The Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kenya. It’s well known for its big game safaris, and visitors can see lions, elephants, giraffes, and more up close. There are also many activities available outside of the safaris, including hiking, birdwatching and visiting local villages. Here are 17 fun things to do in Maasai Mara National Reserve that will make your trip even more enjoyable.
Drive through the Park from South towards Mara North Conservancies:
Starting from Sekenani Gate, go on a 300km game drive to see different wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Make sure to keep your eyes open for the Big Five and other animals that may be seen along the way.
A full day in the Mara is ideal to really cover the Reserve and possibly see all the Big Five. I really like to experience the drive from one side of the park to the other and watch the changing terrain.
The highest concentration of lions is in the Mara North Conservancies, so be sure to take a visit there.
Watch the Wildebeest Migration:
If you’re coming on your safari from July to October, you’ll be lucky enough to witness the annual wildebeest migration. It’s an amazing experience as millions of animals move across the landscape in search of better grazing grounds.
Watching these massive herds can take up most of a day, so plan your trip accordingly. The best spot to view them is at one of the migrating points – either the Talek River, Mara River Bridge or simply just waiting at one of the watering holes.
See animals from above with a hot air balloon:
One of the most unique ways to see wildlife and capture breathtaking photos is by taking a hot air balloon ride. During these trips, you’ll have an amazing bird’s-eye view of the Reserve and its animals.
See some of the Big Five while being safe and in a very peaceful environment. Hot air balloons are usually offered as early morning flights and are a great way to start the day.
Personally, I haven’t gone on one and look forward to going on one next time I visit the Mara.
Interact with local Maasai:
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is home to traditional Maasai tribes and visitors will have the chance to interact with them. Learn about their culture, beliefs and lifestyle from a local point of view by visiting one of the many villages in the area.
You can also buy handcrafted souvenirs directly from the locals and learn about their ancient traditions.
Take a walking safari:
If you’re looking for a more immersive experience in the Mara, then taking a walking safari is something to consider. You’ll get up close and personal with the wildlife and have an experienced guide with you all times as you explore the reserve on foot. It’s a great way to see animals in their natural habitat and learn more about the Mara’s unique ecosystem.
Visit the Musiara Marsh:
Located on the western side of the park, Musiara Marsh is one of the best spots for birdwatching. It’s a great place to find many different species of birds, such as herons, kingfishers, and pelicans.
It’s also a great spot to see large groups of hippos lounging in the mud, as well other animals like elephants, buffalos and giraffes.
Go on a night safari:
The Mara is home to many nocturnal animals that can only be seen at night – so why not go on a night safari?
You’ll get to see animals like hyenas, servals, leopards and more that are rarely seen during the day. It’s also a great opportunity to watch the stars since there’s very little light pollution in the area.
Camping under the stars:
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can camp out in the Mara for a truly unique experience. There are plenty of well-maintained camping sites available throughout the park, so you can easily find one that suits your needs.
Camping is a great way to get even closer to nature and wildlife – just make sure to take all necessary precautions and respect the environment.
Have a bush breakfast:
There’s nothing quite like having an early morning meal out in the open. You can arrange for a bush breakfast with your tour operator, so that you can enjoy an outdoor feast surrounded by the Mara’s beautiful landscape and wildlife. This is definitely a memorable experience!
Take a guided game drive:
One of the best ways to explore the Mara is with a guided game drive. Your experienced guide will take you on an exciting tour of the park, so that you can get up close and personal with some of Africa’s most iconic animals. You’ll be able to see some of the Big Five as well as other wildlife like gazelles, zebras and wildebeests.
Visit the Mara River:
The Mara River is a major attraction in the park, as it’s home to many large groups of hippos and crocodiles. It’s also the spot for one of the most spectacular wildlife spectacles on earth – the annual Wildebeest Migration.
You can take a boat tour down the river and get an amazing view of the animals as they gather around to drink and bathe.
Visit Oloololo Gate:
If you’re looking for some breathtaking views, then make sure to visit Oloololo Gate in the Mara. This is one of the highest points in the park, so you’ll be able to get a stunning panoramic view of the entire reserve from here.
It’s also a great spot for wildlife viewing, as there are often herds of animals gathering around the area.
Try out some traditional Maasai cuisine:
You can’t visit the Mara without trying out some traditional Maasai cuisine! There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the park that serve up delicious local dishes. You’ll be able to sample some of their staples like ugali (a maize-based porridge) and nyama choma (grilled meat), as well as other regional specialities.
Visit the Kenyan border with Tanzania:
Mara is bordered by both Kenya and Tanzania, so you can easily visit the border between the two countries. This is a great opportunity to take in some stunning views of the area as well as learn more about the region’s history and culture.
