How to travel to the Masai Mara in Kenya (and what to pack)

How to travel to the Masai Mara in Kenya (and what to pack)

Last May, Patrick and I took a trip to Kenya – we were there primarily to sort out some family stuff but we managed to sneak off to the Masai Mara for a couple of days to go on safari. It was absolutely amazing to see the wildlife in their natural habitat – we saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, lions and so much more. I tried to play it cool whenever I saw anything, but generally failed – especially whenever we came across any giraffes…

We were there in May, which is generally the off-season, so the roads of the Masai Mara National Park were quieter than usual. Although it was rather rainy at times, it was nowhere near as wet as the forecast had predicted before we left, and the roads, although still muddy, were passable.

The high levels of rain meant the grasses were green and lush – and although that made it a bit trickier to spot some of the animals, such as the cheetahs, it also meant the Mara was filled with thousands of colourful butterflies, which looked beautiful fluttering around the plains.

Internal flights to the Masai Mara

Getting to the Masai Mara is an adventure in itself. The most popular way to get there is via domestic flights as making the trip by road is pretty hard going – it takes six hours to travel from Nairobi, whereas flights take around 45 minutes. The area is littered with a number of small airstrips both in the National Reserve and the surrounding area – we used Siana as it was the closest to our camp.

You basically book a flight to the Masai Mara and your exact route around the different airstrips will depend on who needs picking up and dropping off along the way (and the weather – those little planes need to avoid the rain!).

Landing at Siana airstri, Masai Mara, Kenya
Landing at Siana Airstrip

The two most popular airlines are SafariLink and Air Kenya. Both fly to the Masai Mara from a number of Kenyan cities, but their main hub is Nairobi’s Wilson airport. We ended up flying from Wilson as the off-season timetable meant routes from other towns and cities were limited. We flew with SafariLink, who run two flights a day between Wilson and the Masai Mara.

Top tip: The roads between Jomo Kenyatta International Aiport and Wilson Airport can be extremely busy so make sure you leave plenty of time for any transfers.

Packing Tips for internal/domestic flights to the Masai Mara

Stick to 15kg

Packing for a flight to the Masai Mara is a bit of an art – because the planes are teeny tiny (generally a Cessna Caravan which takes a maximum of 13 passengers) the baggage allowances are strict. You’re allowed 15kg each – and that includes your hand baggage (ouch!).

Although SafariLink advise there’s generally a 2kg leeway, this is at the discretion of captain and is only if there is enough room. You’ll also get charged $2.50 per kg. If you have a significant amount of luggage, you’ll need to book a freight seat in advance, which costs around 75% of the standard ticket price.

However, if you do have some items that you perhaps don’t need for for a few days, there are apparently secure lockers at Wilson airport where you can store any excess items while you are on your safari trip.

Flying over the Masai Mara
Flying over the Masai Mara

Use a soft bag

The other main packing restriction you’ll find is that you’re not allowed to take hard cases on board. Because the aircraft holds are small, and quite an irregular shape, you’re only allowed to take soft bags. Because the allowances are so small, I managed the whole trip with a small holdall, while Patrick had a slightly larger holdall which had wheels and a pull-out handle. We both used our small Berghaus daypacks for our hand luggage.

Top tip: Make sure you take anything you might want for your flight, such as your camera, book or headphones, out of your hand luggage before you board. Even though you can take a bag into the cabin with you, it’s stowed right at the back of the plane when you get on and you can’t really access it in-flight.

What to pack? Layers, layers and more layers…

So if you’ve only got a 15kg allowance, what on earth should you pack? Well, I found that the trick was to stick with layers. Because of the altitude, the Masai Mara can be a little bit nippy after dark (especially in May!) so you need to wrap up relatively well in the morning and the evening, especially if you are out on a game drive.

I packed a range of t-shirts, linen cropped trousers, a pair of cropped jeans (for travelling and cooler evenings). I also took a light scarf, a long-sleeved shirt and a light fleece.

If you’re going in the rainy season, a light shell waterproof jacket (ideally one that folds up into its own bag) is ideal. Footwear-wise, as usual, I travelled in Converse (I prefer the thinner-soled All Star Dainty – I’m currently on my third pair in a row). I also swear by Menorcan sandals – I find that they cover enough of my foot to be practical for walking a relatively long way, are really comfortable and are nice enough to wear to dinner.

Top tip: Even if the evenings are going to be warmer when you go, I recommend you sleep in a pair of light, full-length pyjama bottoms to minimise the risk of being bitten.

