We all have that burning desire to travel the world, to visit places and people we’ve only read about, and to experience cultures beyond our narrow confines. And why not, travel opens our minds and broadens our perspectives. The well-traveled man is the best species of man. That’s the reason Mark Twain, in his pithy element, would observe that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” And if you’re planning to travel anywhere, Kenya should be on your bucket list. It plays host to what has been described as the eighth wonder of the world.


This dramatic spectacle is the thrilling adventure of how some 1.5 million wildebeests move in a loop spanning over one thousand miles guided only by instincts, scents, and the need for survival. Ordinarily, and as part of any preparation to see the Great Migration, information is powerful. Any traveler will want to know the time that this migration takes place, necessary travel tips, the weather to expect, and, perhaps most importantly, the financial budget. And while travel can be expensive, saving a penny here and a dollar there—can significantly slash the size of your budget. That’s the reason we show you how to watch the Great Migration on a budget.

How To Travel On A Budget For The Great Migration At Maasai Mara

The “Greatest Show On Earth” takes place either in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania or Masaai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. For this article, however, we’ll limit ourselves to the Maasai Mara side. To see the Great Migration, the summer months are perfect. The problem is, flights are expensive during this time for obvious reasons. Most airlines from the US will charge at least $1,500 to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya for a roundtrip. You should compare flight charges from different reputable platforms.

Some of the best platforms are Kayak, cheapflights.com, and skyscanner.com. If you go this route, you can reduce your travel cost by 20-50%. Of course, you’ll need to choose the economy class. Then don’t gloss over the travel days or imagine they don’t influence costs. As a rule, Fridays and Sundays are bad on the dollar. In this respect, the more flexible your travel plan is, the better. According to flight research firm Hopper Media, the cheapest time to fly to Nairobi is either Tuesday or Wednesday. The cheapest to travel back is Wednesday. And, this will come as a surprise, the day you book your Nairobi flight will affect your flight price as well. According to the data, book your flight on a Thursday. Finally, and this is something we’ve known all along—book early. At least 25 days in advance. If you’re low on cash, don’t book directly with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. And again, bargaining is a part of the commercial culture in Kenya and you can save a tidy sum this way.

Before traveling, you’ll have to decide on whether to use tour operators and decide on one—or to be personally in charge. The advantage of working with tour operators is that you’ll have calm nerves. On the other side of the coin, being personally on the deck is a thrilling experience and comes with exciting flexibility. There’s the adrenaline of a stranger in a strange country. But if we assess these options purely for the dollar weight, you’ll want to go it alone. It’s way cheaper.

Once you’ve landed at the airport, head to town by bus. It’ll set you back by up to $1 maximum. A cab will be about $35 (depending on how you bargain) and an Uber will be between $15 to $25 depending on the time. Small Nissan minibusses, locally known as matatus charge anywhere between $0.5 to $1. But these vehicles come with a touch of road indiscipline and unruliness. That’s the reason we suggest you use a bus or Uber. Once you’ve been dropped in the city center, you can board a tuk-tuk to your hotel—if you used a bus. You may want to consider an Uber though for the convenience because Uber will take you straight to your hotel.

Related: Once-In-A-Lifetime Things To Try In Nairobi, Kenya

For accommodation in Nairobi, there are cheap hostels on the crazy, crowded eastern side that go for as little as $7 per night. However, for security reasons and convenience, hostels within the main CBD area are preferable. You can compare these facilities on bookings.com. Still, we would go with YWCA or Young Women Christian Association hostels on Nyerere road, only 1km from Kenyatta International Conference Center(KICC), the city’s defining landmark. For its location, security, and quiet environment, the $20 the YWCA charges is a decent offer. Now comes the ultimate part, your trip to Maasai Mara. Of course, you can take a return flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi—to Maasai Mara for anywhere between $300 and $450 depending on the season. But for a budget traveler, that’s not an option. Cabs charge about $120 to the game reserve for a one-way ticket. So if you’re traveling with friends, you can share and reduce the personal financial burden to about $30, if you are four. That’s a decent price. Problem is, you may not be traveling in a group. If this is the case, you’ll need to board a matatu from Nairobi to Narok and then from Narok to the reserve.

Since you’re staying practically in the CBD, you can sling your backpack over your shoulder and just walk to the Easycoach bus station for a $7 ride to Narok. For convenience, you should have already booked this in advance. Try all you can to book the 7:45 AM bus. This journey will take about 4 hours. Once at Narok, find your way to the bus station near a Naivas supermarket, 600 meters away, and board another matatu or a Toyota Probox station wagon to Maasai Mara’s Sekenani gate for $6. This is a 3-hour drive.

Once at the gate, you can ask for Mara Explorers camp, 3.8 kilometers from the Sekenani gate. You can trek or board a motorbike, locally referred to as piki-piki or boda-boda for about $1. Camping at this beautiful, little camp is the cheapest option, especially if you have your tent. It costs only $15 per night. Otherwise, you may have to spend $50 inside the dome tents but with the added benefit of meals. After that, you’ll pay $80 as park entry fees. Finally, you’ll decide how to tour this amazing park.

Landcruisers charge about $270 per vehicle and can carry up to four people while tour vans charge $160 and can carry up to 7. So if you go with a tour van, assuming maximum capacity, you’ll only pay $23. In conclusion, two nights and one day will set you back ($7+$6 +$1)*2 for travel to and from Nairobi, which comes to $28; and ($50+$50+$80+$23) for accommodation, which comes to $203. Everything comes to a decent $$231.At this price point, you can’t afford to miss one of nature’s most fascinating shows.