Maasai Mara or Amboseli : Masai Mara national reserve and Amboseli national park are two most popular and visited safari destinations in Kenya, each of these destinations is distinctively different from each other which makes visiting each of them a great experience.
For travelers who can afford visiting both Amboseli and Masai Mara, it is recommended to visit both of them for a once-in a life time Kenya wildlife safari experience. However if you had to visit only one as an option for an African safari then which one of these parks should you go to?
Deciding on which park to visit is quite hard, however here is a quick guide to help you decide which one is right for you to visit.
Depends on where you are (Location)
Location plays a great role in deciding whether to visit Amboseli national park or Masai Mara national reserve, if you are at the Kenyan Coast then a triple to Amboseli national park on road is more viable than a triple to Masai Mara. However if you can afford to fly there, then you can do either or combine both as there are regular flights to Amboseli and Masai Mara from Mombasa.
A safari to both Masai Mara national reserve and Amboseli national park is a great African wildlife experience, though Masai Mara is the more famous of the two, Amboseli national park is not far behind.
Masai Mara national reserve is one of the most popular Kenya safari destinations in Africa famous for its large concentration of lions, elephants and other big cats “lions, leopards and cheetahs”. Amboseli national park is a home to large numbers of elephants and has a beautiful scenery of the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, however it is more sparsely populated with other wildlife.
What Do You Want To Do
What you want to do while on a Kenya safari will determine where you decide to go, if your priority is to see the big cats “lions, leopards, cheetahs” then the Masai Mara is the best option. If you are more interested in seeing large herds of elephants then Amboseli national park is the perfect park to visit.
How Much Time Do You Have
The number of time in terms of days you wish to spend on the safari plays a great role on deciding which park to visit, Masai Mara national reserve is a large reserve and it can take several days to explore it fully. Amboseli national park is smaller and you can see a lot of it in one day. If you have a few days to spare, then Amboseli national park is the better option.
Your budget for the safari
Both Masai Mara and Amboseli are expensive places to visit of an Africa Safari, however Amboseli is slightly cheaper but the difference is not significant. If you are traveling on a tight budget, then you might want to consider another destination.
Weather in both Masai Mara national reserve and Amboseli national park are quite similar, the mornings and evening can be cool but it warms up during the day.
Cost of a safari in Masai Mara national park
The cost of a safari in Masai Mara national reserve is determined by a number of factors including the time of year you visit, the length of your stay, the type of accommodation you are to stay at (budget, midrange or luxury), mode of getting there – either by road or by flight and where you book a private or group safari.
Cost of safari in Amboseli national park
The cost to Amboseli national park is also determined by a number of factors including the time of year you visit, the length of your stay, the type of accommodation you are to stay at (budget, midrange or luxury), mode of getting there – either by road or by flight and where you book a private or group safari.
Masai Mara national reserve has a more diverse landscape than Amboseli national park and it includes open plains, woodlands and riverine forests, Amboseli national park is mostly open grassland with some acacia trees.
Masai Mara national reserve is considered as part of the Serengeti eco-system with huge populations of wildlife including Wildebeests, zebras and impalas which are constantly on the move following the rains on what is termed as the Annual Wildebeest Migration.
The animals in Amboseli national park are more static with the animals staying in one place all year round.
It is however important to note that not all animals in Masai Mara migrate, a good number of the animals including lions, giraffes and birds are resident all year round.
Masai Mara national reserve is an all year round destination, however the best time to see the wildebeest migration is from July to October when the herds cross over from Tanzania’s Serengeti national park.
Wildlife in Masa Mara national reserve
Lions are the most popular animals in Masai Mara national reserve and they are often seen basking in the sun during the hotter times of the day or as they hunt for their prey in the early mornings or late evenings when the sun is not so strong, Maasai Mara or Amboseli.
Cheetahs are other highlight in Masai Mara national reserve spotted in areas where the ground is relatively flat and they are easily seen chasing after gazelles and antelopes. Cheetahs are the fastest land animal in the world with ability to run up to speeds of 70 miles per hour.
Other popular animals in Masai Mara national reserve include
- Cape buffaloes
- Black rhinos
Other animals in Masai Mara national reserve include Monkeys, Reptiles, Birds, Spotted hyena, Warthog, Pangolin, Spring Hare, Eland, Gerenuk, Red Fox, Honey badger, Bat eared fox, Vervet monkey, Lappet faced vulture, White backed vulture, Black kite, Bateleur eagle, Beisa oryx, Bushbuck and Secretary bird to name but just a few.
Things/ Kenya safari activities to do in Masai Mara national reserve
- -Walking Safaris
- -Night Game Drives
- -Balloon Safaris
- -Maasai Village Visits
- -Horseback Safaris
- -Annual Wildebeest Migration
- -Visit Areas where documentaries and movies like “Big Cat Diary” and “Out of Africa” were filmed.
- -Birding in the Masai Mara National Reserve
- -Sleep under the stars at Ishara star beds
- -Tracking cheetahs in Lemek Conservancy
- -Stargazing at Sekenani Camp
- -Learning about the Maasai culture
- -Bush dinners and Breakfast
Things/Kenya safari activities To Do In Amboseli
- Sundowner At Observation Hill
- balloon safaris
- -Bird watching
- -Bush dinners and breakfasts
- -Lunch picnics
- -Balloon safaris
- -Cultural tours
- -Night Game Drives
Masai Mara national reserve has a wider range of accommodation options to choose from ranging from luxury lodges to more affordable campsites, Amboseli national park also has a selection of luxury accommodation and basic accommodation however Masai Mara has a bigger range of choices, Maasai Mara or Amboseli.
Because Masai Mara national reserve is a more popular destination than Amboseli national park, it can be more crowded during the peak times so if you are looking for a more intimate safari experience, depending on your dates of travel, Amboseli national park may be a better option for you.
Amboseli national park is also located close to the border of Tanzania with a back drop of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
How To Get To Amboseli National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve
Amboseli national park is approximately 220 kilometers drive from Nairobi and takes approximately 4 hours, Maasai Mara national reserve is about 240 kilometers drive from Nairobi taking approximately 5 hours.
There are several flights daily from Nairobi to Amboseli national park and Masai Mara national reserve.
What to Pack
When packing for Amboseli national park and Masai Mara national reserve safari remember to pack for the hot days and cold nights, some of the essential items to pack are
- -Lightweight long sleeved shirts and pants
- -Comfortable walking shoes
- -Telephoto lens (if you have one)
- -Insect repellent
When To Visit Amboseli And Masai Mara
Amboseli national park is great all year round, this is because of its flat landscape making it easier to spot animals from a distance, the best time to visit is between June and October when the animals are more concentrated around the waterholes and also there is less rainfall. April to June is low season and the rains have made the park green so it is beautiful, Maasai Mara or Amboseli.
The best time to visit Masai Mara national reserve is between July and October which coincides with the wildebeest migration, this is also when the animals are concentrated around the waterholes and there is less rainfall. April to June is low season and the rains are heavier, the park could also get muddy.
Masai Mara national reserve ranks higher than Amboseli national reserve in terms of wildlife viewing, the sheer size of the park, things to do and accommodation options. If you are looking for an action packed safari then Masai Mara national reserve is the best place for however.
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