Great Migration Route and Maps

During the tourism peak season from June to October, you’re likely to get a booking to stay in Maasai Mara’s lodges and hotels as they are filled up quickly. The main attraction at this time of the year is the wildebeest migration, which takes place annually in Maasai Mara. We have made Campervans, tents, and other accommodation options to be available if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option.

What are Wildebeest?

Wildebeest is a type of large African antelope with a long head and curved horns. They are most easily recognizable by their distinctive brownish-gray coat, black mane and tail, and the way they gallop in large herds across the savanna. The wildebeest migration is an incredible spectacle that can be witnessed in the Mara.

There are two types of Wildebeest-the black wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu (C. gnou), and the blue wildebeest, or brindled gnu (C. taurinus). They are antelopes of the genus Connochaetes and native to Eastern and Southern Africa.

Below is an image of a blue wildebeest;

and a black wildebeest;

The blue wildebeest is the most abundant big-game species in East Africa. Some populations migrate to new grazing grounds every year, but black wildebeest are only nomadic. Both types of wildebeest breed during a short period at the end of the rainy season. Their calves are born soon after and are able to move with the herd, which is necessary for their survival. However, some calves fall prey to large carnivores such as spotted hyenas.

They belong to the family Bovidae, which also includes true antelopes,, goats, sheep, and other even-toed horned ungulates.

What is the Great Migration route?

The wildebeest migration route is a circular pattern that covers around 800 kilometers and takes place throughout the year. The journey starts in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, where over 500,00 wildebeests are born during calving season. From here, they start their trek towards the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, crossing the Mara River along the way. After spending a 3 months in Maasai Mara, they make their way back to Serengeti in Tanzania, completing their migration cycle.

The migration route is the specific path that the wildebeests take, which is influenced by factors such as food availability, water sources and weather conditions. This circular route not only benefits the wildebeests but also other animals such as zebras and gazelles who also follow this pattern.

The wildebeest migration is one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles in nature, where millions of animals move together across the Maasai Mara National Reserve and other surrounding areas. It’s an annual event where up to 2 million wildebeest and other antelope, such as zebras and gazelles, migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya in search of greener pastures.

When we recently visited the Mara in late October, we expected a small batch of migrating wildebeest but we were not lucky. Our guide explained that Migration is dynamic and unpredictable, often occurring across many miles of land simultaneously. Each year, the precise movements and timings differ.

Why was Wildebeest migration Named the 7th wonder of the world:

In 2016, UNESCO listed the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem as a World Heritage Site, referring to the Wildebeest Migration as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. The migration is an iconic annual event that involves 4 million animals, including wildebeest, buffalo and zebra, from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in search of greener pastures in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. This incredible spectacle is an ecological process of remarkable complexity, with animals moving from one area to another according to the seasons and their need for fresh grass and water.

Wildebeest migration Route:

The most popular migration route is one from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, across the Grumeti River, and into Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve. This route takes them through multiple national parks and reserves along their journey, often stopping near Seronera, Western Corridor, and Maswa before they reach their final destination. There is also a less-traveled route that takes them from Tarangire National Park in Tanzania to Maasai Mara Reserve.

The route they follow is clockwise in that they go from Serengeti to Maasai Mara Reserve and then back, although they can also be seen in some of the other reserves mentioned.

Great Migration Route Map:

The best map I found shows the location of the migrating herbivores each month throughout the year and shows the route starting from early April when they move upwards from Southern Serengeti until they get to Kenya in August before making the trip back starting in October.

The other map below shows the wildebeest migration cycle;

What’s exciting about the Great Migration of Wildebeest?

Numbers:

The Serengeti Migration is the world’s largest land mammal migration, and it happens every year. The migrating herd of wildebeest and zebras starts moving in September or October north across the Mara River into Kenya.

The sheer number of animals in their migration can often clog up the river crossings, resulting in many drowning or getting stuck on rocks.

Crossing and the perils:

When crossing wildebeest plunge into the water as crocodiles and other predators lie in wait, creating a race against time. Watching these antelopes of all ages make it across is an incredible sight that can only be witnessed at the Mara and Serengeti.

