MASAI MARA SAFARI GUIDE
Siting on Kenya’s southwestern border and sharing habitat with Tanzania’s legendary Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve is a model of wilderness safari dreams—a quintessential paradise for the world’s finest wildlife. The reserve is an oasis of safari game, including the more than two million wildebeest, other angulate, and predators that make up the famous Great Migration. For exceptional big cat sightings (lion, leopard, cheetah), a game drive to the Mara Triangle is your best reason to book a Kenya Safari adventure.
Located some 275 km (171 miles) southwest of Nairobi, the 1,800 square kilometer Masai Mara National Reserve is part of the Serengeti ecosystem that extends from northern Tanzania crossing the border into southern Kenya. This ecosystem of well-watered plains supports one of the heaviest densities of diverse animals on earth.
There are more than 1 million wildebeests; 250,000 Thomson’s gazelles; 250,000 zebras; 70,000 impalas; 30,000 Grant’s gazelles; and an enormous number of predators, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, jackals, and hyenas that you can easily spot on a Mara game viewing drive.
There are also more than 470 species of bird, including 57 species of raptor. Every January, the wildebeest start to move in a time-honored clockwise movement around the Serengeti toward the new, fresh grazing in the Masai Mara. It’s an unforgettable experience.
Kenya Wildlife Service left the reserve in the hands of the local communities who manage the Mara reserve, giving the Maasai pastoralists the right to graze their stock on the perimeters of this magnificent reserve.
Although they lose some of their stock to wild animals, the Maasai manage to coexist peacefully with the game and rely only on their cattle for sustenance. Interestingly, the Maasai people measure their wealth by the number of livestock they own.
Strolling down the Maasai villages on a walking safari in Masai Mara, you’ll be amazed at the Maasai’s manyattas—beehive huts made of mud and cow dung. You can even spot them at the entrances to the reserve. Mara safari lodges offer visits to traditional Maasai villages and homes, and although inevitably these visits have become touristy, they’re still well worth doing.
The striking appearance of the Maasai, with their red robes and ochre-dyed and braided hair, is one of the abiding images of Kenya.
Witnessing the dramatic Ipid, a dance in which the moran (warriors) take turns to leap high into the air, will keep your camera clicking nonstop. The Maasai people named the reserve mara, which means “spotted,” but whether Mara applies to the landscape, which is spotted with vegetation, or the hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and other game that dot the landscape, is anybody’s guess.
Getting There & Around
Most people fly to the Mara from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and catch a 45-minute daily air service to Masai Mara National Park. The small local flight from Nairobi to Mara costs about $185 each way (some lodges include this flight and transfer in their rates).
Alternatively, a local tour operator can arrange a 4×4 car with a driver to transfer you to the Mara, about 270 km (168 miles), for about six hours by road. Masai Mara park fee is $80 per person per 24 hours, which is often included in package tours.
When To Go
There’s no absolute best time to visit the Mara; game viewing is good all year round. However, most people come in the July–October dry season, during the annual Great Migration, when there is plenty of prey for the predators. It’s the best time to watch lions, leopards, cheetahs, and huge crocodiles in hunting dramas. There’s no guarantee of seeing any epic river crossings, however. Many Kenya safari adventurers avoid the rainy season in April, May, and November because tracks become difficult or inaccessible.
- The Mara is one of the best reserves on the planet for seeing the three big cats, leopard, lion, and cheetah.
- Watch the movement of millions of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle cross the Mara River and flood through Masai Mara National Reserves’s vast plains. Be there when the daily dramas of survival and death unfold, the stuff nature documentaries are made of.
- Share a fascinating cultural moment with the semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists in their villages Maasai villages.
Tailored Masai Mara Safaris
WHERE TO STAY
Price from $725
If you’re among that have watched Out of Africa and began fantasizing about your Africa safari adventure, then you’ll like this totally private, romantic, luxurious camp just below the famous hill from the unforgettable final scene. The camp features excellent service, surprise gifts during your stay, and a good-sized swimming pool. However, you may not find wifi; you’ll be in the wilderness after all.
Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp
Price from $330
One of Kenya’s best-loved safari lodges, the camp offers magical views over the vast Mara plains and the Sabaringo River. It is located in a private concession next to the Masai Mara and lies directly in the path of Africa’s spectacular annual Wildebeest Migration. It has an excellent curio shop and an infinity swimming pool, offers day/night game drives and bush walks along the Mara River.
Cottars 1920s Safari Camp
Price from $963
If you want to turn back the clock and immerse yourself in the kind of vintage luxury safari ambiance pioneered by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Bwana Cottar, Cottars camp should be your choice of where to stay in Masai Mara. You’ll enjoy classic Kenya safari game viewing drives with highly trained guides, and you will seldom see another game vehicle. Minimum, two nights stay.
Price USD 1,250
Tucked within a shady acacia forest on the exclusive Mara Naboisho Conservancy, the luxury tents at this comfortable and contemporary-styled camp have great views across the plains. From the camp’s outdoor viewing deck, guests can watch zebras stroll to the nearby salt lick, see a giraffe strut right past camp, glimpse a mongoose running down the path right in front of you or even spot a cheetah prowling the plains.
Fairmont Mara Safari Club
Price USD 498
Although the Fairmont’s camp area has manicured lawns and flowers, it is surrounded on three sides by the crocodiles and hippo-filled Mara River, so you are always close to the wildlife. Built on an ox-bow of the Mara River, all luxury en-suite tents have their own private game viewing verandas with a view of the hippo-filled river.
Fig Tree Camp
Price USD 580
Fig Tree is a tented budget camp on the banks of the Talek River overlooking the plains on the northeastern boundary of the reserve, which gives it easy access to all the game areas. It has a lovely pool area for those sunny evenings and offers evening entertainment with Maasai dancers and 24-hour complimentary hot drinks in the lobby.
Gamewatchers Adventure Camp
Price USD 1,385
Within the 17,500-acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy, Gamewatchers Ol Kinyei Adventure Camp showcases untouched wilderness without emptying your pockets in the shady refuge of acacia trees. The camp features simple living among open plains, forests, streams, and rivers, which give life to a flourishing ecosystem in the fauna and flora arena that is the Maasai Mara.
Governors’ IL Moran Camp
Price USD 1376
One of the famous Governors’ Camps, Il Moran is where Kenya’s first colonial governors used to twirl their handlebar mustaches and sip their gin and tonics while on safari—as you can imagine, it boasts an exclusive location that’s teeming with game. The beds are very comfortable, there’s a maximum of four guests per game vehicle, the tents are well-spaced along the banks of the Mara River.
Hemingways Ol Seki Mara
Price USD 1,360
This eco-friendly camp in the middle of the exclusive Mara Naboisho Conservancy is named after the Olseki or Sandpaper tree, a Maasai symbol of peace, harmony, and wealth. It’s positioned on an elevated ridge with great views across the plains, and afternoon tea is delivered to your tent. It offers an exclusive game-driving area where you won’t encounter many other vehicles.
Little Governors’ Camp
Price USD 1,176
Getting to this camp is a mini-adventure in itself. The camp sits directly in the wildebeest migration path, 15-minute from the Musiara Airstrip, with tents situated around a busy game waterhole. Transfers are included in the room price.
Masai Mara Sopa Lodge
Price USD 347
On a hillside near the Ololaimutiek Gate, this well-priced family-style lodge (Sopa means welcome in the Maasai language) is one of the most popular in the reserve. It’s very close to the eastern entrance to the Mara, there’s a bushbaby feeding table, and its great pool is ideal for cooling off after a game drive.
Mara Serena Safari Lodge
Price USD 638
Perched high on a hill deep inside the Mara Triangle part of the reserve, attractive domed huts echo the style and shape of the traditional Maasai manyattas. It has incredible views from the bedrooms, and breakfast is served at the hippo pool. It has its own airstrip.
Price USD 684
At this intimate little camp tucked in a riverine forest on a bend on the Talek River, you’ll be able to watch elephants wading, hippos snorting, and all other sorts of game from your outdoor claw-foot bathtub that overlooks the Mara River. The camp is a short drive from the Mara River, where wildebeests make their perilous crossing between July and September. All tents overlook the Talek River, a three-minute drive from the nearest airstrip.
