1. HOP ON A BALLOON
For a totally different perspective, book a hot-air balloon ride. The ride, lasting an hour or so, takes in the vast sweep of the reserve, travelling where the currents take it, before landing for an opulent champagne breakfast. Rides normally set off before dawn. Ask your hotel to arrange. $450 per person.
2. ENJOY A SUNDOWNER
Head to a high point with your tipple of choice to relax and watch the sun slowly set over the Mara. Lodges will have their own regular spots for sundowners, but if you’re self-driving, try Lookout Hill, or pretty much any high point with a view looking west.
3. GIDDY UP
It’s now possible to do short riding safaris in the Mara, which for a rider with some experience can be a thrilling experience, offering the opportunity to gallop alongside animals at close range through beautiful country. Ride Mara, through Great Plains Conservation, offer morning or afternoon rides, lasting around two hours, several companies and lodges offer this.
4. TAKE A WALKING SAFARI
Little beats getting away from the vehicles, and wandering slowly through the bush, and enjoying close (but safe) encounters with wild animals with experienced Maasai guides. Along the way, learn about game tracking and look out for those unusual bugs and creatures rarely spotted from a car. Walking safaris are not permitted in the reserve, but can be arranged in the surrounding conservancies.
Five Ways to cut costs in the Mara
- Usually you would travel in the low season, particularly January to early April, when rates are slashed across the reserve. This time of the year is usually a high season thanks to the great migration, but this year, plenty of tour companies and lodges have unbelievable offers.
- Stay outside the park to avoid paying extra in park fees, and for a wider range of budget options.
- Self-drive and camp. If camping is your thing, this is undoubtedly the cheapest way to experience the Mara. There are several public campsites in the Mara Reserve, and the adjacent Mara Triangle. Beware, though, that extras, such as rangers for security, or guides hired at the gate, can start to push up costs.
- Join an organised tour. A plethora of travel companies, some more reputable than others, offer budget trips of two or three nights from Nairobi, with discounted accommodation options.
- Visit travel fairs, such as the one at Sarit Centre every spring, to bag good deals from hotels and lodges. Check out lodges’ websites, too, for special deals outside of peak season.