Best of Masai Mara Safari: Hot Air Balloon Ride, Game Drives, Walking & Horseback Safaris

A 8 day trip to Kenya 
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As wildebeest rampage over crocodile-infested rivers, lion pride chases huge zebra herds, and tens of thousands of animals fill a single glance, there is no place like the Masai Mara. Your week-long safari will feature the ultimate Mara highlights as you explore a variety of landscapes and encounter nearly every famous safari scenes. Look forward to a champagne hot air balloon ride, a walking safari with Masai warriors, a horseback ride alongside zebra, private concessions, exceptional camps, and much more.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Nairobi, Masai Mara National Reserve, Siria-Oloololo Escarpment, Mara River, Mara Naboisho Conservancy, Ol Kinyei Conservancy

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Nairobi to Masai Mara National Reserve – The Surreal Serenity of the Mara

A Masai Mara safari comes with many preconceptions. You may be expecting action and adventure, drama and dazzling wildlife scenes but few anticipate the serenity and the relaxation that comes as well. As you travel deep into the Mara, you will succumb to the rhythm of the wild as your senses slowly open to all of nature’s clues. You will see animals, but you will not need to bump around in a safari vehicle. Rather, you can just gaze out from your elevated balcony as the plains around you are liberally sprinkled with life, from elephants to buffalo to zebra. There is a pervasive calm that seeps into you as you settle in, and it is hard to think of a better place to overcome any jet lag or travel fatigue.

After landing at Nairobi International, you will be transferred to Nairobi Wilson Airport for a flight to the Masai Mara National Reserve. Touch down and your airport transfer will be a game drive, bringing you your first impressions of the famous animals. If you came with a mental tick list, half of them are likely to be spotted on this first drive. Check in at the Angama Mara and savor your views as on a clear day, you will be able to see 100 miles across the Masai Mara from your balcony. Situated on the rim of the Siria-Oloololo Escarpment and above the wildlife-rich Mara Triangle, this is the region’s newest luxury accommodation. Admire it all through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and then head out on an afternoon game drive that will bring a succession of evocative sights.

What’s Included: accommodation at Angama Mara, transfer, domestic flight, safari, dinner

Day 2: Masai Mara National Reserve – All the Action Around the Mara River

A lion pride draped across yellow rocks, cheetahs accelerating after their breakfast meal, and elephant herds squirting water at the river are all found on your first day in the Masai Mara. When the plains are packed with hundreds of thousands of mammals, the animals come thick and fast. 100-strong buffalo herds grunt and graze, giraffe lope elegantly past the vehicle, hyenas scamper around the riverbank, and sometimes it is difficult to know which way to look. Today you will go on both morning and afternoon game drives to immerse yourself in the best of the Mara’s scenes.

It is the Mara River that will most capture your imagination and for a good reason. The Mara River is what the wildebeest must cross during their great migration in order to graze in the Mara from late-July to October. Even outside of these months, you will see the Nile crocodiles waiting patiently and the hippo pods barging around. This permanent water attracts nomadic mammals from miles around, and each herd stays within short reach of the daily drink. So by game driving around the Mara River, you are likely to find the exciting scenes that have made the Masai Mara so famous with lion pride on a hunt, herds battling for supremacy, and the contrasting emotion found between predator and prey.

What’s Included: accommodation at Angama Mara, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Masai Mara National Reserve – Game Drives and Surrounded by the Biggest Herds

The heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve is where the largest herds and the biggest concentration of animals are found. Spending several nights in this region is recommended as it is a large area and there are many directions that a game drive can take. This area brings the classic and unmissable Masai Mara experience as you game drive around the Mara Triangle to follow the battles between predator and prey. As with your past two days, your program has some flexibility so you can stay out for longer drives or return to Angama Mara for some tranquility above the plains. Sunrise and sunset are the premier times as the cooler air sees most wildlife is at its most active.

Spot a leopard descending from a tree, and then watch as she dips her neck with cold precision and stalks a Thomson’s gazelle herd. Admire the zebra couples that keep guard with their heads rested on each other’s back. Find hippos out of the water, barging their way around the banks, not caring about the crocodiles. Follow an elephant herd as it crosses the plains, old females showcasing the grace of matriarchs. Hyenas, vultures, impala, wildebeest on the run are all in motion around the Mara Triangle, and these game drives will bring an incredible range of highlights.

What’s Included: accommodation at Angama Mara, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Masai Mara National Reserve to Mara Naboisho Conservancy – Hot Air Balloon Safari Above the Mara

The sun always looks bigger when in Africa as it rises like a flaming ball that sends out a layer of mirage as it rises into the sky. Elongated bands of red and yellow stretch out along the horizon and the grasslands flicker with a golden tone. You will be in a hot air balloon as you watch the Masai Mara come alive.  Look below your balloon basket to see the herds in their black clumps scattered around the plains. From your vantage point, you can appreciate how they move and graze in circular patterns, leaving some of the grass lush and green as the rest turns brittle and yellow. You will float for a couple of hours and then touch down to a champagne brunch.

