Signature Masai Mara & Serengeti Great Migration Safari

A 9 day trip to Kenya 
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The iconic Mara River divides the grasslands to separate the Masai Mara from the Serengeti. From June to October, both sides of the river teem with wildlife as the resident mammals are joined by the marauding millions of the great wildebeest migration. Such abundance creates Africa's greatest wildlife spectacle and the signature cycle of predator and prey. Much like the ungulates, this 9-day safari intimately explores both sides of the Mara and East Africa's flagship experience. 

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General Information

Photos
two gazelles in the masai mara national park
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Nairobi, Masai Mara, Mara North Conservancy, Lemek Conservancy, Rhino Sanctuary, Mara River, Serengeti, Kilimanjaro

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Mara North Conservancy (Masai Mara) – First Game Drive on the Abundant Plains

Even on the remote airstrip, you can sense the tension. Not from the aviation officials, but from a herd of Thomson's gazelle that are scattered across the plains. They are on high alert, although none of them seem quite sure where the threat is coming from? In your safari vehicle, you will have a higher vantage point, and the guide manages to betray the cheetah's camouflage. The spotted hunter moves furtively through the grass until a muffled call rings out and the gazelle scatters, skipping across the airstrip right in front of your eyes. Welcome to the Masai Mara, the land where predator and prey live out the circle of life and not even a plane can interrupt the show.

After landing at Nairobi International Airport, you will be transferred to Nairobi Wilson Airport for the light aircraft flight to the Mara North Conservancy. The journey from the airstrip to the lodge is a short one, but you are already on safari so the guide will take you on a leisurely game drive across the plains. Hippos open their enormous jaws as you stop for a picnic lunch by a river. Lionesses are also spotted hiding in the grass on the trail of a skittish hartebeest herd as the sightings of wildebeest and zebra seem never to end. When two million mammals are congregated on the plains, it's hard to go long without inspiring wildlife encounters. The length of the game drive is flexible, looping you across the ecosystem to the Saruni Mara Lodge and the tranquility of a private cottage where you can gaze out from the verandah, and the wildlife sights continue.

What's Included: accommodation at Saruni Mara, transfer, domestic flight, safari, lunch, dinner

Day 2: Mara North Conservancy (Masai Mara) – On the Trail of the Big Cats

Strange calls flicker through the night and sound something like a throaty grunt with a pulsating echo. Over breakfast, the guides reveal that they came from lions with two quarreling males less than half a mile away. When the game drive starts, you will see them both irate and lost in their own troubles. A closer inspection sees a third male, his impressive mane flowing beside a lioness. On the Masai Mara, your game drive lion sightings come at regular intervals with the landscape's giants regularly basking on the open plains. Sometimes the pride is sleeping, perhaps with a couple of cubs play-fighting nearby. At other times, you will make out the stages of a hunt with either the lionesses on the prowl or the pride's jaws tearing through a zebra carcass.

It's the profusion of big cats that makes the Masai Mara such a revered safari destination. Most lions, leopards, and cheetahs, lack the stamina to follow the migration. They stay to protect their territory and throughout the year, there is plenty food to support the large numbers. Then the great wildebeest migration arrives, and there is a bountiful feast indeed. So much prey enhances the opportunity to see these famous cats on a hunt, and that's usually the focus on your first full day of game drives. In some safari destinations, you are looking for the big cats. In the Masai Mara and Northern Serengeti, you will not need to look for the predators, and rather you will seek out the predatory action. As with all days on this itinerary, your safari program is flexible, and the guides will tailor the activities to your interests and energy levels.

What's Included: accommodation at Saruni Mara, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Mara North Conservancy (Masai Mara) – Hot Air Balloon Above the Mara

It all starts to make sense from the sky as on the ground, you just see animals.  With tens of thousands of them marauding around as the wildebeest are rutting, the zebra congregating, the hyena hollering and the are buffalo charging, you often cannot grasp the sheer numbers.  You can sense the scale on a game drive, but you are happily lost in the exquisite details like the facial expressions of a herd being tracked by an unseen hunter. From a hot air balloon, the patterns begin to make sense. You will gaze down on the fabric of life with the grasslands freckled with black clumps of mammals. Color changes indicate where the herds have mowed the grass and where they will graze next. Elephant and giraffe are spotted on their nomadic journeys as the Mara River curves into the distance, and the patchwork stretches out in every direction. From the air, the phenomenon becomes understandable with the movement of the herds and the size of the landscape understood.

After an early morning hot air balloon flight, you will enjoy a champagne breakfast before another flexible day of game drives and walking safari. Given where you are likely to land, this may be a good day to cover a large area by traversing the main Masai Mara National Reserve. Other vehicles and tourists are here, so the wildlife abundance comes with some popularity, yet it's a great opportunity to match the scale with the detail. The Mara North Conservancy provides an exclusive safari experience with access limited to those staying in the conservancy. Rules are relaxed here, and guides can take you off road. So when a leopard hides in a tree, or circling vultures suggest a kill, you can bounce across the grass until you're just a few meters away.

