How to do a safari in Kenya on a budget: Step by step guide

Budget safari Kenya

 Going on a safari is tremendously expensive. The bare minimum is 400USD for the most basic one. In this step-by-step guide, I am going to show you how to do a safari in Kenya on a budget, for a maximum of 240USD. If you have any further information, kindly, let me know and I will update it accordingly

There are many different types of travelers, but if there is one single thing that we all have in common, it is that we all freaking love going on an African safari. Or don’t we?

Of all the African countries, Kenya is perhaps the best country to do it in. Why? Because Kenya is home to the Maasai Mara, which is the National Park with the highest concentration of mammals in the world.

However, many travelers (especially the budget ones) get very disappointed when they realize how expensive it can be.

If you try to book in advance from your home country, you’ll see that prices start at 800USD for just a 3-day safari in the Maasai Mara. Not many budget travelers, and especially backpackers, can afford such a large amount, right?

Moreover, if you want to get a better deal, one of the most common ways is to book it once you are in Nairobi. Normally, backpacker hostels offer the best rates, but the final price will never go lower than 120-130USD per day.

The minimum number of days to book is 3 days; therefore, you’ll end up paying at least around 380USD for the Maasai Mara safari.

What is included in this package?

  • Transportation (from and to Nairobi)
  • 3 meals a day (drinks not included)
  • Accommodation in a basic tent (often shared) outside of the National Park
  • Maasai Mara National Park entrance fee
  • One full game drive on the second day + a morning game drive on the third day (van shared with 7 other people)

Yes, you understood it correctly. This package is a complete rip-off.

You book a 3-day safari, but you only do 1.3 days of game driving.


Because the first day is wasted on driving to the park and setting up the camp.

On the second day, you do a full game drive, but on the third day, there’s only time for a quick morning safari, as you need to drive back to Nairobi. And the worst thing of all is that they don’t tell you this before.

In conclusion, forget about booking any package. I am going to show you how to do a safari in Kenya cheaply and pay only 170USD. How?

The key is getting there on your own by public transportation.

Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds.

How to do a safari in Kenya on a budget

Step 1: Choose your budget camping safari and book it online

First of all, you need to choose the campsite where you would like to stay.

Maasai Mara is huge and there are dozens of different campsites and also many different gates to enter by, the most recommended being Sekenani, Ololaimutiek and Talek.

The budget safari campsites are located outside the National Park.

Best budget campsite for backpackers

After doing intensive research and talking to some locals, I came to the conclusion that these are the most budget camping safaris in Kenya which offer the best rates:

Mara Explorers – This is one of the cheapest campsites in the Maasai Mara, so that’s why here, you are likely to meet many independent backpackers. It is located just 3 kilometers from the Sekenani gate, so it is easy to reach by public transportation. Their tents are quite comfy and they even have Western toilets and showers with hot water. However, perhaps, it might be too simple for you, so if you are looking for a slightly better place within the budget range, you should check any of the below options.


Best budget campsite for families and couples

Crocodile Camp – The top-rated tented camp in the Maasai Mara among the most budget options. With incredible views of the park itself, where you can even see animal activity from your tent, Crocodile Camp brags about having the most comfortable tents at the best price. The staff is amazing as well and the location very good, next to the village of Talek. This is the best quality at the best price.


Best budget guest house

Mama Safi Guest House – This is not exactly a campsite but an actual guest house which is ran by a very accommodating and lovely woman. It is very close to Mara Explorers, so next to Sekenani gate and it would be the ideal place for people who prefer the comfort of a house, rather than a tent. It has a kitchen, a barbecue place and set a fireplace outside every day.


Most campsites get fully booked pretty soon so, if the ones I recommend are already fully booked, read this post for more options:
Top 10 budget camps in the Masai Mara

Note: Also, keep in mind that, in the Maasai Mara, the most budget campsites and guesthouses get booked quite soon! Moreover, if you have your own camping equipment, you can also pitch your tent, which will be significantly cheaper. I don’t know about other camps but, in Mara Explorers, we paid 1,500KED (15USD) per person.

The tents of Mara Explorers camp
The tents of Mara Explorers camp – Budget safari Kenya

Step 2: How to do a cheap safari in Kenya – Know your safari prices

In case you are wondering, ALL campsites offer game drive service to the Masai Mara.

Do you need to book it in advance?

Not really…

Whereas you should book your room or your tent in advance, you could just show up at the camp and book a game drive for the next day.

