If you’ve watched Uncle Attenborough’s many animal documentaries, you will have heard of the Maasai Mara. The image of wildebeest and birds alike making the big migration.
Then if you love Lion King, I meannnnnn. I won’t go on too much, but my point is the idea of visiting this natural wonder has been in my mind and heart for a long time.
Now, in my experience of curating tailormade holidays; going on a safari is not cheap. So it was always a bucket list thing and I thought it would be unattainable for a while. However, when the opportunity to visit Kenya arose – I knew I couldn’t let the chance pass me by.
So, here they are – my tips on how to go on a safari in the most cost effective way. Hakuna Matata 😉
When to go: As with most trips, deciding what season you go will determine how much you spend overall.
- December to February – it’s not dry season but when I went in December the weather was amazing, and we saw all of the Big 5 too. This time period will allow cheaper airfares, hotel stays and possibly discounted activities 🏌🏾♀️ (The weather was even good enough for a hot air balloon ride, but I’ll get into that later 😁)
- June to October – is the ‘best time’ to visit Kenya as its during the Dry season. Late June to October are meant to be the the best wildlife viewing months. The wildebeest migration usually reaches the Masai Mara in August and remains until October when they move back to the Serengeti in Tanzania.
As Kenya sits close to the equator, its seasons are the opposite of ours. So going in December I was greeted with at 26 degrees Celcius 😍😍
Where to stay: Outside
I would recommend setting aside 3 days minimum to make the most of your time in the Maasai Mara. This way if you miss animals on one day, there’s still more opportunities to see them.
So, I’ve just told you to spend at least 3 days on the nature reserve. You’ve checked prices for lodges and you’ve come back to tell me I’m crazy 😜
Relax friends, relax and walk with me 😂
I too, was impressed by the price of lodges on the nature reserve! If you have the funds to splash out, definitely stay on the nature reserve you save some time driving. However, if you want to save some coins – stay on a lodge just outside the gates of the Maasai Mara! They offer all the same services; game drives, glamping etc. but for a lot less. We even booked our hot air balloon tour with our accommodation.
We were lucky enough to spot nearly all of the Big 5 during our game drive and we only needed to go on one day 🥺. A lot of the game drives will allow you to go again for free if you don’t see them on your first try.
What to pack: Layersss
So I made a little song and dance about how warm it was in December. But, the temperature really does drop 🥶 as soon as the sun goes down and as it’s rising.
- Hiking boots/weatherproof boots
- Jumpers, cardigans (anything you can layer)
- Mosquito spray
- Water bottle
Some people will go as far as hiring their own 4×4 and trying to drive the nature reserve themselves – you can do this and it will cut costs as you’ll only need to buy a ticket for entry. However, I wouldn’t recommend; I saw too many people stuck in the mud – literally. The guides who are local people, know the routes like the back of their hands and know how to navigate the plains. (You may also have the opportunity to visit one of the local Maasai families.)
Top site to see: Great Rift Valley
Other than the Maasai Mara itself, on your way there you will pass the Great Rift Valley. The Earth moved when Kenya was created and the evidence can be seen with the Great Rift Valley, it cuts across the country’s length. There are lakes, savannahs and volcanoes that stretches from Jordan all the way to Mozambique. The drive from the city to nature reserve is quite long, so it makes a good stop for a photo op and a toilet break. The toilet is not anything fancy, so be prepared!
Stand-out excursion: Hot air balloon ride
Once in a lifetime means there’s no second chance…*clears throat* I’m all for saving your money on certain things so you can luxe out on others! We luxed out on a hot air balloon ride, and oh boy what a dream.
You have to get up super early and it’ll be freezing, so driving around in a 4×4 with no heating sounds like a terrible idea. The ride you’re blessed with after you see the balloons being blown up tho? So worth it. 10/10 would recommend without a question.
After your flight you get to celebrate the succesful flight with everyone you flew with – there is a buffet breakfast and unlimited champage – (yes, I made myself countless mimosas). You get a certificate and a visual souvenir of the ride itself. Your guide is ready on the otherside to pick you up and take you back to base, or you can tie on a game drive since you’re already out there.
We hope this guide helps you get started on planning your own trip, or serves as a way back to fond memories of a safari trip.
Keep up with us on: @trippinwithsj x