Itinerary for Nairobi, Naivasha & Maasai Mara in Kenya

It was a 5-day trip to Kenya last Christmas of which, we spent one day in Nairobi, one day in Naivasha, four days in Maasai Mara. We have written exhaustively about our explorations and experiences over the last few months. In order to make it easy for you to locate all the information, should you be planning a similar trip, this post will give you a snap-shot of all the ‘must-dos and must-sees’. Simply click on the individual links to read the complete story.

Mandatory requirements of a Kenya trip:

  1. Polio and Yellow Fever – the compulsory vaccinations that you need to take before you embark on the trip.
  2. Visa, Immigration and other requirements at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

One-day Itinerary for Nairobi:

  1. Stay at Hotel Sarovar Panifric in Nairobi
  2. Must-See/Do in Nairobi

One-day Itinerary for Naivasha

  1. Drive from Nairobi to Naivasha
  2. Where to stay in Naivasha – Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort review
  3. Must-See/Do in Naivasha

3-day Itinerary for Maasai Mara

  1. Drive from Naivasha to Maasai Mara
  2. Tour of a Maasai Village
  3. Where to stay in Maasai Mara – Keekorok Lodge review
  4. Safaris in Maasai Mara
  5. Best time to go to Maasai Mara

Best tour operator for Naivasha & Maasai Mara – Africa Veterans Safari tour operator review

Review of Africa Veterans Safari Tour-Operator

Africa Veterans Safari were our tour operators for the Naivasha and Maasai Mara trip. The day we landed in Nairobi, they called us to confirm our tour booking and also advised us to be ready by 8am the next morning, so that we could set out for Naivasha.

While still at our breakfast table at our hotel the next morning (Read: Review – Hotel Sarova Panafric in Nairobi ), the hotel staff informed us that our jeep and guide had already arrived. Dot on time. The manager had come along that he coldbrief us once again about the itinerary and introduce Danielle to us, who would be our guide cum driver for the next 5 days.

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Africa Veterans Safari tour operators gave us a 8-seater beast of a jeep, equipped with 2 binoculars, one book each on birds and animals of the region, a carton full of water bottles and 3 Safari hats! We were all set to explore, discover and be bewitched! Throughout our tour, first at Naivasha and then at Maasai Mara, the jeep would be cleaned every morning and water bottles re-stocked for the day. The jeep was the perfect beast to take us to the grasslands, meander through its many designated roads and show us the best possible sights.

Danielle, our guide cum driver, was a gem of a guy. He knew both Naivasha and Maasai Mara like the back of his palm…and guided us to the best sightings during the many safaris. His sharp eyes and sharp ears didn’t miss any animals, and on all occasions, our jeep was the first to discover a pride of lions or that leopard on the tree or that hyena far away or the rhino behind the bush, the lions mating, the zebras looking out for lions…Owing to him, our Naivasha and Maasai Mara safaris felt like scenes straight out of the National Geographic channel.

Highly recommend the Africa Veterans Safari tour operators!

Also read:

Sunset Safari at Maasai Mara

Picnic at Maasai Mara

Tour of a Maasai Village in Maasai Mara

Mandatory Vaccinations for Kenya and Rwanda Trip

We were booked for Kenya and Rwanda last Christmas. And the following were the mandatory vaccinations that we had to take for Kenya and Rwanda, both.

Compulsory Vaccinations for East-Africa Trip

 

Polio vaccination and requirements: Polio is a mandatory vaccination for Kenya and Rwanda

  • Tourist from India to Kenya need to take a dose of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV)
  • OPV for Indian tourists to Kenya is compulsory from 1st March, 2014
  • The OPV vaccination should be taken one month before the date of travel.
  • The OPV is needed for any age-group
  • The vaccination will be valid for a year
  • Get the OPV either at a designated polio centre of your city.
  • Procedure to get the Polio Vaccination in Mumbai:
    • Since we live in Mumbai, we got it from the Airport Health Organisation near the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The wait/queue for the Polio Vaccination is not long. You simply need to fill a form, show your original Passport and tickets. They don’t charge money for the OPV vaccination.

