From our Masai Mara camp we watch the baby hippos slosh around in the nursery. Sploosh! Squelch! The adults watch us suspiciously. Sammy our cook prepares lip-smacking meals that we devour between safaris. Game drives action-packed with wildlife and nights spent around the glowing campfire listening to the distant roaring lions…

lions in the masai mara
Lions in the Masai Mara

When planning our trip to the Masai Mara, we searched for accommodation and safari lodges until they blended into one and all looked the same. We decided to experience something different and arranged our own private safari and camping in the Masai Mara.

Masai Mara sunrise

After months of communicating by email with Martin our guide in Nairobi, we have the perfect itinerary for camping in the Masai Mara. Martin has everything organised; our Landcruiser, private campsite, camping equipment, our cook Sammy and the food.

Masai Mara ladies
Masai Mara ladies

The Masai Mara

It’s a rough and dusty 6-hour drive from Nairobi to the Oloololo gate. Closer to the Masai Mara, the rural towns are replaced by traditional mud hut villages, where Masai children play, men tend to their livestock and women collect firewood. Buffaloes and zebras graze on the open grasslands and giraffes munch on acacia trees near the river outside of the reserve.

Playful Zebras
Playful zebras

Not long after entering the gate, we see our first lions. Two males sit together and further up a male and two lionesses sprawl out in the long grass. So laid back they barely bother to open their eyes. Knowing they are not likely to move in the middle of the day, we decide to set up camp and return in the afternoon.

Masai Mara lion
Our very first lion!

Our Campsite

Heading towards our campsite we don’t know what to expect, so can’t believe it when we pull up on a steep river’s edge. Below is a Hippo Pool and hippos are everywhere across the Mara River. They sunbake on the riverbank and wallow in the dark murky water below.

The view from our campsite while camping in the masai mara
The view from our campsite

Ndovu campsite is private and restricted to one group of campers at a time. It’s a bush camp, so no amenities. This is real African bush camping! The site is perfect as tents have shade while there is also an open space for a view of the river below. We pitch our tent, where we have a view over the hippo pool. Martin and Sammy are not sure about being close to the edge, so they set their tents up behind us.

Lion running away from buffaloes
Buffaloes are in pursuit.

Safaris & Wildlife

In the afternoon, we go in search of the lions. The male is in the same place, but his two girls have gone. He dazedly lifts his head, wrinkles his nose and sniffs the air, perhaps trying to trace his girls, or maybe he can pick up a whiff of the buffaloes. He is unaware the buffaloes in the background are on to his scent, and hundreds of them form an arrowhead and work their way towards him. The buffaloes are enraged and in pursuit of him. When he realises what’s happening, he loses his cool composure and panics. He runs towards us and off down the road.

Cheeky and cute baby elephants come close to our vehicle in the masai mara
Cheeky and cute baby elephants approach our vehicle.

A baby elephant, who earlier was mock charging the vehicles, joins the buffaloes in chasing the lion. He raises his little trunk and heads the charge when the lion is in retreat. This is one tough baby! He seems so pleased when he goes back trumpeting to his family.

dominant male in the masai mara
We think he is the dominant male out of the three.

Back at our camp, we meet our two local Masai Mara warriors. It is compulsory while camping here to employ them. They protect the camp from wild animals at night.

Sammy’s vegetarian bean stew and chapati bread

After Sammy’s delicious cooking, we sit around the crackling fire listening to lions’ roar in the distance and watching the silhouettes of the hippos and crocodiles below. We talk about our first day and don’t think another day can compare.

lion brothers in masai mara
Brothers in arms. These lions look after the dominant male with the sore paw.

The next three days are as good as the first. We see lions every day, including a bachelor group where the dominant male has a sore paw and the two younger males (who look like brothers) care for him.

dominant masai maral lion
Before we leave, we notice his paw gets better.

