The annual wildebeest migration is a phenomenal wildlife event that every tourist yearns to experience. The migration of wildebeests into the Maasai Mara National Reserve often occurs from July to October. Wildebeests rely on rain patterns to determine their feeding grounds. Kenya being a tourist hub attracts tourists in hundreds of thousands to the Maasai Mara to witness the annual wildebeest migration.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve
Ecotourism in East Africa is successful due to the diverse wildlife in the region. Narok County is Kenya’s finest eco-tourism hub. Home to the Maasai Mara, Narok is located approximately 280 kilometers from the country’s capital city, Nairobi. The Mara ecosystem covers the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania. The Mara ecosystem occupies an area of 25000 square kilometers. Maasai Mara National Reserve occupies an area of 1510 square kilometers. The reserve is accessible via road from Nairobi. Moreover, tourists can take flights from Nairobi to the Mara Serena Airport in Narok County. The Mara Serena Airport is 225 kilometers from JKIA in the south-west direction.
Wildlife at the Maasai Mara
The game reserve is respected worldwide for its affluence in wildlife. It is in the world map due to the Great Wildebeest Migration, a natural wonder of the world. Aside from wildebeests, the Maasai Mara provides a home for antelopes, gazelles, elands, zebras, hippos, rhinos, hyenas, cheetahs, lions, Serval cats, bat-eared foxes, elephants, Coke’s hartebeests, Masai giraffes and impalas. The Mara hosts over 470 bird species including ostriches, falcons, vultures and the Lila-breasted roller.
Security at the Maasai Mara
The Maasai are the original inhabitants in Narok County. Based on the wildlife present in the game reserve, the Maasai people in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service personnel have resorted to fostering security in the game reserve. Security personnel is strategically deployed at various points in the game reserve. Currently, the reserve is one of the safest tourist destinations in Kenya.
The Great Wildebeest Migration at the Maasai Mara
The migration of wildebeests is a continuous process that occurs throughout the year. Labeled as a natural world wonder, the annual wildebeest migration is the biggest single movement of animals ever recorded in the globe. The transit from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara involves close to a whopping 1,500,000 wildebeests. The wildebeests are accompanied by other herbivores such as gazelles, zebras and elands. To capitalize on the migration, carnivores such as lions, leopards, hyenas, vultures and cheetahs tag along to prey on the vulnerable herbivores.
The most exhilarating moment of the annual wildebeest migration is when the wild animals attempt to cross the Grumeti and the Mara rivers. The Grumeti River is on the Tanzanian side while the Mara River is on the Kenyan side. On both rivers, the ungulates face a life and death situation as they try to cross to the other side. Hungry and fierce crocodiles lay in wait to capture weak and wounded wildebeests that attempt to cross the Mara River. It is at this juncture that the herbivores display an intense struggle for survival. Older ungulates strive to protect their young ones but the ferocity of the crocodiles and hippos sometimes exceed their efforts. As such, significant wildebeests and zebra deaths occur during the migration. On the upside, the animals repopulate once they settle in the Maasai Mara. They get ample grazing ground and space to nurture their newborns.
A closer look at the wildebeest migration reveals two major and consistent movements that rely on weather patterns. The wildebeest herds dwell and thrive in regions with lush green pastures and abundant drinking water. In the period between July and October, wildebeests migrate from Tanzania to Kenya through the Mara River. When the rains resume in the Serengeti region in late October, the herds relocate to the Serengeti through the Grumeti River.
The wildebeest migration cycle
At the Ngorongoro Crater highlands, wildebeests can give birth to up to 400,000 calves. The highlands are conducive for nurturing new calves as there are lush green pastures. Around March, grass dries up in the Serengeti forcing the wildebeests to move westwards to the woodlands. The herds move towards the Ndutu plains where they feed on short grass.
As the wildebeests follow the rain, they settle briefly at the Western Corridor of the Serengeti. At this point, the wildebeests mate under the full moon. As the rains keep attracting the wildebeest herds, they move northwards from the Western Corridor to the Maasai Mara. On the Serengeti side, the herds have to cross the Grumeti River and the Mbalangeti River.
Wildebeests are the most unpredictable herbivores when it comes to reasoning. Their inherent lack of proper reasoning subjects them to danger when selecting a crossing point. At the Mara River, some crossing points are marred with blood-thirsty reptiles and hippos. However, due to group thinking and spontaneous movement, some crossing points may present a less hazardous crossing while some may prove quite disastrous. In some instances, wildebeests graze near the river as they await their counterparts before moving as one massive group.
At the Maasai Mara, wildebeests graze on short scattered grass and bushes. They keep reproducing and nurturing young ones. As they follow new pastures, wildebeests begin to move south towards the Serengeti at the onset of the October rains.
Experience the annual wildebeest migration
Witness this year’s spectacular wildebeest migration. At Zunguka Africa Safaris, we provide our clients with the best transport and accommodation package to the Mara. Book with us for a seamless wildlife experience at the Maasai Mara National Reserve.