
- A cultural experience with the Maasai community, where guests can learn about their traditional way of life, participate in local activities, and purchase handmade souvenirs.
- Transportation to and from Nairobi or other nearby parks/reserves can be arranged for an additional cost.