The Masai Mara is obviously synonymous with the million wildebeest and zebra that arrive following the short rains in search of grasses which are flourishing after the Long Rains.
There are however plenty of photo opportunities to be had in the Masai Mara throughout the year. The big cats, being territorial, do not follow the herds and it is understood that they are far more active when the herd is not in residency as they are having to work harder for a meal!
Cheetah is always a highlight whether they are posing on termite mounds, scanning the horizon, or in full flight in pursuit of a Thompson’s gazelle.
Even with trees generally being so sparse there is plenty of birdlife in the Mara especially near to the rivers. Vultures are obviously plentiful. Larger birds such as Secretary birds and Grey Crowned Cranes are easily spotted on the open savannahs.
The Greater Masai Mara ecosystem covers an area of approx 1,510 km2 (580 sq mi) which is dwarfed by the neighbouring Serengeti National Park portion which is over twenty times bigger.
The Masai Mara consists of open grasslands with clumps the iconic Acacia Trees and is crisscrossed by seasonal rivers.
There are areas of marshland made famous by TV programmes like the Big Cat Diaries and the Marsh Pride of Lions that hunt and live here.
Unlike Southern Africa, East Africa has two, rather than one rainy season names the short and long rains. The Long Rains appear in April and May and the Short rains later in the year around November. As with most rain in Africa, the rain builds to a crescendo with a downpour rather than drizzling. The cloud build-up adds amazing dram to images taken in these times.
Wilson Airport is the domestic charter hub in Nairobi where you fly into The Masai Mara. Most of the international flights that come into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport arrive late in the afternoon or early evening and require an overnight stay. We use a couple of great hotels close to Wilson for these overnights which negate the effect of Nairobi’s morning rush hour!
A question that we are often asked is when is the best time to see the migration and that is nearly impossible to answer as the movement (and density) of the herd can vary by several weeks, either way, depending on the rains.
WE find that the sweet spot for us is at the end of August into September but we are constantly tweaking this projection on an annual basis.
The non-migration times in The Masai Mara should also never be discounted. The safaris package costs are almost halved and the game viewing is spectacular. We suggest that every keen wildlife photographer should try both seasons at least once in their lifetimes.