Hanging out with the Masai in the Masai Mara

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
8
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
6
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
9
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
77 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Africa
country
Kenya
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 350
Time of year visited
January
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
52nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

The Masai Mara immediately conjures up images of being a kid watching your first wildlife documentary, with lions, leopards and cheetahs chasing gazelles, impalas and wildebeest . . . and indeed that is the immediate thought.  But the Masai Mara is also home of the Masai who run all things around here and who, actually, themselves, represent one of the highlights.  Spending the time with them in their bright red and black shukasas as they take you for a wander around the plains and through their villages is a magical experience and, if in Kenya, unmissable

highlights

#1 Hanging out with the Masai and seeing the way that they live. In the world of smart phones, its not always the way you expect!

#2 Getting to see the sheer number of lions across the Mara . . . and knowing that the right of passage for a Masai Warrior is to kill one

#3 Seeing the hundreds and hundreds of elephants roaming

#4 Those classic Africa savanna backdrops, especially as it's just about to rain

#5 Learning some of the techniques for how the Masai live. Basic stuff at times, but just a great insight into their every day lives

#6 Seeing the hundreds of hippos that guard so many of the rivers. Hint - don't go anywhere near them

#7 Heading out on a walk through the Mara with some of the Masai warriors as you guide

#8 Seeing, and avoiding, the pesky but quite terrifying baboons

Travel Tips

I visited the Masai Mara as part of an overland tour from Victoria Falls to Nairobi, so my tips for this experience will be very short as everything was organised for us.  But a few high level points to consider before you make your trip there:

 

  • Terminology – the Masai Mara, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area are all distinct national parks, but they all sit within the broader Serengeti ecosystem.  The Masai Mara is in Kenya, whereas the other two are across the border in Tanzania
  • Masai Mara or Serengeti – firstly, they are both fantastic experiences.  I know that sounds like a bit of a cop out but they really are – do both if you can!  That being said, I think your choice comes down to:
    • Resident animals compared to migrators – the Serengeti is more dependent on the migrations of the herds which are determined by the time of year (see below), whereas the Masai Mara (and Ngorongoro Crater) have more resident animals
    • Time of year – if visiting in August to October, the choice is simple – go to the Masai Mara because that is where the Great Migration of Wildebeest (and the other grazers and predators) will be happening with the world-famous, and daunting, crossing of the Mara River.  January to March (calving season) and June to August (see the Great Migration in Tanzania), make more sense for the Serengeti National Park.  April to June, the herds will be in the west of the Serengeti but it will be wet
    • Culture vs nature – the Masai Mara offers the opportunity for staying with and learning from the Masai, which you will not find as an option in the the Serengeti.  In comparison, the Ngorongoro Crater, which you will naturally want to visit as part of your Serengeti National Park trip, is the world’s largest unbroken crater and offers stunning views that outclass anything in the Masai Mara
    • Kenya or Tanzania – with the Serengeti being in Tanzania and Masai Mara in Kenya, it’s worth thinking which more appeals to you.  I’d probably lean more towards Tanzania because, when looking outside of safari-style options, the trip to Zanzibar is something Kenya can’t offer (and you can see Zanzibar’s 5 highlights in this travel entry).  Of course, its better just to visit both
    • For tips on a the Serengeti, see this travel entry – Safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater
  • Stay with the Masai and take your time to research the optionsthey will look after you, feed you, show you their way of life and take you out for walks in the reserve.  Again, this is their place – makes sense to have them host you.  We were fortunate enough to have all of our time planned ahead for us, but I’ve heard many friends who visited with different experiences, so do some research on best villages to stay in.  You want a genuine feeling of being with the Masai, not a classic package tour
  • Staying in the Masai Mara is expensive – but bear in mind that everything will be included in that price, like food, tours etc
  • It’s traditional living, but you’re still connected to the modern world – I remember distinctly being woken up very early in a tent by one of the Masai Warriors to then be taken on a walk to see the animals in their morning routines.  We started off the conversation about how he lived, how he wants to be one of the leaders of the village so needs to learn how to jump high, and how he killed a lion when he was younger as his initiation to being a warrior for the tribe.   By the time I came back, we were discussing Manchester United’s preferred midfield and he was showing me his fantasy football team on his smart phone.   Can never truly escape it, but then again I think that added to the overall experience

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone