The Great Migration in Masai Mara Kenya – Wildebeest migration

wildebeest migration

Most people visiting Kenya for safari come to see the Great Migration (sometimes called the Wildebeest Migration or the Serengeti Migration) in Masai Mara National Reserve. One of the “seven natural wonders of Africa”, the great migration is a wildlife phenomenon that should be top of your list of things to see in Africa. Over one million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of zebras and antelope move in a circular route through an eco-system shared between Kenya and Tanzania. The migration follows the direction of fresh grass, starting in Serengeti, Tanzania after the calving season (which is around Feb) and having accumulated such a huge population that there is need to move to greener areas and thus setting the migration into motion.

When is the wildebeest migration in Kenya?

The migration arrives in Kenya’s Masai Mara around June, and by July – August entire plains of the Mara have been occupied by wildebeests (and zebras and gazelles). Standing atop a hill one can see the lush brown plains to the horizon now covered in constant black dots that are the wildebeests and occasionally interrupted by the black and white stripes of the zebras. It is such a sight to behold!!

Best time to see the migration in Kenya

The best time to see the great migration in Kenya is arguably from mid-July to August when a lot of the migration has crossed over from the Serengeti of Tanzania into the Mara. Around this time you witness thousands of animals moving across the plains.

The epic river crossing

The sight of thousands of animals dotting an entire landscape is quite enthralling, but the biggest highlight of the migration yet is the river crossing. The path of the migration in Masai Mara National Reserve is interrupted by the crocodile infested Mara and the Talek rivers which the animals have to cross to get to the other side of the plains. The crossing is one of the biggest challenges of the migration, as the crocodiles are waiting in the water for the feast, and the fast-flowing water can drown the animals. The animals gather at the bank of the river and can take several days of building numbers before deciding to take the jump into the river. So it is a waiting game with suspense and adrenaline, and when it happens it is an epic sight! Thousands of animals deciding at once make a dash into the water and stampeding over the crocodiles, many falling into the powerful jaws of the Nile crocodiles. Those who make it across are not lucky either, as, the cats are lurking in the plains waiting to join the party.

To increase your chances of witnessing the river crossing plan a longer stay in the Mara or a combine trip of Mara and Serengeti.

And if the river crossing is something you are not ready to miss then I can suggest booking with a mobile camp that target the movement of the migration and will set up near areas where the migration is expected to cross from. This comes with a bigger budget.

Is the river crossing in the Masai Mara guaranteed?

The animals can take days without crossing the river, hence it is possible to miss the crossing. For a better chance to witness the crossing, plan for a longer stay in the Mara, such as a week and there is a good chance you will see a crossing on the Mara River, or the smaller Tale River.

Is the migration worth it without the river crossing?

Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

For many people planning a safari trip to the Mara, their outstanding or only imagination and expectation of the great migration is the epic river crossing they have seen on wildlife television shows and pictures in travel magazines and print media. Therefore, for many the migration is the river crossing. This is a total misconception.

You will enjoy the migration even when you don’t catch the river crossing. The view of hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and zebras filling an entire landscape is incredible to witness. The cats having a field day with easy prey is an icing on the cake. There are constant findings of big groups of scavenging birds, the vultures, gathered on carcasses of zebra and wildebeest left behind by the satisfied cats. The migration is therefore so worth even without the crossing.

Best places in the Mara to experience the great migration and river crossing.

You will see the migration throughout the Mara and you will also need to drive to different view points depending on the migrations’ movement at a particular time, therefore it does not matter much where you will stay in Mara.

However, The Mara Triangle is great for overall wildlife experience in the reserve and is very convenient for quick travel to the Mara River migration crossing points and to the great migration’s route to and from Tanzania

How long should I stay to see the migration in the Mara

You will be able see the migration move through the Mara from day one of your entry in the park. I recommend spending at least two nights in the Mara for you to see and enjoy this spectacle of animals moving en masse through the plains. More nights also improve your chances of witnessing the epic river crossing.

Book these Masai Mara safari tours to see the migration in Kenya

4 days safari trip to Masai Mara

6 days Masai Mara and Amboseli safari

8 days Masai Mara and Rwanda gorilla tracking

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