Image credit: sutirta budiman via Unsplash

Toiltries and medication

My approach to toiletries wasn’t that much different to normal as I usually try and pack lightly in this area when I’m holiday anyway. I had room for my usual items: contact lenses, moisturisers, make up essentials etc. One thing to note is that although Kenya has banned all plastic bags, you still need to comply with the usual restrictions on liquids in your hand luggage. You place the items in a small tray at security, rather than using a clear plastic bag.

And, of course, It goes without saying to remember to pack your malaria tablets and other medications!

Top tip: If you live in the UK and are in good health, you may be able to purchase your malaria tablets from your local supermarket which can be a lot cheaper than buying from the travel clinic at your doctors. As they are pharmacist-prescribed, you won’t be able to do this if you have any complicating factors, but if you are fit and healthy and not on any/many other meds, it’s definitely worth checking.

Pin:


Full disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you buy something via the link, it helps support our website. Please be aware there’s no extra cost to you though, so thanks for your support! 

Fifi and Hop
Follow:
Emma

Co-editor Emma is LWT’s resident history lover and fact nerd. She loves travelling overland – especially by train. Her trips tend to be planned around good food and a little bit of adventure.

Find me on: Web | Twitter

Share this:

17 Comments

  1. January 24, 2019 / 2:02 pm

    What an adventurous trip! The packing part seems quite challenging but your photos clearly show that the Masai Mara is worth the effort. What a bonus that you got to see so many butterflies! It looks like such a spectacular destination. #FarawayFiles

    • Emma
      Author
      January 24, 2019 / 8:13 pm

      The butterflies was so beautiful – a lovely bonus for a fantastic trip

  2. January 24, 2019 / 2:51 pm

    Good tips here. We were lucky enough to visit three years ago. I wish I’d realised how cool it could get and that it might rain (even in Feb). And you’re not kidding about the traffic in Nairobi!! #FarawayFiles

    • Emma
      Author
      January 24, 2019 / 8:12 pm

      I know, right! I was really glad of the hot water bottle and blanket that we were given for our sunrise game drive – it was really rather chilly. Worth getting out early to see the sun come up though!

  3. January 24, 2019 / 3:34 pm

    Hi,

    I read your post abd it is so informative and interesting. Thanks!!

    Kenya is in my bucket list and i will be there for the African’s big five experience and for cultural immersion as well.
    Traveling in the beautiful African’s continent requires lots of patience and flexibility especially in some remote destination. But i never forget about ” Difficult road often leads to a beautiful destination “.

    Best wishes,

    Nandih A.

    • Emma
      Author
      January 24, 2019 / 8:11 pm

      Hi Nandih. What a beautiful quote – and very apt for the experience. Hope you do make it to Kenya one day!

  4. January 25, 2019 / 5:07 pm

    This is one safari trip I’ve always wanted to do. Thanks for the helpful tips, didn’t know there was so much to think about! Have pinned for reference, I’m sure this will come in hardly sooner rather than later.

  5. January 25, 2019 / 9:14 pm

    Wonderful photos, and great tips too! Thank you for sharing on #farawayfiles

  6. January 25, 2019 / 9:21 pm

    Safari might be my top travel experience – LOVE IT!!! #farawayfiles

  7. January 26, 2019 / 2:04 am

    Sounds like you really did have to do a lot of pre-planning! I still have yet to do safari, but when I do these are very helpful tips should I make this type of trip. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

  8. January 26, 2019 / 11:25 am

    This looks like an amazing adventure, I will have to add this to my Africa Bucket List! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Maya
    January 26, 2019 / 11:55 am

    A friend of mine is going there and told me about all the restrictions (didn’t have a clue). Great tips for packing! It’s a dream I have yet to fulfill but maybe this year… Your photos are dreamy! Can’t wait to see it for myself one day.

  10. January 26, 2019 / 12:31 pm

    Packing would be a huge challenge for me! Such great tips though.

  11. January 26, 2019 / 4:13 pm

    Some great ideas here, especially about the layers – it’s really easy to forget that most game drives aren’t in the heat of the day, and it can get cold! I also didn’t know about the Kenyan ban on plastic bags (they’ve brought that in since I visited a few years ago). Wish more countries would follow suit!

  12. agniecha78hotmailcom
    January 26, 2019 / 5:06 pm

    This will be super helpful for my upcoming trip!

  13. January 26, 2019 / 5:36 pm

    That’s a good tip about the malaria tablets – I didn’t know that. I would also be keen to see the butterflies too, so great informative article – thank you! #farawayflies

  14. January 26, 2019 / 7:30 pm

    Wow this looks like so much fun! I would love to go on an African safari one day!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: