When you are planning your trip to Kenya, one of the things you will definitely want to do is book a Masai Mara safari. This is an amazing experience that will allow you to see some of the most beautiful and wild animals in their natural habitat.
There are a few different ways that you can go about booking a Masai Mara safari. The first option is to book through a travel and tour company in your area or country of residence. This is often the simplest way to book a safari, as the tour company will take care of all of the details for you.
Another option is to contact a local Kenyan safari operator. This can be a great option if you are looking for a more personalized experience, as you will be able to work directly with the safari company to plan your trip and the trip is likely to cost you less because foreign tours and travel agents usually require a ground handling agent who are usually local tour operators.
Pros Of Using a Local Tour Operator
You will often have the same driver or guides for your entire safari, which can create a more intimate experience.
Local tour operators are typically very knowledgeable about the animals and areas you will be visiting, so they can provide valuable insight and information.
If you use a local tour operator, your safari will likely be more affordable than booking through a larger company.
Cons Of Using a Local Tour Operator
There is always the potential that a local tour operator might not be as reliable or professional as a larger company.
It can be more difficult to find customer reviews for local tour operators, so you will have to do your research to make sure you are booking with a reputable company.
The third option would be to book your Masai Mara Safari through a masai mara lodge or camp. This option is becoming increasingly popular, as it allows you to have a more intimate and authentic experience provided by that safari lodge or tented camp. You will be able to stay in one of the lodges or camps located within the reserve, which will give you a front row seat to all of the action.
Pros of Using a Safari Camp or Lodge to Book Your Masai Mara Safari
When you book your masai mara safari through a lodge or camp at the mara you
Cons Of Using a Safari Camp or Lodge to Book Your Masai Mara Safari
Unlike tour operators that have the ability to customize your safari a lodge can only sell you what is available in their property.
If you are interested in using a lodge or camp to book your Masai Mara Safari, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is that you will want to make sure that the lodge or camp is located within the reserve itself. This will allow you to be as close to the animals as possible, and will also give you the opportunity to explore the reserve on foot if you so choose.
The last option is to book your safari online. There are a number of websites that specialize in booking African safaris, and they can often offer great deals on Masai Mara safaris. However, it is important to do some research before booking any trip online, as there are a number of scams that exists.
Pros Of Booking Your Safari Online
You can often find good deals and discounts by booking your safari online and compare prices and offers.
It is typically very easy to compare different safari packages and operators online
You will have a wide range of different options to choose from when booking online
Cons Of Booking Your Safari Online
It can be difficult to confirm the quality of the tour operator when booking online. Always check out past client reviews to get an idea of the company you are booking with.
When booking online, there is always a slight risk that something could go wrong and you might not end up getting what you paid for. Make sure you book with a reputable company to avoid any issues.
You might not have as much flexibility when it comes to customizing your safari as some of these online packages cannot be customized.
Book In Advance
Something to keep in mind is that you will want to book your safari well in advance whenever possible. This is especially important if you are planning on traveling during peak season, as lodges and camps can fill up very quickly.
How Much It Costs For A Masai Mara Safari
The cost of a Masai Mara Safari can vary greatly depending on the time of year you travel, the type of safari you take, and the lodge or camp you stay in. That being said, you can expect to pay anywhere from $600-$1500 per person for a 3-5 day safari.
Budget Masai Mara Safaris
If you are looking to take a budget safari, there are a few things you can do to save money. First, try to travel during the shoulder or low season. Rates for lodges and camps are usually much cheaper during these times.
You can also opt for a group safari instead of a private safari. Group safaris are usually much cheaper than private safaris, and you will still get to see all the amazing wildlife that the Masai Mara has to offer.
Mid-Range Masai Mara Safaris
If you are willing to spend a bit more money, you can take a mid-range safari. Mid-range safaris usually include stays at nicer lodges and camps, as well as private game drives. These safaris typically cost $1000-$5000 per person.
Luxury Masai Mara Safaris
For those who want to experience the ultimate African safari, there are luxury Masai Mara safaris. Luxury safaris usually include stays at 5-star lodges, private game drives, and other amenities. These safaris can cost $6000 or more per person.
Where You Will Stay In The Mara
There are two types of accommodation options in Masai Mara. You can stay in a lodge which is a more permanent structure or you can stay in a tented camp which are large tents set up for luxury safaris.
Tented camps are usually more expensive than lodges, but they offer a more authentic safari experience. If you are looking for a luxury safari, you will likely stay in a tented camp.
Lodges are a bit cheaper than tented camps, but they still offer a great safari experience. If you are looking for a mid-range safari, you will likely stay in a lodge.