Yellow Fever Vaccination and Requirements:  Yellow Fever is a mandatory vaccination for Kenya and Rwanda

  • Indian tourists compulsorily need the Yellow Fever vaccination if travelling to Kenya and/or Rwanda.
  • The Yellow Fever vaccination should be taken 10 days before the date of travel
  • Yellow Fever vaccination is compulsory for every age group, excepting infants less than 6 months old
  • The vaccination, once taken, will be valid for 10 years
  • Procedure to take Yellow Fever vaccination in Mumbai:
    • We got the vaccination from the Airport Health Organisation near the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
    • They administer only 100 yellow fever vaccinations in a day. So go early, for, the queues can be serpentine.
    • You simply need to fill a form, show your original Passport and tickets. They charge about Rs 300 per person for the vaccination

Yellow Fever Vaccination (2)

Vaccinations for Malaria Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Meningitis are recommended, although not mandatory vaccinations for Kenya and Rwanda trip.

Sunrise Safari at Maasai Mara, Kenya

We had saved the sunrise safari at Maasai Mara for the last morning…..Despite the full day safari (Read: Full-day Safari at Maasai Mara) the previous day, where the customary Big Five had been sighted along with scores of other precious experiences, we hungered for more. We reasoned, we hadn’t seen lion cubs or a hunt, those that fire up TV screens when watching the National Geographic/Discovery channels…..As I said, we hungered for more….

Danielle smiled and nodded his i-know-what-you-want smile, told us to be ready by 5.15 am the next morning; he’d be waiting to take us back to the grasslands even before the sun woke up….

We were thoroughly excited – packed in a few cookies and bananas and water bottles in our knapsack, kept our jackets, sunscreen, camera and lenses ready, before we hit the bed. Not before setting an alarm for 4.30am. We couldn’t be late for our last date with the Mara!

Next morning, we set off for the sunrise safari at Maasai Mara when it was still dark. Danielle explained that permissions need to be taken separately for the sojourn in the dark since the Maasai Mara Park officials are very strict about not disturbing natural life in the park. Minimum sound and no strong lights too.

Slowly, it started brightening in the Mara. We soon spotted the old rhino that strolled around aimlessly, giving a free ride to the sparrows perched on its back; the vulture that must have woken up early; the antelope giving us a good look as if to go back to its herd to report about the morning visitors. And then Jayant noticed some action in a faraway bush. As soon as he told Danielle about it, Danielle spun around and drove uphill of about 200 meters…and we chanced upon one of the biggest treasures of the Mara — five little lion cubs and their mothers. Four of them. Dumbfounded. And soon so ecstatic that we could scream! Danielle shooed us down. Not a sound, he said, else they will hide inside the bush. No no, we didn’t want that. We contained our joy. Actually, stuggled to. For, soon the five cubs came to check us out instead!! Beat that! Five cubs around our jeep trying to figure out who we were, while the mothers lay lazily in the grass. By some miracle we didn’t lose our minds, I tell you!

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And in a little while, when the sun rose in the distant horizon with the cubs playing with their Mammas right in front of us, we felt like kneeling down and thanking God for the morning.

We didn’t want to come back from the sunrise safari at the Maasai Mara, but then, there was a flight to catch from Nairobi in the evening. And so we bade the Mara goodbye….hoping that it stays rich and diverse forever….

Also read:

Sunset Safari at Maasai Mara

Picnic at Maasai Mara

Tour of a Maasai Village in Maasai Mara

Best Time To Go To Maasai Mara, Kenya

Best time to visit Maasai Mara is obviously when the famous Wildebeest Migration happens. That’s between July to October. Tourists throng here from all parts of the world at this time to see thousands and thousands of wildebeest cross over from Maasai Mara to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

The next best time to visit Maasai Mara are the dryer months of December to February. We were there during the Christmas holidays for 3 nights and 4 days, and had a gala time at this most famous wildlife destination of the world, quenching our thirst ad hunger for adventure with the numerous safaris – Sunset Safari, Full-day Safari, Picnic at Maasai Mara and the Sunrise Safari. Despite being the dry month, it did rain a bit – not very heavy and not for long – thereby adding drama to the already wild grasslands and sky. It isn’t all that cold at this time of the year here. All that you’d need are some light jacks and caps/scarves for the early mornings…..

How long should you stay in Maasai Mara?

When there, disconnected from the rest of the world, you almost wish you could marry nature and stay back in the grasslands. But are quickly reminded that this is only wistful thinking. Nonetheless, anything less than 3 nights would be a crime and would just not justify your going all the way up to the Mara!

Picnic at Maasai Mara, Kenya

Our ‘picnic’ at Maasai Mara was like no other and hence, requires a dedicated post. We were scheduled for the full-day safari that day, and Danielle had told us that he would make sure that our hotel (Read: Review of Keekorok Lodge) packed lunch for us. We didn’t even have to enquire…when we hopped into the jeep that morning, he cheerfully told us that we could drive deep into the Mara since food and water had been taken care of …And thus we set out to see the wonders of the beautiful Maasai Mara…..

At noon, when it was time for lunch, nay, the famed picnic at Maasai Mara, he drove us to a huge clearing where the grasses weren’t very tall and the trees were fewer. Driving up to more or less the centre of the clearing, he parked the jeep near an Acacia tree and announced that this would be our picnic spot. But not before telling us that while we could get down into the Mara, we couldn’t venture out even five steps owing to the safety requirements and the Mara rules. Lunch had to eaten right next to the jeep. We obeyed him like school kids…

Digging out a mat from the back of the jeep, Danielle laid it down by the side of the jeep and then placed our lunch boxes on the mat – Sandwiches, Grilled Chicken, Fruits, Eggs, Juice, Cookies — this picnic at Maasai Mara is like the Famous Five picnics, cried out our daughter. We looked at her thoroughly amused and nodding in agreement…quite an Enid Blyton picnic this…

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Here we were, sitting in the middle of one of the world’s wildest grounds, eating sandwiches, while birds flew down looking for crumbs, while elephants walked in the distant, while deers stood to see what we were and then ran away, while Danielle stood near the bonnet of the jeep looking out for the wilder animals, while we looked around 360 degrees to find only God’s creation, while it felt as if our very existence would be defined by this one moment when we were one with the Mara, while we thanked the Lord for this day and bread….

Dos and Don’ts of a Picnic at Maasai Mara, Kenya

  • DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT litter the Mara. Carry a bag along with you to carry back empty bottles, empty packets, food covers.
  • Cookies and bread crumbs can be given to the birds though, and that chicken bone can be thrown towards the waiting hyena or vulture. Mind you, only little items of food.
  • Do not venture out away from your jeep. Obey your guide, for he knows the Mara’s ways.

Full-day Safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Danielle, our guide, was keen that we go for a full-day safari in Maasai Mara, reasoning that since we had already seen the Maasai Village (Read: Touring a Maasai Village) and had gone for the Sunset Safari the previous evening, a full-day safari was what would give us an ultimate experience. He reasoned that if we’d go for a safari after breakfast, come back to our lodge in Keekorok (Read: Review Keekorok Lodge) for lunch and then venture out once again post lunch, we could not go deep into the grassland. Instead, he reasoned, if we packed a dry lunch and set out in the morning just after breakfast, we would have a full eight hours in our hands that would allow us to go deep into the grasslands. That would open us to lot more adventure, he added. We saw his point, and readily agreed to set out immediately after breakfast the next day.

Getting ready for a full-day safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya — Things you shouldn’t forget when setting out for a full-day safari in Maasai Mara:

  • We were in Maasai Mara over the Christmas holidays, and so, were advised to wear warm jackets and scarves while setting out since the morning air was still chilly.
  • However, as the day progressed and the sum climbed overhead, it got hotter. Hats and sunglasses had to be fished out of the bags.
  • With the sun high up, can the sun-screen be far behind? Regret for the next three months should you forget to carry it!
  • You are in Maasai Mara. Should you be told to carry your camera with an ‘assorted’ set of lenses?
  • No forgetting your binoculars either. Although, if you book a Safari company, like how we did, you will get a set of good binoculars for the span of the trip.
  • Danielle also got for us two books – one on the animals and the other, on the birds that you can see in Maasai Mara and Naivasha. Call it the ready reckoner!

And the million-dollar experience of a full-day safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya! It indeed is a million dollar experience. Nothing less! Since we had already seen four of the Big Five in our Sunset drive the previous evening, Danielle was relaxed and took it at a very easy pace, looking out for the star animals, going his own way instead of being a party to the others who were in a cavalcade. This showed us Maasai Mara almost exclusively. Alone. Without another human in sight. Really smart, Danielle showed us a leopard on a tree walking around when mush of the crowd were ogling over lions. We had already done that last evening. And were happy to ogle at the leopard and shoot him from all every angle possible.

And then we saw lions mate! We did! No photos of that ‘porn’ moment only because the jeep zoomed at top speed to catch the act. We just couldn’t get our camera steady in all that excitement.

Lunch was in the middle of the Maara with elephants on one side and deers running around in another. Post lunch, Danielle drove us to the Mara river where you could see hippos and crocodiles completely owing the place, and visualize the great wildebeest migration that takes place in the middle of the year. We saw a dazzle of Zebras suspiciously looking at a pride of lions and seemingly ready for a run if it came to that. And then there was the Cheetah, who much have had just finished his lunch before we reached him, and looked so drowsy that he could doze off if we weren’t around. Hyenas waiting to leave the remnants of a hunt so that they could devour what was left. All this while, while vultures hovered around for their chance too. On our way back, we saw buffaloes, in thousands, moving out to another part of the grassland truly in search of ‘greener pastures’.

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And then there was that chance million dollar photo with the King who suddenly decided to come up to our jeep and check us out! We, needless to mention, did go bonkers. The driver of another jeep took our camera and got us this once-in-a-lifetime shot!

Full-day game drive in Maasai Mara

All this and many more, that evening we headed back to our lodge in complete daze. The vast grasslands and its beautiful inmates, the quiet, the action, the search, the sightings, Maasai Mara, this close and personal, was most gratifying and humbling……

Earth is so beautiful. Why are we human beings up in arms to destroy it?

Restaurant Review — Tonic in Mahalxmi, Mumbai

tonic in Mahalaxmi is Mumbai’s newest lounge abr, tucked away in the quiet lane that house Famous Studio, only a stone’s throw from Lower Parel bustling corporate houses. How convenient to drive just ‘round the corner’ for some specially crafted finger food and cocktails. Just what you’d need at the end of that stressful day at work!

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Choose from a whole spread of snacks at Tonic that go so so well with their signature drinks – Veg Mushroom Crostini Platter that was one of the most amazing we had had; Sweet Potato Fritter in Wasabi Mayo that makes potato chips pale into oblivion; Tie Me Up – a most amusing minced paneer wrapped in wanton threads, deep fried and served with chilly garlic sauce – we had not seen or eaten one such before; Assorted Seafood Crostini that had prawns and squid mixed with cheese, topped on a bread and baked – If you do not like too much cheese, request the chef to go easy on the cheese he mixes with the sea-fishes; Spicy Chicken slices Cracked and Crumbled that were good again and goes with heavy drinks; Baby Lamb Chilly, my favourite, that had just the right roast and sauce; a plateful of Soya Ginger Rawas if you love your fish so much; Cracker Jacket Prawn perfectly marinated and served with a heavenly sauce; Chicken Popcorns that are extremely juicy despite being deep fried; Veg Gyoza – a snack that is so exquisite that you will love it not only because it tastes good, but also because it looks so good; Thai spiced Chicken – how many different ways can the Chef present chicken to his patrons in tonic is what you start wondering by the time they serve you the Thai Chicken! Undoubtedly, Tonic caters to every tongue – be it the lover of India spices or the Oriental ones or the subtlety of the European dishes.

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At Tonic, the Chef’s creativity is perfectly complimented by the Bartender’s creativity! We tasted the above-mentioned food with some of the barman’s exclusive creations – Lemon Grass Mojito (yeah! A Thai Mojito); Sour Wishkey, that had lemon, and blended perfectly with some of the spicy snacks; Pomegranate Martini giving the Mumbaikars just the weapon to beat the heat and humidity; Rocky Blue Margarita and more….Of course they have the usual wines and beers and whiskeys….but, we’d beg you to try out their signature cocktails too. One most amusing aspect of their bar is the fact that Tonic serves its drinks in Batli (meaning, one bottle) or Barni (in Jars just right for 2-3 friends) and Balti (you guessed it! In a bucket, for that big group of friends)

Prices appeared to be competitive, considering you are in Mahalaxmi, one of those Mumbai’s topnotch addresses! Most of the snacks are between Rs 300-400; while the drinks drinks are with Rs 400.

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With a jazzy interiors, cool lighting, two huge screens, and comfortable seating, Tonic, as I said earlier, is the best place to unwind and be pampered with good food and drinks. Should you be hungry after all those snacks that you’d have downed with the drinks, you can go upstairs to Auriga for dinner. But, as I mentioned, should you be hungry….

(Jayanta and I were invited to Tonic for a review of their food and drink offerings)

Hotel Review — Keekorok Lodge in Maasai Mara, Kenya

At Maasai Mara, we were staying at the famous Keekorok Lodge. Famous, because it was the first-ever property to be built right in the middle of the grasslands; has, over the years had scores of celebrities as guests; and is a property that has no fencing. That essentially means, you can have ‘wild’ visitors anytime. We did hear the hippos grunt in the middle of the night….the standard instructions at the hotel is that after dark, if you eed to venture out either to the restaurant or towards your room, you need to call the reception. They send guards who escort you…Truly exciting….

How was the experience of staying at the Keekorok Lodge? Lovely! The reception, restaurant and memorabilia store is located in the central building made of stones and done up in a complete African décor. The rooms spread out from both sides of the main building, and overlook either the pool or the indoor garden or the reserve. Our room was to the left from the main entrance, with a clear view of the national park in front. We could actually see deers running in the not-so-distant grasslands while we sat sipping tea/coffee in our verandah. Then there were the beautiful, every hued winged visitors, the mongooses….

They also have a big pond for hippos within the Lodge area with viewing facilities and a Hippo ‘Bar’.

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How is the food at Keekorok Lodge? The food, however, was extremely average…their spread not as good as the Sopa Resorts in Naivasha, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Even tea time. Frankly, was majorly disappointed with the food.

The do have a well-stocked bar, the expenses of which is not covered in the regular rates. That means, if you drink anything from the bar, you pay separately for it!

Internet Facilities at Keekorok Lodge? internet is available but not free at the Keekorok. The rates are quite obscene and we didn’t subscribe to it. So, more or less, we stayed disconnected when at Maasai Mara!

Final Word: Baring the food, we loved every aspect of our stay in Keekorok, and would recommend..

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari

Maasai Mara sunset safari, nay, game drive, starts two hours before sunset time and carries on a little after the sun is down. What is a game drive, did you ask? Game drives are the safaris. Every sighting of an animal in Maasai land is referred to as ‘game’, and hence, ‘game drive’.

We rushed to our hotel, Keekorok Lodge, for lunch after our tour of the Maasai village. It was a little after 2pm and Danielle, our guide and driver, gave us time until 4pm to freshen up and eat, before we set out for the sunset game drive.

Sightings on our Maasai Mara sunset safari

Almost as if to welcome us in Maasai Mara, we found a giraffe standing right next to the road. And although we had seen many in Naivasha, the one at Maasai Mara looked special to us. Closer.

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

Danielle was, however, focussed on showing us a few of the Big Five – Lion, Elephants, Leopard, Rhinoceros and Buffaloes. And so, without stopping longer in front of the giraffe, made his way into the grassland. There, he said, were all of them, in their herds, amongst their own. We were excited!

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

But didn’t have to go beyond a few kilometres before we sighted the first of the Big Five – Elephants. With their massive ears, this was, clearly, what we had never seen before. One, and then the whole family, crossing the road in front of us. We stood in our jeep, gaping in wonder!

Elephant in Maasai Mara

And then, soon after, second of the Big Five – Buffaloes. We have to admit, we weren’t very excited about seeing them, after all, we see so many buffaloes back home in India all the time. But changed our mind when Danielle told us that these buffaloes were like no other — big, strong, powerful and extremely dangerous, these buffaloes can even kill lions! Really? All right, then they deserve to be one of the Big Five, we agreed!

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

Though still bright, the sun was on its way towards the western horizon. Danielle, didn’t want to close the day without showing us the King – Lions. And strained his eyes towards clearings, trees. Sure enough, he soon sighted one, and drove us there. Sitting there, just like how a king should sit, we watched in delight at the King in his land. Jayanta went bonkers with his camera, while Danielle smiled in deep satisfaction. Allowing us another ten minutes, he drove us further inside to discover three more lions sleeping!

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Three down, Danielle was excited! And got greedy too. Drove us further down for the fourth of the Five. Voila! A Rhino! An old one though, which could hardly move, we were now ecstatic – we had already seen four of the Five in a span of an hour. Danielle, of course, was smiling from ear to ear, with that lovely African twinkle in his eyes!!!

Maasai Mara Sunset Game Drive (110)

By now, the sun had climbed further down. We slowly made our way back to the hotel, saying to ourselves that we keep the Leopard for the next day. As we drove back, we came by baby elephants, antelopes, a Hyena, vultures, zebras, all types of deers and birds. But Danielle wouldn’t call it a day yet. He was still on the lookout. And found a Cheetah for us. Lying down, as if tired and done for the day, we gazed at him from the distance.

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And soon signed off our Maasai Mara sunset safari by driving off into the famous Maasai sunset in the backdrop of the lovely Acacia tree!

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

Travel and food stories from around the world, through the eyes/lenses of a Mumbai-based husband-wife-daughter trio…

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