Don’t worry, they have plenty of cars available plus, if you book once you are at the camp, you might be able to find other travelers to share the costs with, as long as you want to share the car, of course.

Typically, all of them charge between 160USD and 180USD, depending on the month of the year.

This price includes a driver, a guide and a 4×4, which can fit up to 6 people.

Important! New deal from Mara Explorers since February 2018! 

Mara Explorers has changed its price policy regarding booking safaris!

Before, the price of a game drive was 150USD a day, which included a guide and a driver. This cost could be split up to 6 people. The problem that Mara Explorers faced is that many solo travelers showed up at the camp, expecting that they could share the car with other travelers. However, this won’t be always the case. Depending on the season you come, you could find nobody to share the car with, so you would end up paying 150USD by yourself.

That’s why, since February 2018, if you don’t book any game drive in advance and just show up at the camp, you will pay 60USD per person, a day. This means that, if you are two people, you would pay 120USD.

On the other hand, if you know you will be more than 3 people, you have the possibility to book the car in advance. If you do so, the total price of the Jeep is 200USD, regardless how many people you are. Typically, all cars can fit up to 6 people. You can email them at:

For the rest of the camps, you will always pay 160-180USD per car, regardless you book it in advance or not.

Step 3: Take a matatu (local transportation) to the town of Narok

As I said, if you really want to do the Masai Mara safari on a budget, you should go there by local transportation. For this, you will have to go to Narok. 

Narok is a town located 150 kilometers from Nairobi and 87 kilometers from the Sekenani gate. Its population is 40,000 people, mostly Maasai. Why do you need to go to Narok? Because this is the place where you’ll catch direct transport to the different entry gates of the park. 

How to get to Narok?

There are several matatus connecting Nairobi with Narok all day long.

The journey is a pleasant 3-hour drive through the Rift Valley.

The regular matatus cost 350KES (3.50USD) and it is written in the van. You can also get a more comfortable if you pay a 20% more.

Where is the bus station?

It’s located in the CBD area. I recommend going there as early as possible; the sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll reach the camp. The first one laves at around 7-8am. These are the coordinates and location: -1.283412, 36.830169

Click on the below image to see the interactive map

CBD Bus station to Narok
Station of the matatus going to Narok
Bus station to Narok – How to do a cheap safari in Kenya

Step 4: In Narok, look for the bus station and book a shared taxi to your campsite

The edge of the National Park is filled with Maasai villages, so that’s why you can easily get there by local, public transportation.

In Narok, the matatu will drop you at a gas station. Ask the locals where the bus station is. They will offer to take you by taxi, but just ignore them, as the station is less than 500 meters away.

Until 1-1:30pm, there is a public matatu which goes straight to the different villages just outside of the National Park.This matatu is called C12.

If, for whatever reason, you cannot make it at 1pm, you can still go by shared taxi, which might be a bit pricier. However, I know for sure that there are shared local taxis leaving to Sekenani gate but I am not sure about Talek & Ololaimutiek gates. You should ask at the station but, just in case, try to be there before 1pm.

How to get to Sekenani gate by shared taxi (if you arrive after after 1:30pm)

Once you are at the station, look for the shared taxis to Sekenani gate and say that you want to be dropped off at the Mara Explorers,  Mama Safi or any other Sekenani campsite recommended in my article.

Typically, the shared taxi costs around 500KES (5USD) per person. This is the real price and you shouldn’t pay more than that. The taxi will leave only when completely full and they will always try to fit in 6 passengers (excluding the driver), 4 in the front and 2 in the back.

It may take time to fill the taxi completely. I waited for a little bit longer than an hour. 

Bus station in Narok, Kenya
Bus station in Narok

Step 5: Make your Masai Mara budget safari even cheaper – Buy supplies at the supermarket

If you really want to do a real affordable safari in Kenya, you need to stock up on food supplies at the supermarket in Narok. At Mara Explorers (and at any other camp) any meal costs 1,000KES (10USD) at least, and there are no real supermarkets in the villages around the park.

Right next to the bus station, there’s a big supermarket called Naivas. They sell all types of groceries, plus good ready-to-eat meals. I bought one meal for the night and tuna cans, cheese and bread for the following days. Since I spent two nights at the camp, I had to pay for only one dinner.

One note: Mama Safi Guest House has a kitchen, so you can bring your own staff to cook!

Step 6: The journey to the National Park gates

Update 2020 – The are finally paving the road between Narok and Sekenani and today, the journey takes a bit more than 1 hour.

