Where to Stay in the Maasai Mara
Kenya’s Maasai Mara is home to the Great Migration, the world’s largest animal migration where hordes of wildebeest attracting hordes of tourists each year.
With one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in the world, the Maasai Mara is also worth visiting outside the migration months of July to October.
To help you decide where to stay to escape the crowds, our expert travel designers have rounded up some of their favourite properties in the Maasai Mara.
National parks vs conservancies
Kenya’s Maasai Mara is one of the most famous game reserves in the world. In these expansive plains, travellers have the choice between staying within the National Park itself or in one of the many surrounding Mara Conservancies. Located in south-west Kenya, bordering Tanzania, the Maasai Mara game reserve forms part of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. This reserve is named after the Maasai people, who inhibit the area, so travellers are able to add another dimension to their trip by learning all about Maasai culture during their time here. Although the Masaai Mara National Park is more crowded than the conservancies, it’s a great option for those wanting to stay in the heart of the wildlife action.
For those seeking a more exclusive safari experience, the conservancies bordering the National Park offer exceptional game viewing within a more secluded setting. These wildlife conservancies were born out of an agreement between the local Maasai landowners and safari camp operators, which converted much of the land to the north and east of the Maasai Mara into wildlife sanctuaries. A limited number of camps are permitted in each conservancy, which are still privately owned, making for a blissfully private safari experience. Opportunities to meet and interact with the local Masaai community are also second to none.
Family-friendly lodges in the Maasai Mara
Nestled in a remote corner of the Maasai Mara National Park, Sala’s Camp is defined by its incredible location. This secluded camp is a great option for families, with two of the eleven tents here specifically designed for multiple generations. Sala’s goes above and beyond for families; all children receive a welcome pack containing games, paint sets and quizzes about the area’s wildlife. Kids can spend time here playing in the shallow Sand River under the watchful eye of a Maasai askari.
Exclusivity and luxury go hand in hand at this family-friendly lodging. All of the tents here feature private plunge pools, en-suite bathrooms with hot showers, running water and flushing loos. Sala’s Camp is also perfectly placed for travellers wishing to witness the Great Migration; its position overlooking the northern Tanzanian corridor and Serengeti National Park gives guest here a first look at the awe-inspiring spectacle. There’s a fairly good chance of being able to catch a river crossing too, with the famed Mara River only a 25-minute drive away.
Richard’s River Camp
Richard’s River Camp, located in one of the wonderfully remote Mara Conservancies, offers one of the most intimate safari experiences in Kenya. Five incredibly inviting tents sit here, and the camp can be hired out in its entirety, making it a favourable option for families or large groups of friends travelling together. For an extra touch of VIP treatment, this camp can even be personally hosted by Richard Roberts (co-founder of the camp and incredible Mara Elephant Project) on request.
Appointed with warm high-quality linens and modern comforts, the tents add to the VIP feel of the camp and are completed by en-suite bathrooms that have 24-hour hot running water. This camp is also a winner for wildlife sightings. As the camp is positioned on the banks of the Njageteck River, guests are able to spot majestic wildlife as animals gather around the nearby Ngoyanai springs. Travellers can expect to spot the odd lion here, as the camp is particularly famous for its resident lion pride.
Mara Plains Camp
In the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, the Relais & Châteaux Mara Plains Camp offers outstanding game experiences combined with exceptional privacy. There are just seven luxury tents here, two of which share a common raised deck which is perfect for families. Wildlife takes centre stage, with canvas tents open on three out of four sides adding to the authentic bush experience.
Game drives are all conducted in open vehicles too, so guests can get phenomenal photos of wildlife and the surrounding nature. The luxurious nature of this camp is exacerbated by the feel-good factor that comes from staying there, as Mara Plains is a true positive impact property. Income generated from guests contributes towards conservation fees that safeguard the local habitat and support over 1,000 Maasai families.
Most romantic lodges in the Maasai Mara
Set amongst the banks of the Talek River, Naibor Camp’s privacy and intimacy is sublime. As the Talek River is teeming with wildlife, opportunities to witness a river crossing are second to none. There are only seven large and open canvas tents in this camp, all with daybeds neatly positioned on private verandahs, perfect for an afternoon siesta. The main ‘mess’ tent has a fire glowing throughout the evening and is a sociable spot for couples to come together and recount tales of their day’s exploration to fellow guests. Aside from the yearly migration, this strategically placed camp enjoys sights and sounds of incredible wildlife year round, with fierce predators and herds of plain game calling this spot home.
Mara Expedition Camp
Along the banks of the Ntiakitiak River, thick riverine forest meets unending savannah. Where these two incredible landscapes intertwine, Mara Expedition Camp accommodates up to ten guests across five traditional tents. Days can be spent out on game safaris, while evenings can be blissfully whiled away with a lantern and candlelit dinner in the dining tent. Other incredible, romantic experiences on offer here include seeking out leopards in ebony woodland by the riverside and getting a bird’s eye view of the never-ending plains from a hot air balloon. Drawing up the romance of the first safaris, this incredible camp marries adventurous colonial style with utmost comfort.
Sand River Camp
Accommodation is in the form of 16 luxury tents in this colonial Masai Mara camp that echoes the decadence of the 1920s. At Sand River Camp, each tent comes with its own private sundeck, so can enjoy each other’s company alongside the wonderful river view. The camp offers communal dining and lounging for more sociable guests. For couples seeking seclusion, though, there’s also the option of private lunches and dinners served out in the bush amongst flourishing wildlife. With an incredible setting boasting chances to see the Big Five, the annual migration and the world’s largest concentration of big cats, there are few better places to spend a romantic trip.
Where to stay to get in touch with nature
Located in one of the most sought-after conservancies, Mara House suits couples, small groups and families alike. All the main living areas lead onto the verandah, so all guests can enjoy stunning views over the game rich waterhole. Guests can relax hassle-free in this well-equipped safari camp that caters to every need. An onsite chef prepares all meals – catering for bush picnics or lunches under acacia trees – and a wildlife guide is on hand to ensure a seamlessly run safari experience.
To help guests get up close to wildlife and the surrounding nature, a fully qualified Maasai guide and private vehicle are on hand. A variety of activities are on offer, including walking, day or night game drives and visits to local villages and trading centres. Opportunities for game viewing in the conservancies of Mara North, Ol Chorro and Lemek make this camp an incredible place to stay for those looking to get closer to nature.
A wonderfully intimate camp set inside the Masai Mara National Park, Serian Nkorombo has just five tents, each of which come with their own private vehicle and guide. This quaint, characterful camp overlooks the Mara River, so this is one of the best places to stay if you’re keen on witnessing a river crossing. Serian Nkorombo suits more intrepid travellers, as accommodation is basic but comfortable. Traditional Selous-style tents come with flush toilets and bucket showers.
The communal lounge tent, housing snug sofas and Raj-style carpets, is a cosy spot for travellers to swap stories at the end of a busy day out on game drives. Although rustic, this camp is a great choice for travellers seeking a down to earth, authentic bush experience. What this camp lacks in luxurious amenities, it more than makes up for in wildlife sightings and excellent guiding.
Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp
Located in a beautiful family-owned conservancy bordering the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Cottar’s 1920s Camp is situated in a timeless setting. A positive impact property, this camp has been working in partnership with the local Masaai here for years. As a result, interaction with the local Maasai community is wholly authentic and not at all touristy.
Having funded numerous community projects and done work to protect local environment, Cottar’s is rated very highly for its ecotourism. Aside from the feel good factor that accompanies staying here, guests can enjoy luxurious colonial-style tents with ensuite showers, a swimming pool and spa. To enable guests to explore the surroundings, day and night game drives, guided bush walks and cultural excursions are also on offer.