With spectacular wildlife viewing, grassy plains, and rolling hills, the Masai Mara Game Reserve in southwestern Kenya is a premier destination for an African safari. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists travel to Kenya to witness the Masai Mara Great Migration, and with so many exciting scenes to catch, it makes sense.
If you want to visit Masai Mara, you have come to the right place! It can be challenging to figure out the best time to visit, if it’s worth booking a Masai Mara tour, and what exactly you might see on this adventure.
Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about the Great Migration in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve.
What is the Great Migration in the Masai Mara?
Every year, large groups of wildebeest, zebras, and other animals journey from the southern Serengeti to the lush Masai Mara Game Reserve, in search of food and water. This event is referred to as the Great Migration.
Some herds, comprised of thousands of animals, travel together during this time. More often, smaller herds group together and can be found throughout multiple regions.
While the Great Migration is known as an annual event, it is actually a year-long migration that includes over 1.5 million wildebeest, 300,000 gazelles, 400,000 zebras, and thousands of other animals. The groups follow the rains and move in an 800-kilometer clockwise circle, mainly through Tanzania, but eventually making their way to the Masai Mara.
Along the way, these herds of mammals encounter plenty of danger, dodging lethal predators, like lions and leopards. As they cross the Mara River, they will also face the large crocodile population who are likely hunting for their next meal.
Where does the Great Migration take place?
The Great Migration begins in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and ends at the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Keyna.
Along the way, herds of animals journey in a clockwise motion, traveling from the Ngorongoro Crater through the southern region of the Serengeti. From there, they travel through western Serengeti, north to the Masai Mara Game Reserve, up to the northern area of Masai Mara, and back south again to the Ngorogoro Crater.
What month is the Great Migration in Kenya?
The Great Migration travels through Kenya from July through October, with the best time to visit typically between July and August.
In July, the herds leave the Serengeti searching for food and water; this month is the best time to witness dramatic river crossings. By August, most of the animals will have reached the game reserve, and the big cats will be on the hunt for their next meal.
September is still an excellent time to visit and see the wildlife, but it is generally more peaceful than the previous months. In October, the herds start heading back to the Serengeti, and the cycle of migration will start over again.
Keep in mind that Mother Nature has a mind of her own. The weather can be unpredictable, and there is no way to know for sure when the wildebeest herds will cross the river. Rains that are late or early can result in an early or delayed migration. However, there is bountiful wildlife in the Masai Mara year-round, so chances are that you will see plenty of animals in this time frame.
Even if you don’t visit in the summer or fall, the Great Migration can be viewed for much of the year, depending on your location. From December to July, you will see plenty of baby wildebeests in Serengeti National Park. You might also spot a predatory lion or other large cat keeping an eye on these large groups of wildebeests. From August through September, the Masai Mara has the most action, with large herds crossing the Mara River, and hungry crocodiles hunting their prey. After September, the herds move south to return to the Serengeti.
Is the Great Migration worth it?
The Great Migration is a travel bucket list item for many people, and for good reason! Known as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Natural World,” this migration is a must-see for those who journey to Kenya.
Where else can you see hundreds of thousands of animals moving together over the rivers and through the grassy plains? Because so many animal species rely on zebras and wildebeests for food, the Great Migration attracts many different kinds of animals, from carnivores to birds, making this a great time to see plenty of Africa’s wildlife. During this migration, you will likely see lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes, hyenas, impalas, and ostriches. Visitors come from all over the world to witness these incredible creatures in their natural habitat, and everyone who visits says that it is worth the hype!
Where do wildebeest migrate from and to?
Wildebeest migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.
These creatures journey through the Serengeti, north to the Masai Mara, and return south to the Serengeti at the end of the year. This trek encompasses over 1800 miles total, so there’s no limit to how far these animals will go for greener pastures.
Wildebeests spend more of their time in Serengeti National Park, even during the migration. The 5,700 square miles of the Serengeti hold 97% of their ecosystem, while the Masai Mara is only 3% of the ecosystem, which explains why the herds only spend a few months in Kenya.
Why do wildebeests cross the Mara River?
While many wildebeests are eaten by crocodiles or drown in the Mara River, their instinct compels them to follow the storm clouds and cross the Mara River. Crossing the Mara River is the only way to reach the greener pastures and freshwater found in Masai Mara, which they ultimately need for the survival of their species.
The Mara River is one of the best places to watch the Masai Mara wildebeest migration. This river runs through Tanzania and Kenya, and is directly in the path of the animals that follow the Great Migration. The animals often cross the Mara River multiple times during their journey as they follow the rainfall, allowing them to find the best grazing areas.
Not only are you more likely to see herds of animals along this river, but also makes for incredibly action-packed game viewing! It takes a large amount of strength for the wildebeests to cross the heavy currents and slick riverbanks. Even if the animals are strong enough to survive the swim, they may be snatched by the crocodiles looming below the water’s surface. Big cats are often waiting on the other side for those that survive crossing the river, hoping to catch their next meal.
Check out this video to catch a glimpse of these incredible animals crossing the Mara River.
Our Top 3 Masai Mara Safari Tours
Home to Africa offers several tours that include spectacular game drives over the Masai Mara. Whether you want a whole week of exploring Kenya’s game reserves, or just a few days of spotting the Big 5, there is an ideal tour for every kind of traveler. Here are some of our top Masai Mara tours.
4-Day Safari to Kenya- Masai Mara with Big 5 Sighting
This short safari is perfect for those who want to witness the Big 5 in action! As you travel through the vast, rolling plains of Masai Mara, you can enjoy viewing cheetahs, lions, leopards, elephants, and plenty of other animals in the African wilderness. At the end of each day, marvel at the Masai Mara sunset, tinged with orange, red, and yellow hues. Don’t forget your camera for this one!
Masai Mara Safari – 6 Unforgettable Days in Kenya
This safari includes exhilarating Masai Mara wildlife viewing, and more! Begin your adventure at Lake Naivasha, a freshwater lake northwest of Nairobi. You will have the opportunity to explore this lake area via boat, then enjoy dinner and a restful night of sleep at the nearby resort lodge.
The next day, discover Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya, home to breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife, and plenty of outdoor activities. Explore the park via hiking, biking, walking, rock climbing, or enjoy the local hot springs. Spend the next three days at the Masai Mara, witnessing some of the most exciting nature scenes on the planet.
Big 5 Safari – 8 Day Safari Exploring Game Reserves in Kenya
This is the ultimate safari for experiencing everything the Masai Mara and surrounding area offers! You will begin this journey with two days of game viewing at Masai Mara, enjoying the lively scenes of the Big 5, other wildlife species, and stunning African sunsets. Take a boat ride on Lake Naivasha, a freshwater lake outside Nairobi. After a few days of action-packed game viewing, this will be the perfect stop to relax and unwind.
Next, marvel at the incredible scenery in Hell’s Gate National Park, from the amazing rock formations and volcanoes to lush flora and fauna. Filled to the brim with bird species and wildlife, this is another excellent spot to catch some animals in action.
The final stop of this safari is in Amboseli National Park, home to Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain. This area is one of the best places in Africa to view elephant herds up-close, and you can also check out five different animal habitats, ranging from wetlands to the savannah. You will also have the opportunity to visit a nearby Masai community to get a feel for authentic Kenyan culture. This safari experience has a little bit of everything!