Price USD 1,790
Quite possibly, the best safari vacation camp in all of the Mara Triangle. Naboisho Camp is in the 210-sq-km (82-sq-mile) Mara Naboisho Conservancy, which has exclusive use for only those guests staying at the handful of lodges there. There are no hordes of safari vehicles here. Excellent local guides will guide your adventures, and the conservancy is very exclusive, allowing for uninterrupted game drives. It offers a high level of personalized service.
Price USD 1,740
Rekero is beautifully situated deep within the Masai Mara National Reserve and is tucked away in a grove of trees on a riverbank near the confluence of the Talek and Mara rivers. Each tent is tucked into the bush along the river and offers absolute privacy. IT has an excellent location next to a migration river crossing point and first-class safari adventure guiding.
Price USD 1,750
Named after an honored Maasai chief, this attractive eco-friendly camp in a game-rich country rests just outside the northwestern border of Masai Mara National Reserve, overlooking the Mara River and the Ooloololo Escarpment. The honeymoon tents are gorgeous and have outdoor showers; you can watch hippos in the Mara River from your tent. It has a relaxing spa with a riverside deck.
Price USD 1,560
This exclusive eco-friendly lodge lies just outside the Masai Mara National Reserve, inside the Mara North Conservancy in a remote valley of olive and cedar trees. Specialized guiding, such as bird-watching, is available. Night drives are permitted on Mara North Conservancy, and it has excellent Italian food.
Price from $300
Basecamp Maasai Mara is a basic and comfortable camp, ideal for travelers willing to sacrifice luxury for classic, authentic, nature-washed bush accommodation. Basecamp is an eco-friendly and family camp nestled in a tropical forest along the Talek river, Koiyaki Group Ranch near Mara entrance. All tents are ensuite, offering privacy and outside sitting areas with great views over the Mara plains.
Elewana Sand River Camp
Price from $705
Close to the Tanzania border, Elewana Sanda River Camp places you at the forefront of the Great Migration as it crosses from the Serengeti. With a secluded and picturesque site, the luxury safari camp replicates the heyday of exclusive permanent tented camps of the late 1920s. The interior fixtures and furnishings mirror this period perfectly, reminding all who visit those countless Hollywood movies that have paid homage to a classic era of African adventure.
Serova Mara Game Camp
Price from $305
Ideally located to witness the Great Migration, Sarova Mara Game Camp overlooks the vast Masai Mara plains from its elevated location on a hill. The luxury tented camp features 20 Club Tents, 30 Deluxe Tents, 19 Standard Tents, 3 Family Tents dotted around the grounds, with ensuite amenities and offering comfortable accommodation without spoiling the natural feel of the surrounding wilderness.
Price From $315
Wilderness Camp represents a nostalgic tribute to the safaris of the early explorers and safari pioneers. Free from artificial luxury and modern disturbances providing the perfect escape close to nature with optimal tranquility and stunning sunrise views. The camp has eight tents delicately nestled around the Saddle Valley rim to allow for complete privacy and ultimate views of the Mara savannah plains.
Karen Blixen Camp
Price from $444
The Danish-owned Karen Blixen Camp, set on the east bank of a broad loop of the meandering Mara River, is a perfect getaway for exploring the community-owned Mara North Conservancy. The camp has 22 canvas tents raised from the ground, each with a spacious deck overlooking the river, a large en suite bathroom, and an outdoor shower. When not out, you can sit out and watch the resident hippo pod belching in the water or grazing along the banks, view birds through your binoculars, or watch zebra coming to drink.
Eagle View Camp
Price from $365
Eagle view is located on an escarpment, with sweeping views that overlook the Koiyaki Plains, a natural salt lick, and a watering hole, all providing a common hunting site for predators and unique game viewing perspectives. National Geographic has named Eagle View as one of the top 25 eco-lodges in the world. Each tent offers king-size double or twin beds, a bathroom featuring bio-flush toilets and two showers, one inside and one open-air safari shower, private elevated viewing deck with exceptional views of Naboisho Conservancy.
