Masai Mara Visit





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  1. #1
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    Default Masai Mara Visit

    Hey Guys,

    I am busy planning a trip to Serengeti/Masai Mara for the migration. So seeing as I'm a virgin migration seeker I need some help and advice please:

    In your personal opinion is it better to go to Kenya and Masai Mara or Serengeti in the Tanzania side?

    Once you have answered that.... Which time of year would be best?

    From what I have put together so far, it seems to me that Kenya would be best as its a 5hr flight to Nairobi and only 280km to Mara explorer camp. So to go for a week or 10 days will be sufficient time to explore the area and witness the migration. Vehicle hire should be relatively affordable and easy as Nairobi is close.

    With all this said if this is not the best area for the migration, I would rather plan otherwise, spend more money and do it properly.

    Any advice will be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Don
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    Default Re: Masai Mara Visit

    Don the migration is a complex phenomenon and the exact situation of the herds varies according to the timing of the rains. Generally speaking the herds move from the south early in the year in a clock-wise direction, moving towards the west and north into the Mara and then later south and east to be back near the southern Serengeti in Dec/Jan.


    Many people are not clear in their minds what they mean when referring to the migration. Do they just want to see the massed herds, or the herds on the move or in fact the dramatic crossings of the Mara River.


    The crossings in particular are best seen during the second half of the year from the Mara Triangle. Do a little research to be sure you understand the difference between the Mara Triangle and the Masai Mara Game Reserve. I quote from my www.slowdonkey blog.


    "First to try to clarify a point which I understood poorly and hopefully now have some insight into. What is the difference between the Masai Mara Game Reserve and the Masai Mara Conservancy also known as the Mara Triangle? They are administered by 2 completely seperate bodies and as I understand it the Masai people have some rights in the reserve for grazing etc, but not in the conservancy. Neither fall under the Kenya Wildlife Society, the national body. Neither of these are national parks and are administered independently. The conservancy/triangle has the reputation of being better run and maintained. The eastern boundary of the Triangle is the Mara River as it runs from north to south here and is also the western border of the adjacent Game Reserve section. The Triangle's boundaries to the west are triangular in shape hence its name, whilst to the south it borders Serengeti (as does the Reserve further to the east). Thus the southern border of both is the border between Kenya and Tanzania which is completely unfenced".

    I would like to quote from what I think is the best summary of the migration I have seen.


    "MigrationTimetable

    December
    The migration increases its pace as it heads towards Serengeti's southern plains where the short rains are generating the grass and the grass is rich in nutrients.

    January
    The migration is in the south-eastern Serengeti on the short-grass plains, after the short rains which have nurtured the fresh grass. This month and December are the peak months for zebra births.

    February
    The short-grass plains of the south-east are the main feeding ground for some 1.8 million wildebeest, 800,000 zebra and many gazelle. Predators follow close by, feeding on the newly born. This is the main month for wildebeest births. The great herds are on the move towards the Ndutu Woodlands.

    March
    The beginning of the long and heavy rains. The short-grass plains pastures are nearing exhaustion and the newborn can keep up with the herds. The Great Herds move towards the south-west even outside Serengeti.

    During the months of December, January, February, and early March, the best way to see The Great Migration is by camping in Seronera Valley, Moru Kopjes, Nasera Rock and Ndutu Woodlands areas.

    April
    Heaviest rainy month. Wildebeest are almost evenly scattered on the short-grass plains in the south, both east and west. Very difficult to drive around in Serengeti during the long rains due to the very wet black cotton soil.

    May

    Good forage is still available but water begins to be a limiting factor in the south. Now the vast herds begin to coalesce with columns containing hundreds of thousands stretched over many km as they head north and west across the central woodland zones into the Western Corridor where new food and water has been generated by the rains around this area.

    We do not recommend that you follow the Great Migration during the month of April or early May. During these two months the Serengeti is very wet and most of the Great herds are outside Serengeti to the west.

    The best time to catch the Migration once again is in the months of June and July when the herds are the Western Corridor. We recommend that you camp in the Western Corridor—Kira Wira (special campsite),and Serengeti North around Lobo Public campsite. Please note the migration pattern changes from year to year.

    June
    Rains comes to an end and the herds leave the black-cotton-soil plains, crossing the Grumeti River in the Western Corridor. In a normal year the great herds will be in around the Seronera Valley.


    July
    The great herds now move northwest briefly leaving the park as they enter the Grumeti Game Controlled Area and with a portion of the herd heading towards the Lobo area.

    August
    The migration in a normal year should now be in the northern Serengeti and entering Maasai Mara.It has been predicted that July and August is the best time to see the River Crossing on the Mara River from Maasai Mara.

    September
    The migration has now entered Kenya's Maasai Mara Game Reserve just across the northern border from the Serengeti National Park. This is the best time to visit Maasai Mara.

    October
    This is the driest month inthe Serengeti with the bulk of the wildebeest and zebra briefly absent and in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve where there is always plentiful water and better grazing for the plains animals at this time of year.


    November
    Depending on the short rains that come during the month of November, the great herds start to move from Maasai Mara Game Reserve to Serengeti South all the way to the short grass plains in the South of Serengeti– Ngorongoro ecosystem in search of better pasture.

    From July to early November is the best time to see the migration in Kenya.

    From mid-November the great herds move from Maasai Mara Game Reserve to Serengeti National Park. The herds spread all the way out to Kleine's Gate area. Part of the migration will be seen on the Serengeti Plains on the Eastern Side of the Serengeti National Park.

    The Migration pattern is never the same. It changes every year, and it all depends on the rainfall. Sometimes the migration will be off by 50 Kms from where the animals are expected to be, and sometimes they will be as much as 200 kms away from their original pattern that has now been studied over many years. No one can fully predict what may be seen where at any given time, and this is part of the magic and the mystery of the awe-inspiring natural wonder that is The Great Migration".


    Don, I hope you can make sense of this information overload. I think the simplest is to fly into Tanzania's Kilimanjaro International airport near Arusha at the correct time of year and pick up your hired and kitted 4x4 there. Apparently Shaw Safaris are good, but I have no personal experience of hiring.
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    Default Re: Masai Mara Visit

    As Stan says, the migration is complex and depends on the rain. One of the better descriptions of the migration can be found on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serengeti and the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem which covers some 30,000 sq km. I also agree with Stan in that it depends on what you mean by the migration - if you want to see the crossings of rivers, then the Mara River is where the most dramatic crossings happen and they happen anytime from August to November.

    When we were in the Mara Conservancy (AKA the Mara Triangle) in August 2015, the plains were black with wildebeeste and there were multiple river crossings.

    To confirm the difference between the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and the Mara Conservancy (Triangle), the Mara Game Reserve is administered by Narok County Council and the Mara Triangle is administered by the Mara Conservancy http://maratriangle.org/ on behalf of the Trans-Mara County Council. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have a mandate to protect wildlife throughout Kenya and are active in both parts, but they are not the "owners" and neither are National Parks.

    I would look carefully at Mara Explorers as this camp is outside the Maasai Mara Game Reserve on the eastern side which is some considerable distance from the Mara River and where the action is happening. If I were you, I would camp in the Mara Conservancy if you plan to visit in July-October and you have a better chance to be in the thick of the action.

    As for whether you go to the Serengeti in Tanzania or the Mara in Kenya, that depends on the time of year you plan to visit and where the herds are. But you don't want to be in either the Serengeti National Park or the Mara during the rains. Although there are no fences between the two countries, there is no border crossing between the two parks - it is a long way round, but a fine trip if you have the stomach for doing both the Serengeti and the Mara.

    The whole Mara-Serengeti ecosystem is astonishing and a wonder to behold. Good luck with your planning.

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    Default Re: Masai Mara Visit

    Stan And Wazungu - Thanks so much for the information! This really has been HUGELY useful and will most certainly help with my planning.

    Stan - You hit the nail on the head with your question, what do i want to see? I have no idea to be dead honest. Strange as that might sound... I just simply want to see the migration. I want to see those millions of Wildebeest, Zebra & gazelle flooding the plains, crossing the rivers, predators making kills and feasting on the opportunities... I want to see it all! Is that a bit greedy that I want to see it all? haha...

    On a serious note, I think I kind of grasp the concept of the Masai Mara Conservancy/Triangle and the Masai Mara Reserve. This is now that you both have explained to me. Prior to this, I thought the part of the reserve north of the Tanzania border is named the Masai Mara Triangle. Good to know the difference and understand nature of these reserves/Parks etc. Thank you!

    So Ideally I would love to see the millions of game on the open plains and most certainly a few river crossings. These are namely the biggest two things I would like to see and follow during my stay there. I think ideally the kids school holidays would be the best time for us to go as we don't have to worry about them at school and can leave them with family for a week. Those holidays would be from the 30th of Sept to 10 Oct. So with this in mind, and with regards to the activity and game I want to see in terms of river crossings and some numbers on the plains, and the time of year which would be early October... Would the Masai Mara Triangle be the ideal location for me to witness what I am looking for?

    Thanks so much for all your detailed information Stan, I really found that useful and the most detailed description of the Migration I have read yet. It goes along way to assist in the planning of such an adventure!

    Much appreciated Gents.

    Don
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    Hi Don,

    As mentioned, the migration is a fickle thing and totally dependent on rainfall - and hence grass growth - patterns. In a perfect world, the wildebeest, zebra and gazelles start migrating west and north in search of sweeter grazing from May through to July, moving from Seronera through the Western Corridor, then outside the park to the Grumeti, arriving in the Maasai Mara in Kenya by late July through to early September. By October/November they are drifting back to Seronera, and spend the long rainy season in the Serengeti grasslands.

    With plenty of time and a fistful of dollars, it is possible to witness both ends of the spectacle, following the migration through almost to the shores of Lake Victoria, then across the border into Kenya and down the Soit Olol Escarpment into the Maasai Mara. The sight of tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra milling and charging into the Mara, Talek and Sand Rivers is one of the most photographed, and most exciting, wildlife spectacles on earth.

    That's what we did, spending nearly three months following the migration in and out of the reserves. But we did it in conjunction with several conservation organisations so we didn't pay the huge fees now payable.

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    To give you an idea of how fickle the migration can be, here is an extract from a chapter I wrote for the book "In Search of the Strange" (Struik):

    "There is an image that will stay with me as long as I live. We had been in the Serengeti for two weeks. It was at the height of the migration. It was quintessential Africa, vast plains of tawny grass dotted with umbrella trees, a sea of milling wildebeest and zebra, grunting and snorting in a mad bedlam of insane noise. We followed the migration out of the park and into the Grumeti conservation area, a corridor of protected land where nomadic pastoralists and wildlife live side by side.

    "An hour before sunset, we set up camp at the foot of a small koppie looking down towards the Grumeti River. We were in the Garden of Eden: Spread before us on the plains was one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, thousands upon thousands of animals, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, kongoni, elephant, lion, Thompson's gazelle. They moved unquietly back and forth, politely keeping a hundred metres from our camp.

    "Late into the night the grunting and groaning continued, singing us to sleep.

    "We woke to silence. The plains were empty. Not a single animal remained. They had ghosted off in the night, leaving us wondering if we had imagined it all."
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2016/02/02 at 10:10 PM.

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    Default Re: Masai Mara Visit

    Thanks very much Tony. I love the extract from you brook. I think I will go looking for that one! Currently busy with Hyena Nights & Kalahari Days by Gus Mills.

    I know that the migration os very fickle and based on rains and grass growth etc. So i will most certainly look at reports and rich harder for info closer to the time. To be honest this trip is only being planned for 2017 so I have over a year to plan and get things sorted. This year is already full with holidays...Nice to say! After a full month in USA (Florida, Tennessee & New York) from 12 Dec to 12 Jan I am looking forward to some bush time. 10 Days in Moremi/Khwai in March and got Mapaya 1 booked in August and December will be Mozambique.

    So as you can see I am budgeting, planning and saving for a big one for the migration. I think by the sounds of things for what i would like to see which is the game arriving in the Masai Mara Triangle and crossing rivers I think August would be a comfortable guess. So I would perhaps then look at doing this during the second week of August as Wednesday the 9th of August is a public holiday, so saves an extra day leave.

    This trip would be a taste of the migration for me, as my ultimate plan is 4 to 6 weeks from Nairobi and driving back to JHB from there in my own time during the migration period for my 40th. Getting quotes on railing,shipping etc my car up there and then i will fly in with my family and drive back.

    Thanks for your help and advice! much appreciated!
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    Default Re: Masai Mara Visit

    Donlux, for what it's worth, here is a link where you can follow the current action inside the great migration on almost daily basis: http://www.discoverafrica.com/herdtracker
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    Thats fantastic Ortelius. Have saved that to my favourites!
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    Default Re: Masai Mara Visit

    Name:  IMG_6339.jpg
Views: 420
Size:  112.6 KBHave you made a decision yet? I've been to Serengeti the last two years in a row, both in Mei - have seen the big herds (last year 1.5m all together), but soo many more things - lots of cats etc.

    It is vital to choose the right guides/company - most wont tell you that they have limited km's - so make sure you get a company with unlitmited km's to look for the heards. Let me know - I can recommend one of the best companies to go with if you want.
    Last edited by Vrystaat; 2016/03/01 at 01:22 PM.

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    Hi all and thanks Donlux for starting this thread. We are planning a 7 night camping trip in August 2017. I have two/three companies who will take us with ground tents, bush shower toilet etc into the MM. We have refused to stay just outside any gate as we want to be in amongst the action. I have been told we can decide where to camp near the time depending on where the migration is. Public campsites I guess. I have also been told we can book one of the private campsites well in advance and pay an extra fee and pay for armed guards. Happy to do this. We can't decide on what to do. Our dream is to camp beside/overlooking the river. Can anyone suggest which campsite/s would be best for this? Are there any other places to camp besides the public and private campsites in the triangle that are also beside the river?

    We are going with a company as we are combining this trip with a visit to Ithumba and Umani Springs to see our orphaned elephants so do not really want to go to the trouble of hiring a vehicle for the 7 day MM section.

    Any suggestions from anyone who has actually camped in the MM would be appreciated. Stan I have read every word of your Slow Donkey blog so I read that you ended up camping with Wayne on the public campsite, Eluai was it? and also by Sands river. My main concern about the public campsites is that they will be crowded mid August. Thanks Pen

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    Quote Originally Posted by penolva View Post
    Hi all and thanks Donlux for starting this thread. We are planning a 7 night camping trip in August 2017. I have two/three companies who will take us with ground tents, bush shower toilet etc into the MM. We have refused to stay just outside any gate as we want to be in amongst the action. I have been told we can decide where to camp near the time depending on where the migration is. Public campsites I guess. I have also been told we can book one of the private campsites well in advance and pay an extra fee and pay for armed guards. Happy to do this. We can't decide on what to do. Our dream is to camp beside/overlooking the river. Can anyone suggest which campsite/s would be best for this? Are there any other places to camp besides the public and private campsites in the triangle that are also beside the river?

    We are going with a company as we are combining this trip with a visit to Ithumba and Umani Springs to see our orphaned elephants so do not really want to go to the trouble of hiring a vehicle for the 7 day MM section.

    Any suggestions from anyone who has actually camped in the MM would be appreciated. Stan I have read every word of your Slow Donkey blog so I read that you ended up camping with Wayne on the public campsite, Eluai was it? and also by Sands river. My main concern about the public campsites is that they will be crowded mid August. Thanks Pen
    I have extensive experience of the private campsites in the Mara Conservancy (the Mara Triangle). Please see their website on booking campsites at http://maratriangle.org/visit/conser...-fees/camping/

    You do want to be on the river itself and our favourite is Drisha private campsite. Ndovu is also very nice, and Maji ya Ndege. But I haven't been to any of the others. Your tour operator will be able to book the private campsites for you. There is a booking fee of KShs40,000 - and your camping fees are on top of this at USD40 per person per night.

    I think Kampi ya Mungu and one other (western side) are not on the river, so ensure neither of these are booked.

    Let me know if you need any other help.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2016/06/14 at 07:37 PM. Reason: Name change

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    I have extensive experience of the private campsites in the Mara Conservancy (the Mara Triangle). Please see their website on booking campsites at http://maratriangle.org/visit/conser...-fees/camping/

    You do want to be on the river itself and our favourite is Drisha private campsite. Ndovu is also very nice, and Maji ya Ndege. But I haven't been to any of the others. Your tour operator will be able to book the private campsites for you. There is a booking fee of KShs40,000 - and your camping fees are on top of this at USD40 per person per night.

    I think Kampi ya Mungu and one other (western side) are not on the river, so ensure neither of these are booked.

    Let me know if you need any other help.
    Hi Wazungu Wawili thanks so much for the first reply I have had on any forum with proper information! most people tell us to forget it and stay in a lodge I have the map and the link to make the bookings when we are ready, probably in October after we have booked our flights.

    When you stayed at Drisha did you have far to drive to the river crossing points? When you went out on game drives were you able to cover a large area by going off in different directions. Could you go as far south as Sands river for example? As you can tell I have no idea of the distances involved in the Mara although I do appreciate that if you find a leopard half an hour after leaving camp you will stay with him all day

    I want to spend the 7 days really getting to know the MM as if it works out I intend for us to go back, maybe at a different time of year.
    thanks again Pen
    Last edited by penolva; 2016/06/15 at 04:53 PM.

