If you’re thinking about going on a safari in Africa, including Kenya, and you’re unsure how Masai Mara stacks up against other parks such as Amboseli, Kruger, Serengeti, Tsavo, and more, here’s some information to help you make your decision.
Masai Mara is home to the big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffaloes.
No other park in Kenya or Africa has such a rich collection of wildlife. The vast savanna starting with the Reserve and the conservancies around it makes Mara unique giving you the opportunity to see all the big 5 in a single trip.
On the other hand, you’ll find only three of the Big 5 in Amboseli National Park. While there are claims of leopard sightings, you have very minimal chances of spotting them and its fair to say that Amboseli does not host rhinos and leopards.
The number of black rhinos in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve drastically declined from about 120 in 1971 to only 18 in 1984 due to poaching. Currently, there are around 35-50 black rhinos living in the Maasai Mara, but they occasionally migrate into the Serengeti. You’ll pay USD 30 to access Ol Chorro Rhino Sanctuary and see endangered white rhinos. The Ol Chorro Conservancy is outside the Amboseli National Reserve.
Kruger National Park has a high population of rhinos compared to Mara or any other park in Africa. The park is home to two types of rhinos: the black rhino and the white rhino. While there are approximately 5,000 white rhinos with square-lipped mouths, the black rhinos, which have pointed lips, are much rarer with only 350 remaining.
The snapshot below shows the animals you can expect to see in Masai Mara National Reserve;
The image below from Safaribookings shows animals in Amboseli National Park;
Although Serengeti is home to the big 5, it’s unlikely that you’ll see rhinos because they typically reside in the northern part of Serengeti near Mara. Kruger National Park in South Africa is the only other destination where you can see abundant wildlife, including the big 5, with a chance of spotting all of them in a single visit.
I have read some online articles that claim that you may also see the Big 5 in Tsavo but the two times I have visited both Tsavo East and Tsavo West, I only spotted elephants, buffalos and lions.
The Amboseli park is much older, not as old as Tsavo but about 13 years older than Masai Mara. The Amboseli park, managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, was established on July 1, 1948 covering an area of 2,650 square kilometers. Its purpose was to safeguard animals and ecosystems from human activities like hunting. The Masai Mara National Reserve was established in 1961 to conserve wild animals in East Africa, covering an area of 594 square kilometers (228 sq mi). Visitors from all around the globe enjoy Masai Mara safaris.
Narok County manages the Mara Reserve while Tsavo, Lake Nakuru, and Amboseli are managed by Kenya Wildlife Service. Masai Mara Reserve has several conservancies around it with much more conservation efforts compared to Amboseli.
Activities in Mara and Amboseli
There are a lot more activities to in the Mara compared to other parks such as Amboseli, Lake Nakuru, Tsavo and Serengeti. Below is a list of activities that may or may not be included in our Kambu Campers safari package to Masai Mara;
-Night Game Drives
-Maasai Village Visits
-Annual Wildebeest Migration
-Visit the areas where documentaries and movies such as “Big Cat Diary” and “Out of Africa” were filmed.
-Tracking cheetahs in Lemek Conservancy
-Learning about the Maasai culture
-Bush dinners and Breakfast
In Amboseli, there is less to do. Below is a list of what to do in Amboseli;
-Kilimanjaro balloon safaris
-Bush dinners and breakfasts
-Night Game Drives
Sundowner At Observation Hill offered by Serena.
To reach Amboseli, you need to drive 220km from Nairobi which takes around 4 hours. Similarly, Masai Mara is located at a distance of 240km from Nairobi and takes approximately 5 hours by road. However, you can also take one of the several daily flights from Nairobi to either Amboseli or Masai Mara. There are a lot more flights to Masai Mara than to Amboseli and are considerably cheaper than Amboseli flights.
Another reason to choose Mara over Amboseli is the range and pricing you’ll get in the two destinations. Mara has much wider range of hotels and camps ranging from luxury to budget, with prices varying according to the expected facilities. On the other hand, Amboseli primarily has luxury lodges which are expensive compared to Mara. You can comfortably camp in Kambu Campers campground in the Mara and save a good amount of money while you’ll find it difficult to find a well-equipped private campsite. The KWS-run campsite inside the Park hasn’t been maintained in years and is very expensive, USD 50, for the poor state of amenities you’ll get there.
The flat landscape of Amboseli allows for good animal spotting throughout the year, but the ideal time to visit is from June to October when the animals gather around the waterholes and there is less rain. On the other hand, the best time to visit Masai Mara is from July to October during the wildebeest migration, when the animals are also concentrated around waterholes and there is less rain. While April to June is considered low season with heavier rainfall and muddy conditions, it is also an affordable option compared to peak season rates.
What’s more exciting – Bush elephants of wildebeest migration?
Masai Mara is the ultimate destination for wildlife enthusiasts and will definitely bring you value for your money if you want to witness the famous wildebeest migration. If you want to see herds of bush elephants instead, Amboseli is the place to be. But if you’re looking for a more diverse wildlife experience, then Masai Mara is your best bet.
Why you may want to opt for Amboseli over Mara:
If you’re looking for a more serene experience, then Masai Mara may not be ideal. Every year it has been receiving increasing numbers of visitors and the crowds are especially intense during the wildebeest migration season. On the other hand, Amboseli’s limited range of luxury lodges does keep the crowd to a minimum.
The entrance fee for Masai Mara ranges from USD 70 to 80 while that of Amboseli National Park is USD 60, making it approximately 18% less expensive than Masai Mara. If you are driving yourself and using Kambu Campervan, the cost is Kes. 500 in Amboseli and Kes. 700 in Masai Mara.
In the Mara, expect warm temperatures during the day and colder temperatures at night. Daytime temperatures range from the low 20s to upper 20s, and one advantage is that it rarely gets very hot. Meanwhile, Amboseli tends to be hot and dry, with average daytime temperatures of 28°C and nighttime temperatures of 15°C. In both destinations, you should bring, light clothing, a hat and sunscreen.