They form a long line while migrating:

The wildebeest often form huge lines as they migrate, with the front of the line typically consisting of older males. This is necessary to ensure that the herd crosses safely and efficiently.

The long lines can be seen from space and are an amazing sight to behold.

Mating ritual:

During their migration, the Wildebeest engage in a fascinating mating ritual called ‘the rut’. During this time, males compete for females to mate with and the loud roars they make can be heard from afar.

The Great Migration Route in a Loop from January to December

January:

In January, the babies are born but most herds are based in the Ntudu region of Tanzania known for short grass. Ntudu region is in the Northern part of the Ngorongoro conservancy.

February:

The wildebeest herds continue to spread further in the Ngorongoro conservancy in February, and around 8,000 calves are born per day during this month. During this time frame, the animals remain focused on finding areas with lush grass growth.

March:

They continue to move further towards the southern Serengeti plains covering areas including Loliondo and NCA. Most of the newborn calves are within a 2 to 3 weeks window and by the end of March, the adult calves are ready to move.

April:

Migration starts in April and the herds will start making their way North through Moru, Seronera, and Kopjes in Central Serengeti. There is less activity in the Mara at this period as most herds are down South.

May:

In May, the long rains that start in April make Central to upper Serengeti very appealing and migration further North gains steam with herds progressing towards the Western corridor through Seronera. Some will even get to Grumeti river by the end of May.

June:

They cross the Grumeti River progressing Northwards towards Mara, Lobo and Mara river.

July:

In July, herds traverse Grumeti Game Reserve heading North towards Mara River through or along the Ikorongo Controlled Area shown below. This is the last month the animals will be in Northern Serengeti before they start to cross.

August:

Upward migration traversing Ikorongo leads the herds to eventually cross to the Mara Reserve on the Kenyan side. The wildebeest herds will continue their journey in search of lusher, greener pastures. They will attempt to cross the Mara River’s treacherous waters, which are infested with crocodiles.

To get the best view of the migration in August, book early on both sides of the Mara River. The Olakira Camp, Sayari Mara, and Mara River mobile camps are some of the best accommodation options closes to Mara.

September:

Cross-border migration continues. This is the peak migration period where Maasai Mara is full of wildebeest as they make their way through the reserve and into the Loita Plains. This period is also peak season for predators like lions, cheetahs and hyenas to prey on the helpless wildebeest.

Early September is among the best periods to visit Mara.

Early in September, you can watch the migrating animals from the Serengeti side but it is safer to stay on the Masai Mara side as the month progresses. To get the full experience, consider Olakira Camp or one of the mobile camps by the Mara River.

October:

Some herds are still grazing in the Northern parts of Serengeti but majority of the herds have now crossed to Kenya.

If you’re visiting the Mara this month, Nomad’s Lamai and Lemala’s Kuria Hills are good migration safari destinations.

November:

Along the eastern sides of Serengeti, some herds start to move South towards Loliondo.

Where to stay to see the migration:

If you’re determined to see the migration, book a room at Sala’s Camp or a spot in one of the Lobo mobile camps. They are both located in south-eastern Masai Mara and offer great views of the event.

December:

By December herds that have crossed back to the Serengeti start to move toward their Ndutu calving grounds in December.

Migration of animals in masai mara – 10 animals that migrate: Expect to See?

  1. Wildebeest: The most iconic and abundant animal in the Mara is the wildebeest, a large ungulate species that makes up more than 1 million of the migrating animals in this region.
  2. Zebras: These striped equine companions often follow the wildebeest herds
  3. Gazelles: These small antelope species are commonly seen in the Masai Mara, and are usually found grazing in the open savannah grasslands.
  4. Impalas: Another common sight during a Masai Mara migration safari, these animals also graze on the savannah grasslands and can often be seen with wild Gazelle
  5. Eland
  6. Giraffes
  7. Hippos
  8. Buffalo
  9. Warthogs
  10. Elephants

What Can I Expect To See During The Wildebeest Migration?