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    Hi Pen

    Karibu sana! You are absolutely right to want to camp on the Mara River. Dirisha (which means "window" in Swahili) is right on the river and has an open aspect across the river - hence its name of window. From Dirisha - or any of the river front private campsites - it is a very easy and short drive to the main places where the wildebeest cross. Depending on where the herds at the time you are in the Mara Conservancy, there is likely to be no reason to cross into the Reserve itself.

    The Conservancy is MUCH quieter than the Reserve as there is only one lodge and one luxury tented camp in the Conservancy. The distances aren't huge as you will see from a map, and the Conservancy roads are much better maintained than those in the Reserve. If you did want to go into the Reserve - and Sands River is in the Reserve - then it is a reasonably long drive down to the Mara Bridge from the private campsites, but it makes for a great game drive as you will be passing all the main wildebeest crossing points en route to the Mara Bridge. The Mara River is where the dramatic river crossings happen if you are there at the right time for the migration.

    When we camp in the Conservancy, we never feel the need to go into the Reserve, but I am lucky enough to have seen this wildlife wonder all my life. We do, however, often drive through the Reserve on our way in from Nairobi.

    If you go on to the Mara Triangle website and look and/or download the map, you will see what the distances are.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2016/06/16 at 12:07 AM.

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    Here is the link to the map. http://maratriangle.org/visit/maps/

    The red arrows are the main wildebeest crossing places.

    Also, you will love Ithumba when you go to see your orphaned elephant in Tsavo East, but make sure you book this as soon as possible. It is deservedly very popular and you might find that it is already booked for August 2017. Fingers crossed that you get your bookings for Ithumba and Umani Springs. Don't rely on your safari operator to do this for you but contact the Trust direct yourself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Here is the link to the map. http://maratriangle.org/visit/maps/

    The red arrows are the main wildebeest crossing places.

    Also, you will love Ithumba when you go to see your orphaned elephant in Tsavo East, but make sure you book this as soon as possible. It is deservedly very popular and you might find that it is already booked for August 2017. Fingers crossed that you get your bookings for Ithumba and Umani Springs. Don't rely on your safari operator to do this for you but contact the Trust direct yourself.
    Brilliant thank you so much Wazunga Wawili. Drishna it will be if I can get it in October, if not one of the others on the river. Our dates for the camping are flexible. Ithumba and Umani are already booked we are sharing with friends who have been before. Not using a safari operator so no worries. Cheers Pen

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    Hi - it is mentioned a couple of times that the booking fee for special campsites in the Mara Triangle is KSH40000 - but on their website it says KSH10000.

    Extract

    "For non-professional visitors, there is a non-refundable 10,000 KES booking fee (one campsite, one group for maximum of one week)." --> what is this applying to then

    The KSH40000 is only mentioned for professional tour operator campsite. So I am afraid I don't quite understand ... KSH40000 is a ridiculous sum to pay for just a booking fee ....

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    Quote Originally Posted by cheetah80 View Post
    Hi - it is mentioned a couple of times that the booking fee for special campsites in the Mara Triangle is KSH40000 - but on their website it says KSH10000.

    Extract

    "For non-professional visitors, there is a non-refundable 10,000 KES booking fee (one campsite, one group for maximum of one week)." --> what is this applying to then

    The KSH40000 is only mentioned for professional tour operator campsite. So I am afraid I don't quite understand ... KSH40000 is a ridiculous sum to pay for just a booking fee ....
    Well, I probably made a mistake, but that is what I thought I paid last time. If the website says KShs 10,000 that is likely to be the amount.

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    I sent an email to the Mara Triangle - lets see if they reply.

    Seems the text in the FAQ and the text in the Website are different so it does seem that it's possible that it is KSH40000 (USD 400) as you say.

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    Got a reply from Mara Conservancy (I am impressed, it was quick!) - They said that the campsite booking fee for private citizens is KSH10,000 and tour operators KSH40,000. They mention that tour operators take priority - not sure what it means but I guess its for those private campsites where it says tour operators take priority.

    I have reread Stan's excellent Slow Donkey blog about the Mara Conservancy and he too mentions that he was asked KSH 40 000 to book a private campsite. So I am wondering what this is about since two people are now reporting this ... perhaps at the gate they charge KSH40000? Can anyone confirm what they paid to book the campsites 1) online 2) at the gate?

    Thank you!

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