I have been and written many articles about Safari to Masai Mara in Kenya numerous times. But I have never given out the crucial tips. “How to plan a Budget Safari to Masai Mara”.
Let’s be real Masai Mara is an expensive destination, you can spend up to $2,000 a day. However, the reason am writing this is to ease your Safari budget and make Masai Mara Affordable.
Without Robbing or pulling a life-threatening heist (You can insert `Denver` Laugh of Money Heist) just to warm up for this incredible Read.
This award-winning & undulating National Reserve is located in Narok County, Southwest of Kenya near the Tanzanian Border.
Masai Mara Name came about the Maa People who named the Reserve in honour of their ancestral inhibitors.
The Mara meaning circles of spotted Trees, Scrubs, Savannah. It is one of the largest Reserves in Africa covering a staggering 1510 Square Kilometers.
Let me not force an elephant down your throat, I understand this is not a history class, So, let’s delve in on “How to plan a Budget Safari to Masai Mara”. Shall we?
The Costing of a Budget Safari.
The most ideal itinerary for Masai Mara is 3 Days. However, for you to realize this award-winning destination dream Safari without breaking the bank. You will need the following.
You will need a Tour Van or 4wd Land Cruiser (Jeep) for the 3 Days. These two have different prices.
A Land cruiser will cost you more $100/Kes10,000 A day than a Tour Van. This will be up to you to choose the luxury of a 4wd Land Cruiser or the comfort of the Tour Van.
How to Cut Cost on Transport.
- First Off, if you are on a tight budget you really don`t need the luxury of a 4wd Landcruiser, a tour van will just do fine.
- Talk to your Tour Operator and request to do a joining Safari-: A joining Safari, where you will meet up other tourists of the same interest joining together to reduce the transport cost.
- You do not have to be doing the same accommodation but you will all be dropped respectively though it has to be within the vicinity for easy logistics.
- By doing a joining Safari you will end up reducing your cost by near 30%. I will show you the Cost Calculations shortly.
An average or Mid-range Accommodation in Masai Mara compared to a budget camp, the difference amount for the 3 Days is $105/Kes10,500.
How to Cut Cost on Accommodation.
- If you are good to go with rustic accommodation in a budget Camp, then Perfect, you’re advantaged. fortunately, these rustic Budget Camps have a descent Meal. Hot Showers, Charging, privacy and fairly good Service. However, do not expect a 5 Star Class.
- If you are willing to add just $105 to your budget that is $52.5 Per Night and get a better Lodge then this is recommendable. I have stayed in Both Rustic Budget Camp and a Mid-Range Lodge. I find the Mid-range better unless you are on a Very Tight Budget.
- You can sacrifice the comfort of a luxury Lodge of which will be surpassed by the incredible experiences in the field (Game Drives) for just two nights.
3.) Park Fees
The park fees if your accommodation is inside the park you will pay $70 and if outside the park you will pay $80 Per 24hrs. for the Citizens is Kes1,000.
Tip: Staying inside the Reserve is Cheaper with $10 than Staying outside in terms of the Park Entrance fees.
However, the Accommodation inside the reserve is a bit expensive compared to the camps and lodges outside the park.
The $10 you will save on the park fees is nothing compared to the accommodation amount you will pay inside the park. If you are on Budget stay Outside the Reserve.
4.) A private or a Joining Safari.
A private Safari is the best but if you are on a budget then Joining Safari is the most ideal.
In a Mid-Range Accommodation outside the Park for three days. A private Safari will cost you: –
Non-Resident $600/ Citizens Kes43,000 Per Person Sharing. For Budget Camp $520/ Kes38,000 Per Person Sharing.
In a Mid-Range Accommodation outside the Park but in a Joining Tour Van. It will cost you: –
Non-Resident $480/Citizens Kes25,000 Per Person Sharing. For Budget Camp $360/Kes15,000 Per Person sharing.
Go on a shared Safari but maximize your time in the game drives, you will go on a private Safari later when you will feel you are ready and can afford it.
5.) The Masai Mara Itinerary.
The Itinerary to Masai Mara is a Key Factor in planning a budget-friendly Safari Masai Mara.
First Of, Masai Mara is around 180Kms from Nairobi, so we rule out any idea of a Day Trip from Nairobi.
Some Tourist Book two Days but still this is not enough time to explore Masai Mara, a drive of around 6.5 hours from Nairobi.
By the time you check-in for lunch, rest and maybe do a 1 or at most 2 hours Game drive. Then back to your camp or lodge, the following day do your breakfast, probably go for an early morning Game drive.
Return by 9:30 Am because check out is 10:00 Am then off the park. Does that sound like an incredible adventure?