Because of the wounded lion, the group doesn’t go far and we track them each morning. The lion with the sore paw rests in the shade while the other two keep alert and watch over the savannah. Over the next few days, we get to know them and watch the older lion go from barely being able to walk to limping around.

lion in the masai
In a couple of days, we learned a lot about the individual lions.

We see elephants at sunrise and in a mud baths. Every day a young bull discreetly follows a lone mother and a young elephant, who we think is her calf, from a safe distance behind. He cuts a lonely figure and probably had to leave his family group and wants to join the mother and her baby. We also feel sad for the mother and baby and wonder why they don’t join a herd.

masai mara elephants
We feel sad for these two elephants. They are always on their own and never join a herd.

There are many baby elephants, but sometimes they are hard to see because the elephants love the long grass, and it’s often taller than the babies. Some elephants are very curious and come right up to our vehicle, whereas some show aggression, especially the bulls, who don’t like the vehicles at all.

Elephants playing in the mud
Elephants love the mud.

A herd of impala surrounds a sleeping lion in tall grass. They know he’s there but they don’t flee because it’s better to know where your enemy is. The lion doesn’t move as he knows the game is up and his chance is gone. The impalas eventually settle, but three of them stay on security duty and watch him.

hyena in the masai mara
Hyena plays in puddles.

Hyenas love water and sometimes we catch them playing in the puddles on the road. A hyena pup is out, and when he sees us, makes a dash back to his den, but it’s right beside the road. His mum won’t let him back in as it may give the den’s location away. He’s allowed back in after he circles around for a while and we move away.

A pregnant Cheetah
A pregnant Cheetah

A pregnant cheetah surveys the savannah landscape from a rocky outcrop. We wish so much we could be here when she has her cubs! No predators or prey are in her sight, only a beautiful giraffe family munching on acacia leaves.

The beautiful giraffes are a part of the scenery in the masai mara
The beautiful giraffes are a part of the scenery.

As if the game drives aren’t enough, it is hard to leave our camp when wildebeest and zebra venture down to the river to drink. We hear the barking zebras before we see them, and from our camp, we watch nature at its very best. They are restless and we wonder if they attempt to cross the river, but they drink and leave. Some so nervous that they don’t even get to quench their thirst.

our camp while camping in the masai mara
Sue, Sammy, Ray & Martin enjoying a cup of coffee around the campfire in the morning.

A hippo splashes slothfully and lays in wait to bluff the wildebeest and zebras. They don’t like sharing the river and often mock charge. The anxious zebras and wildebeest flee. Some brave ones call the hippos bluff and turn around. This surprises the hippo and he runs fast and clumsily back into the river.

View from our camp while camping in the masai mara. Hippo chasing the zebras and wildebeest.
View from our camp. Hippo chasing the zebras and wildebeest.

Our Masai Mara Nights

The nights are beautiful with the lions’ roar and startled calls of wildebeest drifting in with the cold savannah breeze from the near distance. Close by we hear the farting, water bubbles, grunting and gurgling of the hippos which are not far below us. In the morning, our guards tell us lions we hear at night venture so close to our camp that they see their silhouette in the moonlight.

lion up close in the masai mara
We see lions every day.

We leave a different world behind when we drive out of the gate. Never a day goes by without witnessing amazing wildlife encounters. A visit to Kenya’s best wildlife reserve and camping in the Masai Mara is something everyone with an interest in wildlife should have on their dream list.

lioness in the masai mara
A lioness on the prowl

Camping in the Masai Mara Information

Price inclusive for 4 nights

Masai Mara Park Fee $280pp – This is the park fee of $70pp per day which is required whether camping, staying in accommodation or on safari.
Ndovu Campsite $115 (Private camp) – Exclusive booking which is for the entire campsite and one group of campers only.
Camping fee $40pp – General fee for camping in the park.
Masai Mara Guards $200 – It is compulsory while camping in the Masai Mara to employ local guards at night.
Vehicle 5 days $700 *Landcruiser Troopcarrier. However, this is a large vehicle and cost can be reduced for a smaller one.
Martin’s Fee for guiding – $250
Sammy’s Fee for cooking – $120
Camping Equipment Hire – $250
Fuel – $190
Our Groceries, Beer & Misc – $120
*Camping site, Camp fees & Masai Mara guards are to be paid in Kenyan Shillings.
The total price per person is about US $1300. This includes all the game drives for when and however long we want.

Our guide and driver was Martin Maina from Nairobi Specialist

Campsite Information

lion sighting in the masai mara
We leave a different world behind.
Read More of our Kenya Blogs

Nairobi Elephant Orphanage
Elephants of Ithumba
Lake Nakuru National Park
The Perfect 14 Day Kenya Itinerary
Practical Tips for Visiting Kenya: Guide for First-time Visitors

29 Responses to “Masai Mara: Our Ultimate Camping Safari”

  1. Barbara Maddern

    Such stunning photography I am so glad I came across this site, my daughter is planning on traveling to Africa in November the blogs have really given in site for her I wish she had some of these skills with the camera because they just seem like once in a life time shots

    • Ray & Sue

      Thanks for your comments Barbara. Africa is an amazing destination. We are already planning our next trip! If your daughter has any questions just get in touch with us.

  2. Shannon Wang

    Outstanding pictures Ray & Sue, and we love the stories that go with them! John and I really wish to visit Africa and you pictures inspire us immensely. We love seeing your wildlife travel pictures in exotic places and reading about your adventures. Looking forward to your news ones!

    Happy Travels, Shannon & John

    • Ray & Sue

      Shannon & John we are glad to inspire you. We love Kenya so much and have so many memories of a lifetime.If there’s anything you want to know get in touch with us. Thanks for your commments we appreciate them very much.

  3. Vicky Schell

    Gorgeous memories from a life changing trip! Appreciated the honest description of the night “sounds”. Something I have never heard before but found interesting.

    • Ray & Sue

      Thanks so much for your comment Vicky. We loved listening to the all the night sounds of the wildlife. That’s why camping was so awesome. It was all part of the experience!

  4. Julie Mirdoch

    What AMAZING photographs…. they take me back to my trip into the Maasai Mara. Thanks for making me long to be back there!!!! :-) You definitely inspire me to go back! Maybe camping this time……

    • Ray & Sue

      We are glad we can take you back to your memories of the Masai Julie. Camping was a great way to experience it. We were in the middle of everything! And to top that off we had the best guide imaginable.

  5. You certainly make ‘camping in the wilds’ a reality for us all! If ‘a picture says a thousand words’ then your words graphically transport us to the nail-biting atmosphere of ‘sleeping?’ in a flimsy tent, listening to lions roar! And make it sound like a walk in the park. I am shaking my head because your enthusiasm even makes me want to try it! You interpretation of this so natural world of wild birds, great beasts and carnivores is so intimate it brings them to life as personalities. Your blogs are incomparable. Well done. They should be on educational programs. Have you ever considered doing documentaries in video? at the very least you should be in travel magazines !

    • Thank you for your comments Gypsy.To us there is no other way to experience the Masai Mara. This is what a camping safari is all about! Listening to the Lions roar and other wildlife was all a part of the experience. It was magical.

      We are going to start taking videos in the future so keep your eye out for them!

  6. Waw!!! Only discovered your website now and i’m truly amazed by all the beautiful pictures it contains!! Your comments are also very nicely written and only makes us feel like we’re part of the trip.
    I need to take a better look at all those pictures when i’ll have the time and wonder if you’d send one of them over to France in case i’d like to buy one??

    Thanks in advance ;)

    • just saw the “online shop info” so guess i have all the info i need for international shipping ;)Thanks

  7. Dear Ray and Sue,

    I don’t have any words to praise your work and blog related to travel and wildlife across the globe.
    It is definitely one of the best travel blog for photographers and extreme travellers.

    Searching in the google, I came to know about your website. Such a pleasure to browse through it. I specially like the clear cut informations about Camping,budget and lot more.Being a travel freak person and a budget friendly guy,I always wanted to gather information by which I can travel many places across the world and also good chance of quality photographs.

