MASAI MARA VS SERENGETI VS AMBOSELI: WHICH IS BEST FOR SAFARI?
If you’re looking for the ideal destination for an authentic African safari experience, they don’t get better than these three. The Masai Mara National Reserve, Serengeti National Park and Amboseli National Park each offer a range of experiences and adventures to suit every kind of traveler – from honeymooners and solo adventurers to families and friends.
But how do you choose between these three incredible destinations? Serengeti vs Masai Mara? Amboseli National Park vs Serengeti? Which one is the best for a safari? Because we’ve been travelling to these incredible wildernesses since 1998, we’ve broken down this complicated subject to help you choose the destination that’s right for your travel wishes.
|Wet / Green Seasons
Big cat sightings
Hot-air balloon safaris
Excellent year-round game viewing
|Unrivalled Big 5 game viewing
Mt Kilimanjaro Viewing
Largest Elephants Herd in Africa!
Location & Landscape
Let’s start with the broadest of distinctions: where you travel to Tanzania for the Serengeti and Kenya for the Masai Mara.
Tanzania and Kenya border each other – in fact, the Masai Mara and Serengeti share an unfenced border for animals but not humans. Together they form the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, one of the largest (about twice the size of New Jersey) and most protected ecosystems on Earth. This vast wilderness area provides the stage for one of nature’s greatest spectacles, the Wildebeest Migration.
Where is the Masai Mara?
The Masai Mara National Reserve is a protected wilderness area in south-western Kenya, along the border with Tanzania. Its vast rolling plains, complete with solitary thorn trees and distant purple hills, characterize the Masai Mara landscape. This is the stuff of Out of Africa and the sunsets are some of the most evocative you’ll see. There are few trees because, over centuries, elephants have knocked many of them down.
Getting to the Masai Mara is quite simple. You’ll fly to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, before boarding a light aircraft to one of the Masai Mara’s airstrips.
Where is the Serengeti?
The Serengeti National Park is located in northern Tanzania and stretches over 14 763 square kilometres (5 700 square miles). It’s contiguous with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (home to the famous Ngorongoro Crater) and the Masai Mara National Reserve. The Serengeti is a land of beautiful open savannah as well as some tangled woodland and scrubby hill country. ‘Seregenti’ means ‘the land that moves forever’ or the ‘land that goes on forever’.
To get here, you’ll fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport and overnight in the lively town of Arusha, the gateway to Tanzania’s famous Northern Safari Circuit.
Where is the Amboseli National Park?
Nestled in the southern part of Kenya, Amboseli National Park stands as a testament to the extraordinary beauty and diverse wildlife that Africa has to offer. Boasting awe-inspiring landscapes and a vibrant ecosystem, this iconic park has become a top destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers worldwide. Join us as we embark on a virtual journey to explore the enchanting Amboseli National Park and uncover its remarkable location.
Amboseli National Park located in Kajiado County, southern Kenya. It’s around 240 kilometers southeast of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. The park sits at the base of Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. Amboseli’s plentiful wildlife is set against this majestic peak, adding to its appeal. Transportation to the park is easy. Visitors can drive scenically from Nairobi or take a short domestic flight to one of the neighboring airstrips.
Amboseli National Park’s 392 square kilometers of different ecosystems offer stunning views and photo opportunities. The park is known for its broad savannah grasslands, bogs, marshes, and acacia trees. Mount Kilimanjaro dominates the landscape, offering a stunning backdrop. Amboseli is a photographer’s heaven since the mountain and wildlife create a magnificent ambience.
Which Animals Will You See in the Masai Mara, Serengeti & Amboseli National Park?
The wildlife in each destination is world-renowned. The Masai Mara offers classic Heavyweight game viewing but if you are coming to Africa to see the Big 5, there’s no better place to go. You’ll often see lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo all on the same day. The Masai Mara and Serengeti, however, share the stage for our planet’s most epic natural spectacle: the Great Wildebeest Migration.
Lions, elephant and buffalo are relatively easy to find in the Masai Mara, but leopard and especially rhino are a little more difficult. The lack of trees and thicket means you have to work harder (rhinos feel the cold and like to move to dense brush at night to stay warm) for a great sighting.
Home to abundant and diverse wildlife throughout the year, the Mara is especially good for big herds and their predators. Besides large prides of lion, it’s one of the best places in Africa to see cheetah. These fast felines need open and flat spaces to hunt; witnessing a cheetah chase down its prey is a thrilling sight. Its open plains are perfect for lions’ hunting style too. And there are plenty of spotted hyenas, giraffe and Thomson’s gazelle.
Head to the Masai Mara from about August to October to see the Wildebeest Migration’s mega-herds. The national reserve is fairly small and can get rather busy when the wildebeest arrive, so it’s always a good idea to stay in one of the neighbouring private conservancies. You’ll enjoy a more tranquil safari experience, but you’re still close enough to the Migration’s hot spots.
Like the Masai Mara, you’ll see plenty of lion, buffalo and elephant – leopards too, if you stay in the Serengeti’s hilly areas and around the Serenora River. But rhinos are increasingly hard to find. Lion prides especially love the Serengeti’s open terrain.
Great for general game viewing at any time of year, the Serengeti has a similar reputation to the Masai Mara for big cats. A bird count of around 500 different species means it also ranks among the world’s top birding destinations.
The Serengeti enjoys the lion’s share of the Wildebeest Migration from about November to July. See our handy guide for a month-by-month breakdown of the Great Migration.
The Masai Mara, the Serengeti, and Amboseli are three of the most well-known destinations for people wanting to go on safari in East Africa. However, the type of safari that is most suitable for you will mostly be determined by the sights and experiences that you are interested in having.
Both the Masai Mara and the Serengeti are fantastic places to visit if you are interested in seeing the well-known wildebeest migration, which passes through both of these national parks.
On the other hand, Amboseli is famous for its large herds of elephants and its breathtaking vistas of Mount Kilimanjaro.
When it comes to places to stay, each of these three offers a wide range of possibilities, from opulent lodges to rustic tented camps.
Be ready for early morning and late afternoon game drives wherever you go, as these are the greatest times of day to observe wildlife. This is true regardless of the location you choose to visit.
In the end, the most ideal location for your safari will be one that caters to your particular interests and is within your price range.