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A Guide to the great Wildebeest migration in Kenya

The exceptional wildebeest migration is a wondrous movement of about 2 million animals mainly comprising of wildebeest and some zebras and gazelles in two of Africa’s extraordinary safari destinations (PHOTO/Courtesy)

The Great Wildebeest Migration in Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the world’s most phenomenon natural events to witness! This annual migration is one of the world’s wonders and it attracts a considerable number of tourists who go on a safari in Masai Mara of Kenya.

The Great Migration is also referred to as the ‘Great Wildebeest Migration’ as well as the “Masai Mara Migration” by some guidebooks. It takes place every year in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

This incredible event is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and it involves the world’s largest migration of wildlife from Serengeti national park to Maasai Mara national reserve.

About 1.5 million wildebeests, along with thousands of zebra, elands and Thompson’s gazelles leave Tanzania’s Serengeti national park and embark on a long and tedious journey to Maasai Mara in Kenya, covering a distance of approximately 1000 kilometres. It is said that over 250,000 wildebeests fail to make the journey back to Serengeti national park as a result of the long journey, being trampled on as they cross the Talek and Mara Rivers and others get eaten by predators.

The Wildebeest Migration is a breath-taking natural event to watch especially for adventure and wildlife enthusiasts on a mission to experience the best on their African Safari.

What causes the Great Migration to take place?

The Great Migration or rather Great Wildebeest Migration is caused as a result of dry spells in the Serengeti. During the dry season in Serengeti national park in Tanzania, most of the rivers in the park dry up which forces the wildlife to seek other sources of water and green pastures; hence the migration to Maasai Mara national reserve in Kenya.

Understanding the Great Wildebeest Migration.

Between December to March is a rainy season in Serengeti national park and rains are heaviest in December. By mid- January to March, the park receives less rains which marks the start of a mini dry season.

During this time, the wildebeests gather in the southern plains of the Serengeti where they have enough vegetation to feed on.

It is also during this period that new members join the herds and most females are giving birth as well as nursing their newly born. Tourists visiting the park during this time of the year will see calves grazing the vast savannah plains in the Serengeti while keeping close to their mothers. Always keep a keen look out for predators close by as they monitor their prey and wait to make the perfect kill.

By June, the dry season has already kicked in Serengeti national park and you can witness some herds of wildebeests and other wildlife animals moving north towards Maasai Mara national Reserve in Kenya. It is not until mid-July and August that you will watch the largest herds of blue wildebeests, zebras, elands and Thompson Gazelles migrating from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Maasai Mara in Kenya.

From October to November, the wildebeests start moving back to Serengeti National Park; although in fewer numbers than at the start of the migration. They cross the Mara River for the second time and settle back in the northern plains of the Serengeti.

What month does the Great Wildebeest Migration take place?

The Great Wildebeest Migration takes place between June and October. The Great Migration is largely determined by the rains in Serengeti national park. Therefore if the dry season in Serengeti national park starts early in the year, the wildlife in the park will start migrating early south towards Maasai Mara game reserve.

From January to March, it is easier to watch these wildebeest from mobile camps though staying at mobile camps is discouraged by the presence of flies around the area (PHOTO/Courtesy)

When does the Great Migration happen in Masai Mara?

The great wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara takes place between June to August; with the best time to witness the migration being Mid-June to August. Tourists can enjoy watching the spectacular event as thousands of wildebeests and other wildlife cross the Mara River.

Which is the best place to see the wildebeest migration?

Whether Kenya or Tanzania, each destination offers the best sightings of the wildebeest migration depending on which time of the year you plan on visiting. The Great Wildebeest Migration is most active from mid-July, August, September and October; while in Tanzania’s Serengeti national park, the wildebeest migration is most active in October, November, and December, March, April and May.

What to pack when you are going to watch the wildebeest migration?

When planning a game drive to see the wildebeest migration whether in Maasai Mara national reserve or Serengeti national park, remember to carry the following items;

packed lunch box,

camera and extra batteries to capture the unforgettable events,

a water bottle, cap/hat, map of the park (for those on a self-game drive),

Binoculars,

sunscreen cream and insect repellent

It is recommended to wear light clothes

Planning your Kenya Safari

When planning your safari to Kenya, especially for tourists looking to witness the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara national reserve, it is always best that you book your safari through a trusted tour operator company. In this case, you will know the best time to catch the Great Wildebeest migration in Masai Mara and also find great accommodation facilities in which to stay.

The Great Migration always varies from year to year depending on the variations in the weather as well as the availability of water and grazing pastures. This migration is considered the most thrilling spectacle in the animal kingdom. Witnessing the migration of over 1.5 million wildebeests and other wildlife like zebras, gazelles and elands with their ever attendant entourage of predators is such a breathtaking experience.

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