When To Go
Masai Mara is one of the few destinations that is great all year round however several facts might help you decide when is the best time for you to visit.
If you want to save money – The best time to find cheaper rates is between late October to December and April to May as this is considered the low seasons in Mara. However, keep in mind that this is also the time when there rainfall so the roads could be muddy. If you choose to travel at this time the combination of smaller crowds, lower prices and the green landscape could be a winner for you.
If you want to see the great migration – The best time to witness the great wildebeest migration is from July to September. This is when the animals are migrating from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
A Safari Itinerary
A safari itinerary is a document that lists all aspects of your safari, from start to finish as well as a detailed schedule of events. Your itinerary should also list any equipment or supplies that you will need to bring with you on your safari.
Planning Your Itinerary
A safari itinerary is created by your tour operator and sent to you or it might already be part of a safari package on offer. It is this document that you must carefully look at adjust to meet your needs before you book your safari.
When you book your safari, your tour operator will help you plan your itinerary and activities.
But it is always a good idea to have an idea of what you want to do and see while you are on safari so that you can make the most of your time.
The Mara is a large reserve and there is so much to see and do.
To help you plan, here are a few ideas of things you can do on your safari:
The most popular type of safari is the game drive safari. This is where you go out into the reserve in a safari vehicle and look for animals. Game drives are often done several times a day. At dawn, mid morning and late afternoon.
Another popular type of safari is the walking safari. This is where you go out into the reserve with a guide and walk around looking for animals. Walking safaris are a great way to see the smaller things that you would otherwise miss on a safari vehicle.
-Night Game Drives
Night game drives are not permitted within the boundaries of Masai Mara game reserve but some of the conservancies around the Mara do.
-Hot air balloon rides
Balloon safaris start at dawn, with a spectacular view of the Mara as the sun rises. It costs $ 450 per person
If you want to learn more about the local Maasai culture, there are a number of cultural visits that can be arranged. These often include a visit to a Maasai village where you will get to see how they live and learn about their culture.
-Horse Riding Safaris
There is nothing quite like horse riding safaris. You can go at your own pace and really get close to the animals. Horse riding safaris are only possible in specific areas within the reserve and are usually set up as part of a safari itinerary.
A bush meal is a special meal that is prepared for you in the middle of the bush. It is a great way to experience being out in the bush.
A sundowner is a drink taken at sunset while watching the sun go down. This is a very popular activity on safari and one not to be missed.
-Spotting the big five
Bird watching is great during and after the rainy season. April to November is the best time for this. This is also the time when migrating birds from Europe and North Africa arrive.
The wildebeest migration usually lasts from July to October. This is when the animals are migrating from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in the Mara.
You will want to plan your days so that you can make the most of your time and see and do as much as possible.
But don’t forget to leave some time for relaxation! After all, you are on vacation.
Your safari itinerary is an important document, as it will help to ensure that your trip goes smoothly and according to plan. Be sure to review your itinerary carefully before you depart, and make sure that all of the details are correct.
Things that your tour operator should include in your safari itinerary are:
-The name and contact information for your tour operator
-Day to Day activities and a detailed schedule
-The names of all the accommodations you will be staying at.
-The meal plan for example, full board, half board or all inclusive
-The mode of transportation that will be used
-A list of any additional excursions or activities that are available and if you safari cost includes those activities listed
-A list of any special requirements or requests that you have made
-The cost of the safari usually per person
-Cost per child if there are children on safari
-All Inclusions on the cost
-All Exclusions on the cost
The cost on an itinerary is usually calculated per person and is based on the number of people in your group, the season you are travelling and the accommodations that you have chosen.
Be sure to read your itinerary carefully so that you understand what is included in the price and what is not.
If an activity is not listed on your itinerary, then it is likely that it is not included in the price.
Some of the things that may be excluded from the cost of your safari are:
-Additional excursions or activities that are not listed on your itinerary
-Gratuities for your guides and drivers
-Items of a personal nature such as laundry, phone calls, etc.
-Visas and vaccinations
For private safaris you should have exclusive use of the safari vehicle. That means that you will not be sharing the vehicle with other people who are not part of your group, family. If you are traveling alone you should have the vehicle to yourself.
The number of people on a private safari is usually 1 to 6 people per vehicle. If you have a larger group, there are companies that offer custom built safari vehicles that can accommodate up to 10 people.
Be sure to ask what type of vehicle you will be using on your safari.
Groups and Scheduled Departures
Some tour operators offer scheduled departures which means that you will be joining a group of people on your safari. The number of people on these safaris can range from 2 to 20 people.
The upside of scheduled departures is that they are usually less expensive then private safaris. The downside is that you will be sharing the vehicle with other people.
