Wildebeest Migration In Masai Mara
The Great Migration refers to the movement of a million wildebeests from Serengeti in Tanzania northwards into the adjoining Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, both forming the Mara – Serengeti Ecosystem.
The Great Migration is one of the world’s most spectacular and thrilling display of wildlife behavior, the migration takes place every year with the animals being guided by their primal instincts towards greener pastures following the climatic rain fall patterns over the Serengeti – Mara ecosystem.
For 2023 season, we recommend planning your travel from mid-July as is when the migration typically starts with the larger herds of wildebeests starting to move into Masai Mara national reserve, the migration takes place till the end of August before declining into mid-September.
The number of wildebeests migrating each year varies, however in the past migrations over 1. Million wildebeests and close to a million zebra and large numbers of Thomson and Grant’s Zebras undertake the long trek that lasts many weeks. Their journey comprises of danger as the herds faceoff with the fierce crocodiles in the Mara and Talek rivers along the way, during which many lose their lives to the giant Nile crocodiles lying in wait for their prey.
Guide to Wildebeest Migration in Masai Mara
This article answers many questions often asked by travelers plaining a safari to Kenya for wildebeest migration.
What time of the year is the Wildebeest Migration?
In Masai Mara, the wildebeest migration typically starts in July and ends in late September. However, the exact dates around this period are not predictable until the first large wildebeest actually gather at the northern edge of Serengeti as they near the Mara River. These initial herds are sometimes known to gather at a spot for days on end without crossing over to the Mara, so when exactly the final leg of the movement starts is difficult to predict.
So What is the best time to see the Migration?
Based on the experience from decades, mid – July to late August is the best time to see the migration, keep in mind it is a gradual event that takes place over several weeks at different locations along the Serengeti Masai Mara border.
In summary, the best time to see the migration is August
Where do the wildebeest migrate to and from?
The movement of the wildebeest is from Serengeti National Park into Masai Mara National Reserve, the movement is dictated by a number of factors such as the climate, pasture and mating and calving season.
Note: The wildebeest migrate throughout the year in a generally clockwise direction covering vast areas reaching into Southern, Central and Western Serengeti before the year long trek brings then to Masai Mara national reserve around July to August. Their journey back to Serengeti happens around late October though it is less spectacular and more like a slow dispersal.
How do you see the Wildebeest Migration?
The migration can be seen during a safari game drive in Masai Mara national reserve conducted in specialized vehicles driven by experienced driver – guides. There are several core points where the wildebeest cross the rivers, it may be necessary to access and station at these points during a day – long outing in the reserve as some of the lodges and camps are in a drive of one hour from the ideal vantage points. Most tourists who visit Masai Mara National Reserve specifically to see the Mara River Crossing, it is important to spend enough time at these crossing points which also tends to vary slightly every year while staying within a generally similar sub- locality of the reserve.
Month By Month Wildebeest Migration
To most people, the Great Migration only happens once a year but the migration is in fact an all year round phenomenon event offering different unique and exciting wildlife experience at various times of the year. The Mara River Crossing is one of the most requested event of the migration and usually coincide with the peak safari season, therefore the assumption that this is the only time of the year that the wildebeests are on the move or can be seen.
The river crossing usually occurs at Mara River around late July to August with parts of September and again on their return south around the last two weeks of October through early November thus the best time to see the annual wildebeest migration in Masai Mara.
Below is a general breakdown of more or less where the herds are during the year, keep in mind that it is difficult to predict the herds movement as it is prompted by rain which can be early, late or on time.
December To April
Depending on the rains, the herds can be seen south of Serengeti National Park between Ndutu Plains and Ngorongoro plains, the best place to be during these months is the far south of Serengeti. Around February, it is the calving season and there are high chances of witnessing a wildebeest birth “calving season”.
The herds move swiftly in search of favorable grasslands to provide sustenance for the arrival of their young, the predator interaction such as lions and leopards are moving to this region to prey on the young and vulnerable calves. End of March. Early April the herds move slowly and predictably to begin their northward journey and many have left already and are in the center and even western Serengeti.
May To June
During this time of the year, the migratory herds all seem to be moving north in search of fresh grazing and water. The migration is usually in huge columns of up to 40 kilometers in length and can be seen as the wildebeests reach in the central and western Serengeti often joined by Zebras and Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles.
June marks the end of rainy season, traditionally this is the end of rainy season, traditionally this is the Grumeti River Crossing period but this is mainly dependent on water level of the Grumeti River.
Note: This crossing is not quite as spectacular as the crossing of the Mara River.
July To September
This is the period when the big event occur “the Mara River Crossing”, the herds have reached the western Serengeti and Grumeti Reserves and are peering closely at the brown waters of the river they have to cross. In August, the survivors herd continues moving northwards into the northern Serengeti and begin crossing into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve.
The herd breaks into smaller groups, almost half of the animals remains in the northern Serengeti, the rest of the wildebeests will have crossed the Mara River and the majority of the herds will be in the Great Masai Mara Area eating the lush green grass resources before venturing north towards the private conservancies of Mara North and Olare Orok. This is usually the most preferred moments of the migration, watching the frantic herds of the wildebeests crossing the Mara River.
October To November
The wildebeests migrate again with more accord, all are heading south through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park’s Lobo area returning to the green pastures. The herds can now be seen in Kogatende and Lamai (Northern Serengeti). In a normal year, the short rains have begun in November. The herds are now in the Serengeti stationed in the Lobo, Mbuze Mawe and Seronera Valley areas where water is abundant,
Fresh grazing sees the wildebeests clustered in the north – eastern Serengeti particularly around Lobo Area as well as the southern Serengeti.
Calving begins again, the predators move again and the cycle of life begins all over again.
Book your wildebeest migration with Engabi Safaris