Every year, a breath-taking spectacle occurs in the wild jungles of the Maasai Mara. A vast number of wildebeest, alongside zebra and a few grant’s gazelle and Thompson’s gazelle embark on a ‘trip of a lifetime’! Literally speaking, this journey on the one hand is a ticket to a longer life, but the irony of it is that they must face up to the jaws of death in every single aspect of the journey.
A voyage of a thousand pitfalls: How to die a wildebeest in the Mara
Every year, in search of pasture and breeding grounds, this ‘migrant caravan’ moves north and south of the Mara River through the Serengeti and the expansive Maasai Mara Plains. In late November all through to December, the animals migrate south and arrive in the Serengeti which serves as their birthing and nursing grounds. During this period, the juvenile animals are an easy catch for the Lions, cheetah, leopards and other predators. If they survive the first few months of the year all the way to March, they then pack up for the treacherous trip to the Mara. It is during this trip that a sizable number of the animals are tested for strength, skill and sheer bravado as the cross the Mara river.
If you were a wildebeest, or Zebra, or antelope on this voyage, if a crocodile won’t kill you… then maybe you’l die from the fall on the steep cliffs at the crossing points. If you survive the crocodiles and the cliff fall… then the strong current of the Mara river may go with you. If you thought you’ve escaped it all.. then there’s probably a lion, or other predator lying in wait on the other side of the river for a pound of your flesh. All the migrants that make it through the journey are absolute legends! And, millions of them do! About 1.7 million wildebeest strong!
Best times to view the Great wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara
Watching the wildebeest migration on TV would probably fool you that it happens on one day, or week, or month. However, that is not the case. Since it involves thousands of animals and a lot of ‘logistical’ challenges, the voyagers take their time to plan. In essence the wildebeest and other ‘joyriders’ are always in a constant state of migration. The spectacular river crossings are however the most yearned for. The migration is mainly influenced by the rainy seasons and availability of grazing pastures.
In early January through to February, the Migrants synchronize their calfing season, during which 300-450,000 calves are births each year within a 2-week window. This occurs in the Serengeti, Ndutu and Ngorongoro areas
Around March and April, as the pastures of the Serengeti begin to dry, the migrants start moving North west towards the Olduvai region towards Lake Victoria.
Ticket Season – May and June: During this time, the migrants gather in their thousands and slowly turn to millions as the plan on the logistics of their treacherous journey North into the Mara. It is during this time that ‘scouting parties’ from within the herds test out ideal crossing points in their most treacherous part of their journey.
July to early August: The grand finale and the greatest spectacle of the migrant journey occurs, featuring the river crossings. The wildebeest migration begins around July, through to early August.
September-October: In this period, the ‘survivors’ break up into much smaller herds and spread out into the Mara.
November-December: Thunder and lightning from the short rains watering the Serengeti, and dwindling pastures in the Mara attract the herds further south into the Away from the Mara.
Did you know?
- In addition to being lords of the expansive grasslands in terms of speed, wildebeest and the other migrants are such great swimmers too! At some crossing points, the Mara river can be several feet in depth.
- The wildebeest and other herbivores gather in millions to increase their chances of survival during the crossings? There’s strength in numbers – literally.
- In addition to the wildebeest and herbivores, the migration also brings along joyriders such as lions, cheetah, leopards, and other lesser predators. You wouldn’t sit back while your food goes on a trip now, would you?
- You can book your trip today?