From the landing site, a private game drive will lead you north to the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. Like your balloon ride, this will be another excellent showcase of scale as you discover the size of the ecosystem. It will not be just a few zebra herds; it will be dozens of them. You will not see just one lion pride on their rock; you may spot half a dozen on a good day. Mara Naboisho is also a very prolific wildlife area, and all of the sights from the National Reserve can be discovered. The only thing you will not see is other people as the Mara’s private conservancies are carefully restricted, so only guests at the camps can explore the area. So as you check in to Kicheche Valley Camp, it will feel as if you have the Masai Mara all to yourself.

What’s Included: accommodation at Kicheche Valley Camp, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Mara Naboisho Conservancy – Your Own Private Piece of the Mara

Kicheche Valley is beautifully situated as it is hidden in a wooded valley that is many miles from any other camp. Although it is a high-end camp, it provides an authentic safari-under-canvas experience, with every hour bringing the evocative sounds of the wilderness. Animals wander past at incredible proximity, and sometimes you will be interrupted from your reading as an elephant or a giraffe strolls by. Wildlife is attracted by the nearby stream, and the wildebeest roam past at regular intervals. The camp is completely unfenced, and there is a genuine thrill in having such a private piece of such a famous landscape.

Game drives explore the conservancy, and you will rarely encounter other vehicles. Expect to see a charming collection of animals and continue your experiences with big cats on the move. Mara Naboisho also brings new pleasures, and its quieter plains have become a favorite escape for cheetahs and leopards to raise their cubs. There is still plenty for them to eat, but the solitude helps them to nurse their young; you might even get to see a leopard or cheetah teaching her cub the basics of hunting and stalking. The Masai Mara is not just about the National Reserve as the private conservancies offer an exclusive perspective and are always recommended on a luxury Masai Mara safari.

What’s Included: accommodation at Kicheche Valley Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Ol Kinyei Conservancy – Walking Mara Safari with Masai Warrior Guides

The Masai warriors’ red blankets flow in the breeze as you walk across the plains. Zebra are nearby, and you will slowly approach as the wildebeest gallop past oblivious to your presence. For thousands of years, the Masai tribe have shared the Mara with the wildlife, cohabiting the plains with the predators. Not only that, they have herded their cattle on these grasslands, using ancestral knowledge to stay clear of the big cats. These landowners will be your guides on this full-day walking safari in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy.

Follow the spoor and get a glimpse of an elephant herd from a distance. Move slowly and watch the Thomson’s gazelle slowly disperse. Admire the guides’ knowledge as they keep you well clear of a herd of bachelor buffalo, yet bring you close to female buffalo. Along the way, you will stop at a Masai boma (homestead) and meet a whole community being welcomed with a spectacle of jumping and throaty singing. Wind back towards the camp, savoring your perspective on a walking safari as you will have seen all the animals before, but they look much different when you are also at ground level. This angle will help you to appreciate all of the intimate details of every animal, and without the sound of the vehicle, you can get much closer than before.

What’s Included: accommodation at Porini Mara Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Ol Kinyei Conservancy – Unique Mara Horseback Safari

Ol Kinyei is the northernmost of the private concessions and is the least abundant in terms of animal numbers. After a week in the Masai Mara, you will not mind this as it provides an advantage as the limited number of predators opens up the opportunity for walking and horseback safari. Spend the morning in the saddle, riding onto the open plains and coming up alongside zebra and wildebeest herds. Experienced riders can canter and even gallop with them, while beginners are able to walk onto the plains and savor the beauty of a pristine landscape.

Porini Mara is the most rustic of the camps you will stay in and is tailored for wildlife enthusiasts. You will still be very comfortable, and you will have a real sense of getting back to nature, especially as the nearby lions are roaring throughout the night. After the morning’s horse ride, you will head out on an afternoon game drive. The biggest highlight of the private conservancies is the opportunity to drive off the trail. Rather than stick to set routes, conservancies allow drivers to bump across virgin grassland, helping you get much closer to the animals, especially sometimes elusive sights like leopards.

What’s Included: accommodation at Porini Mara Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Ol Kinyei Conservancy to Nairobi – Departure

After seven days of Masai Mara highlights, you will depart from a small airstrip and fly back to Nairobi Wilson Airport. Transfer next to the international airport for your departing flight. But before that, there is one last chance to enjoy the Mara as your last game drive will take you across the grasslands for lingering impressions of the wildlife to bring home in your memory.

What’s Included: domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast 

Price

Starting Price 

$3,595
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.