The yearly wildebeest migration from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Maasai Mara in Kenya is one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world. The yearly migration of immense herds of wildebeest takes place all year round in Serengeti Park and Maasai Mara Reserve. This enormous migration happens between Serengeti Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya between July and October. The wildebeest migrate in search of greener pastures. They have to cross the Mara River in the Maasai Mara from the Serengeti which is infested by crocodiles.
In March, towards the end of the short dry season, the small grass grasslands of the southernmost Serengeti start to dry out, and the wildebeest start their journey, towards the western woodlands. According to behaviorist and conservationist Harvey Croze, co-author of The Great Migration known the way to follow by observing weather trends. The wildebeest’s journey is guided mainly by their reaction to the weather; they move towards rains and the growth of grass. They are no documented scientific evidence that this is true; it is also indicated that the wildebeest and other animals respond to lightning and storms in the distance. Croze stated that it would be surprising if the wildebeest overlooked the protuberant portents of change.
It is evident that there is no solo entity of the wildebeest migration. There is no start nor finish to their relentless search for pastures and water, as they round the Serengeti- Mara ecosystem. They move in a constant sequence that involves the life and death of the animals. East African authors stated that the only beginning they have is the birth. Likewise, the only ending is demise. This year the migration began on the 20th of June 2019. The wildebeests first crossed was the Sand River heading towards the more significant Mara ecology and the second was noticed at the Mara river bridge headed towards the Mara triangle. Wildebeest get to the Mara River in their tens of thousands and gather ahead of crossing as the numbers increase they finally begin off the crossing at a point of their choice thus there is no specific point of the passage.
This enormous crossing can be observed best in mid-morning at around 0900 hours to 1100 hours and at times in the afternoon from 1500 hours to 1600 hrs. They traverse the Mara ecosystem in their whole stay in Kenya at different times in massive herds accompanied by zebras and big carnivores that prey them. They move through great distances very fast for big carnivores are attacking them. This ensures that they get the pastures to feed on and be discreet within the massive Mara grasslands.
In late October, when the first of the short rains start on the Serengeti’s short-grass grasslands, refilling seasonal oases and bringing new blushes of growth, the wildebeest begin to move towards the south again. The massive herds of wildebeests move down through the eastern woodlands of the Serengeti, some 90 percent of the wildebeests with the new season’s young. Strongly congregated as they move through the forested country, the wildebeest distribute and spread out again once they arrive at the open grasslands.
The wildebeest migration was chosen in 2007 as the eighth wonder of the world. It has also been ranked among the most magnificent safari scenery. The Maasai people baptized the Reserve-Mara, which denotes spotted, this is in relation to the landscape, which is covered with orchards of acacia and thorn savannahs. It is possible the name was derived from the spotted blizzard of wildebeest and millions of other animals during the relocation. Besides its progressing plains and wide-open grassland, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve is the type of African landscape you might see in the cinemas and films such as the Big Cats Series.
Booking wildebeest Migration Safaris
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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.