Peak season in the Masai Mara National Reserve is from July to September when the famous wildebeest migration can be seen. Thousands of tourists descend on the Masai Mara to see the vast herds and witness the dramatic river crossings. But what is the Masai Mara like outside of migration season, once the great herds have left? Is it still worth visiting?

The short answer is yes. The Masai Mara Reserve has an abundance of resident wildlife all year round. It is not true that all the predators disappear once the huge herds of the migration move south toward the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania.

On a recent visit in the second half of October, we spent six days on safari in the Mara, long after the migration had moved south. No great migration. No dramatic river crossings. Only a few remaining wildebeest. And the short rains had arrived, which brought dramatic storm clouds and short downpours on most afternoons.

It's not the most popular time, and yet we had incredible sightings. I will let the photographs below speak for themselves. Best of all, the Mara was quiet. Not too many vehicles around. We had several great sightings all to ourselves.

The vast open plains and distant horizons lend themselves to great photographic opportunities if you have a reasonably long lens. Here are some of the amazing scenes we witnessed:

Masai Mara sunrise

Impala rams at sunrise.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Lion King - Masai Mara

A majestic male lion against a dramatic sky.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Female leopard

Even though the migration had moved on, predators were abundant.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Masai Mara cheetahs

We followed this coalition of five cheetahs for several hours.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Cheetahs hunting

The rain is perfect weather for hunting.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Cheetahs in the rain

Shaking off the rain. The occasional rain shower did not bother them (or us) at all.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Giraffe on the horizon

A giraffe on the horizon can make a lovely photo.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Giraffe silhouette

A lone tree, a lone giraffe, and a big sky.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Elephant smelling the rain

Elephant smelling the rain.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Masai Mara open plains

There was plenty of wildlife to be found on the open plains.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Herd of elephants

Herd of elephants approaching a vehicle.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Masai Mara

We had several close up sightings of cheetah.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Zebras against a dark sky

Zebras against a dark sky.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Masai Mara zebras

Even though the migrating herds had moved on, zebras as well as topi were plentiful.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Masai Mara buffalo

We also saw buffalo every day.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Lion cub stretching

Lion cub stretching. We had several different sightings of lion cubs.

(Image: Onne Vegter)
Masai Mara Fassa Waterbuck

General game was plentiful, like this mating pair of waterbuck.

(Image: Onne Vegter)

These images are just a tiny selection of the thousands of great sightings and photographs we managed to get. If you've ever wondered whether it is worth visiting the Masai Mara outside of the migration season, wonder no more.

There are many safari veterans who prefer this time (June, as well as October to February) because it is less busy and less congested. At many of the lodges, nightly rates are lower. The migration is great to witness, but it's not all about the migration. The abundance of general wildlife and resident predators makes the Mara a fantastic year round safari destination. Have a look at our safari calendars to see the best time to visit Kenya.

WATCH: Check out this 9 minute video below of some of the highlights from our Masai Mara in October, after the migration. So many special sightings. The mating lions at sunset were amazing!

Have you been to the Masai Mara? Let us know in the comments which month you visited and what it was like.

You may also want to look at
Feature 6 day masai mara wildlife safari entim camp masai mara kenya
6 Day Masai Mara Wildlife Safari
6 days
pp sharing

This affordable 6-Day Masai Mara Wildlife Safari takes you on the journey of a lifetime to one of the best game viewing areas in East Africa. Our small-group safari is fully guided and overnights in a luxury tented safari camp located in the heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve on the edge of riverine woodlands that overlook the Mara River. To avoid disappointment, be sure to book early!

Feature budget masai mara safari game drive
6 Day Masai Mara Budget Safari
6 days
pp sharing

Our 6-Day Masai Mara Budget Safari delivers some of the best game viewing opportunities in East Africa, for an affordable price. This fully guided, small group safari overnights in eco-friendly, en-suite tents along the banks of the Talek River on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve. Book early to avoid disappointment!

Safari on Foot 7 Day Kenyan Adventure Safari
7 Day Kenyan Adventure Safari
7 days
pp sharing

Our 7 Day Kenyan Adventure Safari Tour introduces you to the wilder side of Kenya on an affordable budget. Explore Laikipia Plateau's sweeping plains on foot, where the last of Kenya's African wild dogs have found refuge. Discover why the Masai Mara's lush grasslands, acacia woodlands, rolling savannahs and abundance of wildlife make it one of Africa's most iconic safari destinations. In season, witness one of the world's natural wonders, the Great Migration, where one and a half million wildebeest, zebra and antelope leave the Serengeti for the Masai Mara.


About the author


Onne Vegter is the managing director of Wild Wings Safaris. He has a deep love for Africa's people, wildlife and natural heritage. Onne has travelled to most of Africa's top safari destinations and his writing is based on years of personal experience in the safari industry. Follow him on Twitter at @OnneVegter.