There are essentially two ways of getting from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, to Masai Mara National Reserve and these are by Road and by Air. The road trip takes approximately 5.5 to 6.5 hours one way to reach the closest Maasai Mara entry gates on the Narok side, such as Sekenani, Talek or Oloolaimutia gates. The entry points on the western side of the reserve such as Musiara or Oloololo gates take slightly longer using a different route.
Flying to Masai Mara is a convenient option, being only about a 1 hour flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to a variety of different airstrips in the Mara.
Listed below is relevant information on road and air travel options for reaching Masai Mara from Nairobi. In case of reaching Kenya from overseas such as USA, UK, Europe, Australia India and Dubia, UAE, please contact us for international flight options.
By far the most popular mode of transport from Nairobi to Masai Mara is by road. The distance varies from 225 km ( 140 miles) to 275 kms ( 170 miles) depending on which gate or entry point of Masai Mara you want to access. In terms of journey time, in general you want to allow for 5.5 hours for most eastern / Narok side gates such as Sekenani, Talek and Ololaimutia and upto 6 to 6.5 hours for Musiara ( Narok County side) and Olololo gate ( Mara Conservancy side) and this includes a couple of brief stops enroute for a fuel stop and washroom break.
Route: Use the A104 highway heading out from Nairobi city and onto the B3 just before the Limuru junction. (If leaving from JKIA airport, use the Southern Bypass to connect to A104 at Kikuyu town to cut out the city traffic). Once at Narok town you now take the C12 road to Sekenani, Talek and Ololaimutia gates or the C13 to Musiara and Olololo gates as well as Rianta town. This latter road is best done in 4x4 vehicles as it is rougher.
Most of the route is tarred road except for the last section of approximately 1 hour. The tarmac portion is however in sub standard condition in places which includes stretches with potholes, while the last unpaved portion can be bumpy and dusty, which however for some simply adds to the adventure of getting to the wilderness.
A road in Masai Mara in the Western side of the reserve
The Nairobi - Mai Mahiu - Narok highway heading to Masai Mara
Two types of vehicles are commonly used for Safaris in Kenya and East Africa for that matter, and these are the Safari Tour Minibuses / Tour Vans, and the 4x4 Safari Jeeps, typically Toyota Landcruiser or less commonly Landrover vehicles. Both types of vehicles have built in, pop-up game viewing roof hatches which the Driver opens once on a game drive in the park or reserve, UHF Radio Calls and Cooler Boxes. The Tour Vans cost less than four wheel drive Safari Jeeps. Should be noted that there are some tour vans which also come with 4x4 capability, albeit with the lack of ground clearance or off road ability that comes with a Landcruiser. Both types of vehicles typically seat a maximum of 7 passengers with 6 being ideal and 8 passengers being the upper limit with an extra seat fitted into tge vehicle. Luggage restrictions apply.
There are several airlines flying from Nairobi to various airstrips in Masai Mara, and several of these offer twice daily return flight to the reserve, with a one way flight taking approximately 1 hour. The same plane then usually turns around back to Nairobi after dropping off or collecting passengers from a number of airstrips in Masai Mara. Almost all these flights take off from Wilson airport in Nairobi ( as opposed to the JKIA international airport) and you need only be at the airport about 45 mins prior to the flight. The two main airlines are Air Kenya and Safarilink, with a new entrant being Governors Aviation. All these three airlines have a reliable service and credible safety record.
There are close to a dozen airstrips in Masai Mara National Reserve and surrounding game ranches and conservancies. These airstrips are spread out in different parts of the reserve to serve lodges and camps in close proximity to them inorder to cut down transfer time from the airstrip to the hotel. Listed below are some of the commonly used airstrips in Masai Mara.
The type of aircraft used for flights to Masai Mara include propellor planes with seating capacities ranging from 40 seaters for DeHavilland Dash 7 and 8 aircraft to 13 seater Cessna Caravans. Passengers are limited to 15 kilos of carry on and check in luggage combined.