Kenya masai mara safari elephants
Kenya masai mara giraffe
Kenya Mara rivercrossing

The king of Kenya safari, the sweeping grass plains of the Mara (as it’s usually referred to) are home to the densest concentration of large mammals on the planet. This is the place to see large prides of black-manned lions, bellowing elephants, grumpy buffalo and a pick ‘n’ mix box of antelope and gazelles. And that’s before we even touch on the smaller creatures and huge array of birds.

But, above and beyond all else, the Mara is renowned for the spectacular wildebeest migration. From about June to early-October each year, around two million wildebeest and other herbivores leave Tanzania’s Serengeti and splash across the crocodile infested waters of the Mara River in search of fresh, rain-fed grass in the Masai Mara. It’s a spectacular phenomenon and a classic safari experience.

In high seasons (July-September and the Christmas period) there can be hundreds of safari vehicles in the park at any one time, and park rules about approaching animals and sticking to the roads are sometimes ignored by less scrupulous guides (this is a particular problem with super-low budget safaris operating out of Nairobi). I once interviewed a biologist who told me she’d seen about 70 vehicles crowding around one cheetah!

But the Mara is a big place. If you stay in the more remote corners and move your focus away from chasing the big cats and elephants, you can still find tranquillity even in high season.

The other way to avoid the crowds is by visiting in mid-season. Personally I love June when everything is fresh and green after the rains, the wildebeest are starting to arrive but not the tourists, and temperatures are cool and pleasant. There can also be some spectacular thunderstorms at this time. And if the focus of your interest is birdwatching, then the rainy seasons of November and April-May are excellent.

My biggest Mara tip: look beyond the reserve itself. Nowadays the Mara is almost completely surrounded by a series of community-run wildlife conservancies. Offering almost complete exclusivity, if you can afford the often high prices then these are by far the best areas to stay. These conservancies have vastly expanded the amount of land under some kind of protection and they’ve brought real benefits to both wildlife and local communities as well as one of the worlds finest safari experiences for visitors. I can highly recommend Mara North, Naboisho, Nashulai Maasai Conservancy and Ol Dereski, though you’ll likely have an amazing time in any of them.

Wildebeest migration safaris

An essential guide to planning a migration safari in Tanzania and Kenya

Sometimes called ‘the greatest show on earth’, the wildebeest migration sees mega herds of almost two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles continuously travel thousands of kilometres in a broadly clockwise direction from the southern Serengeti, north into Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and back again. The migration is one of Africa's classic safari experiences, drawing visitors year round to witness this magnificent spectacle. Along the way the herds experience the full circle of life, from mating, to calving, to death – often in the jaws of their many predators: the crocodiles and big cats who are themselves sustained by Mother Nature’s beautiful, if brutal, more

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