The wildebeest migration refers to the continuous movement of animals from Tanzania to Kenya and then back with the cycle continuing every year. Masai Mara which is located in Kenya and the wildebeests migrate to the Masai Mara when the Reserve is experiencing the rainy season and the pastures are green.
The great migration was also known named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and you would not want to miss out on this great adventure. There are over 2 million wildebeests that migrate every year and these spend their life moving between the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
What is the great wildebeest migration?
The great wildebeest migration refers to the annual movement from Serengeti National Park to the Masai Mara in Kenya in search of pasture. Over 15 million wildebeests cross over and these include zebras, herbivores, Thomson’s gazelles, and, elands. This is considered to be the largest animal migration in the whole world
Where do wildebeests migrate to?
The wildebeests migrate from the Serengeti National Park around July every year to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The wildebeests can be seen crossing the Grumeti and the Mara Rivers as they enter the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Note that the wildebeest migration is a cycle with the animals crossing into the Masai Mara from Serengeti and after a few months, they migrate to Serengeti from the Masai Mara.
Why wildebeests migrate?
The wildebeests migrate due to only two reasons and that is in search of water and search of food. The animals leave the Serengeti National Park when the dry season hits and migrate to the Masai Mara Game reserve during the wet season which has plenty of water and food and when the dry season hits they migrate back to Serengeti in Tanzania.
The stages of the wildebeest migration
Different stages make up the wildebeest migration. These stages are what the animals go through and the first is the birthing, followed by the rutting season, and then finally the crossing of the animals into Masai Mara.
The birthing stage takes place in the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania and is the first stage and the beginning of the wildebeest migration it normally takes place during the rainy season that is between January and February and during this period, more than four million calves are born and this is the best time to see the animals at a younger stage. You will however get to witness some brutal scenes as many of the calves are prey to the predators.
The mating season
The mating season also known as the rutting season is when the males fight for sexual dominance. This can best be seen in Serengeti National Park before the animals cross over to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
The crossing to Masai Mara
This is the most anticipated state when it comes to the wildebeest migration and it starts in July. The animals can be seen congregating along the River banks and as some cross immediately, some keep lurking around until they find the courage to cross the River.
How many wildebeests migrate per year?
It is a hard estimation to make because the numbers either increase or reduce on each migration taken but a rough number of 1.5 or 2 million wildebeests migrate to and from the Masai Mara Game Reserve. These can be viewed in the Masai Mara between July and October.
How far do the wildebeests migrate?
Although the wildebeests spend most of their time in the Serengeti National Park, the animals are believed to travel for over 800 kilometres in search of pasture and water in a clockwise manner.
What time of the year do wildebeests migrate to Masai Mara?
The wildebeest start crossing the Mara and Grumeti Rivers in July and they can be viewed in the Masai Mara from July till October when they start a slow and steady procession back to the southern and central part of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
The animals usually spend a short time in the Masai Mara due to its small size. And with the large animal crowds, the pasture is depleted first and that means that they start preparing to cross back to the Serengeti.
Does the wildebeest migration change its pattern?
It is very hard to tell whether the animals divert from their usual pattern but researchers believe that from the time that the wildest migration started, the animals always use the same routes while crossing from Serengeti to Masai Mara and then back despite the dangers of crossing the Rivers, especially the Grumeti which has numerous crocodiles. So for now, the answer to the change in pattern is no.
How to watch the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara
Game drives are the easiest and safest way that one can watch the wildebeest migration. The game drives are carried out using tour vehicles that always have experienced drive guides and tour guides who will help you navigate the Masai Mara with ease and also take you to the best places from where you can view the wildebeest migration with ease and in the comfort of the tour vehicle.
Best time of the year to watch the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara
The best time to go watch the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara is from July to October. Remember that migration is a gradual process with animals moving at their own pace and therefore you need to be patient.
You should also note that tourists start thronging Masai Mara by the end of June to witness the crossing of the animals at the Mara River and the Grumeti River so if you are planning on joining the migration viewers, book a few months earlier to avoid inconveniences.
Wildebeest migration in Masai Mara Kenya VS wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park Tanzania
The wildebeest migration takes place in both the Serengeti National park and the Masai Mara Game Reserve and both sightings are worth the money that you will spend on this safari. The wildebeest migration generally starts from the Serengeti National park as this is where the birthing stage takes place, the rutting before they cross over to the Masai Mara. Serengeti offers some of the best views of the million wildebeest and has the largest concentration of the animals although it is believed that all the animals cross over to the Masai Mara, some stay back in Serengeti but they are few. They cross over from the Serengeti National Park when the dry season hits and then they cross back to Serengeti when the wet season sets in. when you compare the migration in Serengeti and Masai Mara, you will get to know that they are both worth it and you need to experience each one of them separately.
Highlights of the wildebeest migration
The best highlight of the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara is the crossing of the animals on the Mara and Grumeti River and the crossing normally happens around July to August. A large number of wildebeests be seen gathering on the edges of the River, some immediately crossing while others are just a little hesitant due to the water and the crocodiles. The ones that keep at the River bank always wait for the large crowd and then cross with each animal trying to look for the safest place to cross till they reach the other side. You might end up watching them for hours before they decide to cross and when they do, the wait will be worth it.
Accommodation in Masai Mara during the wildebeest migration
The Masai Mara has various accommodation facilities where tourists get to stay as they enjoy the thrills of the great migration. The accommodation facilities range from budget-friendly accommodation facilities, mid-range accommodation facilities, and luxury accommodation facilities. Below are some of the accommodation facilities that you can check out while in Masai Mara for the great migration. The tips you can use for choosing the best accommodation facility include the following:
- Those traveling with young children should consider accommodation that is well fenced and has enough security and if possible private vehicle for your game drive.
- It is better if you get rooms near the place where the whole migration takes place. This will make your mobility quite easy.
- You need to book as early as possible and this goes for the different types of accommodation facilities that you will choose from.
Dangers faced by the wildebeests during migration
While the animals migrate, they are faced with numerous dangers but the ones that can be seen are the attacks from the predators like lions and the several attacks from the crocodiles along the Grumeti River as they cross over to the Masai Mara. Some also die from hunger and that is why the number that crosses over is always less than the number that left the Serengeti
Can children watch the wildebeest migration?
It is recommended that children above eight years be taken for the wildebeest migration because those that are younger can easily get agitated and since it’s crowded, they tire easily and can scare easily if they watch predators attacking the wildebeests. You will however have to ask the tour operator about the different accommodation facilities that you can use for babysitting activities so that you can live them at the lodge as you drive around the Game Reserve.
What are wildebeests?
These are a type of antelopes known as gnu that migrate with other herbivores in search of food and water. They are under the antelope family and they have long curved horns with rectangular-shaped heads. They are the reason why the migration came to be known as the wildebeest migration even when many other herbivores join in the migration process.
Cost of the wildebeest migration Masai Mara
The cost of how much you will spend on your wildebeest migration will depend on a number of factors the most important ones being the type of accommodation that you choose, the extra activities you have planned besides enjoying the great migration and the number of days that you want to spend on your safari.
Wildebeest Migration Safari Cost Kenya & Tanzania 2022
|Number of Days on Safari
|Safari Cost per person
|3 Day Great Wildebeest Migration Kenya Safari
|Masai Mara National Park Kenya
|from $ 900
|3 Day Wildebeest Migration Safari Tanzania
|Serengeti National Park Tanzania
|4 Days Kenya Migration Safari
|Masai Mara National Park
|5Days Wildebeest Migration
|SerengetiSerengeti, Ngorongoro Crater,
|7 Days Tanzania Migration Safari
|Lake Manyara, Serengeti NP, Ngorongoro Crater, Arusha
|9 Day Tanzania Migration Safari
|southern Serengeti, Arusha & Serengeti National Park
|Luxury tented camps
|12 Days Kenya’s Masai Mara and Serengeti
|Masai Mara National Park & Serengeti
Taking good photographs during the Great migration
There is no better way in which you can take photos of the wildebeest herds because it happens fast as animals are always on the move. The only thing that you need to do is keep on taking random photos of the migrating herbivores and check later on for the good shots that you got. Do not forget to carry extra batteries for your camera because you might end up spending hours watching the animals cross from Serengeti in Tanzania and into Masai Mara in Kenya.