Leopard Hill Camp
Price From $500
Leopard hill is high-end living and pure nature all at once, located close to a series of waterholes where the wild animals come to drink. In bed, click a button, and the tent ceiling opens. Only a mosquito net is between you and the vast African night sky. While enjoying your morning coffee on the terrace, you can witness as the sun rises over the eastern horizon, sky blazing in magnificent colors, completed by the majestic silhouette of the Double Fig Tree.
Kenya Travel Essentials
Kenya is a relatively safe country, but occasional crime incidents are a reality for residents and tourists alike; follow these basic precautions for a safe trip.
Mugging, purse snatching, and pickpocketing can occur in big towns. Leave good jewelry and watches at home, and unless you’re on safari, keep cameras, camcorders, and binoculars out of sight. Always lock valuables in the hotel or lodge safe. If you must carry valuables, use a money belt under your clothes; keep some cash handy, so you don’t reveal your money belt in public. Don’t leave belongings out on balconies or terraces or show them in a vehicle. If you’re unfortunate to be a robbery victim, you will need a police report to make an insurance claim. Please bring copies of all your essential documents and stash them away from the originals. Carry extra passport photos in case you need new documents fast.
Always take a taxi after dark, and never take food or drinks from strangers—it could be drugged. Be on the lookout for street scams like hard-luck stories or appeals to finance a scholarship. If you’re driving, be polite but firm if you’re stopped by police officers charging you with an “instant fine” for a minor infraction. If you ask to go to the police station, the charges are often dismissed.
The best of Kenya safari attractions are nowhere near the terrorist zones in the northern and northeastern borders that have been for a long time restricted to tourists. Exercise increased caution in the terrorist strongholds on the northern border due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping. These incidents occur very far from the premier tourism attractions. You’re much safer on a game drive in a Masai Mara than driving your car on a multi-lane turnpike.
The Kenyan Government deals with the international terror threat in much the same way as other modern countries. You’ll find strict security at airports and visible policing in places like shopping malls and outdoor markets, ensuring it is safe to visit Kenya.
In some instances, you’ll fly out of Nairobi immediately after landing, heading to the Samburu, Masai Mara, Amboseli, or any other attraction. Our staff traveling to Kenya regularly, staying in both Nairobi and the Masai Mara with travelers, have reported high airport security levels. Some hotels in the capital city have instituted security measures for additional peace of mind and ensure it is safe to visit Nairobi.
Before you travel, please be informed of the likelihood of catching CORONAVIRUS if you don’t follow operating procedures put in place to protect you and others. For update local information, visit travelbans.org/africa/kenya/ or the government website www.health.go.ke. Otherwise, Kenya is open for tourism, and for entry, you’ll need a negative PCR COVID test certificate issued 92 hours before.
The majority of inbound travelers are not subject to quarantine upon arrival at any of our ports of entry, take advantage of the relaxation of overall protocols and take that much-needed holiday. All the suppliers and partners we work with are compliant because your safety comes first!
COVID-19 ENTRY RESTRICTIONS
- Passengers entering or transiting through Kenya must have a medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test result. The test must have been taken at most 96 hours before arrival. The certificate must be in English.
- Passengers whose medical certificates have expired due to the transit time will be subject to a test for Covid-19 at their own cost upon arrival at a recognized facility.
- Passengers are required to fill in a Passenger Locator Form during their flights to Kenya.
- Passengers must complete the “Travelers Health Surveillance Form” online at https://ears.health.go.ke/airline_registration/ and must hold a QR code showing they have completed the form.
- Passengers are subject to medical screening and quarantine. A list of quarantine exemptions can be found at https://www.kcaa.or.ke/quarantine-exempted-states.
- There is no quarantine for inbound travelers unless you show the virus symptoms on observation.
Before you go to Kenya, make sure all your routine vaccinations are up to date. The risk of malaria is low during Green Season and very low during peak season. It is higher if you are going into rural areas and villages outside the parks and reserves. If you are going scuba diving afterward, be sure to let them know to ensure they prescribe the correct prophylactic. Check with your travel doctor if you need vaccinations, and be sure to get them timeously.
Yellow fever (before 2013)
The country requirement at entry: a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers aged one year or over arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission.
WHO vaccination recommendation: yes
We recommend for all travelers aged nine months or over, except as mentioned below and generally not recommended for travelers whose itineraries are limited to the following areas: the entire North Eastern Province; the states of Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Malindi, and Tanariver in Coastal Province; and the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa.
Malaria (before 2018)
Malaria risk due predominantly to P. falciparum exists throughout the year in the entire country. Usually, there is little risk in Nairobi and the highlands (above 2500 m) of Central, Eastern, Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Western provinces.
WHO recommended prevention: C
Always use sunscreen and bug repellent with DEET. The HIV infection rate is high, so exercise caution. Malaria is an issue in certain areas (not in Nairobi but definitely on the coast and low-lying game reserves). Consult your health provider well in advance about the best malaria prophylactics to take, as most medication needs to start before arrival in Kenya.
You’ll need full medical travel insurance that includes repatriation in the event of a medical emergency. If you plan to dive, trek, or climb, make sure your insurance covers active pursuits. Medical bills are often paid upfront in Kenya, so keep all paperwork to make an insurance claim.
The AMREF Flying Doctors service provides air evacuation and transportation between health-care facilities for medical emergencies in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, or anywhere within a 1,000 km (621 miles) radius of Nairobi. The planes fly out of Nairobi’s Wilson Airport 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Local landline and mobile calls are pretty cheap, but hotels add hefty surcharges to phone calls. The need for public telephones in Kenya has fallen away, given that the majority of people carry a mobile phone, so most have been decommissioned or removed. If you don’t want to use your mobile phone because of expensive international roaming fees, buy a Kenyan pay-as-you-go SIM card (from one of the service-provider stores or street vendors—there’s no shortage of them) and add airtime as you need it. The local providers are Airtel, Safaricom, and Telkom. Coverage is good throughout most of the country but can be patchy in remote places—don’t expect to get a signal at an out-of-the-way safari lodge or camp.
Calling Within Kenya
City codes are (020) for Nairobi, (041) for Mombasa, (040) for Diani Beach, and (012) for Lamu; include the first 0 when you dial within the country. When making a phone call in Kenya, always use the full 10-digit number, including the area code, even if you’re in the same area.
Calling Outside Kenya: When dialing out from Kenya, dial 000 before the international code. So, for example, you would dial 000 (0001) for the United States. Other country codes are 00044 for the U.K and 00027 for South Africa.
Internet is widely available in Kenya. Free Wi-Fi is available in many public places in Nairobi and Mombasa such as restaurants and coffee shops and at almost all hotels—although again, in remote places you won’t be able to connect. You can top up your own phone with data on a Kenyan pay-as-you-go SIM card.
Kenya prides itself on game meat and seafood, organically grown vegetables, and excellent tropical fruits (such as passion fruit, papaya, and mangoes). When you’re near the coast, sample traditional Indian and Arabic food and look for Kenyan-grown tea and coffee and Tusker beer, a local brew.
“Swahili tea” is very similar to chai in India. You’ll find most cuisines, from Chinese to French to Ethiopian, in restaurants in Nairobi.
Kenya’s main airport is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), located 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. Kenya’s second international airport is Moi International Airport (MBA), located 9km/6mi west of Mombasa, but aside from flights to Zanzibar, this is mainly used for domestic and charter flights. From Nairobi or Mombasa, one can fly or drive between reserves or opt to do a bit of both. Most domestic flights out of Nairobi depart from Wilson Airport (WIL), 6km/4mi south of Nairobi.
In Kenya, several domestic and regional airlines fly from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport in Nairobi, and Moi International Airport in Mombasa. Several major towns have airports, and Kenya also has a vast network of well-maintained airstrips at the safari destinations. One airstrip will service an entire park or reserve, or in some parks like the famous Masai Mara, there are several airstrips that each serve a group of safari lodges and camps.
In most cases, transfers are provided from the airstrip to your accommodations. Schedules for the Kenya safari airlines often work in circuits and drop off and pick up at several destinations and may often return on the same route.
Search within Kenya Airways (the national carrier), Virgin Atlantic, or British Airways for direct affordable flights to Kenya.
