Business Insider SSA spoke to Nicole Hankar, an avid traveller, who revealed 7 of the coolest things you can do in the Maasai Mara that will blow you away

Richard Branson (L), founder of the Virgin Group of Companies, is presented with head gear during a ceremony where he was installed as a Maasai elder in the Maasai Mara national park. (reautersconnect)
  • Together with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the park forms Africa’s most diverse, incredible and spectacular ecosystems with a breathtaking view. 
  • Business Insider SSA had a chat with Nicole Hankar, an avid traveler and the General Manager of last minute: mara, Kenya’s newest booking platform which has made luxury travel to the Mara hassle free.
  • You have never experienced a safari until you experience a hot air balloon safari in the Maasai Mara.

Situated in south-west Kenya, the Maasai Mara National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Together with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the park forms Africa’s most diverse, incredible and spectacular ecosystems with a breathtaking view. 

Wild animals including Lions, Cheetahs, Elephants, Zebras, Hippos, and Wildebeest freely roam the expansive grassy plains with rolling hills in a perfect symbiotic relationship.

Best known for the "Great Migration" where an estimated 2.5 million animals make a round-trip journey of 2,000 kilometers in search of food and water across the Serengeti ecosystem between Tanzania and Kenya, attracting thousands of tourists annually, the Mara is a must visit location before one ‘kicks the bucket’.

Business Insider SSA had a chat with Nicole Hankar, an avid traveler and the General Manager of last minute: mara, Kenya’s newest booking platform which has made luxury travel to the Mara hassle free.

Based on our conversation, here are 7 of the coolest things you can do in the Maasai Mara that will blow you away and leave you with fond memories to last for a lifetime.

See the Big 5 and the little five

While in the Maasai Mara you can easily spot the big five - lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo alongside plenty of other game animals without too much effort.

The same cannot be said about half of the world’s parks and reserve therefore saving time and money for tourists.

“Regardless of what time of year you go to the Maasai Mara, you are almost guaranteed to see the big five, you will always see at least the big 3 of the big 5,” Nicole tells Business Insider SSA.

And that’s not all, one can also get to see the ‘little five’ made up of the elephant shrew, buffalo weaver bird, rhinoceros beetle, leopard tortoise and the antlion.

“In the Maasai Mara we also have the little five but you can’t actually spot these unless you are on foot,” she adds. 

Night Game drives

One of the things you can’t afford to miss; animals have different behaviours during the night therefore night drives give you the opportunity to discover animal species that may not be easily visible during the day.

There are animals which are only active during the day (Diurnal), while others during the night (nocturnal) and the cathemeral species which are active both in the day and at night, all these can be experienced in the Mara.

 “You have to remember the way wild animals behave at night is very different to how they behave during the day. Some animals only become active during the night and that’s when they can be seen,” says Nicole.

Hot air balloon

You have never experienced a safari until you experience a hot air balloon safari in the Maasai Mara. This can be easily booked at many of the camps. 

“I had a chance to experience this and honestly it's one of the most incredible things I have ever done in my life. It was a little scary at first when I realized that I was floating above the ground in a basket with only the pilot pumping gas in the balloon and the only thing you hear is the sound of the fire,”

“I couldn't believe the splendid view, floating above the plains and seeing wild animals from different angles that I probably hadn’t noticed before. You set off as the sun is rising and you get to watch the sunrise from above the ground, it's such a magical experience, there’s really nothing like it,” Nicole beams with joy as she recalls the experience.

She adds,“And then once you land there is an entire fully fledged bush breakfast laid out for you in the middle of the bush and it is paired with champagne, it's such an amazing experience.”

Last minute: mara can easily arrange accommodation to camps in the Mara which offer hot air balloon experiences and many more.

Cultural visits to the Maasai Manyatta

The Maasai are among one of the few tribes that still hold their culture dear and close to their heart. They are famous for their unique culture, food, bright red robes and fearless attitude world over.

You can get to know them a little better in the Maasai Mara by taking part in cultural visits to their Manyattas.

Visitors are able to gain a better understanding of their culture directly from the Maasai themselves and learn more about their rites of passage, how Maasai women bead their beautiful necklaces to taking part in their dances and jumping competitions.

“You can actually go to the Maasai manyatta and interact with the people and actually understand their beautiful culture. I remember once when I was in the Mara a few years ago, I had the opportunity to help the Maasai women to plaster their houses using cow dung and it was such an incredible experience to see how they do it and be part of it. I was able to play with the children, milk their goats and cows and it was super fun,” the last minute:mara General Manager explains.

“The Maasai are one of the oldest nomadic tribes and they have so much to share,it’s a shame that not many people know more about their culture which is very interesting,” adds Nicole.

Walking safari with the Maasai

The Maasai Mara game reserve is blessed with abundant fauna and flora. What better way to explore all these than with the guide of an old wise Maasai Moran.

 “You know the Maasai are still living at one with nature compared to the rest of us, they use what they have in their environment to survive and thrive.When they fall sick they use plants and herbs to treat whatever ailment they are faced with and so when you are on a walking Safari with them and you come across these plants and herbs, they explain to you about their medicinal properties, for example if you have a stomach ache there is a certain plant you can eat or boil, personally I find this fascinating,” she explains.

As an example, Nicole explains that the Maasai use the leaves of the Leleshwa plant which is found in plenty at the Mara as a natural deodorant.

Sundowner experience

Sun sets are naturally beautiful but seeing the sun set on the plains of The Maasai Mara is nothing short of magical.

“Depending on the camp you are staying in, they will take you to an amazing spot where you can watch the sunset while you are drinking your favourite cocktail. it’s just an amazing experience, you are literally in the middle of nowhere and you are having this incredible sundowner,” says Nicole.

Picnic excursions

Camps in the Mara can easily set up a picnic excursion for their guests in the Mara so they can spend a full day exploring the reserve pausing under the shade of an Acacia tree for a delicious packed lunch.

“Imagine enjoying your lunch when you are in the middle of the bush, how cool is that?” the last minute:mara General Manager says as she concludes.

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