Masai mara wildebeest migration 2023
Masai Mara Animal Migration 2022-2023
The Great Wildebeest Migration in the plains of East Africa is one of the world’s most thrilling, intriguing and spectacular displays of wildlife behavior. As such, our travelers place great timing importance on having the best front row seats to see the event.
Masai Mara is the most noted location of the wildebeest migration due to its famed Mara River crossings, and this has led to some misunderstandings about the migration itself. The migration is an ongoing movement of animals that takes place throughout the year.
The migration occurs within an area that is known as the “Serengeti ecosystem.” The 40,000-square mile area is defined by Masai Mara National Reserve in the north and, in the south, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Maswa Game Reserve in Tanzania. The central, eastern and western areas include Grumeti Reserve, Loliondo, the official Serengeti National Park including part of southern expanse of Kusini and other protected areas.
The migration is not a singular, isolated event. Instead, the phrase describes the constant movement of over 1.5 million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of zebras, as well as elands and gazelles. As with other wildlife, the purpose of the movement is the search for pasture and water. When supplies of these vital resources are depleted in one area, the animals move to another area where water, grasses and other food sources are plentiful.
Owing to the massive size of the herds, the Great Wildebeest Migration arriving from the Serengeti stands out from other migratory movements. How the animals know where to find food and water remains a mystery largely, but researchers have developed some hypotheses about the behavior. Most evidence indicates that weather patterns and the cycle of the rainy and dry seasons have the greatest influence on the wildlife movement. Because rainfall and weather are somewhat unpredictable, there is no way to calculate concretely where the animals will be at any point in the year, nor how long they will remain in one area.
One of the most requested events in the migration is the arrival crossing of the Mara River that occurs 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. These are the best times to track and see the annual wildebeest migration in Masai Mara.
While the sight of masses of animals thundering across the open plains is spectacular, the Mara River crossing will take you through a range of emotions – awe, anticipation, heartache, inspiration, excitement and much more.
Highlights of the Great Migration
As the herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles enter the Masai Mara they are met by more than their fair share of lethal predators. Aside from the threat of the big cats, the lemming-like herds are also faced with over 3000 crocodiles lurking in the murky waters of the Mara River during their river crossing. Watching the herds blindly jump from riverbank ledges and into the river waters is spectacular to say the least. Eventually the massive herds are rewarded with spoils of the wide open Masai mara plains. For a short while, life is good. When the food supply dwindles and the rains move on, so do the herds.
Showtime… when to expect the herds?
In general, the best time to see the Great Migration in the Masai Mara is from July to October. Keep in mind though, mother nature is her own boss. We will provide you with a very probable outline of when to expect those special moments during the Great Migration, but obviously there is no way to know for certain that the herds will cross a river during a particular period of time. Weather can be unpredictable and late rains or early rains can result in a delayed or early migration pattern. The good news is that the Masai Mara has plenty of wildlife to enjoy all year round. The months that are most frequently mentioned as the best time of year to visit the Great Migration, July to October, are also the busiest months in the Masai Mara. It is safe to say that you won’t have the herds to yourself during these months. You can expect more safari travelers within the Masai mara game reserve proper and may have to queue up during safari game drives. Here is an outline of what to expect from the Great Migration.
This is a very general guideline for where the herds are during the year – bearing in mind that the entire Gnu Migration is triggered by rain, which can be early, late or on time:
The herds are in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, moving south from the north-east region and into the area near Lake Ndutu. The Serengeti is not fenced, so the herds are free to move where they can find grazing. Remember that although up to two million wildebeest, zebra and antelope form the Serengeti Migration, they are not all in a single herd. The animals break up into mega-herds of thousands or hundreds of individuals at time.
February to March
It is calving season (over 8 000 wildebeest babies are born each day!) so prepare yourself for lots of wobbly calves… and lots of heartbreak as fearsome predators swoop in. The Serengeti’s big cats take the lion’s share, but hit-and-run jackals, packs of wild dog, and hyena clans add to the spectacle. It’s a bittersweet ballad; the circle of life played out as a live action drama.
If the short rainy season (Nov–Dec) produced good grazing, the herds feed frenziedly and remain in the Serengeti’s southern plains until they slowly start moving west in March.
It’s the start of the long rains (Apr–May) and the herds generally move in a north-westerly direction towards the Moru and Simba Kopjes. The action-packed rutting (breeding) season is in full swing, featuring testosterone-fuelled jousts between males competing for the right to mate with receptive females.
Wagons roll! The massed herds are on the go, huge columns of up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) in length can sometimes be seen as the wildebeest funnel up into the central Serengeti. Everyone’s moving a little quicker now that the calves are stronger.
The wildebeest are usually in the central Serengeti and getting ready for the toughest part of their odyssey. The herds may have split up, with some already crossing the Grumeti River.
The Great Migration have reached the Grumeti region and northern parts of the Serengeti and are peering closely at the treacherous waters of the Mara River they have to cross into Kenya. Why? Huge Nile crocodiles, that’s why!
As mentioned, it is impossible to accurately predict river crossings – they depend entirely on the rains and the often unpredictable wildebeest themselves. It’s vital to book your Wildebeest Migration safari in Africa up to a year in advance to get a lodge on or as close to the river as possible – this cuts down on travel time to lookout points. The wildebeest do have historical crossing areas and you may spend days staked out in the hope of seeing the action. We recommend choosing a mobile safari camp that moves with the Migration to ensure you’re in the right place at the right time.
August is generally considered the best time to witness the dramatic river crossings from the northern Serengeti into the Masai Mara. You’ll need a passport to cross into Kenya; the wildebeest are exempt. The Masai Mara National Reserve is open to members of the public so for a more exclusive safari experience, head for the private conservancies that are contiguous with the reserve.
SeptemberThe herds break up into smaller groups, as not all the wildebeest migrate into Kenya. Less than half of the animals remain in the northern Serengeti, the rest are swapping war stories in the Masai Mara. So you could still see wildebeest in the Serengeti (just not the mega-herds) but as a general rule of thumb, the Masai Mara is the best place to witness the Migration in September.OctoberYour best bet is still the Masai Mara, but bear in mind it is a far smaller reserve than the Serengeti and there may be a lot of other visitors. The neighbouring private conservancies are much less crowded and, not only will you still be able to witness the Migration, you will also directly contribute to the Maasai communities who have lived there for thousands of years. Plus you can enjoy off-road game viewing, night drives and walking safaris – activities not permitted in the national reserve.NovemberIn a ‘normal year’ the short rains have begun, propelling the wildebeest to leave the now denuded grasslands of the Masai Mara and head back into the rejuvenated Serengeti. Bear in mind that the rain can be late or early, which is also unpredictable.The herds are generally on the move, but can be seen around the north-eastern parts of the Serengeti where they may split into smaller groups for their journey southward. Tip: although many people think of Africa as a hot place, the rain can cool things down dramatically. You’ll be out on early morning and late afternoon game drives – the sun is at its weakest during these times. Take at least one pair of trousers, closed shoes that can cope with mud, and a fleece or waterproof jacket. DecemberFresh grazing sees the wildebeest move south, covering the northern and eastern Serengeti to feast and prepare for yet another death-defying, 3 000-km (1 900-mi).
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