Masai Mara … two words that evoke the senses and inspire bucket list dreams. It is a vast, magnificent and game-filled landscape in Kenya that has been frequented and made famous by intrepid explorers, royal families, A-list celebrities, wildlife photographers and award-winning filmmakers. It features prominently on wanderlust travellers’ wish lists and if you haven’t witnessed it yourself, then now is the time. In addition to these 10 bucket list things to do in the Masai Mara, we have some fantastic news that will make you want to visit even more!
Something to look forward to
In November 2017, our iconic &Beyond Bateleur Camp, situated just below the spot where Out of Africa’s famous final scene was filmed, will be undergoing a complete rebuild and glamorous makeover. What can you look forward to? Well, the elegant safari tents will be even more spacious (we’re talking 97 m2 of in and outdoor living), the ensuite bathrooms will be flanked by private stone courtyards, there will be spacious bathtubs as well as indoor and al fresco showers, and comfy new built-in daybeds on the private verandas will encourage idle afternoons enjoying the breathtaking Mara views.
In addition to two new swimming pools with unbeatable views, there will also be a massage sala and tranquil water feature for those seeking some pampering and solitude, and of course a well-equipped fitness centre overlooking the Mara for those wanting to burn off some “lodge podge”.
Perhaps one of the features I’m most looking forward to experiencing is what will certainly be hailed the Mara’s best gin bar by night and coffee bar by day at South Camp. Mixing the best of both worlds!
For those of you that have visited the camp before, not to worry, the new &Beyond Bateleur Camp will retain the same authenticity, intimacy and classic Out of Africa atmosphere it is renowned for. North Camp will launch its brand new look in March 2018, with South Camp following suit in June 2018.
Just for you
In the meantime, we have an unbeatable offer for those wanting to visit &Beyond Bateleur Camp between 15 November 2016 and 07 January 2018. Book a three-night stay and the third night is on us! For more information, contact us on safaris@andBeyond.com.
What is the difference between Masai and Maasai?
Ever noticed there are two different ways to spell “Masai”? So which one is it, Masai Mara National Reserve or Maasai Mara National Reserve? For all the wanderlust travellers out there that want to be in-the-know when you set foot on the African continent – the correct answer is indeed Masai Mara. The “Maasai” are the fascinating Maa-speaking semi-nomadic people of East Africa. A famously hospitable culture, the Maasai are world renowned for their brightly coloured shukkas (traditional cloth), distinctive beaded jewellery, fearless cohabitation with the Big Five, as well as their uncanny ability to jump higher than Michael Jordan himself. You really must make time to meet the Maasai, they are incredible people. In fact, you might have already met the two wonderful Maasai Mamas at &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
“Masai” on the other hand is the world-famous, sprawling and game-rich ecosystem that shares an unfenced border with Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Also home to the Great Migration, the Mara (which is Maa for “spotted”) is a land of breathtaking vistas, abundant wildlife and seemingly endless grassy plains that are “dotted” with Acacia trees and thorn bushes.
So, in a nutshell, “Maasai” refers to the people and “Masai” refers to the land. There is no “Maasai Mara” and when you’re in East Africa, you’ll soon see that all signs point to the “Masai Mara”. The next time you see someone (incorrectly) writing about the Maasai Mara or the Masai people, you can impart your local wisdom as an Africa fundi (our local slang for ‘expert’). And while we’re on the topic of reconnecting the magnificent Maasai with their ancient, most unforgettable land, it seems like the perfect time to share our Top 10 bucket list things to do in the Masai Mara.
1. Experience the Masai Mara on twice-daily game drives
A veritable wildlife haven blessed with a year-round, rather mind-boggling concentration of animals, the Mara certainly doesn’t disappoint. Embark on twice-daily interpretive game drives with expert rangers who will uncover the wonders of the Mara. And while we’re on the topic of reconnecting the magnificent Maasai with their ancient, most unforgettable land, it seems like the perfect time to share our Top 10 bucket list things to do in the Masai Mara.
2. Explore the open Savanna on foot
Reconnect with your spirit of adventure and follow in the footsteps of ancient explorers and local herdsmen on a once-in-a-lifetime guided walking safari. Heighten your senses without the hum of the safari vehicle … listen to the crickets, breathe the fresh air, view the limitless horizon and appreciate the African soil on the soles of your shoes.
3. Take to the skies in a hot air balloon
Awake before dawn and embark on a life-changing hot air balloon safari high above the mighty Mara plains. Soar peacefully and enjoy the magnificent bird’s eye view of all the animals below (and the Great Migration if you’re lucky). This extraordinary experience concludes with an unforgettable, hearty champagne breakfast in the middle of the Mara.
4. Mingle with the Maasai on a community visit
No journey to the Masai Mara would be complete without an authentic cultural experience that gets you up close and personal with the fascinating Maasai people. They will invite you into their humble mud and stick manyattas (homesteads) and reveal their pastoral world and ancient, time-honoured traditions.
5. Take to the saddle on a horseback safari
Like the explorers of old, this is a truly unique way to experience the Mara. Once again without the hum of the safari vehicle, it is an invigorating way to explore the vast landscape. Imagine galloping past dazzles of zebra, journeys of giraffe and, if the time is right, the mighty herds of the Great Migration. Image© Offbeat Safaris.
6. Witness the thundering hooves of the great migration
Undoubtedly one of the most dramatic spectacles of the natural world, the Great Migration is the annual trek of two million herbivores across the Serengeti/Mara ecosystem. Although the enormous herds of grunting gnus can be seen year-round, the world-famous, nail-biting Mara River crossings (July to October) are an absolute must for every wildlife enthusiast’s bucket list.
7. Recreate your favourite scene from Out of Africa
Out of Africa, the epic film that made the entire world fall in love with Kenya, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Avid film fanatics and romantics at heart can retrace the steps of Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and visit the exact locations of some of the movie’s most famous scenes.
8. Celebrate the sunset with Maasai warriors
Drive up onto the Oloololo (which aptly means “zig-zag”) escarpment for the most unforgettable sundowners overlooking the vast Mara plains, as well as the Serengeti in the distance. As the sun gently dips over the horizon, stand around a blazing fire, complete with delicious snack and a full bar and bartender, and watch in awe as Maasai warriors perform their traditional song and dance.
9. Photograph lions in ‘Big Cat Diary’ territory
The Masai Mara boasts one of the highest lion densities in world, so it should come as no surprise that the world-famous nature documentary, Big Cat Diary, is filmed in the Mara. Set out in search of the legendary Marsh pride and the beloved, oh-so photogenic, Scarface himself. Image © Timur Türker.
10. Dust off your lens & perfect your photography skills
Be the envy of the Mara in one of our state-of-the-art, fully-customised photographic safari vehicles (check them out here). They boast unobstructed views, 360° degree swivel chairs, a fully-stocked personal bar and air conditioning – this is the ultimate photographic experience and the wildlife certainly plays its part as photographic subjects. Image© CNP Safaris