Once the taxi is full, you are ready to go. The whole trip takes between 2 and 3 hours along an unpaved, bumpy road, but the experience is really worth it, as you will be sharing the taxi with authentic Maasai people.

Most of the tourists only interact with them when they buy souvenirs, but you’ll be sitting next to them for almost 3 hours. A lot of Maasai people speak some English, so you might be able to talk to them.

Tip: Remember to ask the driver for his phone number for the journey back to Narok. The staff of any of the campsites can call them for you and they won’t charge you anything extra. Normally, the shared taxis go back to Narok at 8am.

Check out my Ethiopia travel guide

The road from Narok to Sekenani gate
The road from Narok to Sekenani gate
Maasai in the taxi from Narok to Sekenani
Maasai taxi mates

Step 7: Arriving at the camp: Book your safari

As soon as you arrive at the camp, go to the reception and finalize the arrangements for the safari the next day.

If you are on a low budget, you can find other travelers to share the cost with. However, don’t fully rely on that!

Safari at the Maasai Mara
Safari! – Masai Mara budget safari

Step 8: Go on safari and enjoy!

On the next day, you’ll be departing for the park at around 6:30 am. Be prepared for a 12hr drive! By the way, the entrance fee is 80USD. No one can skip.

Final Kenya safari cost

Matatu to Narok and back to Nairobi: 350KES x 2 = 700KES (7USD)

Groceries: 600KES (6USD)

Shared taxi to Sekenani gate and back to Narok: 500KES x 2 = 1,000KES (10USD)

Accommodation:It depends on the season but, as an average, Mara Explorers costs around 30USD a night per person: 3,000KES x 2 nights = 6,000KES (60USD). If you have your own tent, you will pay 15USD x 2 nights = 30USD

One dinner: 1,000KES (10USD)

Maasai Mara entrance fee: 8,000KES (80USD)

Game drive: 60USD (if you are 3 people or less) or 33USD (if you are 6 people and book it in advance)


Minimum (assuming you have your own tent and you share a Jeep with 6 people) = 178USD
Maximum (assuming you book a tent and pay the price per person for the game drive) = 235USD

Final conclusion

You see? I just showed you how to do a cheap an affordable and cheap safari in Kenya, for a minimum of 178USD and a maximum of 235USD. Bear in mind that this would be an average price as there are many factors to take into account. Costs would vary depending on whether you book it in advance or not.

You may also bring the costs down if you brought your own camping equipment. However, in any case, it will always be immensely cheaper than if you book it in Nairobi.

You might also want to read: Things to consider when planning an African safari

Cheap safari

Disclosure: As a traveler, I use all the companies I recommend and you should know that, if you buy any service through any of these links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Start planning and booking your trip

For booking accommodation

Use for hotels and guesthouses

Check on Hostelworld for for backpacker hostels

For travel insurance (with COVID-19 coverage), I recommend:

1 – IATI Insurance (5% discount) – Cheapest travel insurance and for travelers above 70

2 – True Traveller – Best backpacking insurance (only Europeans)


For all your travel gear

Trekking equipment, books, etc, check on Amazon

If you want to know all the companies I use to plan my trips, check my travel resources page


    1. Thanks for this information, very helpful! Do you happen to know of the public transport and shared taxis run as normal on a a Sunday or would you advise waiting until the Monday to travel to the campsite in the Masai Mara?

  1. I like to think of myself as a frugal traveler, but you really take this concept to a higher level. Hopefully, we’ll make it to Kenya one day and can use some of your helpful tips. I would love to see elephants at the Maasai Mara in person as well as the other amazing wildlife.

    1. If you go and use these tips let me know! It’s not about being frugal, it’s about having time to assess to the situation! Always try to travel slow!

  2. You mentioned booking a private jeep. I definitely agree with that. We went on a private safari in Tanzania. Not only could we decide to stay with animals because we were interested or move on since there was no one else we had to compromise with, but the real key for us was not battling other people to be able to see or take photographs.

    We saw other safari companies that had six or more people in their jeeps and they were coming out of every window hanging over the top of each other trying to get photographs. My husband and I both looked at each other and agreed that those options might have cost less, but that kind of situation wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable an experience.