    I am really overwhelmed by the information in this blog.

    For example, I have never been to Kenya/Masai Mara. Every photographers dream is to go there.
    Now, If I plan any photographic safari ( with professional photographers) for 10 days or so, it cost huge amount. I need the location and sightings, I can click images properly. I don’t need any photographers advice to show me how to “click images” – at least in Masai Mara. I can gather the info in my local area quite easily.
    Now, if I see your Kenya blog, you have mentioned Camping option. Rent a car, take a good guide who knows everything – all will be done. You have provided some budget informations also.
    People like me ( and I know many others) get a lot of information and idea about that and they can plan accordingly.
    My Sincere thanks and regards to you for such a wonderful blog.

    • Wow! Thanks for your comment Ari! Camping in the Masai Mara is a great option and one of the best for photographers. Our guide Martin was also the very best! In just a couple of days we saw so much wildlife. Because it was just us on a private tour, it was up to us what we did and how long we spent with the wildlife. You just don’t have this freedom and flexibility with big tour groups. We highly recommend this Ari.

  8. edward jefferson

    Thanks for this overview. Great adventure and amazing pics. Never mind the price but its all worth to see how those living creatures live at their own.

    • Ray & Sue

      Thanks Edward. It was a great trip, and camping lets you get that so much closer. We saw a lot in only four days.

  9. Christine Highams

    Hi I can’t seem to see the name of the company you used? would like to contact them for the same sort of trip. Were the tents big enough to stand up in? thanks Christine

    • Ray & Sue

      Hi Christine. We went with Martin from Nairobi Specialist.
      He is fantastic. Yes, we could stand up in our tents though they were very basic. It depends on your budget what sort of tent Martin will hire. Just let him know what you want and he will let you know the cost.

  10. Christine Highams

    Hi again. I am in touch with Martin and he is preparing a quote. Did you have a bush shower and toilet with you on the camping trip? Thanks

    • Ray & Sue

      Hi Christine. We had a small bush shower and our toilet was a typical African bush camping style of toilet that you dig a hole dug in the ground with a shovel. Transportable toilets can be hired, but they are expensive for a small group because of the logistics of transporting and emptying. Any camping equipment can be hired, it’s a matter of how much you want to pay for it. Our camping trip was by no means luxury, but it was a chance for us to go private with only the two of us, have our own guide and cook and do whatever we wanted. Explain to Martin what you want and he will do his best to make it perfect for you.

  11. Dipanwita Mukherjee

    Hi Ray and Sue,

    Your travel tips were very inspiring. Am planning a trip for me and my family in August and will definately like to stay inside the National park. Will get in touch with Martin as you suggest him to be the best person for this. Thanks a lot

    • Hi Dipanwita. Martin is the greatest and he will custom a trip to suit you. If there’s anything you want to know, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Let us know how you go. Thanks! Ray & Sue

  12. Gerald

    That is very inspiring Ray and Sue. Glad that you had a great time in your stay..Kenya indeed has exceptional diversity.Great photos there!!

  13. Dear Ray & Sue,
    Stunning pictures and great content! I am so happy I came upon your website while researching information about bush camping. It will definitely help us plan our trip so thank you very much. I am just a little confused about the camping fees you detailed and wanted to ask you the difference between these : Camping in the Masai Mara Park Fees ($280pp), Ndovu campsite ($115) and Camping fee ($40pp). Again thank you for sharing! Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, Thanks for visiting our website and your comment.
      The Camping in the Masai Mara Park Fees ($280pp) – should be the park fees only. This is the fee of $70 which everyone pays whether camping, staying in accommodation or on safari.
      Ndovu campsite ($115) – the cost of booking the entire camp.
      Camping fee ($40pp) – the general fee for camping in the park.
      We have fixed this up now so it makes more sense. Please get back to us if you have any questions. Thanks for pointing this out! Ray & Sue


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