The best time to go for a wildebeest migration safari
The great migration is the best thing that you will get to see while on an African safari and one that you will not easily forget. The wildebeest sightings are to die for and below are some of the things that you should put into consideration as you plan for the trip.
- June to August is a peak season for the wildebeests as they congregate gathering as they wait to cross from the Serengeti at the Grumeti River and the Mara River into the Masai Mara Conservation Reserve.
- July to October is when the animals cross into the Masai Mara and stay there until all the pasture is depleted before they start making their way back to Tanzania in the Serengeti National Park.
The wildebeest migration in Masai Mara on a budget
Traveling on a budget to the Masai Mara National Reserve for the migration safari can either be luxurious or on a budget but all this depends on the budget that you have planned for the trip. Some of the factors that can determine if you are going to enjoy the migration on a budget include the following:
The choice of accommodation you choose: accommodation in the Masai Mara ranges from budget-friendly accommodation facilities, mid-range accommodation facilities, and luxury accommodation facilities and the best way to travel on a budget is by either choosing the budget facilities or the mid-range accommodation facilities.
The season: the season that you decide to travel in will also determine whether you are to have a budget safari or a luxury one. The wet season sees many of the animals crossing over from Tanzania to Masai Mara and this happens from July to October which means that the Reserve will be extremely crowded with tourists and everything including costs will double. And during the dry season, the animals trek back to Serengeti, and the cost lowers making it possible for those on a budget to also enjoy the great migration with a lesser crowd and low costs.
The number of days: the higher the number of days that you plan on spending, the higher the cost, and the lower the fewer days spent, the lower the money you will spend on the safari in the Masai Mara.
Notes to put in mind when selecting the best time to go for the wildebeest migration
- The best time to take photographs of the migration safari is in the afternoon.
- The wildebeest migration is an all-year-round cycle from Serengeti to Masai Mara and then back to Serengeti
- The place from where to watch the crossing is the Masai Mara side.
- Getting to see the wildebeests crossing takes a lot of patience and you might spend lots of hours as you wait for them to cross.
The Botswana Migration
Besides the migration safaris that can be seen both in the Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Kenya, there is another animal migration that takes place in Botswana and these animals move from Botswana to the border of Namibia.
The Botswana migration only has zebras which migrate due to a change in the weather conditions for example they normally migrate in search of food and water. You will normally find them in places where the rainy season is taking place. The wildebeest migration in Botswana has been happening for many years as shared by researchers however proper documentation started in the year 2012. The migration goes through different National Parks and these include the Makagdikgadi National Park and the Nxai National Park and they normally walk along the Rivers Chobe and the Okavango River.
Can I do a self-drive to Masai Mara for the migration?
Yes, it is very possible for you to do a self-drive to Masai Mara for the wildebeest safari migration but in most cases, we do not encourage this because of the following reasons.
- The first thing is the park fees, when you do a self-drive the park fees tend to be high and can go as high as $70 per person per day and this is exclusive of food, drinks, transport, and camping fees. And yet you can avoid all this by booking through a tour operator who will take care of the rest of the costs.
- The Masai Mara is a very large Reserve and a self-drive can be quite difficult, especially without the help of a professional tour guide. You will drive through the Reserve without a clear place where to view the animals and you might miss out on the action if you decide on the self-drive.
- With such long journeys and long stays, you need to properly plan for the food and water that you need for all the days that you will spend while on the safari and since the Reserve is remotely located, it will be hard for you to easily access them in case you run out because the towns are not near.
Planning for the wildebeest migration safari to Kenya’s Masai Mara
Proper planning for your safari migration to Masai Mara should be done in advance at least a year or if better more because it is always crowded especially when it comes to accommodation facilities. Proper planning is always difficult but the best thing about it is that it saves tourists a lot of money.
The first stage of proper planning is getting a good and trusted local tour company and booking through them by paying a few months or a year before. The tour company will make sure that you have access to transport, the Park, and then back to the airport after the end of your safari.
Can the wildebeest migration be predicted?