When booking a group safari, be sure to ask about the size of the group and what type of vehicle will be used.
Types Of Safari Vehicles Used On A Masai Mara Safari
The type of vehicle you will be using on safari will depend on the size of your group and the tour operator you have chosen.
The two types of safari vehicles used in East Africa are 4×4 Land Cruisers or Minivans.
Both vehicles will have a pop up roof so that you can stand up and have a 360 degree view while on game drives.
The mini van is a cheaper option as the Land cruiser tends to be more expensive and will be factored in on the cost of your safari.
Masai Mara Park Fees
Masai Mara park fees are based on the location of the camp or lodge one is staying at. For accommodation inside the main reserve park fee is $70 per person per day for adults and $40 per child per day for children under 12 years.
For those staying in accommodation outside the main reserve there is a $10 increase to $ 80 per person per day and $45 per child per day for children under 12 years.
Your tour operator should include park fees in the cost of your safari.
Before you commit to the safari you need to:-
Check For Safari Reviews
Regardless of how you choose to book your Masai Mara Safari, the most important thing is to do your research and make sure you are booking with a reputable and trustworthy company. This will ensure that you have a safe and memorable experience that you will never forget.
A great way would be to Google the tour operator name “Tour Operator Name Reviews” and see what you find.
Reviews from third parties are always better and more credible than the reviews on the tour operators website.
When looking at reviews, always keep in mind that there will always be a few bad reviews no matter how good the company is.
The best way to get an accurate idea of what the company is like is to look at the overall rating as well as the number of reviews.
Once you have done some research on the company you intend on using for your Masai Mara safari and have reviewed your itinerary and are happy with all the details, you will need to sign and return a copy to your tour operator.
This is your confirmation that you understand the itinerary and agree to the terms and conditions of the safari.
Some tour operators will not ask you to sign but rather a deposit to secure your booking.
Secure Your Booking By Paying a Deposit
Once you have settled on a Masai Mara safari itinerary package or tailor-made to meet your needs and preferences, and you have details of your safari as well as what is included in the price in writing, the next step is to make a deposit to confirm and secure your booking.
The reason you want all costs and inclusions in writing is so that should any misunderstandings arise you can always refer to the document.
As mentioned earlier a well written itinerary will have all the details.
If your tour operator sends you an invoice it should include all the details of what is included in the safari as well as the company’s terms and conditions.
A deposit is usually between 20-30% of the total cost of the safari.
The balance is then due before your departure date or on arrival. Check with your tour operator for their specific policy.
Some companies might require full payment upfront, while others give you the option to pay a deposit with the balance due later.
If you are booking your safari last minute, you might have to make a full payment upfront as most companies will not hold spots without a deposit.
Be sure to check on their cancellation policies and terms and conditions before payment as this will vary from company to company.
Mode Of Payment
Different companies will accept different modes of payments. From credit cards to wire transfers. Its important to consider the charges that come with the different modes of payments.
For example, if you are paying by credit card, there might be a surcharge of 2-5% that is added to your total cost.
What Happens Once You Have Paid Your Deposit?
After you have paid your deposit, the next step is for your tour operator to start making all the necessary arrangements for your trip.
They will send you a confirmation email or letter that your safari has been booked.
If there is anything that you are unsure about, be sure to contact your tour operator to clarify.
It is always better to ask too many questions than not enough as this will ensure that you are fully prepared for your safari.
A few weeks or days before your departure date, you should receive another email from your tour operator and if you don’t be sure to email or call them. This is just to ensure that everything is on track and that there have been no changes to the itinerary as there shouldn’t be.
Some tour operators will also send you a list of things to pack as well as a suggested packing list.
This is very helpful as they know exactly what you will need for the safari as they have done it many times before.
Once you have received all your documents, the only thing left to do is pack your bags and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
Travel Insurance For Your Safari
Once you have booked your safari, the next step is to get travel insurance. This is an important step, as it will protect you in case of any unforeseen circumstances such as cancellations, medical emergencies, or lost baggage.
There are a number of different companies that offer travel insurance, so be sure to shop around and find the best policy for you.
When you are looking for travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print and make sure that you are covered for everything that you might need. For example, some policies will not cover you if you have to cancel your trip due to illness, so be sure to check this before you buy.
Your Kenya Tourist Visa
If you are a citizen of the United States, Canada, or the European Union, you will need to get a tourist visa before you can enter Kenya. Visas can be obtained from your local Kenyan embassy or consulate, or you can apply for it online.
Check out how to apply for a Kenya evisa.
The cost of a tourist visa is $50 for Americans and Canadians, and €60 for Europeans. Visas are valid for 90 days from the date of issue.
