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How to Visit the Maasai Mara on a Budget

Updated: Jun 20

In this travel guide, I will tell you the cheapest way to visit The Maasai Mara National Reserve, a magical safari destination in Kenya.



Where is the Maasai Mara?

The Maasai Mara National Reserve (known locally as The Mara) is a preserved wilderness savannah in southwestern Kenya, that adjoins The Serengeti in Tanzania.

The Maasai Mara is largely considered to be one of the greatest wildlife reserves in the world and is traditionally home to the Maasai people. You can read about my time staying with the Maasai people here.

The Maasai Mara is home to the Great Wildebeest Migration, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and involves over two million Wildebeest, Zebras, and other herbivores moving from the Southern Serengeti in Tanzania, northwards to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, in search of lusher grasslands.

This natural phenomenon is actually part of an 800km loop that the animals make annually to graze. Still, the most spectacular wildlife spotting happens July-October - when the animals attempt to cross the Mara River, all the while being stalked by groups of Big Cats, with Hyenas and Vultures lurking not too far behind. Not even to mention the 3000 crocodiles that are lurking in the waters, ready to lunge upon any stragglers.

The point at which the animals cross must be deep enough for the Wildebeest to launch in without breaking their legs, which sadly is a very common affair. We saw piles of dead Wildebeest at every bend in the river who had met their fate this way, what surprised us was that the Crocs ignored these mass graves and kept hunting, it seems they prefer their meat fresh.

Two baby giraffes at the Maasai Mara
Two Young Giraffes in The Mara


Not sure what to pack for your trip to Kenya? Check out my post:


Where to Stay in the Maasai Mara

Safaris are for the most part very expensive, with people opting to stay in luxury lodges, it's not uncommon for the bill to exceed $10,000 for a week's stay.

This means camping is going to be your best option for visiting the Maasai Mara on a budget, and after some heavy research, we found Greenwood Camp - a budget option just outside of Talek Gate.

If you have your own tent, you can pitch up for $10 per night, or if you prefer to take one of their tents, it is $25 per night. This is extremely reasonable and the only budget option of its kind that I managed to find, just a stone's throw from the park entrance.

Our tent is the Robens Boulder 3 and we absolutely love it - it is easy to put up and only weighs 3kg. On our first night in the Mara, the rain was so heavy we thought we would get washed away with our tent, but it held firm and kept us bone-dry.

The owner's name is Magdy, he is a wildlife photographer, and he is very helpful in arranging transport, food, and shared safari excursions.

Three Hyenas running in the Maasai Mara at dawn
Hyenas Running in The Mara at Dawn


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How to get to the Maasai Mara on the Budget

A private transfer from Nairobi to the Mara is normally in the region of $150.

Travelling Africa can be expensive if you want to do everything quickly, but if you have time to spare you can end up paying a fraction of the price.

First, you'll need to get to the main Matatu bus terminal in Nairobi - it's probably easier to use Uber to get to the terminal, and depending on where you're coming from this can cost only a few Kenyan Shillings or 'Bob' as they call it. To find the location of the terminal in Nairobi, find 'Narok Line Services Ltd' on Google Maps. For reference, it is an 8-minute walk from Kenya National Archives.

It's worth noting that USD is widely accepted for bigger purchases, but it's best to have some Shillings too. Currently, 100 Kenyan Shillings is about 60p.

It would also be super handy to download Mpesa which is a kind of mobile money account you can top up to make payments. Almost everyone accepts Mpesa even the little veggie stands and Boda-boda/Picky-picky motorbike taxis. You will need a Kenyan SIM card to use Mpesa.

Once you've reached the bus terminal ask someone to help you find a Matatu to Narok.

The price I paid for a matatu from Nairobi to Narok was 300 KES (£1.80) - however, you will likely be told an inflated 'tourist' price. (I have been told that in the last few months, this price has increased due to inflation in fuel costs.)

Once you have haggled back down to a Rafiki (friend) price, you will need to wait for the Matatu to be full before it departs, this can take up to two hours. These shared-taxi minivans theoretically seat 14 people including the driver, but normally try to squeeze in about 20 people.

Say Goodbye to personal space and Hello to body odour, the journey takes roughly 2.5 hours.

Once you've reached Narok, you WILL be swarmed by people, excited to try and get your business, and rip you off. No hate, everyone is just trying to get by, I would just advise you to be firm and walk a small distance away to gather yourself!

