The great migration is considered the 7th wonder of the world, and the Maasai Mara Natural Reserve is home to the largest mammalian migration spectacle in the world. The migration swells up with a herd of over a million wildebeests, several thousands of Burchell’s zebras, Thomson’s Gazelles, and Elands. There are numerous Mara camps located right at the epicenter of this spectacle, where you can get accommodation and be part of the migration. This phenomenal activity is the pinnacle of Maasai Mara safaris, and it should not be missed.
Reason for the Migration
The migration is instinctual and is triggered by the onset of a dry season. The African savannah experiences the dry season between June and October. The Maasai Mara Reserve is conjoint with Tanzania’s Serengeti reserve. The hoard of animals crosses from Serengeti into the Maasai Mara in search of grazing land. Similarly, when the dry season kicks in the Maasai Mara, the wildebeests migrate into the Serengeti reserve for the calving season between January and February.
The climax of the Migration
The spectacle evokes excitement in humans and animals alike. This yearly spectacle enthralls crocodiles and big cats since they eat to their fill. The tourists stand in wonder as millions of animals rush onward into the crocodile-infested Mara River, risking everything in quest of better grazing land. The sojourn is filled with other perils other than the predators. The herds may succumb to fatigue, diseases, and starvation. The migration is founded on survival for the fittest, and about 250,000 wildebeests succumb annually.
Ideal Time to Visit
It is difficult to determine when exactly the herds will start migrating. However, the ideal time is mid-July to late August. The Maasai Mara lodges and camps are filled to the brim during this time; hence, getting accommodation may be difficult. You should, therefore, check in slightly earlier before the spectacle begins. The migration revolves clockwise, and the wildebeests migrate clockwise within a 1000 kilometer radius.
The first migration sighting was experienced in the 70s after the Wildebeest population increased in the Serengeti reserve. Before the 70s, the beasts were barely 200,000, but they increased exponentially to over 1,000,000. Previously, the wildebeests had been affected by Rinderpest, a disease that affected cattle. The viral illness therefore wiped out wildebeests that grazed with infected cattle.
In the 1950s, scientists created a vaccine to end the disease that had been bedeviling the Serengeti reserve. The immunization was successful, and Rinderpest was completely eradicated. The wildebeest population increased, and they, therefore, consumed more grass, forcing them to cross over to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in search of greener pastures.
The river crossings are the highlight of the migration evoking an adrenaline rush among onlookers. The crossing is inspirational and sad since the wildebeests plunge into the crocodile-infested river and yonder into the unknown. The spectacle is not for the weak-hearted since you will see many animals die, and it will leave you wondering what Wildebeests will survive the jaws of the crocodile, the treacherous long swim, and the slippery paths on the riverbanks.