What's Included: accommodation at Saruni Mara, tour, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Mara North Conservancy (Masai Mara) – Walking Safari with Masai Warriors

The relaxed rules of the conservancy also open up fresh vantage points. Masai warriors lead your walking safari and use their knowledge to pick up the animal clues to lead you onto the grasslands. Wildebeest herds rumble along and buffalo block the trail, their frames seeming much larger when you're both at ground level. By sticking to the short grass (long grass is where the big cats wait to pounce), Masai warriors can lead you onto the plains during the great wildebeest migration. Exhilarating and evocative, it's an angle that few people get to experience in the Masai Mara.

Return to the lodge and spend a few hours relaxing in your cottage. Saruni Mara is the only small boutique lodge in the Masai Mara, and it's hidden in a secluded valley of the Mara North Conservancy. Your elegant cottage commands a glorious position above the plains, and it is possible to spot animals directly from your four-poster bed. A wooden verandah is consumed by the sounds of the wild, and the Masai warriors are on hand to guide you through the animal-engulfed lodge surroundings. Sometimes, the mood dictates that the afternoon safari is simply about sitting back and watching the herds below. Or it could be a game drive or further walking safari. Move into the evening and there is another treat as the Masai warriors lead you onto to the plains for a bush dinner beneath the stars.

What's Included: accommodation at Saruni Mara, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Masai Mara to Serengeti – A Rhino Sanctuary and Introductions to the Serengeti

By now, the one animal missing from your safari is likely the black rhino. While a few reside in the Masai Mara, only 1,000 remain in the wild. So after a relaxed morning, you will stop at the Rhino Sanctuary on route to the airstrip to admire the rescued giants and their proud horns. Then fly from Mara to Migori Airstrip where you will be transferred to Tarime to cross through immigration. From there, hop another 20-minute flight to Kohatende Airstrip in Northern Serengeti with a total travel time of fewer than three hours. Enjoy the views on this side of your batteries, perhaps even with a luxurious bath that overlooks the plains.

What’s Included:  accommodation at Sayari Camp, transfer, domestic flight, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Serengeti – The Iconic Serengeti Masai Mara River Crossing

Lost in an untouched corner of the Serengeti, Sayari Camp is just a few minutes from the iconic Mara River. It's this river that the wildebeest cross, although the exact location changes every year. The herds prefer a place with low grass and limited currents, but occasionally they get it horribly wrong, and half of the herd falls to drowning, crocodiles, or big cat ambushes. Wildebeest start to gather for a few days on the edges of the river until one brave male will take the plunge and everyone else will follow. Witnessing the river crossing can never be guaranteed, especially if you only have one or two days in the area but with a stay of four days, you can track the movements and be in prime position for when the wildebeest decide to charge across the water.

Not all of the wildebeest brave the water. Many opt to stay on the southern banks so the game drives will continue to reveal inspiring new scenes. A hyena cackle ripping apart a wildebeest stuck in river mud, a leopard nursing her young cub in an acacia tree, two elephants passing the camp at sunset, quarreling male hippos fighting in the river are all there to be seen. Game drives are flexible, and their sense of adventure is complemented by the serenity of Sayari Camp. The luxurious tented suites have floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the plains with thick mahogany floors and huge bathrooms with baths for two. Enjoy it all as you close your eyes to hear the drumbeat of wildebeest hooves crossing the grasslands as you settle in.

What's Included: accommodation at Sayari Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Serengeti – Bush Walks and Game Drives in Northern Serengeti

When there are two million mammals around, the fresh safari scenes come at regular intervals. Admire a giraffe tower as it elegantly crosses in front of your window, and then follow a flock of vultures to find three jackals fighting over a discarded carcass. Spot Grant's gazelle and admire their beauty until a lion pride appears from nowhere and takes down the youngest of the herd. Zebra appears close to tears as a leopard causes havoc amongst their numbers. Emotion fills the atmosphere as the tension of the landscape's battles nearly overwhelm your senses. As in the Masai Mara, your day is fully flexible, and you can create a program of walking safaris and game drives to suit your preferences. Wildlife is unpredictable, and it is good to be adaptable, particularly when the river crossing could happen at any time.

What's Included: accommodation at Saruni Mara, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Serengeti – Masai Boma and More Exhilarating Game Drives Along the Mara River

Your final day on safari can be as relaxed, or as adventurous, as you want it to be. The Masai Mara Serengeti ecosystem cannot be appreciated on a two or three-day safari as such size and detail would be hard to comprehend after even two or three months. Four days on each side of the river will ensure a relaxed pace to your safari and a complete immersion in the subtleties of the wild. With Saruni Mara and Sayari Camp, the safari never stops as even during your quiet times in your suite there will be animals roaming past and perhaps even a strangled shout of wildlife being hunted nearby. Create your own itinerary on this final day, with the option of visiting a local Masai boma for a first-hand introduction to the lifestyle of a very traditional tribe.

What's Included: accommodation at Saruni Mara, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Serengeti to Kilimanjaro to Nairobi – Departure

From the Kohatende Airstrip in Northern Serengeti, you will take a light aircraft bound for Kilimanjaro International Airport.  This journey will give you a chance to soar over the length of the Serengeti and provide a further showcase of the Serengeti's scale. An international flight will connect Kilimanjaro with Nairobi Wilson Airport, and then another short transfer to Nairobi International and you will be ready for your intercontinental departure.

What's Included: transfers, domestic flights, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$4,045
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.