    1. I totally agree with you. You won’t do a lot of safaris in your life, so sharing a van with other people just to save $20 or $30 is not worth it at all! The journey is much more enjoyable if you are only one person. You also tell the driver wherever you want to go and for how long you want to stay starring at the animals. Thanks for your comment 😉

  3. Very smart! It is almost always cheaper to put your own package together than to go with the full tourist option. I found similar in India where I was lucky enough to have a local guide to get me good deals

  4. TOP! This was exactly what I was looking for… I am going to put this into practice in a month, I will let you know how was the experience! 😀

  5. Wow! Very detailed and really helpful. I know that this trio would really cost me a lot but when I read that you can do it for 170usd. You got me there. Now, it’s more affordable and I’m really looking forward to visiting this place soon! Will save your article.

    1. Hi Cai, thanks for your comment. Yes, the safari is more than affordable (if you take into account that most of the travelers pay astronomical fares). If you go and try my tips, let me know if they worked!

    2. Did this and it works!

      Some further tips: Narokline (a locals recommendation) matatu’s have a proper office in Nairobi. Ask for a 10 seater Nissan for the most comfort. The advantage of them having an office is organisation (almost!) They fill the buses quite quickly by directing everyone to one bus in the queue. If you talk to indie drivers they are all competing with each other trying to get people to their own bus. It takes longer to fill a bus. Narokline returns go from the gas station you’re dropped at.

      At Narok if you’re tired of the chaos there is the Sahara coffee house. It has a calm garden with tranquil trees and a clean washroom. Lose 20 backpacker points for going here.

      From Narok to Mara Explorers you can get a shared taxi, but ask how many people they’re trying to squeeze in it. In ours it was 2 up front, 4 in the middle and 3 in the back. 2 extra people is not so comfy. Consider options and maybe buy one extra space to speed things up.

      Consider the return journey. Shared taxis go from a fixed point and drop everyone along the way. Most places you stay at may sell you a private transfer to narok for a lot of cash (60us). Speak to individuals, Masais, staff etc for a shared return taxi. Consider getting your driver’s number for a more affordable return journey. Do the maths on the cab you took. Or get the bus obv!

      You can pay park entry by card or us dollars, not Kenyan Shillings(!). Many budget accommodation accept card but add 5 percent for doing so. Get cash in narok.

      Be frugal but tip your guide, especially if Masai. Visit a masai village, ask your guide about his machete, and realise how hard their life is.

    3. Hey, just writing to thank you so much about this post. My friend and I literally followed almost everything you wrote down and we got and amazing safari for a reasonable price. 🙂

      Just some updates, as of 15/12/2019. The regular matatus from Nairobi to Narok are costing 350 Sh (official price, written on the matatus), and the best part: there’s tar in almost all the road between Sakenani and Narok! So the drive actually lasts only a bit more than one hour. And they’re working there, it will probably be completely done in a not so distant future.

      Asante sana!

    1. WOW, Zimbawe, I’ve always wanted to go there as well. I was told that it’s one of the cheapest countries in East-South Africa. Hope you enjoy the rest of Africa. Let me know if those tips worked for you 😉

      1. Khan abdus samee

        Hello joantow
        It’s been really interesting and evocative reading ur tips
        I for one has been a travellers of this kind all my life
        And love it in the way it connects you to the natives and the local culture
        I am planning a trip to maasai mara
        At the time of wildebeest migration
        Along with my wife and two kids
        I would be highly obliged if you could help me with an itenary for 6-7 days
        Along with lake naivashu or other
        Ex jomo kenya airport
        I will be flying from mumbai
        Or if u could help me with some local agents contact
        Hoping to hear from u asap
        Thanks a lot

  6. When you put it like that then yes 170 is great value considering what you pay for a pre-arranged tour. Especially, as the tour you mention only does 1.3 days of actual game-drving!! That’s terrible value for money! Great to know you can take things into your hands and get a better deal!

    1. Yes, all these tour groups suck a lot and what you do is basically paying all this money for the transportation to the park and back to Nairobi. Doing it on your own is more than doable

  7. When we went on a safari in South Africa a few years ago, I was definitely shocked at the prices. It’s not a cheap vacation, for sure. But these are really great insider tips, so it seems doable for sure. I think I’d be too scared to sleep in a tent though, not because of the animals, but because of the spiders!

    1. Hey Laura, thanks for your comment. Yeah, forthe animals you shouldn’t be scared because all the camp sites are surrounded by fences. But for the spiders… To be very honest I didn’t think much about it… 😀

  8. This is really cool and very helpful, Joan! Going on an African Safari is a dream but I could never afford to spend $800 on a tour only to experience a maybe once-in-a-lifetime adventure for a day. Bookmarking this post for future reference! Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Therie, I am glad you find it useful! Yeah, safari prices are just insane and, even though, as you say, it’s only a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, if we can do it for way cheaper, why not doing it 😉 ?

  9. Such great tips…my hope in doing a safari has been restored thanks to you!!! One thing I was wondering about though is the taxi that fits 6 ppl with the driver. We are 2 backpackers and wondering whether the taxi will be able to fit in all of our big 12kg backpacks. I am assuming not. Would you happen to know? If not, we’re gonna have to arrange for our backpacks to stay in Nairobi at the hostel or something. Your thoughts on this are appreciated 🙂

      1. Hi there – I just absolutely had to post and tell you a huge THANK YOU for this article. I had been quoted 400-800 USD for similar “budget” game drives and I was about to book one when I luckily stumbled across your post. Your blog post saved me so much money, and all the steps worked perfectly when I followed them last week, and I had the most amazing time. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I am forever grateful to you.


        Isabelle from Canada

        1. Hi isabelle would you please share how you had planned.? Would like to more about it since we are planning for next month

  10. Thanks for detailed info , that was so helpful , I am planning to go to Kenya for 6 days tour on Feb 2018 with my wife and daughter , I am just asking how is security and safety in the Country?? because I heard that there are some issues and robbery specially when your drive long ways outside Nairobi. Thanks again and best regards.

    1. Hi Ali, the only danger I’ve ever heard of is the crime in Nairobi, which tends to happen at night, if they see you alone on the street. Otherwise, you’ll just be fine. Enjoy Kenya!

  11. Thanks for putting these words together. However, at Mara Explorers meals cost at least $10 each! I think you’d need just a bit more than 15£ a day 😉

  12. Thank you! I will use all your links for my bookings. I was planning on a surprise for my husband that has wanted to visit Africa from a long time and all the safaris I looked at were completely unaffordable. If I hadn’t come up with your post I would have got discouraged and not organised the trip!

  13. That sounds very nice, as I hate organized tours and usually do everything by myself. But I would be very worried about not getting people to share the safari with upon arrival. I plan the trip in July, so hopefully there will be lots of tourists there? (there are obvious downsides to this but also upsides).
    I am also not a people’s person so running around trying to find company doesn’t sound appealing.
    And if I do it by myself, which sounds wonderful and all, wouldn’t I be paying about as much as organized trip? (which is offered at around 380 USD for 2 nights safari)
    another question: how would I go about getting from there to Naraku lake? Did you try it?
    Thank you very much for detailed advice in any case.

    1. Hi Vlada, you have nothing to lose. Even if you did it just by yourself, which is quite unlikely, you would pay slightly less than going on a tour and you’d get a car just for yourself, which quite convenient. About coming from Nakuru, I am not sure but, after Masai Mara, I went to Naivasha, which was easily accessible from Narok by bus, which is on the way to Nakuru. Let me know if you need anything else. Cheers,

      1. What you say does sound seductive, heh… You’re right that it is better to overpay for actual “luxury” than for god knows what. I am looking at that second camp as an option. I do wonder if they also offer “morning” drives or evening drives in addition to whole day drives, as I’d like to be able to do 1,5 safari runs, like agencies offer (using 24 hrs permit).

        I think I’ll definitely do Lake Navasha on my own at least, good advice on Narok (I thought about going back to Nairobi for this) – I decided to skip Nakuru. So, what do you think, can I come to Narok from MM AND find transport from Narok to Navasha on the same day? It seems like there are things to do for couple of full days at Navasha, no reason to pay 100 bucks to agency just to come there for half a day!)

        Thank you for your advice, much appreciated.

  14. Wow, very detailed and very useful when you want to go to the Masai Mara. This is also exactly the problem I notice that travelers have, how to get around for cheap, where to sleep etc. As I live in Kenya I decided to create a post about how to get and stay at various places across Kenya on a budget. Keep up these great blog articles!

  15. Hi,

    I saw in the websites Mara Explorers (

    US$ 60 per person person per day sharing (minimum of 2 people required).

    Exclusive use of vehicle US$ 200 per vehicle per day.

    We have a fleet of customised Land Cruisers based at our camp for game drives. The game drive rate is inclusive of an experienced driver guide and fuel. Your personal park entry is payable on top directly to the park gate.