There are plenty of efficient domestic airlines offering daily flights. Kenya Airways flies between Nairobi JKIA and Eldoret, Kisumu, Malindi and Mombasa, and several regional destinations, including Entebbe in Uganda, Kigali in Rwanda, and Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar in Tanzania. Kenya Airway’s no-frills airline, Jambojet, flies between Nairobi JKIA and Diani Beach (Ukunda), Eldoret, Kisumu, Lamu, Malindi, and Mombasa. Fly540 flies from Nairobi JKIA to Eldoret, Kisumu, Lamu, Lodwar, Malindi, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar in Tanzania. From Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, Airkenya flies to Amboseli, Diani Beach (Ukunda), Lamu, Lewa Downs, Loisaba, Malindi, the Masai Mara, Meru, Nanyuki, and Samburu, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Mombasa Air Safari has its hub at Moi International Airport. It flies in circuits from Mombasa, Diani Beach (Ukunda), and Malindi on the coast to Amboseli, the Masai Mara, and Tsavo West. Also from Wilson Airport, Safarilink flies to Amboseli, Diani Beach (Ukunda), Lamu, Lewa Downs, Lodwar, Loisaba, the Masai Mara, Naivasha, Nanyuki, Tsavo West, Samburu, and Kilimanjaro, and from the Masai Mara to Migori, which links travelers from the Mara to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Suppose you want to arrange your timetable to the safari destinations or coast. In that case, there are several air charter companies based at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, such as East African Air Charters and Reliance Air Charters. Small planes like Cessnas are utilized, which can seat 5–13 passengers. Although more expensive than scheduled flights, charters are convenient and are an option for families and groups.
All domestic, regional, and charter flights can be booked directly with the airlines. Alternatively, ask your travel agent, or local accommodation, or a Kenyan tour operator to book as part of your package. Airport departure tax is included in all scheduled flight tickets but maybe additional on charter flights.
Be aware that the baggage allowance is usually 15 kg (33 pounds) per person on the small planes to the airstrips in the parks, including hand luggage and camera equipment, and bags should be soft-sided. If you are carrying more than this, most hotels in Nairobi will store extra luggage or ask your airline if they have facilities.
Whichever mode one chooses for travel, in most cases, our local driver or guide will pick you up at the airport and all further transportation as part of the Kenya safari package.
Self-drive Kenya safaris are an option; however, poor road conditions in many places mean there’s often a big difference between distance on a map and driving time. For example, it takes about five hours to drive from Nairobi to the Masai Mara, a 150-mile/240-km journey. Several car rental companies specialize in 4x4s, and most will also offer the services of a driver. Expect to pay $110 a day to hire a 4×4 and $20 a day for a driver.
All arriving passengers into Kenya now must apply and get their Visas online; this is a much easier method which saves you time from embassy visitations or long ques that use to be for those who opted to get these on arrival at our airports.
- Your passport must have at least two blank pages and be valid for a minimum of six months after your date of entry into Kenya. Most nationalities require a visa, including citizens of the United States.
- Single-entry visas are available online. Multiple-entry visas must be applied for prior to traveling to Kenya. Single-entry visas (US$50) are valid for three months and allow reentry to Kenya after going to Tanzania and Uganda. Children under 16 years accompanying their parent(s) do not require visas.
- Obtain the latest information on visas, as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements, from the Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York City.
- You should have proof of yellow fever immunizations, or you may be denied entry.
When is the best time for a Kenya safari holiday?
Generally, a Kenya safari is an all-year-round holiday. Traveler base on many options to tell when the best time is for a safari in Kenya. A traveler can consider how much they’re willing to spend, which places they’ll be visiting and how much time you have on your calendar fixed for the trip.
Most Kenya Safari attractions are showcasing their best during wildlife drama and action between January through March. During this time, the climate is friendly, mostly no rains, and wildlife viewing is climaxing. The dry season is the peak season for a safari in Kenya. Everyone else also considers this the best time for a Kenya Safari trip.
However, mid-March’s downpour through June and October through December, the rainy season, is mostly avoided by travelers. But we would urge you to travel during this time if you want to avoid the crowds and take advantage of off-season discounts.
When is the best time for the great migration in Mara, Kenya?
The best time for viewing the great migration in Masai Mara on a Kenya safari is between mid-August and late October when the wildebeest and zebra herds cross the border from Serengeti National Park. It’s not easy to accurately tell when the migrating animals will be crossing the Mara river, but it’s sometime between August and October. There’s no wildebeest movement from January through to June in Masai Mara. So that should help you narrow down your calendar options.
When is the best time to visit Kenya’s coastal beaches?
The best time to visit Kenya beach destinations is a moot point: Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast is hot and humid all year round, and rain can fall at any time. However, we would recommend avoiding the Kenyan coast during the mid-March to late May season when temperatures and rainfall are highest.
The official currency is the Kenya shilling (KSH). Available notes are 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 shillings. Available coins are 1, 5, 10, and 20 shillings.
Most things are priced and paid for in KSH. However, many businesses in the tourist industry like hotels, safari companies, and airlines may quote in U.S. dollars and shillings. If you pay with dollars, check that you’re getting a fair exchange rate.
If you exchange U.S. dollars at a bank or bureau de change, bring new notes; any old, worn, or damaged bills will not be accepted.
ATMs and Banks
Banks open at 8:30 on weekdays and close at 4; on Saturday, they open at nine and close at noon. Banks are closed on Sundays and public holidays. Most ATMs are open 24 hours.
Many banks can perform foreign exchange services or international electronic transfers. Try to avoid banks at their busiest times—at nine and from noon to 2 on Friday, and at month’s end—unless you’re willing to arrive early and line up with the locals. Major banks are Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), which has the largest branch network in the country, and Barclays, National Bank of Kenya, and Standard Chartered.
Credit cards are widely accepted, but for small amounts like restaurants, shopping, taxi fares, fuel, and tips, it’s easiest to withdraw shillings from an ATM once you’re in the country. Most ATMs dispense large denomination notes; try and break these when you can as taxi drivers and souvenir vendors often don’t have change for large bills.
Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted at Kenyan banks and by ATMs. Most ATMs accept Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, Visa Electron, Visa, and MasterCard; the best place to withdraw cash is at an indoor ATM, preferably at the airport, in a shopping mall, or guarded by a security officer.
Tipping in Kenya isn’t mandatory, but porters do expect something, and 10% is customary in restaurants. Some hotels and most safari lodges and tented camps have a gratuity box for you to put a tip for all of the staff at the end of your stay. Tip your safari driver and guide approximately US$10–US$15 per person, per day. It’s not necessary to tip taxi drivers as the fare is determined before you set off.
Kenya has a broad choice of safari accommodations ranging from intimate tented camps and luxurious boutique hotels to mid-range safari lodges and beach resorts as well as local lodgings and campsites. Hotel rates in Nairobi and other towns tend to stay the same throughout the year (although there could be midweek specials), but all room prices in the wildlife and coastal areas are seasonal. It’s essential to book in advance in the high season and look out for specials during the low season, while during rainy months.
There’s a bewildering choice of safari lodges and tented camps in the national parks, game reserves, and wildlife conservancies. Lodges tend to be large solid structures with hotel-like rooms and restaurants. Most are family-friendly, and many have extra facilities like a swimming pool. Smaller tented camps have spacious and often luxuriously appointed walk-in tents with bathrooms, meals are taken communally in a dining tent or outside, and most are unfenced, allowing for greater connection with the wildlife (as such, children aren’t always permitted).
Prices at lodges are almost always all-inclusive, which includes accommodations, meals, and activities such as game drives and walks; find out in advance if park fees (US$40 to US$100 per day) are included. Campsites in the wildlife areas have few or no facilities and aren’t an option for visitors with time restrictions or first-timers. Still, there is the option of going on a camping safari with a tour operator.
Nairobi has hundreds of hotels, and many international chains are represented, but there are also charming independent hotels and some older establishments with colonial ambiance. All kinds of accommodations can be found on the coast, from luxurious honeymoon hideaways to all-inclusive family beach resorts. On Lamu, some beautifully restored historic Arabic houses have opened as hotels. Standard prices usually include a full English breakfast, and other meals are available in the hotel’s restaurant. Hotel reviews have been shortened.