On Safari in Kenya: Lions, Cheetahs and the Annual Migration at the Masai Mara Reserve

Posted on November 11, 2013 by

Over thousands of wildebeests and zebras sprawl across the vast grasslands, peppering the landscape that runs for miles into the horizon. We’ve seen them before – but now to see them in such big numbers is just impressive. As we drive further along the rolling hills and surprisingly green fields, the sheer sight of the thousands of animals before us leaves us silent in awe.

We are game driving in Kenya’s world famous Masai Mara National Reserve, well known as one of the best reserves in East Africa. This is also where the annual migration takes place. Each year, impressive herds of over one million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle cross over the plains from the Serengeti in search of new pastures. Even though we are here towards the end of the season, we have the great fortune of witnessing a small fraction of the migration. Over tens of thousands of wildebeests are grazing on the grasslands, some lounging around as though it were a Sunday afternoon, while others trample over one another in search of food.

But it’s not just the annual migration that I’m here for. During our game drives in the Masai Mara, I’ve been rewarded with plenty of impressive wildlife sightings: from cheeky little jackals scrambling around the bush, to an elephant family of eight feasting together, a pool filled with lazy hippos, and a handsome cheetah just sitting under a tree a few feet from us. The highlight is definitely seeing a group of 11 young lions feasting on a freshly captured zebra, its black-and-white-striped skin and blood-red flesh clearly visible as the lions gnawed and devoured it up.

Thanks to my 300mm lens, I managed to capture some pretty good shots of the action. I hope these photos will give you an idea of how amazing wildlife watching in the Masai Mara can be – enjoy!


Wildebeests grazing on the grasslands of Masai Mara – this is just a small fraction of the annual migration.

A group of young lions are feasting on a freshly caught zebra whose skin and flesh are clearly visible.

A group of young lions are feasting on a freshly caught zebra whose skin, teeth and flesh are clearly visible.

A lion on the prowl

Lions on the prowl.

A pair of young lions in the shade

This pair of young lions  take the opportunity to enjoy the shade right by our overland truck.

An older male lion

Later on, we find even more lions taking an afternoon nap in the shade. These are older lions as you can see from their mane.

A cheetah lounging under the tree
Halfway through our drive, we see a handsome cheetah resting under a tree, just a few feet away from the path.

Face to face with the cheetah

A close-up shot of its face – look at the beautiful tear stains beneath its eyes and the immaculate spots on its body.

Hippo pool at Keekorok
Our last stop brought us to the Keekorok Lodge, a luxury safari lodge with a beautiful waterhole that’s home to plenty of hippos, maribou storks, and herons.

Hippos line up in the Mara River

At the Mara River, a pod of hippos float lazily in the water – seemingly unfazed by the horrible stench from the antelope carcasses.

An elephant family
After crossing a series of streams, we come across an elephant family of eight all hanging out together.

A closeup

Take a closer look at the elephant’s wrinkles, trunk and tusks.

A buffalo grazing

The cape buffalo is considered one of the Big Five.

A pair of jackals waiting to scavange

This pair of jackals are seen lingering near the lions as they feast on the zebra- obviously trying to steal a bite.

A pair of vervet monkeys goofing around

At the Keekorok Lodge, I stumble upon these adorable two vervet monkeys.

A safari jeep thundering through Masai Mara

A safari jeep trundles along the path that winds its way through the Masai Mara.

The roads of Masai Mara
Besides the acacia trees, the grasslands of Masai Mara are dry and barren.

How to:

I traveled with Africa Travel Co on the 24-day Gorillas, Game Parks and Zanzibar trip, and the trip included two days of game driving in the Masai Mara National Reserve. The reserve is approximately six hours by car from Nairobi. Game drives can be arranged through the national park center or a tour operator.

Disclaimer: This experience was made possible by Africa Travel Co but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

6 Responses to “On Safari in Kenya: Lions, Cheetahs and the Annual Migration at the Masai Mara Reserve”

  1. Angela November 11, 2013 2:37 pm #

    Great post! I will definitely be looking into getting a better zoom lens if I ever decide to visit Africa. Looks like a great experience.

  2. kristy November 12, 2013 11:40 pm #

    Stunning pictures and it is indeed an awesome experience you've encounter there for seeing those wild & dangerous animals in their own sanctuary.

  3. Colleen Setchell November 13, 2013 9:49 pm #

    LOVED the photos here! I'm originally from South Africa and have had the pleasure of visiting the Kruger National Park many times so this article really brought back those memories for me. LOVED the photo of the cheetah – he certainly IS a handsome boy.

  4. Nina November 14, 2013 5:24 am #

    Hey Nellie,
    Incredible clicks !! I love wildlife photography. In love with these pictures.

  5. Rob @ 1 Day Trips November 18, 2013 9:25 am #

    You have some incredible pictures and a great story behind them. Did you know that over 2500 wildebeests at one river crossing they are forced to close off some roads after the migration due to health risks. but thats a small price to pay, afterall more than quater of a million calves are born in February of every year in Ngorongoro to replenish the stocks.

  6. Anja December 22, 2013 5:26 pm #

    Great photos! I like the jackals and vervet monkeys , I don't see them often in safari stories.

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