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The Masai Mara is Kenya’s most famous nature reserve. It covers more than 700 square miles and is part of the larger Serengeti ecosystem. If you are dreaming about a safari, what you are seeing in your minds-eye is the Masai Mara. It is classic savannah – grasslands where animals are plentiful and the vistas are spectacular. The area is the site of one of the most spectacular animal migrations in the world and home to tremendous concentrations of resident game including lion, cheetah, elephant, leopard, black rhino, hippo and over 500 species of birds.

For travel to the Mara we advocate staying in one of several private concessions which border the park. Not only do these concessions increase the area where animals can move safely and form a buffer around the national park, they offer a more exclusive and flexible wildlife experience. While you will still likely spend a full day inside the main reserve, especially during the migration, adding game-drives inside the private concession means that you do not need to spend your whole time jockeying for views of lions or elephants with other vehicles. In addition, private concessions are able to offer bush walks, night drives, and off-road driving, activities not allowed in the main Mara Reserve.

Finally, these private concessions are often tribal land leased to the properties, meaning that some of the revenue generated goes back into the local communities in addition to providing employment and projects funded by the properties.

Our favorite private concessions are Mara North, Olare Orok and Naboisho for their high animal densities and low number of beds within each. It can take time for a new concession to have the wildlife densities that make for good game-viewing, but these three definitely deliver.

You can fly or drive into the Masai Mara area. We typically advocate flying as the drive from Nairobi takes 6+ hours. There are also flights between the Mara and other game-viewing areas in Kenya, as well as to the Serengeti (between June and October).

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Marcia Gordon