Upon seeing a $211 mistake fare for a roundtrip to Kenya we and a few friends, flew to Nairobi, and rented a small 4×4 for a week, and drove out to Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru.
Now that we’ve finally made a video from our trip to Kenya a couple years ago, I realize I never posted about the fantastic safaris on the blog.
In this post I’ll talk about:
- Safari Tips
- Show pictures
- Discuss where to stay / best areas etc…
- More pictures
Being in the Masai Mara National Reserve a few days, we really had the ability to roam around, covering a lot of the area near our lodge.
But after a few days we were looking to spot some of the more rare animals, and we called upon someone who grew up in the area to help.
Actually, most of the hotel staff were local Maasai people. Talking and making friends with them is a fantastic experience in its own. They are super friendly, and the culture is so different and interesting.
Hire a Joshua
In this case, we asked someone who is not only local but has been a safari guide there for years.
Joshua was not only super friendly (like all those we met who grew up in the area), but also:
1) Had incredible eyes. Like from forever away he’d spot something in a bush and head that way. After waiting, where I only saw a bush, an animal would pop out.
and 2) He knew where all the animals hangout, nap, birth, etc… Same way you know where the popular spots are in your town, Joshua knows the wildlife spots.
He was willing to drive our 4×4, and thus we were just paying for his time on a day when he had nothing scheduled. It was a win-win.
Carrie wrote about Joshua once, and many people wanted his contact info. I highly recommend hiring Joshua, even if only for a day.
- Email: loonkushu(at)gmail.com & joshlepapa(at)yahoo.com
- Joshua’s Facebook
He could give you more of his contact info from there.
Why I Love Self-Drive
My personality is one that highly values both autonomy and optionality.
I love having freedom/control and the ability to change plans. I hate the idea of waiting around until our scheduled drive.
Some people get bored, but I could spend a week straight in Masai Mara, and go on three drives a day. Given that, it would be super expensive.
It’s easier than you think, and the roads in the park are better than you think… plus, you’re going slow.
- Get out very early (like sunrise) and stay out for sunset. It’s coolest and often the best time for cats to be hunting.
- Go slow. I mean, that’s just the rules of the park… you’re not trying to get a flat tire or run over a lion.
- Animals hang around animals. So stop and be patient. Especially at a watering hole or something.
- Unfortunately or fortunately, in popular parks the guides communicate with each other via radio and if one is close, you can see them race off to join in.
This is bad in that you’re in a crowd, and good for seeing something like a big cat… at least momentarily.
- Ask someone at the lodge what the hot spots are. Pick a few and plan a route around that.
Maasai Mara Pictures
Where to stay in Maasai Mara
We stayed at the Keekoroke Lodge, and I honestly think it was the best lodge in terms of location and price.
I couldn’t believe we got it for a little over $100 a night, and it came with 3 meals a day… and the food was actually good, and the rooms were great. I’m pretty sure I stacked some promo codes / deals to get it close to $100 but, it was still a lot cheaper than other lodges.
Keekoroke during peak times, (like during the great migration happening currently), can be well over $300. In which case you could consider using Choice Points if you have them, as it is part of Preferred Hotel Group.
See the Best Use Of Choice Points.
Inside the park vs outside.
The Fairmont which people have used free nights for (from the old credit card) is an hour away from the park entrance. I’m not sure I get the appeal. If you want to glamp, why do it outside the park?
On the other hand there are a number of parks right outside the park entrance. I could understand staying here if you think you’ll need a day off from driving around and lounging in a hotel, then at least you could avoid the $75 per person per day park fee.
But the big benefit I could see is going to the Conservancies outside the park.
The two right above Maasai Mara and with fantastic reviews (some people on TA say better than Maasai Mara) are:
- Olare Orok Conservancy
- Naboisho Conservancy
Unfortunately I’m unclear about the fee structure for a Conservancy vs Reserve and if you have to pay when you stay in the park.
Either way I always like staying in a park and maximizing time efficiency.
East vs west
The Mara Triangle area in the western third of the park is much smaller but has a few look-out peaks with stunning views (like where the Mara Serena Lodge is).
However, if you’re spending multiple days, like we did, Keekorok in the middle of the eastern side is perfect. Every day we could try a new area.
Otherwise, my assumption (with only half a day in the Mara Triangle) was that wildlife could be seen equally in both sides of the park.
Lake Nakuru & Lake Navisha
We stayed on (/over) Lake Naivasha, but spent our time exploring Lake Nakuru.
I just want to comment that these areas are really small. So is it worth adding the drive? Well, the good news is that there is a nice paved road all the way from Lake Nakuru to Nairobi (although it’s not as nice near Nairobi). So it doesn’t add but a few hours of driving to get there, coming back from Maasai Mara.
But this is a day trip (we spent two nights and one day).
Still, Nakuru had a very different lake and forest feel, compared to Mara’s giant open plains and rivers feel.
Also, we did not have the luck of seeing a rhino at all in Maasai Mara and saw multiple in our one day at Nakuru. In fact, we got a picture with four together.
Conclusion & Compared to other Safari’s
In terms of African Safari’s this was fantastic and the area is beautiful. Note the only other African safaris we’ve done are Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa, and Etosha National Park in Namibia.
They all have their pros and cons.
- Etosha was an experience in that I saw more “hunts” in a small period of time than normal. We saw rhinos fighting, and saw a lion chase after a giaraffe. An active day, but saw much fewer animals.
- Pilanesberg was like a stocked pond. Lots of animals in a relatively small park.
But Maasai Mara is an enormous park with tons of animals.
I’d love to time a visit during the great migration too, or do so in the even larger neighboring Serengeti (which is Tanzania’s side of the park).