Get the Saddle with a Horseback Ride:
Why not explore the Mara on horseback? This is a great way to get around and you’ll be able to enjoy some amazing views as you go. Just make sure that you wear comfortable clothing and take all necessary safety precautions!
Visit the only indigenous-managed conservancy called Nabisco:
The Nabisho Conservancy is the only indigenous-managed conservancy in the Mara. Here, you’ll be able to learn more about traditional Maasai culture and pick up some fascinating insights into their way of life. You’ll also get to enjoy some spectacular views of the area from here.
Go for swim sessions using your lodge or hotel’s swimming pool:
If you’re looking for a way to cool off in the heat of the Mara, then why not take a dip in your lodge or hotel’s swimming pool? This is a great chance to relax and unwind after a busy day of exploring. Plus, you’ll have beautiful views of the surrounding wilderness while you swim!
Learn about the conservation efforts in the Mara:
The Mara is home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife and a major part of the area’s success is due to its conservation efforts. You can learn more about these at one of the many conservation centers in the park, which will give you a deeper understanding of the region’s biodiversity and ecosystems.
Go take photographs:
The Mara is full of beautiful and photogenic views, so it’s a great spot to take some amazing photos. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer, you’ll be sure to capture some stunning shots here!
Watch a NatGeo Documentary on the Mara:
At night, you can settle in for a National Geographic documentary that’s all about the Mara. This is an excellent way to get to know more about the park and its inhabitants, as well as learn some interesting facts about the area’s wildlife and history.
Learn a word or two from Maasai People:
Why not pick up a few words in the local Maasai language? This is a great way to show respect for the people and culture of the Mara, as well as have a bit of fun while you’re at it!
Visit a Maasai Homestead/manyatta:
Want to get an even deeper glimpse into the traditional Maasai culture? Then make sure to visit a homestead or manyatta (a traditional Maasai settlement). Here, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of their way of life and learn more about their customs.
Become a volunteer:
The Mara is a great spot to volunteer and make a difference in the lives of its wildlife and inhabitants. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities available, ranging from animal conservation projects to teaching English or providing vital community services.
The Mara Lion Project and the Mara Elephant Project are also great ways to get involved and make a positive change in the area. You’ll need to liaise with the conservancy before you travel so they make plans to accommodate you.
I have heard of students going on animal-tagging volunteer exercises which is a one-of-a-kind experience for sure!
How to Plan your Day when on a Safari in the Mara:
6 am: Breakfast: After a good night’s rest, start the day with a healthy breakfast and hot cup of coffee.
7 am: Early Morning Game Drive: The best time to go on a game drive is early in the morning when wildlife is most active. Make sure you pack plenty of water and snacks.
10 am: Bush Walk: After your morning game drive, head out on a bush walk to explore the area. This is an excellent way to get closer to nature and spot some unique wildlife you might have missed during your game drive.
1 pm: Lunch: Stop for lunch at one of the many picnic spots in the Mara and enjoy a delicious meal as you marvel at the stunning views.
3 pm: Afternoon Game Drive: Keep your eyes peeled for more wildlife during an afternoon game drive and be sure to have your camera ready!
5 pm: Sunset Safari: Witness the amazing beauty of the Mara as you witness the setting sun in all its glory.
7 pm: Dinner: Enjoy a delicious dinner and some good conversation with your guide or fellow travelers.
9 pm: Night Drive/Campfire Stories: Wrap up the day with a night drive to spot nocturnal animals or settle around a campfire while swapping stories.
Activities to do in the Mara Depending on Season:
Peak Season from July to October:
- -Hot air balloon ride to view the incredible Mara from above
- -Migration viewing: Witness the amazing movements of wildebeest, zebra and other wildlife during this time.
- -Photography: Capture some stunning shots of wildlife and landscapes in the Mara.
- -Bird watching: Spot a variety of birds here in their natural habitats.
Low Season from January to March:
- -Game viewing: See the different kinds of wildlife that call the Mara home.
- -Fishing: Try your hand at fishing in one of the many rivers and lakes here.
- -Cultural activities: Learn more about traditional Maasai culture and customs by visiting local manyatta settlements.
- -Hiking: Explore the park by foot and discover some amazing sights along the way.
Where to go, Maasai mara National Reserve or Conservancies for perfect Safari experience?
The answer to this depends on what you want to experience during your stay. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is the best option if you’re looking for more diverse wildlife and a larger selection of discounted activities such as game drives, hot air balloon rides and safaris.
If you’d prefer something more private, then opt for one of the conservancies located on the fringes of the reserve. These provide more exclusive game viewing and better protection to their local wildlife populations, making them a great option if you’re looking for a unique experience in the Mara.
These are just a few of the activities that you can enjoy at Maasai Mara National Reserve. So go explore, learn and have fun! Safe travels and happy trails!
Also check out fun things to do in Nairobi here.