Planning and booking for a Masai Mara Safari tour in Kenya can be a difficult decision for a first time traveller, as there are alot of factors to consider. Some of these factors include; choosing a tour operator, type of accommodation, mode of transport, additional optional activities, mode of payment and documentation of all the required travel document. Below we will discuss each of these factors in detail.
If you are planning for your next Safari Holiday destination, set your heart on Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It is one of Africa’s top wildlife destinations and Kenya’s flagship conservation area. The reserve offers excellent year-round game viewing thanks to its diverse population of game like elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, hyena, eland, gazelle, and the Mara’s famous big cats.
After settling on your holiday destination, the next thing that follows is researching online for a reputable tour operator in Kenya or from your home country to get a quotation and guide you through your planning process. Below we are going to list some of the basics information that is required from you by the tour operators when making an enquiry;
a. Choose your travel dates: You are required to provide your travel dates even if its the month, as this will help in pricing for your Safari tour. So, when is the best time to visit Masai Mara ? Masai Mara is regarded as an year round Safari destination as it offers more or less ideal climate with an abundance of wildlife for excellent game viewing throughout the calendar year.
However, if you are planning on visiting the reserve for the Great Wildebeest Migration, the best time to visit Masai Mara for this spectacular event is between late July/early August to mid October which also coincides with the peak season. Prices tend to higher during the Peak season due to large numbers of vistors making it more expensive to secure rooms due to the high demand. Therefore, if you are on a limited budget its best to avoid peak and plan on visiting during the low ( April to June ) or the shoulder season ( January to March ) when the prices are lower and rooms are readily available.
b. Group Size: Let your tour operator know how many people will be travelling and incase you are travelling with children, please also indicate the ages of the children at the time of travel, as this will go along way in helping plan for your Safari tour. Solo travellers are also well catered for.
c. Room Plan: Depending on the number of peple travelling it is important to specify your preferred room plan i.e Single room, double, twin, triple or family room. This also helps when pricing for your tour.
d. Mode of Transport: You can either choose a road Safari tour with transport in either a Safari Tour Van or a 4x4 Land Cruiser Jeep or opt for a luxury Fly-in Safari which includes flight from Nairobi to Masai Mara ( return ). See Masai Mara Safari Packages here
Before choosing the travel agency that will help in planning and booking your Safari Tour. Do a thorough reseach online and ensure that you settle for a well established and reputable Tour Operator based in Kenya, and is also a member of KATO (Kenya Assosiation of Tour Operaters), this way you are guaranteed to get value for your money.
Masai Mara National Reserve has some of the amazing hotels, that offers an extensive range of accommodation options that cater for every budget. The different categories of accommodation range from adventure budget camping to mid-range tented camps to uber luxurious safari lodges. Therefore it is important to specify your preferred type of accommodation keeping in mind that your choice should be in line with your budget. You can either choose a budget, mid-range ( lower to upper mid-range ) and luxury camps and lodges.
Luxury tents & lodges tend to be small, boutique-type properties that are designed to merge into the surroundings and operate to the highest eco friendly standards. The underlying idea is to offer luxury while being as close to nature as possible.
Mid-range camps several camps and lodges in Masai Mara falls under this category. They provide travelers with a superior experience at an affordable price. Many of these camps have more lodge-like features and tend to be larger than the small exclusive or mobile camps and usually come with swimming pools, spacious common areas, well stocked gift shops and some even have purpose built Spas.
Budget Camps are meant to cater for the price conscious traveler. Almost all hotels classified as budget properties are located outside the main Masai Mara Reserve boundary.
Other that the standard Masai Mara Safari package that includes your main Safari costs such as accommodation and meals, transport from and back to Nairobi, safari game excursions and park entry fees. You can also choose to include some additional activities such as hot air balloon safari, maasai village tour , nature & bush walks , as well as bush meals & sundowners. All these activities are optional but quite exciting and enhances your Safari experience but come at an added cost.
After providing all the information above, you can now request for a quotation based on your itinerary. Please ensure to check all your requirements are included in the pricing. It is also important to confirm whether accommodation is on full-board, half-board or bed and breakfast.
If you decide to book a road safari also check the type of vehicle, this could be either a Safari Tour Van or a 4x4 Land Cruiser Jeep that carrys upto 7 persons per vehicle. Tour Vans are the most common mode of transport for safari tourists as these cost less compared to the other vehicle type. The 4x4 Toyota Landcruisers are more expensive than the Tour Vans understandably so as these are larger, four wheel drive vehicles that make rough road travel slightly more comfortable.
Safari Tour Minibus (Van)
Landcruiser Jeep 4x4 vehicle
Choose a quote you are happy with and book the tour. Typical booking conditions require a deposit with balance a month prior to commencement of arrangements. Booking conditions including deposit payment and cancellation terms/ policy will be provided by your tour operator.
Typical modes of payment used by safari operators in Kenya include credit card (Visa or Mastercard) through secure online payment system or through the PayPal system. Once your booking is confirmed and your sales consultant has emailed you the invoice, you will then receive an email with a link that directs you to a secure online payment system, where you can enter your details and process your payment. All credit card payments attract a surcharge of between 3 to 7% depending on your credit card company.
Payment can also be made by debit card in the same way as credit cards, noting that bank transfer fees of between 3 to 5 % will apply.
Ensure that you get a receipt for any payment made. After making full payment, ensure that you get all receipts, hotel vouchers which you will then use for Visa application, as well as the itinerary document, Covid indemnity form and Terms & Conditions for your booking.
Not to forget Travel Documents, prior to start of your safari check for your Passport, Health cards (vaccination certificates as required), Airline tickets, Credit cards and Insurance papers. Ensure all the documents are inorder and up-to-date. Your passport must have at least 2 blank pages and six months of validity from the proposed date of exit from Kenya.
All travellers flying into Kenya must fill a health surveillance form online here after check-in and prior to arrival. After submitting the form you will receive a QR code via email which has to be shown to port health officials in order to proceed to arrival immigration.
You must also present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours prior to departure. You can get the list of countries exempted from quarantine upon arrival here.
All visitors planning to visit Masai Mara and they require a visa to enter Kenya are advised to apply for the Visa in advance via Kenya evisa website. Visa on arrival is not available as of January 2021. The processing time for an e-visa is two business days.