You can opt for an East African visa if you will be travelling to Tanzania Uganda or Rwanda as well in addition to Kenya. The cost of this visa is $100 for Americans, Canadians, and Europeans, and it is valid for 90 days from the date of issue.
Your Kenya Health requirements may change from time to time. To be sure you meet every health requirement including vaccinations, check the CDC website prior to your travels. The last thing you want is to get sick on your safari!
Your Kenya vaccine requirements may differ depending on which areas you will be visiting while in Kenya or East Africa.
Some of the vaccinations that may be required for travel to Kenya include:
-Hepatitis A and B
Be sure to consult with your doctor or a travel clinic at least 8 weeks before your departure to ensure you have enough time to get all the necessary vaccinations.
In addition to getting the recommended and required vaccines for Kenya, you should follow safety advice such as avoiding areas with poor sanitation and always drinking bottled water as tap water is not safe.
Booking Your Flights
Once you have everything in order, the next step is to book your international flight. Your safari dates will determine your departure and return dates.
If you are flying into Kenya, the best airport to fly into is Nairobi. From there, you will be either taking a domestic flight from Wilson airport to Masai Mara or going there by road, depending on what is on your safari itinerary.
The Masai Mara has several airstrips and depending on where you will be staying at the Mara, your domestic flight will land at one of these.
The main airstrips in the Mara are Keekorok, Musiara, Serena, Kichwa Tembo, Olkiombo, and Talek.
You may require accommodation at a Nairobi hotel when you arrive on your international flight to catch some sleep and freshen up before your safari starts. This can be arranged by your tour operator and included into your safari itinerary in advance.
Also do not forget to ask about airport transfers as you will need it from the airport to your hotel.
Getting A Local Sim Card
When you get to Kenya it is advisable to get yourself a local sim card so that you can stay connected by buying local airtime and internet bundle packages. This will come in handy in case of any emergencies and allow you to be online as Wi-Fi is not always accessible.
There are a number of different service providers to choose from, so be sure to shop around and find the best one for you.
The Two Major Mobile Service Providers are Airtel and Safaricom
We recommend that you buy a Safaricom line which costs around Ksh. 100 ($1) you can then buy data bundles.
Safaricom Data Bundles
Ksh 20 ($0.17) (70MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 50 ($0.42)(175MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 100 ($0.84)(500MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 250 ($2.11)(1250MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 500 ($4.22)(2500MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 1000 ($8.44)(5000MB+Whatsapp)
Airtel Data Bundles
Ksh 10 ($0.084) (70MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 20 ($0.17)(200MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 50 ($0.42)(600MB+Whatsapp)
Ksh 99 ($0.84)(2GB+Whatsapp)
Of the two networks safaricom has a wider coverage across the country.
What To Pack For Your Masai Mara Safari
Now that you know how to book a Masai Mara safari, and have probably booked one it’s time to start packing!
When you are packing for your trip, there are a few things you should keep in mind such as the your luggage and weight, weather, what activities you will be doing and of course, comfort.
Airlines have luggage restrictions in place, so be sure to check the weight and size restrictions of your airline before packing. We recommend packing light as you will be doing a lot of travelling while on safari.
The weather in the Masai Mara is mostly hot and dry with a cool breeze, so pack light, breathable clothing that covers most of your skin to protect you from the sun and insects. Long pants, long sleeves shirts, and a hat are all recommended.
The evenings can get chilly so it is also a good idea to pack a light jacket or sweater.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must as you will be doing a lot of walking on your safari.
Other important items to pack include:
-First Aid Kit
Packing light is always best as you will be doing a lot of moving around and you don’t want to be lugging around a heavy suitcase. It will also save you money when it comes to flights as most airlines have weight restrictions.
A good rule of thumb is to pack items that can be layered so that you can easily adjust to the changing temperatures.
Tips For Tipping While On Safari
Tipping is not mandatory but it is appreciated by your guides and drivers who work hard to make sure you have a great safari experience.
A general guideline is to tip $5-$7 per person, per day for those who frequently serve you through out the day like your driver or guide. This can be given at the end of your stay.
Occasionally when someone goes out of their way to assist you then you can tip them as a thank you.
For example, if your driver drives you to an animal that you really wanted to see or helps you spot something special.
Check out out our complete guide on tipping on your Kenya safari.
When leaving Kenya you will be required to pay a departure tax of $50.
This tax is included in the price of your flight ticket, so be sure to check with your airline before you travel.
We hope this guide on how to book a Masai Mara safari has been helpful. If you have any questions or would like help booking your safari, please contact us and we would be more than happy to assist you.