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?
There’s probably no other parks as expansive and rich in biodiversity as the Tsavo. Divided into The Tsavo East and West parks, for administrative purposes in the 1940s, this wilderness is home to a good wealth of wildlife and history.
Day time safari drives are ‘cool’, but nothing beats night drives!
The Tsavo East national park boasts of being the only park that allows night-time game watching. Get caught up on the chase as the nightly predators seek out their prey during their nocturnal hunts. Most carnivore, including lions, hyena, leopards and jackals prefer night time hunting due to the additional element of surprise.
The silence and serenity of the star-lit African jungle is momentarily disrupted by shrieks and wails of a dying bush buck, antelope or buffalo in the jaws of a hungry lion. Experience the brutally savage predatory instincts of the Tsavo’s predators in ways NatGeo Wild wouldn’t ever show you!
Things to watch out for while in the Tsavo
Being a vast wilderness, it might take a while for you to start spotting wildlife or the impressive spectacle of a hunt. However, having an experienced team of guides who understand animal behavior and tracking gives you a better chance. Here’s a few things you should not miss while in the Tsavo:
Mudanda Rock: This is a prominent rock formation on the Tsavo plains that disrupts water flow during the rainy season and acts as a natural dam and water reservoir during the drier seasons. It is a popular site for encountering wildlife.
Yatta Plateau: The Tsavo is home to the world’s longest lava flow, known as the yatta plateau, formed from slow and continuous eruption of pre-historic volcanoes.
Lugard falls: Formed from a series of rapid falls along the Galana river.
Take a trip in history: Home of the Man-eaters
In the formative years of the great nation’s of East Africa, the British colonialist undertook to build a railway through the region that would serve as a supply route. When the track reached the Tsavo, the builders were faced by a pack of lions that attacked a mauled them. Given the ease with which the lions caught the rail builders, the pack grew accustomed to hunting down and growing a liking to human flesh. A bounty was set on their heads and a couple of them were hunted down and killed… their remains are preserved in Museums accross the world in exhibits infamously known as ‘the man-eaters of the Tsavo‘. To this day, descendants of these feared lions still roam the Tsavo.
DAY 1 You will be picked from your Nanyuki hotel at 7:30 am where you will be you will be briefed before departing to Samburu National Park. Crossing to thorny landscape of Samburu County. Samburu National is known for the presence of unique species such as Gravys Zebra , and the long necked Gereknuk,among the wildlife that shares this semi-arid habitat. Arrive in Samburu time for lunch,after lunch,proceed to afternoon game drive in search of wildlife such as reticulated giraffe,Gravys Zebra, Beisa Oryx and the blue necked somali ostrich. Dinner and overnight at the logde/campsite.
DAY 2 Full day at Samburu National Park. On this day after breakfast,you will spend full day option in Samburu National Park or early morning and afternoon game drive in the Park,which covers 40 square miles(104 square kilometres) Ololokwe Table mountain forms a darmatic backdrop to our game viewing. Samburu is also a home for third of Kenyas giraffes species-the rare reticulated giraffe.(Only found in the northern parks) This is also where you see the blue legged somali ostrich,the long necked Gerenuk gazelle and the straight-horned Beisa Oryx antelope. Dinner and overnight at the lodge/campsite.
DAY 3 Samburu –Nakuru. Early breakfast,depart for Nakuru National Park,Stopover at Nyahururu for view of the longest single waterfall in Kenya(Thompson fall) arriving in Nakuru ,you will have lunch here in one of the hotel then in the afternoon you will have evening game drive. Dinner and overnight in Nakuru Lodge.
DAY 4 On this day after breakfast,you will check out the park heading to the highlight of all Safari in Kenya, The Maasai Mara Game Reserve,stopover at Narok Town for lunch then proceed to Mara to arrive there for afternoon game drive. Dinner and overnight to be spent in one of the campsite/lodge.
DAY 5 On this day, you will have full day Game viewing drive to fully maximise our park visit time. So you will leave the camp with packed lunch box after breakfast. Dinner and overnight will be spent in the camp.
DAY 6 Early morning game drive,then return to the camp for breakfast and check out the leave to Nairobi,you may opt to visit Maasai Cultural Village enroute, lunch will be taken enroute to Nairobi. DAY 7 You will be picked from the Nairobi hotel to the airport fpr your flight after another memorable Safari!