Hi everyone! We are Andre and Mara from Honest Travellers. Welcome to our travel article on Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Andre is from a small town in Italy next to San Remo and Mara is from Timisoara, Romania.
We both moved to Dubai in 2009 but met in 2012 when a common friend introduced us to each other. She thought we would make a great couple since we are both tall! Shortly after we started dating, Andre moved to Saudi Arabia for work so we had a long-distance relationship for over a year.
Andre would come over to Dubai every month to visit and we would travel together once every so often to a new destination. Since he moved back to Dubai, we aim to travel together at least three or four times a year to places we haven’t been to before, in addition to local staycations in the UAE.
We love exploring different cultures and having new experiences. So we try to travel as often as our jobs permit. We have been to around 30 countries now. Since we had a lot of friends asking us for tips on where to travel, we decided to start writing blogs on our experiences to share with others.
Honest Travellers began two years ago with the aim of providing honest and real reviews of our experiences. We hope to inspire our readers to travel to new places by sharing with them our first-hand accounts of these trips.
Six Awesome Days in Kenya
We travelled to Kenya in July to celebrate Mara’s birthday and witness the Great Migration that takes place in Maasai Mara National Reserve during the summer months. We stayed for five nights and six days – including our first night at a hotel next to the airport in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.
From there, we were picked up by a driver who took us to Maasai Mara National Reserve where we spent three nights at Ashnil Mara Camp taking safari drives through the reserve. On the fourth day, we travelled to Lake Naivasha and spent a night at Lake Nakuru Sopa Lodge where we took more safaris. To finish, we got dropped at the airport for our flight to Dubai.
Exploring Maasai Mara National Reserve Independently
We spent three nights and four days in Maasai Mara which was enough time to see the Big 5 and enjoy the camp. We organised our trip through a local travel agency based in Nairobi which provided us a package including hotel stays, meals, a personal driver and all entry tickets and fees.
Joining a group safari didn’t appeal to us as we preferred to have the freedom of our own schedule with the help of our agency. We enjoyed a private and customised trip in Maasai Mara. It was great to have a guide with us to avoid getting lost and to keep us out of trouble in the reserve.
Our Favourite Experiences at Maasai Mara National Reserve
Seeing the Great Migration in Maasai Mara was one of our travel bucket list goals. So we enjoyed our game drives across the reserve, watched the herds of wildebeest and zebras graze on the vast plains, spotted packs of hyenas feasting on gazelles and caught a glimpse of the elusive leopard.
Staying at Ashnil Mara Camp was another highlight for us. It’s located right by the banks of the Mara River where hippos live. Waking up to the hippo calling sounds and watching their heads bob out of the water while we had breakfast was such an incredible experience. One that we will never forget!
The Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape Buffalo) is undoubtedly the number one attraction of Maasai Mara National Reserve. Seeing these animals in the wild is extraordinary, especially if you see all five. But the variety and abundance of birds and other animals are impressive too. Be prepared to see other animals like giraffes, warthogs and cheetahs.
Since you are in a protected reserve, everywhere you look there is a new opportunity to catch a sight of wildlife. Make sure to stay close to the Mara River. If you are lucky, you will experience the famous herd crossings.
Searching for the Authentic Maasai Mara Villages of Kenya
Meeting the Maasai people was amazing. We met them on the way to the reserve in a nearby village where we were introduced to their culture and lifestyle. They were friendly and eager to share their culture.
However, some villages have now been turned into touristic places and are gradually losing their original charm and beauty. It’s still a lovely experience but we would recommend avoiding the hyper-touristic places and look for the villages that are located off-the-beaten-path with more authenticity.
Special Nights at Ashnil Mara Camp
Ashnil Mara Camp was a special place to stay and we recommend this place for anyone visiting Maasai Mara. Our tent was pitched in front of the Mara River and we could even hear hippos “talking” during the night. This was a unique experience! Coming from the big city, we loved the relaxed atmosphere of the camp and the feeling of being close to nature.
We stayed in lodges during our stay in Kenya and can say that the feeling was different to what we experienced in Maasai Mara. We felt less connected with wildlife staying in traditional rooms. It’s very subjective but we would recommend the tented camp to fully immerse yourself in nature.
Need to Know Before you Go
First of all, it’s super important to pack the right things for this trip. The fact that our blog post on this subject is one of the best performing tells us that travellers want to pack smart. Make sure you bring insect repellent and sunscreen lotion, a first aid kit with essential pills (including for Malaria), as well as all the toiletries you may need since there are no shops around.
We also brought a camera with a zoom lens and binoculars for spotting animals. If you plan on buying souvenirs, you can barter with the price but remember that a few dollars can go a long way in Kenya so try to be fair. We also recommend a local travel agency to book your trip. This will be cheaper and you will learn a ton from your guide during the game drives.
In conclusion, enjoy your experience in Maasai Mara National Reserve as much as you can! We brought home so many happy memories that will stay with us forever. Our close encounters with lions and leopards were some of the most exciting moments for us and hopefully you get to experience some thrilling encounters with wildlife as well!