Comparing Masai Mara Game Reserve & Serengeti National Park

Masai Mara Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park are top tourist destinations in their respective countries due to the wide range of wildlife. The two parks share an ecosystem which means that they have similar things to offer to tourists ranging from the wildlife and geology to the activities carried out around the National Parks. A safari to both parks gives you a chance to see the big five that is lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, and rhinos and this is beside the other animals that are in the wildebeest migration like zebras, gazelles, Elands, wildebeest, and antelopes among others.

Even though both parks are dream destinations, there are a few differences that make each one of them unique from the other and this is where the question of which one to choose for your destination sets in.  Every safari destination needs a lot of planning and this applies to both Masai Mara Game Reserve and the Serengeti National Park.

We are going to help you get to see the different sides of both Serengeti and Masai Mara and the decision will be yours to make on where you are to go first. We shall look at their locations, activities, wildebeest migration, and cost of a safari in both and when to go for your safari in both, and how to plan for your trip.

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Serengeti and Masai Mara wildebeest Migration

The wildebeest migration is one of the top highlights in both National Parks and it involves the annual movement of wildebeests from Serengeti to Masai Mara and then back. It is a cycle that is repetitive every year with the animals migrating in search of water and food.

The best time to see the Wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park

The wildebeest migration starts in Serengeti and the first and main phases of the wildebeest migration start from Serengeti. The birthing and rutting start from Serengeti and this is experienced in the wet season. Many calves can be seen during the birthing season and this also means that the predators will be far away. As the dry season sets in, the animals will start moving northwards towards the Grumeti River where they will cross into Masai Mara around June. Therefore the wildebeest migration in Serengeti is best seen in June and July as the animals start crossing over to Masai Mara.

The best time to see the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara Game Reserve

The wildebeest migration in Masai Mara starts in July to October when dry season sets in and the animals start trekking back to Serengeti. Viewing of the animals in Masai Mara starts at the Grumeti and Mara Rivers. The animals create a good view as they cross the crocodile-infested being swept away, attacked by the crocodiles whereas the brave ones cross till they are safe on the other side. It is an experience that you don’t want to miss out on.

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When to visit Masai Mara Game Reserve and Serengeti Game Reserve

The best time to go for a safari in Masai Mara 

The dry season in Masai Mara is experienced in October and the best time to enjoy game drives within the Game Reserve. The minimal Rains received during these months lead to scanty vegetation and lack of water which makes it easy to

Spot the animals at the different water holes in search of water and food.

The best time to go for a safari in Masai Mara Game Reserve

The best time to go for a safari in Serengeti is during the dry season which is experienced between the months offered. During the dry season, the grass is always shorter and there is little or no water for the many animals causing the animals to move around the vast plains of Serengeti in search of water holes and food. The shorter grass makes the animals very visible to the tourists.

Serengeti National Park

Accommodation in the Masai Mara and Serengeti national park

Accommodation facilities in both the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park have their accommodation facilities categorized into three that is budget-friendly accommodation facilities, mid-range accommodation facilities, and luxury accommodation facilities.  The best way to choose the accommodation that suits you is by first looking at your budget to see which one fits. Accommodations while on a safari are always strategically located with some found within the parks and others outside the National parks.

The Ecosystem in Masai Mara and Serengeti national Park

Masai Mara is located in the south-western part of Kenya which is north of the Serengeti national park in Tanzania. The border between Masai Mara and Serengeti is not fenced and animals can freely cross from one Game Reserve to another. Both Serengeti and Masai Mara have the same ecosystem which is known as the Serengeti ecosystem which consists of over 1000 lions, hyenas, leopards, and zebras. The Serengeti ecosystem has conservancies and reserves which are found in both the Serengeti and Masai Mara Game reserve and cover about 30, 000 kilometers squared.

Cost of an African Safari

Masai Mara Game Reserve has two seasons that is the low season which is experienced during the wet season (November to May) and the peak season which is experienced during the dry season (July to October). These two seasons highly determine the cost of your safari to the Masai Mara. The cost of a Masai Mara safari depends on many factors some of which include accommodation, transport, and the seasons. The peak season is always the most expensive time for tourists because all the costs are doubled due to the high number of tourists during this time. Tourists traveling on a budget are advised to visit during the low season or reduce the cost of everything especially accommodation.

The cost of the Serengeti safari also depends on the season which is the low season experienced in the wet season () and the peak season which is experienced during the dry season (), accommodation, and transport among other things. During the peak season, the costs of everything from accommodation to food are hiked but get back to normal during the wet season.

There are fewer budget safaris to the Serengeti because most of the lodges are mid-range and luxury with few budget accommodation facilities makes the Serengeti safari expensive which is not the case in Masai Mara.

Entrance fees to Masai Mara for adults is $80 and those below 12 years pay $45 and children 3 years and below enter for free. Entrance fees to Serengeti National Park is $60 for tourists 16 years and above, $30 for those 5 to 16 years, and a free entrance for children 0 to 5 years.  In conclusion, the cost of a safari in Serengeti National Park is more expensive compared to the Masai Mara Game Reserve.

serengeti safari

How to get there

Both National Parks can easily be accessed by two means which are the use of road transport and air transport. In both instances, air transport is faster but more expensive to use as compared to road transport.


How to get to Serengeti National Park

The best way to get to Serengeti National Park is through Arusha. You can either get to Serengeti by air or by road. Kilimanjaro International Airport is about 320 kilometers away from the national park. Once you get to the airport, there are several local flights that you can charter to the several airstrips around Serengeti. There will be a tour van waiting for you at the airstrip which will then transfer you to your accommodation.

You can also drive to Masai Mara in a hired vehicle or one that has been prepared for you by the tour operators.

Serengeti National Park can be accessed through the different gates of the park and these are the Ndabaka gate, Bologonya Gate, Naabi Hill Gate, and Klein’s Gate. The Ndabaka gate is found in the western corridor area, Klein’s gate is found in the north eastern part of Serengeti, Bologonya was located closest to Kenya but was closed with no further notice of it being opened again and Naabi hill gate which is the main Serengeti gate is the busiest.

How to get to Masai Mara Game Reserve

Masai Mara Game Reserve can either be accessed by road or air transport. There are several airstrips where the domestic flights land before you are transferred to your accommodation facility using a tour van. Those that are planning to use road transport can either do a self-drive or let the tour operators drive the tourists to the Game Reserve which is about 5 to 6 hours away from Nairobi.

masai mara sunrise

Masai Mara and Serengeti, which is the best safari destination?

This is a frequently asked question on which destination to choose between the two. The answer is both are good destinations with a lot to offer but if it is your first time going on a safari, it is better to start with the Masai Mara Game Reserve before proceeding to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania this is why:

  • Masai Mara is located in south-western Kenya and North of Serengeti National Park. Even though the two National Parks have a similar ecosystem. Masai Mara receives more rainfall during the green season as compared to Serengeti and this attracts a large number of animals. So compared to the Serengeti, the Masai Mara has a richer population of both animals and bird species making it a better option than the Serengeti.

Serengeti is a good destination for returning tourists who want to have a better feel of Africa

In the vast plains. Masai Mara is also a good destination for game viewing and you can explore it anytime that you want but as long as you have planned for it in advance.

The size of Masai Mara and Serengeti

Masai Mara Game Reserve covers over 1,500 kilometers squared while Serengeti National Park covers over 14,763 kilometers squared making Serengeti larger than Masai Mara. If you are looking at covering a larger and vast area while on your safari, the place to be is Serengeti National Park. The large size of the Serengeti makes it a household name for game viewing in Tanzania with the many different animals found in it.

birding masai mara

Masai Mara game Reserve and Serengeti National Park landscape

Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara share an ecosystem however they both have different landscapes which makes them unique from each other. Serengeti can loosely be translated as ‘endless plains’ whereas Mara means spotted. The Masai Mara Game Reserve is filled with shrubs, different types of savannah, and hilly. It is only the Northern part of Serengeti which has a similar landscape to the Masai Mara but the rest of the vast landscape in Serengeti is not hilly but has an exciting system that consists of hilly outcrops, savannahs, woodlands, and flat areas which all attract different wildlife in the area.

Activities carried out in Masai Mara and Serengeti

Masai Mara and Serengeti offer great and similar activities while on a safari. Most of the activities in both National Parks are carried out in the morning and late afternoon when the heat from the sun is bearable. Both parks are always crowded during the peak season which is experienced in the dry season and activities that can be carried out in both Serengeti and Masai Mara during the dry season include game drives, nature walks, hot air balloon rides, horse riding in Masai Mara, cultural walks to the Masai villages (both national Parks have Masai villages around them) and enjoying the wildebeest migration. Activities that are mainly carried out in both parks during the wet season are birding and game viewing among others.

After looking at both Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve, we recommend that you try out both safaris since they share an ecosystem. It does not matter whether you are traveling on a budget or not, safaris to both places can easily be done and you will not regret this decision.