Not really, to me, it is a waste of time and resources. Unless you just wanted to be in history books you once stepped in Masai Mara or you had other intentions like visiting the Masai Village only or probably you are a tour agent and you just wanted to do a revisit then that’s okay.
The Perfect Masai Mara Recommended Itinerary.
Out of experience, I recommend a minimum of 3 Days. You will have a full day in the park with a packed lunch meaning you will not waste time going back to your Camp or Lodge for lunch.
From 6:30 Am up to 4 pm or 5 pm depending on where your lodge is located, if you are inside the reserve, the better you will not have to rush as the gate close by 6:00 Pm.
Day 1: Nairobi to Masai Mara National Reserve.
You will depart Nairobi between 6:00 Am – 8:00 Am but the Earlier the better. If you are flying into Nairobi.
It is recommendable to take a flight that will land you at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the morning.
To avoid expenses of pre-Safari Accommodation in Nairobi., though pulling this stunt, needs some kind of determination. Most of the tourists need a break, before Safari.
You can choose to fly from Nairobi but since we are looking at How to plan a Budget safari, Road is the best option.
Depending on what time you left in Nairobi, you will be in your Camp or Lodge by Lunchtime, check-in, take your lunch, refresh then do your evening Game drive.
Day 2: Masai Mara Reserve (Unearthing Masai Mara)
This is my favourite part of the Itinerary, you have a full day of adventure. This is also the Day to visit Masai Village. The Day Starts at 7:00 Am and ends at 4:30 Pm Depending.
Day 3: Masai Mara National Reserve – Nairobi.
You will have your breakfast then check out with Game drives, back to Nairobi at around 4:30 Pm depending on the time you departed in Masai Mara.
6.) The Masai Village Visit.
This Activity Happens on the 2nd Day when you will have a full day game drive. It is an optional activity. You will be taken by your guide to the villages where they will welcome you with cultural songs. The same thing happens in Amboseli National Park.
At some point, you will feel like a VIP in a foreign country. All the attention will be focused on you. The Jumping ( up to date I have never known why the world high jump record is not held by the Maa people). Those guys can jump high.
Some of these songs that will be sung to you are more than 100 years passed over generation after generation.
After the VIP Welcome, you will be taken to their Boma. Did you know their Boma (The houses made of clay and cow dug) are a built-in form of a paw of a lion?
Do you know why? Let me not Spill out everything, the day you visit them, let that be the First Question.
It does not end there; they will show you how to make fire without the use of a matchbox and many more adventurous activities. The visit is $25, it could be more or less depending on your bargaining skills.
How to Save or cut Costs when you decide to visit the Maasai Village.
The moment you walk into that village you become prey in the jungle. They will paw on you just like a lion does to those gazelles.
They will Roast and have you for dinner financially. Be prepared to bargain like a Kenyan, you will be shown many beautiful artefacts which are irresistible.
Buy them, promote them whenever you can. The same money will be used to feed a family just like any other hustle.
However, buy in the right way your budget allows. Your Guide can be of help if not so have some loose change to dish out and do not take pictures or videos without their consent. You might just be charged. Otherwise, the Maa People are friendly, social and kind.
Masai Mara has three known Seasons.
- Peak Season July 1st – October 30th and Christmas Holiday.
- High Season 1st January- march 30th – November 1st -Dec 23rd
- Low Season April 1st – 30th June
Safari to Mara go up or low according to the Season, as the names of the season suggest so is the prices. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the great wildebeest migration happens during the peak season.
How to Cut cost.
Travelling during the Low Season is ideal, however many tourists will prefer to see the wildebeest migration. It is on every traveller to go list. So, how do you cut costs during this crazy period?
- You can book a bit early, at the end of June. Where not so many wildebeest will be crossing at this time but you will get a feel of preliminaries.
- Booking in October; the prices are a bit affordable compared to the first three months of Peak Season and the same magnitude of the migration is the Same. You are most likely to get good deals.
Whether you decide to book on a joining Safari or private Safari regardless of Budget or Mid-Range Accommodation.
The main goal is to enjoy your Safari. It is Said, “Do not focus on the Road potholes but the pleasure of the Journey”.
Plan your Safari and apart from reducing the budget do not do these 7 Mistakes when booking.
Masai Mara is the 7th world wonder on its own, the wildebeest migration pulls tourists across the world.
More than 2Million Wildebeest, Zebras and antelopes move in from Serengeti to Masai Mara which is a continuous ecosystem. Meaning there`s a possibility to find the wildebeest crossing in odd months.
The epitome of all is the action in the famous Mara River, where the real action happens. (Get This Action between Mid-June through Mid-October)
Do you have more methods on how to do a budget Safari to Masai Mara? or have questions? Please let me know in the comment section.