The answer to this question is a no. The migration cannot be predicted and this is because the animals themselves are extremely unpredictable. Whereas some animals cross the Mara and Grumeti Rivers immediately, others take their time to cross whereas others get to the River bank and then turn back to where they came from. And this is why you should book enough days to enjoy the Mara crossing.
When do wildebeests migrate?
Since the wildebeests migrate every year and are in an ever-continuing state, it is hard to determine when they start moving since they are unpredictable. Listed below are months in which you can view the wildebeest migration.
December to April, December to April the wildebeests can be seen in the Serengeti National Park in Ngorongoro. This is also known as the calving season and the best time to see many young ones. During this period, many of the animals don’t move as the mothers tend to their young ones protecting them from the predators and you can witness other animals birthing. You will certainly encounter many of the calves being stalked by the prey and by the end of April towards May, many of the animals can be seen on the move towards the Mara and the Grumeti River.
May to June, during this period many of the animals have already crossed to the central and northern parts of Serengeti National Park in search of food and water. The migratory herds normally move for over 40 kilometres before resting and by the end of June, most of them have already reached the Grumeti Rivers and are just waiting to cross while others cross immediately and this is mainly known as the Grumeti crossing.
July to September, July is when the famous Mara River crossing takes place. Many of the heard can be seen crossing the Rivers from Serengeti to Masai Mara Game Reserve and the crossing is done in smaller groups as many of the animals try to find a better place to step. As many of the animals cross over to Masai Mara, almost half of the number remains in Northern Serengeti, note that this is one activity you do not want to miss out on.
October to November, during this period the pasture and water, have been roughly depleted and the animals start moving southwards towards the Serengeti. Tourists who come into the Masai Mara during this period get to witness the wildebeests traveling back to the Serengeti and then the whole process starts all over again.
How long is the wildebeest migration?
The wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara takes about three months before they start migrating back to Tanzania. Masai Mara gets the shortest time of the migration with Serengeti National Park getting the 9 months of the migration.
Facts about the wildebeest migration
The wildebeest migration is the continuous movement of the wildebeests from Serengeti to Masai Mara and then back. The facts connected to the safari migration in Kenya include the following:
- It is the largest migration of animals in the whole world.
- The wildebeests cross the Grumeti and the Mara River between June and July each year from Serengeti to Masai Mara every year
- The herds keep on moving in a precise and clear procession that is you will find that the animals always move in groups and not in a disorganized manner.
- There are several crocodiles always waiting for the migrating animals during the river crossings.
- More than 1000 wildebeest die during the expedition.
Why do the migrating animals stick together?
The wildebeests always stick together while migrating in order to protect each other from predators. They normally split into smaller groups and this makes it easy for them to migrate at a rate that is considerate to the smaller animals.
Which type of animals should I expect to see during the wildebeest migration?
There are plenty of spectacular herds of animals that you should expect to see participating in the wildebeest migration and the ones you should look out for include the wildebeest, Zebras, gazelles, elands, lions leopards, impalas, and Thompson’s gazelles.
Where do the wildebeest migrate to and from?
The wildebeests migrate from Serengeti National Park, crossing the Grumeti and Mara Rivers before to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. They move in search of food and water and when the dry season starts in the Masai Mara, they normally start the trek back to Serengeti and the cycle keeps on moving.
What to expect in Masai Mara during the wildebeest migration
There is a lot to expect from the migration safari in Kenya and you will not only see the herbivores crossing into Masai Mara but, you also but get to enjoy other activities that are offered within the Reserve like guided nature walks, spending a day with the Masai people and getting to know more about their culture among other things. Do not forget to look out for the five big cats while on the game drives.
As you plan your trip to the Masai Mara for the wildebeest migration, you can join in with other tourist destinations around Kenya and explore all the beauty that the country has to offer in terms of National Parks and culture.
Besides the Serengeti migration, visit Northern Tanzania for the big five animals, Nyerere national park, Ngorongoro crater, or Ngorongoro conservation area, Lake Manyara National Park and other parks in Tanzania.
In Kenya you can visit Lake Nakuru National Park, Amboseli National Park, Samburu Game Reserve and so much more.