    Does it mean if we want to share vehivcle with other we must now pay 60 USD per pax instead of 25 usd (as u mention above) and for charter vehicle now 200 USD instead of 150 USD as u mention ?

    1. Hi Laurent, I don’t really understand what does it say on the website… It’s very confusing. Moreover, I emailed them in November, asking if the prices from my article were correct and they said yes they were, so I don’t really understand what does this mean. I am going to email them again. Thanks for letting me know,

    2. So, I just contacted Mara Explorers and they said that they just implement these rates 2 weeks ago. Basically, they say that, if you are just 1 or 2 people and don’t have anyone to share the car with, you will pay 60USD per person, unlike before when you paid 150USD, regardless how many people you were. Moreover, if you book the car in advance, you will pay a flat fee of 200USD. I will update the post accordingly, as soon as I can. Best wishes,

      1. So the logic is if i travel1 or 2,i can going cheaper by take the shared car (profit will go to Mara if there are 4 people in total since whole car cost 200 USD ), but if our group more than 4 pax,its cheaper to book whole car, correct ?

  16. Thanks for this post. Looking at heading to MM later this year and am excited to see another option. Do you think that just one day is worth it? Would you recommend traveling to another place to do another game ride or is it worth it to go out in MM for two days?

    1. It really depends on your luck. One day you may see no lions or any animal in action, so you might want to do another game ride. As per your second question, I didn’t go to any other park, so I can’t say 🙂

  17. Thank you for a very detailed guide. This is so helpful as i am looking for the most possible budgeted way to go for a Kenya trip.

    How about spending time with the masai tribe in their village to immerse in their culture, did you tried it too? Is there any cost of being with the tribe for a day?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    1. Hi Ann, to be honest, I didn’t… I always like to have human interactions with the locals but, the tours to the villages around the park are extremely touristic, so didn’t feel like to try… However, if you just wanna see how they live, I recommend you just go to any village by yourself, go to any of the local restaurants, bars, etc and you will see them in their lives

  18. Hi,
    Thank you so much for you point by point directions. They made my life so much easier.
    I did want your advice on one more thing though.

    I am going to be travelling with my parents. So we’re going to be 3 people in total. We’re budget conscious (i think thats obvious since i’m on your blog), but my parents do not compromise on some comforts. Due to that i was planning on booking the mama safi guest house because it checks all our criteria.

    my questions are :
    1) Will we be able to get the jeep organised by the people at mama safi itself?
    2) Since we’re three people ourselves, would it make sense to take our own jeep or still share it?
    3) We’re determined TRAVELERS and not tourists, and as such want to maximize our experience of the park itself, which is why i was deciding on stay there for 3 nights. For example, ill reach mama safi on lets say a monday in the afternoon, (that day is gone), then tuesday and wednesday full day drives in the park and we leave thursday. (hence monday night, tuesday night and wednesday night). Is this overkill? does it make sense to do this? what does your experience say?
    4) We’re planning on going on the 20th of sep to around the first week of october. Ive checked the weather patterns etc and the internet says its a good time to go. But i would really appreciate your first hand experience as well.

    Thank you so much for you suggestions, i am going to be following them to a T.

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment. My answers:
      1 – Yes, you will
      2 – To be very honest, you will not save a lot of money by sharing it with other people. We were 2 people and decided to go by ourselves. The experience is much better because you tell the driver which animals do you want to look for and just paid around 30USD more each.
      3 – The more game drives you do, the more chance you will have to see animals in action. To be very honest, we only did one full day game drive and, whereas we covered all the animals, we didn’t see any action but just laying down. Our driver said that we were unlucky. If you can afford it, go for it.
      4 – I went during these dates as well. Weather-wise is perfect but the migration was done.
      Hope that helped, thanks!

  19. Hey,
    Doing an impromptu trip to Kenya and considering different options. Do you have to pay 80 per day for the entrance to the park? If you pay for each entry I don’t know if your math works and if it’s much cheaper to do it solo without a tour.

    1. Hey! You pay 80 for every 24 hours.

      With the normal tours, you do a full day and a morning drive. If you decide doing a 2-day safari for yourself, even if you didn’t save much, it is better to do 2 full days, on a private car, than doing it 1 day + 1 morning in a van filled with other tourists 🙂

      By yourself, it will always be cheaper plus I personally think that those cheap tours suck

  20. Hi Joan,

    Thanks for this very useful info!! I just did the safari with Mara Explorers and it sounds like they have changed their policy since you last updated the article. There was no one else at the camp that was doing the safari at the same time as me, so had to go alone. I asked if it was still $60usd for one person and they said that was based on double occupancy… so I had to pay $120usd 🙁 I should have done my research, but just accepted the info in your article, so the additional expense was disappointing (but still a great price for having 11 hours in the park!!!). Anyway, just thought you should know from someone who was JUST there, and may want to update the article once again. I’m guessing they were just losing so much $$ taking 1 person out for a day and using all that fuel, paying driver, etc…

      1. No worries! I’m honestly grateful for your article as it saved so much research time for me! And even at $200usd, it was a bargain to go into the Mara with the number and variety of animals you get to see. And the Explorers camp was excellent and the tents were so robust and clean inside, beds were comfortable, food was amazing… thank you again:)

  21. Hi there!
    Thank you for your article, 2 friends of mine and myself followed your guide meticulously and I had a blast! Fyi, the option to book a car and pay a fixed price is not available anymore. The only option was to pay $60 each. Thank you, you really really helped us!

  22. Hi, thanks for the great tips! Really helped us a lot. We are planning on staying 3 nights and doing 2 full game drives. Is it correct, that in that case we would have to pay 2 entrance fees or how does it work with the 24 hour rule? Our plan: Arrive on first day and stay at Mara Explorers. Full game drive on 2nd and 3rd day and leave in the morning of the 4th day.

  23. I went to Kenya last year and fortunately had a local that took me to Massai Mara with his own car. We were staying at Mara Explorers as well and used his car for the safari. I love your budget safari guide and usually travel the local way. Since I only had 10 days to spend, I was happy that I went with my local friend. That save me lots of time and I could also see Mombasa, Lake Naivasha, Kilifi and Nairobi. However, if you have lots of time I would definitly go for your recommendation – public transport is the best way of getting to know the locals, culture and country. Took a Matatu from Mombasa to Kilfi – so much fun 🙂

  24. Hey, how many days should we stay in the camp? We are going around Christmas. Would you recommend a stay from 3 or 4 nights? Or is it enough to stay 2? Thank you a lot!

    1. Hi Merle,
      I just came back from here and thought I would share my thoughts with you! I felt that staying two nights was enough, with one full day of game driving (12 hours) in between. However, I did leave myself the flexibility of choosing to stay an extra night in case I did not see much on the first day of game driving. That wasn’t necessary in the end – we saw huge amounts of wildlife and I felt satisfied leaving after just the one day game drive.
      Hope that helps!

  25. Hi Joan,
    (My apologies if this is a double post, not sure if my first attempt at posting this went through).
    I felt like I needed to take the time to write in to you and tell you how grateful I am for your article.
    I was in Kenya last week trying to get to Masai Mara, and after asking around many “budget” operators for their best prices, the cheapest I was quoted was between 400-800 USD for about the same as what is mentioned in your blog post.
    Thankfully, I came across your post before committing to one of these tour companies. It was an amazing experience, the steps are just as simple as what you described.
    I feel like you should be recognized and commended for taking the time to write this step-by-step guide and helping so many travellers. While I was at Mara Explorers, I met a group of 4 people who had also followed your guide, and so the amount of people that you are helping is presumptuously quite large.
    And so thank you, thank you, thank you…. for saving me and others HUGE sums of money, and for making game drives in the Masai Mara accessible to people who might not be able to afford it otherwise.
    I am very very grateful to you.
    Isabelle from Canada.
    Ps. For those asking what kind of animals you can see… On the game drive that I did just now in mid July 2019, from 0630am-1830pm… we saw a total of 18 lions, 2 leopards, 5 cheetahs, a gazillion wildebeest migrating, and all the other usual suspects (Elephants, water buffalo, hippos, zebras, giraffes, etc)

    1. Thank you so much, Isabelle, for your very kind words!
      I am very happy that it was useful for you 🙂
      There are actually a lot of people who don’t travel to Kenya because of the safari prices but making it for cheap is truly possible!

  26. Thanks for the great tips! We are planning on staying 3 nights and doing 2 full game drives. Is it correct, that in that case we would have to pay 2 entrance fees or how does it work with the 24 hour rule? Our plan: Arrive on first day and stay at Mara Explorers. Full game drive on 2nd and 3rd day and leave in the morning of the 4th day.

    1. Hi Louis, if you do 2 full game drives, you’ll have to pay the entry fee twice. The 24-hour rule is that if you start your game drive at 2pm, you still can use the same ticket for next morning

  27. Hi Joan!

    Thanks for your unvaluable help!

    I’m going to Kenya between october and november. I already did aome safaris in Tanzania, Botswana, etc. always on my own. With my own car, no drivers, no guides. Is it possible in Mara? I’d hire a car in Nairobi and I’d like to visit Masai Mara. I know that’s possible in the rest of countries I’ve visited.

    Thanks for your help!

    From Barcelona

      1. Hi,

        Thank you for this very useful blog. Please do you think it is okay to follow the public transport route with a child of 4 years? Your reply will be very much appreciated. Thank you as I look forward to your response.

  28. American living and working in the Middle East. Followed the guide exactly in September-October 2019. It worked perfectly and I spent under $350. Highly recommend the Masai Mara. It doesn’t have to be thousands.

  29. Dhawal Bhanushali

    Everything about this article seems structured. Wonderful to see an article helping so many. We, a group of 3, are planning to visit Kenya in January 2020. We too shall be using the same tips. However, we want to do Lake Nakuru, Naivasha and Masai Mara. What is the local way to do it?

    Note: I posted a similar comment in a reply section of someone else’s comment. Sorry for duplication.

    1. Hi Dhawal, to go to Naivasha, there are also matatus leaving from Korok.
      We did go to Naivasha from there and it was ridiculously cheap. I don’t know about going to Nakuru but it should be easy as well.

  30. I have a question.
    When I`m done with safari, on next day when I go back to Nairobi, can I catch a train from Nairobi to Mombasa at 17:00pm on the same day? Or just to be safe should I take train on a following day?
    Thank you,

  31. hi, thankyou for real excellent information.. if i want to pitch my tent, i shoud book it beafore i arrive? or i can pitch my tent when i arrive to a camp?
    sorry my english is not well.

  32. Joan Torres, this is an awesome article and the comments have been helpful/entertaining also! We are a Kenyan(husband)-American(me) couple with 3 elementary aged kids, planning a visit to relatives in western Kenya this summer (2021). Naturally we want to go on safari in the Mara, but desire an authentic experience instead of a tourist trap (“tours” of Masai villages and overcrowded safari vehicles make me cringe, ugh). Was feeling overwhelmed by overpriced options until I found your article, can’t wait to read more about the lodging you’ve suggested. And super excited to introduce my kids to the experience of matatu transportation, woohoo!

  33. Joan Torres, you are the best. Just came across your blog. Will be regularly checking it as I travel quite a bit. Hope to keep you updated. Keep up the good work. Ever come to Michigan, please do let me know. Stay, nice dinner and cold beer is on me!!!!! Stay blessed, keep exploring and getting uncomfortable in unknown places and environments to appreciate and add fun to life!!!!

  34. Glad to have stumbled upon this blog, but unfortunately Mara Explorers Camp & Backpackers will be permanently closing in just a few days.

    “Please note that unfortunately after 10 years, Mara Explorers Camp & Backpackers will be permanently closing our doors on the 23rd August 2021. Mara Explorers will only be continuing with our Kenya and Maasai Mara road safari packages after that time. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.” (

    Looks like future backpackers may need to find alternative arrangements. In the article you mention others camps charge by vehicle; do you know if this is still the case?

  35. Hay Joan.
    The article is quite impressive. Doing safari and photographing wildlife in masai mara is my dream. And I thought it would be remines like a dream because of expensive trip. But your advise to reach to masaimara added hope to make my dream true. I am planning in 2022 and let me see how could I do it. And please do let me know how safe it is by going by public transport

  36. Hi Joan, thanks for a bunch of useful tips. I visited Masai Mara in December 2021 with my wife. We found a matatu to Narok from Nairobi (Nyamakima Centre) – it cost 500 KES. Then we moved from gas station in Narok to Naivas supermarket bus stop. There were only buses to Nakuru and other cities but not to Oloolaimutia where our camp was (Enchoro Wild Life Camp – I recommend it by the way. Tents were comfortable, location nice and staff, especially Jacob, very kind and helpful).
    We found a shared taxi to Oloolaimutia and, before we left Narok, I met a guy (Maasai) living close to it that was a safari guide (Timothy +254 715 915 008 – unfortunately he has no Whatsapp, but you can call him if you are already in Kenya and have kenyan number. Or you can find him on Facebook Next day we had a safari with Timothy and his brother – I recommend car with canvas, not glass windows. You can also visit Maasai village with him or go for a walking safari.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *