Cut almost in half by the Equator, Kenya has wonderful climate. It is mostly warm throughout the year. Kenya is home to the Big Five beasts – Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Rhino and Leopard. Taking an Africa road trip to one of the biggest game reserves in East Africa, the Masai Mara, is the best way to see the land, experience the culture and see the wildlife.
The fun starts when you get into your 4×4 vehicle to the game reserve. Winding roads and breathtaking escarpments are some of the side dishes along the way. Remember, the Masai Mara is in the Rift Valley which stretches all the way from Israel in the Middle East to Mozambique in South Africa. While part of the road into the game reserve is not so good, you will be more than compensated for your bumpy ride by the breathtaking, undulating savannah grasslands and the rich collection of wildlife. You will never regret taking this vacation.
Take a 4×4 to Kenya’s Premier National Park
Take a 4×4! No one can overemphasize this need. The roads inside the parks are actually nature trails. Not to worry too much though because the African Elephant leaves a very wide trail. It is better to avoid visiting the Mara during the rainy season, that is, between March and June because the tracks can get too muddy. Just wait for the sun in July and time your trip there to coincide with the 8th wonder of the world (Wildebeest migration). It is an overwhelming and tremendous experience that has to be seen to be believed.
Where can you get a good 4×4 vehicle, probably one that has been customized for safari? It is easy because in the city of Nairobi, you can get everything that you need. There are many car hire firms, some of them like Heltz are international. However, you can let your traveling agent handle the car hire part. If you decide to get a self-drive car, look for a decent vehicle, lest you suffer breakdowns in the bush. Vehicles are registered by alphabetical order. For example, registration started at KAA, KAB, KAC and so on to KAZ…. Then KBA, KBB….KBZ, with that in mind it should be easy to get the newest.
Look for a car that has a good load capacity because you will need to carry a few items with you. The Kenyan sun can get very hot so carry enough water and drinks. This is why it is better to hire a vehicle that is customized for safari so that you can have your own cooler. Don’t stop by some of the local villages for tap water, well, unless you are used to it.
If you are going to the Masai Mara in a group, a 4X4 truck is very convenient. Get a good map for detailed directions from Nairobi to Masai Mara. You should also have a few emergency numbers … who knows?
While some people prefer flying from Nairobi to the Mara, a good number of tourists prefer going by the road. Despite the fair-weather roads from Nairobi to Masai Mara, the thrill and experience is not one to be missed or downplayed.
Your car hire will provide a driver doubling up as a guide and can even organize your accommodation at the Mara. The Nairobi drive is an interesting one and the beauty about using a driver as opposed to self-driving is that he/she knows the routes, speaks the native language and knows their way around the expansive national reserve.
Spotlighting Africa’s most amazing Safari
When you take an Africa road trip to the Mara, you have the experience of a lifetime that leaves a lasting impression. First-timers ask…why the Mara? Well, this is probably the only National Reserve in Kenya where you stand a very high chance of seeing all the big cats, lion, leopard and cheetah.
You will see the wildebeest in their thousands, the beautiful zebras and the graceful giraffes. There are many plains games and thousands of species of birdlife. You can also pass by Speke’s Camp, which, although private, opens up to a wonderful opportunity to see leopards, crocodiles and rhino. You will also see great indigenous trees, some of them several hundreds of years old.
The Nairobi drive to the Mara gives you a thrilling experience as you maneuver your 4×4 truck, which makes it easier to cruise through the bad patches of the road. Enjoy watching the native Maasai (yes, now you know where this reserve got its name) herd their cattle wearing their traditional attires, (shukas and beads).
As we said in the beginning, fun starts the minute you get in your 4×4 truck. Once you hit the winding Nairobi-Maai Mahiu (Kikuyu for hot water – from the hot water geysers in the Rift Valley) road, you will have view after wondrous view. Stop at some curio shops along the way and take pictures against the fantastic background of the sloping escarpment before you roll on to Maai Mahiu Township where you can stop for drinks and food in some roadside restaurants. Don’t worry, everything is up to standard, you can also replenish your water, snacks and drinks. You will then hit the long road to Narok and Masai Mara.
Your guide to accessing Kenya’s most famous Safari
It is pretty easy getting to Masai Mara from Nairobi. From Nairobi, you will travel for 270km, maybe 5 to 6 hours. The road is great except for a small part, where you will experience a bumpy ride but hey… this is Kenya!
There are entrance fees to pay, which could differ from time to time. Make sure you inquire about the fees from your travel agent. In addition, some of the places in the Masai Mara are designated private and you may have to pay a fee to access them.
The best time to visit the Mara is July through October as it is the perfect time to catch a glimpse of the wildebeest migration. If you are a fan of the Big Cats, December through to February is an ideal time to take that Africa road trip.
Just as you would when taking a New Zealand road trip, get a 4×4 vehicle, because most probably, you will have to use the same vehicle for game drives once you get to your lodge. If you arrived in Kenya through the Moi International Airport in Mombasa, you can hire a vehicle there and pass by Tsavo National Park and Kapiti Ranch to Nairobi. Both are full of wildlife.