During the migration season, there are plenty of incredible sights to witness. You can observe the herds of wildebeest and other mammals as they traverse the plains in search of food and water sources. In addition, you may get lucky enough to spot predators such as lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and more hunting for their prey amidst the migrating animals.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Maasai Mara During The Wildebeest Migration?

Though migration is a continual movement, the heaviest traffic of migrating animals occurs from July to October with the best time for sightings being late August through early September on the Maasai Mara side.

If you would like to experience the full majesty of the wildebeest migration, it is best to visit during these months. During this time frame, you will get to see herds of animals that stretch for miles and predators in pursuit of their prey migration is a natural marvel and truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Visiting Maasai Mara during the wildebeest migration season will provide you with unparalleled opportunities to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. With careful planning and some luck, you can witness the immense beauty of nature firsthand.

The wildebeest migration usually takes place between July and October when the Mara River is in full flow. This is also the best time to visit the Maasai Mara Reserve since the lodges and hotels are fully booked during this period, so it’s important to book early if you want to secure your accommodation.

Migration from Masai mara to Serengeti:

The wildebeest migration begins in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania before heading north towards the Masai Mara. The herds will typically traverse the Mara River and cross into Kenya between July and October. It is also around this time that the predators, such as lions and cheetahs, follow closely behind them in search of a meal. During the months of October and November, the wildebeest will start to migrate back south towards the Serengeti.

Which country has the best viewing of Wildebeest migration?

In early July, you’ll get the best views of migrating Wildebeest crossing the Grumeti River and Mara River. Towards the end of the month and by the start of August, the best viewing locations can still be on both sides of the Mara River. On the Tanzania side, the area around Olakira camp makes the best viewing location and on the Kenyan side, you’ll be lucky to get a spot at the Mara River camp.

Threats to Wildebeest Migration In their Route

Roads:

The government of Tanzania plans to construct a road that will stretch for 50 kilometers across the northern section of Serengeti National Park. This road will provide easier access from the coast to Lake Victoria and other inland countries. According to an environmental impact assessment, it is predicted that by 2015, 800 vehicles will use this road every day. But by 2035, that number is expected to grow significantly to 3000 vehicles—an average of one every 30 seconds.

In a 2022 Study that quoted other studies such as Holdo et al., (2011), it is estimated that the road could lead to a 35% loss in migrating wildebeest due to the effect of habitat fragmentation.

Loss or fragmentation of habitats:

In East Africa, wildebeest migrations are in decline due to a number of land use activities that cause habitat loss and fragmentation in their wet season dispersal areas. These land use activities, which include cultivation, land subdivision, settlements, fencing and other infrastructure, disrupt migratory movements and cause wildebeest populations to decline.

Poaching:

It is estimated that 70,000-129,000 wildebeest deaths in the Serengeti National Park are caused by local bushmeat consumption every year (Rentsch and Packer, 2012). A high intensity of poaching has also been linked to a decline in wildlife numbers in Kenya’s Mara area (Ogutu et al., 2009).

FAQs

when is the great migration in masai mara?

The wildebeest migration usually takes place between July and October when the Mara River is in full flow. This is also the best time to visit the Maasai Mara Reserve since the lodges and hotels are fully booked during this period, so it’s important to book early if you want to secure your accommodation.

when is the migration in masai mara?

July to October with the most concentration of migrating herds in August.

Has the migration started in masai mara?

The wildebeest migration usually begins in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania before heading north towards the Masai Mara. The herds will typically traverse the Mara River and cross into Kenya between July and October. While migration is continuous, the crossing over from Tanzania to Kenya happens between July and October with the biggest herds being observed on the Kenyan side in the month of August.

If you are planning for a 2023 safari to witness the annual wildebeest migration, it is best to book your trip between July and October.

Are there campsites close to Mara River Crossing Spots?

Yes, campsites located close to Mara River crossing spots on the Kenyan side. Some of these campsite include Ol Moran Tented Camp, Basecamp Masai Mara, Governors’ Camp and Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp. All these campsites are situated close to major Wildebeest crossing points in Maasai Mara Reserve and offer great views of campsites located close to Mara River crossing spots on the Kenyan side.

If you are interested to come to the Great Migration in 2024, read this guide

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