The Masai Mara & the Great Migration

The Masai Mara & the Great Migration

The Great Migration is known as “the greatest show on earth” with good reason! This annual migration sees hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, antelope and various other game, move in impressive herds across the wild plains of East Africa. The Great Migration is one of the major drawcards that brings travelers to Kenya every year! 

Looking for insight on the best way to view and experience the Great Migration in the Masai Mara in Kenya? Safari365 has put together a “cheat sheet” on everything you need to know when planning a Great Migration Kenya safari trip.

What is the Great Migration?

This annual movement of game in their thousands is the cycle of life made manifest. It’s a physical and powerful reminder of the instinct for survival that drives wildlife and their movements across the land. The incredible journey they undertake, which spans Tanzania and Kenya, is driven by the constant pursuit by grazing herds to find new and fresh food sources, and is therefore dictated by the seasons and the rainfall. This journey takes months (it’s an ongoing and gradual movement across the plains throughout the year) with certain highlights and hotspots that have become big tourist attractions. 

Where is the best place to view the Great Migration?

While Tanzania has the lion’s share of the action (approximately 75% of the annual migration period occurs within its borders), Kenya’s Masai Mara is the scene of some of the most exciting stages of the animals’ long, arduous and often dangerous odyssey. 

Benefits of experiencing a Great Migration Kenya safari include the fact that the Masai Mara is closer to Nairobi (the traditional starting point of a Kenyan safari) than the northern Serengeti is to Arusha (the traditional starting point of a Tanzanian safari), which makes it easier and quicker to access by vehicle. 

When is the best time to view the Great Migration?

The annual migration route can change from year to year (depending on rainfall and grazing), so predicting its timing is not an exact science as it seldom repeats the exact path as the year prior, but there are general guidelines to follow and a few key months that you should aim to be there. 

Late July to October is the window for the best opportunity to see the action in Kenya, but both sides of the Mara River are important during this period. The herds begin to cross the central Serengeti into the Western Corridor. Come late July/early August, the grasses of the western Serengeti die and the herds move north, making their way through the Ngurumet River into the northern plains of the Serengeti. This sets the stage for one of the most crucial points of the migration – in order to reach the grassy plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara, essential for their survival, the herds have to cross the Mara River, a dramatic ordeal which sees them brave the crocodiles waiting below to get to the opposite banks. By September, the last of the herds will be crossing the Mara River.

Whilst this article focuses squarely on the Great Migration, it is worth noting however that the Masai Mara is an incredible year-round safari destination and should not be minimised in other periods of the year.

Where is the best place to stay in the Masai Mara?

Because the Great Migration covers thousands of kilometres during the course of a year there is no particular ‘best’ lodge for viewing the action but planning your trip’s accommodation and itinerary well ahead of time is crucial, as – unsurprisingly – it’s a very popular destination, and places to stay are always in demand. In terms of accommodation, you have options to consider. The two primary types are permanent lodges and luxury tented camps, or mobile tented camps (which move in concert with the game). Permanent lodges and tented camps tend to offer a superior service when compared to mobile camps. Permanent lodges and tented camps are fully equipped and usually kitted out with kitchens, bars, swimming pools, laundry rooms and other facilities. Mobile tented camps are non-permanent structures that can move according to the Great Migration route, and while smaller and more pared-back, are by no means lacking in service. These camps will still have chefs and waiters to cater to your needs and offer a more immersive experience. To get the best of both worlds, aim to divide your time between the two types over the course of your safari.

What else can I add to my Masai Mara & Great Migration Kenya safari trip?

Finally, there’s what to do afterward your safari to consider! Kenya offers more than just wilderness and wildlife. The ideal itinerary includes a post-safari sojourn at the coast, the ideal low-key way to wind down after the early mornings and action-filled days inland. Our team is well-versed in this region and always on hand to help craft the trip of a lifetime that ticks all of the boxes! 

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