Known for its great wildebeest migration, abundant lions and the rich culture of the native Maasai people, traditional pastoral herders who have grazed cattle here for centuries, southwest Kenya’s Masai Mara is a treat for all of the senses.
With its high concentration of lions, leopards, and cheetahs, the area is iconic for wildlife spotting, even on a short 1 day trip to Masai Mara. As well as being home to Maasai tribes, the reserve is famous for the Great Migration and can make for a spectacular short stopover on a day trip from Nairobi.
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The best day trip to Masai Mara Tours
Cost of a day Masai Mara safari from Nairobi?
Budget tours start from $230 per person and increase from there. The biggest factor determining the price of a safari is typically the accommodation. However, on a one day safari however, this may be the transport i.e. flight given the time constraints if you choose this means versus road transport. Shared flights are usually cheaper than private tours.
This is especially the case for single travelers. On a day trip trip you might want to consider a fly-in safari, but these are considerably more expensive than road safaris. Check out the seasons too; low-season prices can be favorable and while you’ll probably get some rain at this time, it’s when the scenery is at its best.
Typical day trip to Masai Mara from Nairobi breakdown
Safari tour highlights
- See the Big Five including the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo in an iconic world-famous game park
- Return flight across the great Maasai plains
- All-inclusive tours including entrance fees, meals, and transport
- Private tour guide in English and other languages
- Game drives in comfortable, open top safari vehicles
- Unforgettable savannah vistas
- Experience the Maasai people and culture
- Optional activity add-ons including hot air balloon safaris
The following details typical tour inclusions and exclusions on the best day trip Masai Mara safari package:
|Tour inclusions||Tour exclusions|
|Game drives per the itinerary as well as pick-up and drop-off||Visa fees, laundry services, drinks including mineral water at the hotels|
|Experienced english-speaking guide and driver||International/domestic flights|
|Transport and park entrance fees||Cultural visits to Maasai villages (15 USD p/p)|
|Breakfast, lunch, dinner and bottled water||Tips to the driver guides, waiters and porters|
Itinerary example for a day trip to Masai Mara from Nairobi
The typical itinerary that safari visitors can expect on a 1 day Masai Mara tour includes:
Day 1 – Start your safari from Nairobi
Meal plan: Lunch
The Mara day trip is a full day excursion from Nairobi to Masai Mara game reserve departing Nairobi before dawn and enjoying a 5 hr game drive. Game drives start from the Sekenani gate where you’ll be introduced to the famous Big 5!
This includes the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and the African buffalo in addition to numerous other birds of prey and antelopes, zebras and giraffes.
After a full day hanging out with the wildlife in this incredible backdrop, you’ll enjoy your packed lunch, soak in the views and depart for your journey back to Nairobi, arriving back at your hotel or residence.
Safari essentials and information
Is a day safari in Masai Mara sufficient?
A one day trip is indeed short, but it can be done and you will get to see the Big 5. If you’re coming from Nairobi, taking an internal flight direct to Masai Mara would be ideal, as this takes just 50 minutes, if your budget allows for it.
If you travel by road, you’ll have a long drive, however you will arrive in time for two game drives and enough time to have your lunch and more. In summary, it is possible and indeed worth it, however if you can commit more time, two or three days would be even better.
With one full day in Masai Mara, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to explore this iconic safari destination with a dusk-to-dawn game drive that will include lunch at one of the incredible picnic spots overlooking a wildlife watering hole.
Animals on a Masai Mara safari?
The reserve is home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo) and has the highest concentration of Big Cats not just in East Africa but worldwide making the location a perfect research center for hyenas and Big Cats.
World famous for hosting the epic Great Migration, the Masai Mara welcomes 1.5 million wildebeests onto its sprawling savannahs each July through October. Other wildlife that visitors can expect to find include abundant elephants, buffalo, giraffes, lions and cheetah alongside the migratory animals and zebra.
With over 450 animal species, visitors can also have a clear view of animals catching them in action when on a hot-air balloon African safari early in the morning. Leopards are frequently encountered, endangered black rhino hide in the dense thickets and large rafts of hippo and enormous crocodiles are found in the Mara River crossings.
Best time to go on a Masai Mara safari?
To avoid crowds, the low-season months of April to May and November to December see fewer visitors than the rest of the year. While this isn’t the best time for wildlife viewing, there are always animals around. April and May are the wettest months, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular scenery and an abundance of baby animals.
Midsummer can get busy though, so come at the beginning or end of that period with its full on wildlife without crazy crowds. Even during the high season, some areas of the Mara are busier than others, but for a really exclusive safari experience you can book into one of the private conservancies bordering the Masai Mara.
Fly or drive to Masai Mara?
On a day trip safari, flying and driving to the Masai Mara are both viable options, with flying bringing obvious time savings (50 minutes from Nairobi) and incredible views of the wildlife and landscape. Flying also comes with a higher price tag. The drive to the Mara takes almost 6 hours, with the last 100km/62mi of the road quite poor. Fly-in safaris usually include top-end accommodation and all your activities.
On a day trip tour of the Mara, you can easily break up the drive with a stopover. Lake Nakuru NP is the most popular option. This Rift Valley lake teems with birdlife, and this is the best place in Kenya to see rhinos, which are very difficult to spot in the Masai Mara, as well as the hustle and bustle of African countryside life.
Another great option is to spend a night at Hell’s Gate NP. The dramatic scenery is the main attraction and, as there are few dangerous animals, cycling and hiking are permitted in the park.
Will I get to meet the Maasai people?
Yes, meeting the wonderful Maasai people and getting to know all about their lives is a highlight of any visit here. Many lodges and safari companies employ Maasai as guides and drivers, and also as employees in their lodges and tented camps.
Most can also arrange visits to local Maasai communities if this is possible before booking your Kenya safari. It can be difficult to interact meaningfully with the Maasai on such occasions, although you can learn a great deal if you take the time to talk with those guiding you, serving your food or cleaning your rooms.
How much spending money do I need for a 1 day Masai Mara safari?
Visitors should budget for approximately $300 for a Kenya safari per person per day, including food and accommodation. Kenyan safaris can be more expensive than their continental counterparts due to the higher costs of accommodation and food.
What animals will I see on a day trip to Masai Mara?
Visitors on a 1 day Masai Mara safari will see the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo), hyenas, wildebeest, giraffes, cheetah, zebras, endangered black rhinos, hippos, crocodiles and much more.
What is the best part of Masai Mara?
The best part of Masai Mara is the renowned and remote western section of the reserve, known as the Mara Triangle. It is managed as a non-profit conservancy run by the local Maasai and is considered one of the best areas for game-viewing in the area.