To Drive or Fly to Masai Mara from Nairobi? Top 5 Considerations

 Meta: Driving from Nairobi to Masai Mara takes 5-6 hours, and is the best option to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Flying takes around 40-45 minutes, great for time-saving. 


  • Flying vs driving to Masai Mara
  • Nairobi to Masai Mara by road vs air
  • Nairobi to Masai Mara distance
  • Nairobi to Masai Mara by car
  • Nairobi to Masai Mara flight price

Masai Mara, or simply the Mara, is a wildlife conservation area located in southwestern Kenya. It is a premier Kenya Safari destination, famous for its population of lions, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, zebras, and hippos. Herds of wildebeests traverse its grassy plains each year during their annual migration, attracting tourists from all parts of the world.

The Masai Mara is about 280 KM from Nairobi. You can choose to travel to the Mara by air or road. Driving takes about 5-6 hours as opposed to 40-45 minutes for flying. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. To help you decide between driving and flying to Masai Mara from Nairobi, let’s explore the top five considerations when making the decision.

Time and Convenience

The first and most important thing to consider is, how fast do you want to get to the Mara? As stated earlier, the drive from Nairobi to Masai Mara can take around 5 to 6 hours, depending on the road conditions and the specific entry gate of the reserve you’re heading to. Taking a flight, on the other hand, will take you approximately 45 minutes to get to Masai Mara.

The bottom line? If time is of the essence and you want to maximize your stay in the reserve, flying might be the more attractive option. Taking a flight allows you to save time and start your safari adventure sooner. The good news is that the Masai Mara National Park has several airfields to accommodate travelers who prefer taking flights. Among the airfields are Mara Serena Airport, Ngerende Airport, Angama Mara, Keekorok, Kichwa, Tembo, and Musiara Airport.

Meanwhile, if you enjoy road trips and want to savor the journey from Nairobi to Masai Mara, driving can provide a unique experience. This lets you witness the changing landscapes and immerse yourself in the local culture. The best part? There are several companies in Nairobi that allow you to rent a car for your Safari, including 4×4 vehicles, available either on a self-driving basis or with a driver guide.  

Cost Considerations

The cost of transportation is a significant factor for most travelers. When considering whether to drive or fly to Masai Mara, it’s essential to weigh the costs associated with both options.

Obviously, taking a flight to the Mara is more expensive than driving there. Expect to part with at least $220 for a one-way ticket to Masai Mara. That’s quite more compared to just about $100 for a one-way drive.

That said, though flying is expensive, it’s crucial to factor in the time it saves to get there. Additionally, the condition of the roads leading to Masai Mara can vary, and you may need a sturdy 4×4 vehicle for a comfortable journey.

Ultimately, driving to the Mara is the way to go if you want to cut costs. It only makes sense to consider flying if time is an important factor to you. The time saved on travel can actually be spent enjoying the safari experience, and the convenience of arriving quickly might outweigh the higher upfront cost of a flight.

Road Conditions and Accessibility

Before deciding to embark on a road trip to Masai Mara, it’s essential to assess the road conditions and the accessibility of the routes. Some areas have challenging terrains, especially during the rainy season, which can make driving difficult.

If you opt to drive, make sure to check the weather forecast and road conditions beforehand. A 4×4 vehicle is advisable, and having an experienced local driver can be beneficial, especially if you are not familiar with the region. If on budget, travelers can use a small vehicle such as the Honda CRV, Toyota Premio, or Mazda Atenza to drive from Nairobi up to the gate of the Masai Mara. Then hire a 4×4 safari vehicle at the gate of the Park. 

Meanwhile, flying eliminates the need to navigate through potentially challenging road conditions. A short flight to the reserve ensures a smooth and comfortable journey, allowing you to focus on the excitement that awaits you in Masai Mara.

Scenic Beauty and Cultural Experience

The journey to Masai Mara is not just about reaching your destination; it’s also about the experiences along the way. Driving allows you to witness the changing landscapes, local villages, and the vibrant culture of the region. The area neighboring the Park is dotted with villages (known as enkangs) of Maasai people, creating a spectacular scene.

If you appreciate the scenic beauty of the countryside and want to immerse yourself in the local culture, driving is the preferred option. You can stop at interesting points, such as the Rift Valley viewpoint, interact with locals, and make spontaneous detours to explore hidden gems along the way.

Conversely, flying offers a different perspective. A flight to the Mara is the perfect opportunity to appreciate the vastness of the landscape from the air. The aerial view can be breathtaking and provides a unique introduction to the beauty of Masai Mara.

Group Size and Travel Preferences

Are you traveling to the Mara alone or with a group? The size of your travel group plays a crucial role in deciding whether to drive or fly. For larger groups, driving might be a more economical and practical option. It makes it possible to travel together and share experiences.

However, if you prefer a more private and expedited journey, flying could be the ideal choice. Small charter flights are available, providing a more exclusive and personalized travel experience. This option is particularly attractive for those looking to celebrate a special occasion or seeking a more intimate safari adventure.


Ultimately, the decision to drive or fly to Masai Mara depends on various factors, ranging from time constraints, budget considerations, road conditions, the desire for a cultural experience, and the size of your travel group. Both options offer unique advantages, and the choice comes down to personal preferences and priorities.

Whether you opt for the scenic road trip or the swift flight, one thing is for sure – Masai Mara promises an unforgettable safari experience, with its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural heritage. Choose the mode of transportation that aligns with your priorities, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in the heart of the African wilderness.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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