Maasai Mara

Call of the wild

A safari in Africa is an unforgettable affair. If you are fortunate to witness the wildebeest migration, the experience will forever stir your soul. The migration is one of the most phenomenal natural spectacle, termed as ‘the greatest show on earth’ by wild-lifers and nature enthusiasts. The Great Migration is the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet where more than a million animals follow the rains and the growth of new grass across the Serengeti Mara ecosystem. 


Watching the wildebeest migration was a dream come true. Interestingly, this trip also included many firsts for us: our first safari in Africa, first real-time witnessing wildebeest migration, first hot air balloon ride, first time touching and feeding giraffes and (presumably) our first private flight. We had plenty of reasons to be super excited.

Hunter and the prey

The migration season, from July to October, is considered the best time of the year to visit Maasai Mara when game viewing is optimal as there is plenty of predator and prey interactions.

Once in a lifetime trip has to be planned meticulously to chose the right game park, time of visit and mode of local transport to best utilize the time spent in the game reserve. Our itinerary was tailor-made to include at least eight hours of safari every day, super comfort stays and a vehicle at our disposal. Also, we preferred domestic flights over land travel to save on travel time. For ease it is best to get all your stays, domestic travel, transportation and activities arranged through one single agent. We were completely taken care of from the moment we landed in Nairobi till our departure.

Pre-travel advisory: a) Invest in a good SLR camera if you want to treasure your sighting memories. Both of us carried our own DSLR cameras and shared a tripod and binoculars. b) Yellow fever shot is mandatory to visit Kenya and is available only in specific government facilities where appointment can take weeks. c) Small soft luggage is recommended on domestic flights due to lack of space.

We landed in Nairobi and had a day at our disposal. Our driver welcomed us with safari hats and iconic red blankets called shuka. We had only two items on our agenda in Nairobi. Feeding Rothschild giraffes and a meal at the world famous Carnivore.

Feeding giraffe at

Giraffe Center houses orphan giraffes in natural surroundings. This is your chance to get very very close to this tall animal. You can feed them on your hand and if you really have the nerve, hold a pellet in your mouth and the hungry giraffe will lick it away and reward you with a kiss!!

Carnivore feast

Even though we are not so much into the meats but the Carnivore experience is not to be missed. Known as the ultimate ‘Beast of a Feast’ it’s a meat lovers paradise where a vast selection of meats, including crocodile, camel and ostrich, are roasted on swords in the open kitchen. The feast continues until you conceit defeat by lowering a flag on the table. Incidentally, the house cocktail is called ‘Dawa’ – medicine or magic potion in swahili.

Flight from Nairobi to Maasai Mara

We arrived in Maasai Mara on a small Cessna aircraft from Nairobi. One hour flight in the 10 seater aircraft flying at low altitude was quite a different experience. There are 14 airstrips in Maasai Mara and the tiny aircrafts are like taxis making stops on need basis. We chose to stay in a luxurious campsite, Governors’ Camp, which had its own airstrip, or so it seemed, almost outside the camp. Our little aircraft landed just for two of us to alight.

Our camp

The setting was magical. Governors’ Camp was nestled in the forest along the winding banks of the Mara River, it’s waters teeming with bird-life, hippopotamus and crocodiles. Campsite was fairly large with no fence. Our tent was above the riverbank, tucked into the forest with uninterrupted views of the Mara River. With a four poster bed, a study, a sofa, a large bathroom with a tub and a private verandah, this was some luxury in the wild. Pity though, we were never around in the day time to indulge.

Mara River from our camp

Guests were assigned a butler, a server and a guide-cum-driver. The same set of people served us throughout our stay. They were trained to bond well with the guests and understood our tastes and requirements to give us a memorable experience.

The deck

Buffet lunch was served under the trees. Dinning tent had sweeping views of the plains. A bar tent with a deck overlooked the Mara River. Local beer was aptly named, Tusker. On our request, our table was set under a bushy tree right above the river on all days. All guests had a common interest .. wildlife. Daily itineraries revolved around safaris and conversations were about day’s sightings. It is common for elephants and other animals to wander inside the campsites, so guests had to be escorted by guards after dark. We often spotted hippos at night near the camp.  They are most active at night when they forage for food. They are herbivores and eat mostly grass and tons of grass. Their loud roar can frighten anyone, at least on the first night.

Giraffes and Zebras

With full excitement we embarked on our first safari with beer and lunch in our bellies. The landscape is characterized by the dotted trees, savannah plains, scrubs, acacia trees and rolling hills. In Africa, the “Big Five” game animals are lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and cape buffaloes. The terrain and the sheer number makes it easy to spot all except rhino and leopard.

Cape buffaloes and elephants

Maasai Mara national reserve is home to a wide range of wildlife. Zebra, giraffe, hyenas, impalas, antelopes, gazelles, elands, warthogs are in abundance. Hippos, elephants and buffaloes are easy to spot on most trips. You are sure to see large prides of lions. High concentration of wildlife makes game drives enjoyable.

Animals too have emotions

First game drive is always special as you don’t know what to expect. We were super happy to see a large pride of lions taking afternoon siesta in tall grass. Our guide, Musa, was well familiar with their routine and assured to bring us back in time for the action. Afternoon safaris are shorter and last 2.5 to 3 hours. We saw plenty of giraffes, zebras, hyenas, waterbucks, dik-dik, topi and a few lions from close quarters. We returned back in time for the pride to be awake and active. Interestingly, a BBC van mounted with antennas and cameras remained stationed all this while. The professional photographers monitored and recorded movements of lions from different angles on their laptops. Roaring lions came too close to the vehicles giving us adrenaline rush.


It may all sound very exciting but let me tell you that it is a hard working and back breaking trip. The day begins at 5.30 am and tea/coffee is served in your tent with the wake up call. Morning safari begins before dawn at 6 am. Best wildlife sightings are usually early mornings when the animals are fresh and weather is cool. Open air jeeps take upto four people seated in two rows, designed in such a way that each person gets unhindered view of the expanse. Not all roads are tarred but no one complaints about the bumpy ride when the driver goes fast over the uneven terrain and wants to position the vehicle for you to get the best sighting. We gave up lavish breakfast on all days to combine early morning and post breakfast safaris so that we could spend longer time (6 – 6.5 hours) in the game park as it increased the chances of seeing more wildlife significantly. This also meant that our guide cum driver carried packed breakfast and served it (rather cold) on the bonnet at a safe place of his finding. All other times we were strictly prohibited from getting off the vehicle.

Mobile network was available throughout the park and very handy for the guides to share sighting locations. We were extremely fortunate to witness migration at length on two consecutive days.

Wildebeest crossing Mara River

Maasai Mara is the most noted location of the Great Wildebeest Migration due to its famed Mara River crossings. All the jeeps in the vicinity gather in a jiffy as the activity starts building up on the river. Our driver ensured we remained ahead of others and watched the spectacle in the front row, right above the river. At one moment the wildebeest and zebras were grazing the grass on one side of the river and the next moment, as if triggered by some collective switch, thousands made a mad dash to the other side. Twenty minutes later it just stopped suddenly. All jeeps dispersed as if everyone had gathered to watch the almighty’s nature show.

Hot air balloon ready for flight

We had to get up at 4 am to reach the launch site and watch the pilots ignite the burners of two balloons and fly over the Mara savannah. After a brief orientation we climbed into the baskets, each with 10-12 people, and took off before the dawn.

In the air

It was the first hot air balloon ride for most of us and the entire group was euphoric. Although we had been enjoying the beauty of Mara from ground level, there is something even more wonderful about taking in landscapes and wildlife as you serenely pass them by in a hot air balloon. Watching the beautiful natural splendor in the rising sun over the verdant grasslands was stunning. We spent an hour drifting over the savannah, meandering river and grazing wildlife. After landing, we were treated to an elaborate bush breakfast with a customary champagne toast to celebrate the experience.

Bush breakfast

The balloon ride had taken us to the other side of the river. Our jeep safari resumed post breakfast. We were closer to the hills and the terrain was different. We spotted three rhinoceros, very hard to spot animal. Rhinos can weigh in at 5,000 pounds making it the world’s second largest land mammal behind elephants.


It was our lucky day as we witnessed the migration for the second time. knowing our interest, our driver was quick to reach the river and parked the jeep at a strategic spot.

Wildebeests and zebras crossing the river

We were well positioned to watch the second river crossing of humongous number of wildebeests. They had assembled at the river where someone had to take a lead and jump. But the confusion prevailed and they kept turning back for a very long time. Once the first one jumped, the mass of animals moved without break for almost an hour. Some fell prey to the hungry crocodiles waiting in the river. The chaos turned into a pure spectacle to watch. It was hard to even blink and miss a second of the extravaganza, so I placed the camera on the jeep and kept the shutter pressed for continuous clicks!


It was an exceptionally beautiful morning. Musa got a tip and drove hurriedly over the dirt road on the hillock. And we were treated by the sight of an agile cheetah coming out of the bush. Not paying heed to the vehicles coming close or the camera shutters clicking, he walked gracefully to a mound of mud and gave us most elegant poses. From a distance of mere ten meters we continued to watch and shoot for an hour and he didn’t mind the attention at all. Cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal, capable of reaching speed more than 110 kilometers per hour in just over three seconds, but he can’t roam freely in lions territory. When he sensed a lioness coming his way, he quietly disappeared in the bushes.

Leopard with it’s prey

By now we had seen four out of big fives. The leopard was still eluding us. Our guide was determined to show us all big fives and earn his gratuity. Following a tip, we arrived on the scene after a hunt, entirely encircled by some 15 vehicles. Every time the leopard moved, the gaggle of jeeps moved along with it. Even though we were ecstatic to spot a leopard and watched him take the prey up the tree, we felt as if we were invading it’s privacy. Often regarded as a shy, nocturnal animal, leopards prefer wooded savannahs and rocky outcrops and are often found on a tree.


Maasai Mara is also habitat for a wide variety of birds. The world’s largest living bird, the ostrich, is found in the African savannah, while species such as the kori bustard, grey crowned crane, greater flamingo, marabou stork, and spoonbill can all be spotted in the rolling plains of Africa.

We had many interesting sightings of lions. The most adorable was a lioness with two little cubs. Oops .. the second one just went out of the frame!

A large pride of lions with four cubs … too big to fit in a single frame

After thoroughly enjoying four days and nights in Maasai Mara, we took a flight to Amboseli.


The landscape of Amboseli is dominated by the snow cap of Mount Kilimanjaro, open plains, acacia woodland and swamps. The picture of elephants with the backdrop of Kilimanjaro is so imposing. We had chosen a luxury camp on the periphery of the reserve, so our safari began as soon as we were picked up from the airstrip with our luggage.

The park is famous for being the best place to get close to free-ranging elephants. The birding is excellent especially near the lakes and swamps.

If I say Amboseli roads were terrible, that would be an understatement. If you come back without breaking your back then you have a jolly strong back!

Water hole

Our camp was plush and the food amazing. Drinks were on the house all day long. The back breaking ride of an hour and the long days at Maasai Mara, made us opt out of the night safari included in our package. The camp had a watering hole to entice animals and we were quite contended watching them from the comfort of bar while sipping our drinks. The spot lights in the area made viewing easy at night too.

Tornado in Amboseli

It’s common to spot eddies of sand and dust generated by air currents in the driest part of the park. You are bound to see plenty of small tornadoes, so peculiar to Amboseli.

Maasai village

Most itineraries include a visit to Maasai village in the savannah. A peek into their lifestyle is a way to preserve their culture and support the tribes financially. They exhibit their survival skills. They sing and dance for you. At the end of the visit, they display their handicrafts for sale.

For Maasai, life revolves around amassing and grazing large herds of cows. A man’s wealth is measured by the number of cows he owns. The Maasai accept polygamy as a way of life. We were astonished to find a circular mark engraved on their faces branding them as a part of the clan.

Don’t be surprised if you find a Maasai in his traditional dress sitting next to you in the aircraft. This picture was taken at one of the airstrips. Maasais are privileged to travel by jeeps and flights. Living a traditional life must be a choice, it seems.

Milky Way

Amboseli is a fine place for star gazing. The Milky Way shines in all its glory. Unspoiled areas with clear night sky offers views of some of the most incredible constellations visible to the naked eye.

Elephants enjoying mud bath

On our last day, we left the camp after breakfast and our safari continued with packed lunch. The Observation Hill is the only high point of the Amboseli National Park. The view spans 360 degrees throughout the Amboseli National Park with its arid areas, its marshes and its lakes. If the day is clear, the view of the Kilimanjaro can be spectacular.  Alas! we were not so lucky ?

Our private flight!

We were in for a pleasant surprise on our return flight from Amboseli to Nairobi. Our jeep driver saw a plane land well before the departure time and drove us to the airstrip. Both pilots stood by the little aircraft and gestured us to come aboard. With only two of us as the passengers, it seemed like our private plane!!!

African beauties

African safari is unique. Landscapes are teeming with animals and seeing these creatures in their natural habitat is an experience that is beyond compare. Each day brings new perspective. We enjoyed every game drive, got excited on each sighting. There were moments when we realized what the thrill of discovery feels like. Though our trip lasted just a week but we returned home with loads of memories to treasure for a lifetime!

PS: Maasai Mara is the best park for wildlife in Kenya. If I were go back, I would spend all my days in Mara, may be split and stay in different parts of the park. Visiting Amboseli after Maasai Mara was not exciting and we saw nothing new.

Hot air balloon ride was way too expensive. I would have rather spent few extra days in a plush camp for that cost.

Photo Gallery

Author: Anju Motwani

Aspiring Travel blogger

5 thoughts on “Maasai Mara”

  1. Thanks for the post-it is so vivid that I almost felt I was there! The pictures are amazing too. One more thing to add to my bucket list!!

  2. Wow Anju ! What an amazing trip that must have been. Very beautifully described. And the pics are awesome. I’m sure it must have been quite an exhilarating yet exhausting trip. However the way you have written about it I’m most tempted to add it to my bucket list too .

  3. Wow!! So well written . I felt like I was almost there . ?Amazing pics too . Must have been an awesome trip I’m sure.Masai Mara is definitely on our bucket list . Will be sure to take a lot of tips from you.

  4. That must be an exhilarating experience. Your narration is captivating. Virtual safari for the readers.

  5. Super super super interesting post ❤ Love the way you have described each sighting. I am wondering why I haven’t witnessed this beautiful place yet.

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