In terms of structuring your visit, think of the national reserve in three parts. In the west you have the Mara Triangle, between the Mara River and the Oloololo Escarpment. This lush, green area is only accessible from Oloololo Gate in the north, or by crossing the Mara New (Purungat) Bridge in the far south. It’s administered by the Mara Conservancy (wmaratriangle.org) on behalf of Narok County Council. The rest of the national reserve, the Narok side, is administered directly by Narok County Council (narok.go.ke) and consists of the Musiara sector in the north and the Sekenani sector in the centre and east. The Musiara sector, bounded by the Mara and Talek rivers, is the location of Governors’ Camp and Mara Intrepids and has some of the most photogenic wildebeest river crossings. The Sekenani sector, the largest portion of the reserve, is bordered by the Talek, Mara and Sand rivers, and has Keekorok Lodge – the oldest lodge in the reserve – in its centre.
Outside the reserve, roughly a dozen conservancies, group ranches and private game ranches, usually run in partnership with the local Maasai communities, offer wildlife-viewing that is often the equal of what you’ll see in the reserve proper – increasingly reflected in their management practices, conservation work and prices. Some of them, including the Mara North and Mara Naboisho conservancies, only permit game drives for visitors staying at their camps and lodges, the aim being to limit visitor numbers and exclude drive-in minibus tours.