In Africa, Christmas looks quite different to the white Christmas of the Northern Hemisphere. Freezing temperatures and snow-covered buildings are replaced by lush green plants bespeckled with colourful blossoms, ice skating on frozen lakes is ditched in favour of outdoor adventures, and woolen jerseys and gluhwein are swopped out for loose summer clothing and chilled refreshing drinks.
Beyond the tents, lies the true wilderness of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which during the short summer rainy season around November and December takes on a particular kinetic energy. While traditional safari-goers may say that the ultimate is a dry winter season safari, the Maasai Mara is a year-round safari destination and the green season is its greatest secret! What everyone forgets is that the crowds leave but the animals don’t and that the game viewing in the Maasai Mara is phenomenal all-year round.
A green Christmas in the Maasai Mara is a special idea for a festive season getaway with a difference. It is one not to be missed and here’s why:
Be merry under an African sky
Christmas is a time of warmth and vibrant celebration in Kenya’s seductive atmosphere. Spending Christmas in the Kenyan wilderness is always memorable, comfortable and full of delights. Under a setting of authentic white canvas tents, traditional details and holiday meals are carefully prepared and arranged to make your Christmas special, to highlight the uniqueness of the wild and create memories that will last a lifetime.
A Christmas in the Seventh Wonder of the World offers a rich quality of romance, adventure and elegance amidst the incredible natural beauty of one of Africa’s top safari destinations. It takes just a moment to slip into the unhurried lifestyle on safari in the Maasai Mara; what a perfect place to enjoy the festive season with family and loved ones. A huge bonus, of course, is that you get to exchange the cold miserable weather up North for the warm sunny days and leafy plains of Kenya.
Enjoy exclusivity in the wild
As Kenya’s flagship park, the Maasai Mara can sometimes get a little crowded, particularly if visiting outside of the national park’s private conservancies. The secret of the summer green season is that it is less busy, which makes wildlife viewing a more private and personal experience. What’s more, you get to enjoy much lower rates with the same superb opportunities to encounter the park’s abundant animal and bird life.
While some safari camps and lodges may close over this period, there are those that remain open to guests throughout the year, so it is always possible to book your green Christmas getaway in Kenya. This is particularly the case for those luxury camps located in private conservancies, which have bonus of limited guests and so overcrowded game-viewing is generally not an issue.
Visit nature’s kindergarten
All life in the Maasai Mara celebrates the rainy season; bursts of colour, sounds and smells transform the plains from a dry brown to a verdant green. This is the time when foals, cubs, fawns and calves are born, making it a joyful playground for young animals who are finding their feet on long wobbly legs, practicing mock-fighting for future challenges that might come their way and just having good fun rough and tumbling with each other.
This, of course, all adds a major cuteness factor to game drives during the green season. It also means that the predators come out in numbers to hunt the vulnerable young. While it can be heart-breaking at times watching a young animal being taken down by a large carnivore, it is part of nature and for many, this is an extraordinary spectacle to behold whilst on an African safari.
Witness a feathery display
The rains and warm sunlight bring a flurry of insects to the surface of the ground and up into the sky. For the over 500 endemic and near-endemic bird species in the Maasai Mara, this is their own Christmas feast. The air becomes a kaleidoscope of colours, particularly with the migrant species that wear full breeding plumage as they come down from Europe and North America to nest and rear their young in Kenya’s warmer weather.
This is the time best-suited for avid birders and twitchers to pack their binoculars, cameras and bird books (or apps) and head to the Maasai Mara. The most notable species in the park are the raptors of which approximately 57 species call it home. Look up to the sky to see the magnificent bateleur flying above the plains while up to six species of vultures can be found scavenging at a kill. Some of the water birds to look out for are the rufous-bellied heron, giant kingfisher and saddle-billed stork.
Meet the locals
While ‘The Great Migration’ of over 1.5 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle does not generally pass through the Maasai Mara over this time of the year, there is still so much more wildlife to be encountered during Kenya’s summer months.
This is a good destination to tick off at least four of the Big 5 (black rhinos are around but quite elusive), all of Africa’s big cats (cheetah, leopard and lion) as well as smaller predators like the bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal and spotted hyena. There is also, of course, an excellent variety of antelope species and the much-loved herds of elephant and giraffe.
One of the exceptional, and perhaps unexpected, benefits of going on safari during Kenya’s green season is that it is an excellent time for photographers. Whether the professional photographer loaded up with all the gear or a beginner just starting out and with a burgeoning interest in the craft, a green Christmas in the Maasai Mara could just be the place that rewards you with the ultimate shot.
Most game drive vehicles operating in the Maasai Mara offer window seat for all guests, which makes it easier to photograph in all directions. Clear skies, dustless plains, dramatic light following afternoon thunderstorms and green scenery with an abundance of wildflowers make for the perfect backdrop for a great wildlife shot.
Calvin Cottar is Director and Owner at Cottar’s 1920s Safaris. Cottar’s 1920s Safaris is an award-winning luxury 1920s safari camp and private bush villa located in the famous ‘seventh’ natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and owned and managed by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa.