If you’re looking for an authentic African wildlife safari adventure, two specific destinations should come to mind: the Masai Mara and Serengeti. 

But which of these two landscapes should you visit first? 

Africa is home to arguably the most picturesque and euphoric safari experiences. Two of which are the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania

These vast plains are adored for their goosebump-inducing migratory movements, aesthetic flora and natural views of thriving wildlife. While these two escapes both offer great experiences, the inevitable question always remains: which of these two is best; the Masai Mara vs Serengeti.

Let’s compare them.

The Masai Mara vs Serengeti

Exploring the landscapes

From exceptional grasslands to the eager animals that dot the savannahs, deciding between the Masai Mara vs Serengeti starts by looking at where they are both located and how you would get there.

When travelling to the Masai Mara, you’ll enter Kenya via a flight to the capital, Nairobi, after which you will board a smaller aircraft that will take you into the south-west of the country into the Mara. This incredible location spans over 1,510 square kilometres (583 square miles). All of which showcases the incredible wildlife in their most natural habitat.

The terrains of the Masai Mara are also known for the two rivers that flow through its grassy grounds. The Mara River and Talek River offer visitors a unique opportunity to witness the animals gathered by the waters.

Just on the border of the Masai Mara is the much-loved Serengeti National Park. This exclusive safari experience stretches over 30,000 square kilometres (11,583 square miles). In fact, it is so large that it is divided into three different parts: the Serengeti Plains, the Northern Serengeti and the Western Corridor.

You will be able to gain access to the Serengeti when you land in Arusha and either take a seven-hour drive to the National Park or a short flight over.

What is the climate like?

Regardless of whether you plan on visiting the Serengeti or Masai Mara, both locations have similar weather conditions. They are quite literally divided by a boundless border, meaning you are less likely to experience major weather pattern changes between these two locations.

That being said, visiting the grasslands means that the weather is predominately hot. It is also noticeably humid during the day. You can expect the temperatures to reach a high of 30 C (86 F). The nights, however, tend to get a lot chillier. During the rainy season, you will note that while the lands are wet the temperature still remains relatively high.

Check out our packing list for Kenya for more details on how to pack for the weather!

Wildlife displays

When it comes to viewing abundant wildlife displays, Masai Mara offers you incredible year-round sightings. In fact, the reserve is known for hosting more than 1.5 million wildebeests that roam the area. This Kenyan safari also has Africa’s renowned Big Five as well as over 400 different bird species.

The Serengeti National Park, however, also has a thriving wildlife scene. You can easily spot all the major big cats moving between the grass. There is also a vast population of giraffes, zebras, baboons, and so many other animals that will keep you entertained for hours!

You can witness the Great Wildebeest Migration in both Masai Mara and the Serengeti.

What to get up to

One of the best and most obvious ways to experience Masai Mara is by 4×4 game drive. It is naturally a great interactive experience where you get to witness the wonders of undisturbed nature. If you’re more on the adventurous side, there are other options for you. One of the top experiences at Masai Mara is viewing the park from a hot air balloon.

This bird’s eye view of the entire landscape is not only every photographer’s dream but a top bucket list contender. For those looking to fully immerse themselves in the experience, there are several heart-racing hiking trails that allow you to explore the savannahs on foot.

One of the best experiences you will have at the Serengeti is their incredible cultural tours throughout the reserve. The rich history is not only fascinating but incredibly memorable. You can also view the vast lands of the Serengeti via private helicopter, where you are offered panoramic views of the reserve.

Alternatively, you could explore the grasslands on horseback. Straddle up with a tour guide and ride your way into the sunset. 

When is the best time to go?

As luxury travel specialists, we often get asked when the best time to visit these two safari destinations is. The answer is very much dependent on what you are planning to do, see and experience whilst on your trip.

The best time to witness the Great Migration in Masai Mara is from July to October and in the Serengeti from November to January.

Great Migration wildebeest and safari cars

April and May are generally the wettest months in both destinations, making them the quietest months. From May to September, the weather is the mildest, with excellent wildlife spotting opportunities.

Costing and prices

The pricing will always differ when it comes to the costing expectations of these two incredible safari locations. Keep in mind that costs fluctuate depending on whether or not you visit during peak or off-peak seasons.

The reality is that Masai Mara is slightly more affordable than the Serengeti, particularly if you stay inside of the reserve. There are also a lot more accommodation options, including campsites, lodges and hotels.

The Serengeti generally costs a little more as you are expected to pay a conservation fee and additional park fees. There are also fewer accommodation options in the Serengeti which means higher costing brackets. However, let the record show that the Serengeti is all about high-end luxury safari experiences … and you can see that by the accommodation options!

Get in touch with us for a more detailed costing on each destination.

So, which destination is best for you?

Both locations offer you an incredibly memorable experience. We can guarantee that no matter which destination you pick, you won’t regret it! 

The best way to choose which option is best for you, consider what additional areas in Africa you’d like to explore. For example, if you’re interested in exploring Kenya’s capital Nairobi, then pair it with a Masai Mara safari. Or, if you’re heading to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, then pair it with a Serengeti safari.

Check out some of our post blog posts for safari inspiration:

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