The Thrill of Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve

The popular wildlife sanctuary lives up to the hype.

Masai Mara
(Image credit: Michelle Stansbury)

The southwest grassland of Kenya is home to Masai Mara National Reserve, one of the world’s best wildlife sanctuaries and most popular spots to go on safari. From watching the hippos splash in the Mara River to seeing a lion hunt in action, game drive days are packed with adventure. At night, luxury safari lodges offer a peaceful respite with world-class dining and amenities.

Here’s what you can’t miss on your dream safari in Kenya.

Stay at a luxury lodge

Overlooking the Talek River, the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge offers 20 expansive safari tents filled with local handcrafts and top-tier comforts like plush four-poster beds (with nightly turndown service that includes a cozy hot water bottle tucked in the sheets), a jacuzzi tub on the balcony, and daily laundry service. Meals from the on-site garden are included and feature multi-course global cuisine at Sarabi restaurant and handcrafted cocktails at the adjoining Fig Tree Lounge. 

Go for a game drive

From sunrise game drives where you look for the elusive black rhino to afternoon drives where you watch lions snuggle in the shade during their siesta, animal watching is the centerpiece of the safari. Even the ride from the Keekorok Airstrip to the lodge may offer glimpses of giraffes, zebras, elephants, and the plentiful Thomson’s gazelle. In open-sided 4x4s, you will be a part of the surrounding wilderness and up-close encounters. 

Eat breakfast in the bush

Sitting back in the savanna with a spread of pastries, eggs, and local fruit in front of you, keep your binoculars handy to spot giraffes nipping the top of trees in the distance. A bush breakfast is set up with brightly colored tablecloths over folding tables, the perfect mix of rustic and luxe. Or enjoy a sundowner—the Mara Masai version of happy hour—sipping on Tusker beer as the sun sets on the reserve. 

Take a photography masterclass

Equipped with a state-of-the art camera and telescopic lens, you can take stunning photos of Masai Mara that will fill your walls back home. Make the most of the complimentary Canon EOS R6 Mark II loaner cameras at JW Marriott Masai Mara by taking a class with their resident photographers to learn tips and tricks for capturing wildlife and the surrounding landscapes. 

Michelle Stansbury

Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, and relationships. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.