There is a fancy supermarket called Naivas directly opposite the Narok bus terminal where you can use the toilet, buy refreshments and prepare for your next leg...

The Maasai Mara, Talek Gate, and Greenwood Camp are a further 1.5 hours from Narok.

You can, again, get a private pick-up from Greenwood for $40, or you can find another Matatu. You must make sure the Matatu is going the back way and not taking a short cut through the park - otherwise, you'll have to pay the park fees.

Locals do not have to pay park fees which is why public transport goes this way.

Another option is to take a Boda-Boda - a motorbike taxi, and you can negotiate the payment.

Two elephants amongst the brush in the Maasai Mara
Elephants in The Mara


Going on Safari in The Maasai Mara

Okay so you've got to the Maasai Mara on the cheap using public transport, and you have found budget accommodation.

Now the most expensive part of visiting the Maasai Mara on a budget - is the park fees. As of January 2024 it is $100 USD per person, per day to enter the park. From July 2024 this goes up to $200 USD per person, per day. Just in time for the Great Migration!

When planning how to visit the Maasai Mara on a budget you will also need to take into consideration the price of a vehicle and a guide. Magdy from Greenwood Camp can help you organise this, and the price of a full-day safari with a 4x4 and a Maasai guide is $160.

You could get lucky and find other people at Greenwood who want to share, like we did, and split the cost. The difference between a good guide and a bad guide will make or break your day.

We were lucky to have a local Maasai guide named Moses, who knew the park very intimately and was friends with all of the other guides. This meant they shared information and Moses was able to find animals very quickly, we saw almost everything in the morning alone, including an unforgettable river crossing!

You can pay your park fees on credit card or with USD cash - MAKE SURE YOU GET THE RECEIPT - You may need it later.

You can use the paper ticket as a 'transit voucher' to leave through the park before 10am the next day, this saves you paying twice.

Now, some people we met were on full-day safaris for 3 or 4 days, and for me, that is just way too much. Unless you're really into photography or you just love being thrown around in a Jeep, I personally think one day is plenty.

We went in September when the Mara was choc-a-bloc with animals, we saw herds of Hyenas, Lions, Hippos, Crocs, all of the herbivores including Elephants, many, many birds, and a Cheetah, all in the first few hours.

The only animals we missed were the Rhino (almost impossible to see) and the Leopard (quite rare).

A river crossing of Zebra and Wildebeest at the Mara river


Other Expenses to Consider

Food and Water

Unfortunately, unlike everywhere else we went in Kenya, Greenwood does not offer filtered water, I guess they have to make up the margins somewhere, and they charge 100 KES for a 1l bottle.

The food is also expensive, as we were used to paying $1-2 USD per meal in Kenya at this point. At Greenwood, packed breakfast and lunch are $7 each, and dinner is $12.

I would argue that dinner is worth it, as you don't have to wander up to Talek village in the dark for food, and it was very delicious and varied. They also serve great wine and beer for a good price too.

Breakfast and lunch were quite disappointing, we were given a banana, a boiled potato, and a cucumber sandwich, for $7! Next time, I would prefer to buy an avocado and a cooked chapatti for 60 KES each in the village instead.

Bring towels, they are not provided, and DO NOT keep any food in your tent. Did you know Baboons can open tent zips?

Two Male lions in the Maasai Mara
Lions in the Maasai Mara


Our Budget for our Visit to the Maasai Mara

So in total, per person, for a full-day safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, with 2 nights camping, all food and drinks and transport from Nairobi – the price was $220 USD.

$80 Park fee (Note: this was before the park fees went up)

$40 Shared Safari

$40 Private transfer

$20 Camping

$15 Matatus and Boda-Bodas

$12 Dinner

$13 Other Food and Water


Other Things to See in the Area

Whilst in this area of Kenya we also spent a wonderful two nights at Maji Moto, which you can read about in my article: My Time with the Maasai.

After our safari we also went to Naivasha, to stay with our first-ever Couchsurfing hosts and trek the Elephant Hills. You can read about this experience in my post: My 3-week itinerary around Kenya.


Thank you for reading my post on how to visit the Maasai Mara on a budget. If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post useful travel information and updates of mine and Joe's journey around the world.

Happy Travels




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