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They have arrived!

July 31, 2013

The migration has arrived in the Masai Mara and this makes me think of the number one question that I get asked about Kenya – “when is the best time to see the migration?”  Ahh, if only I had a dollar for every time I was asked that … if only I had a crystal ball!  The answer to this question is truly a tricky one as it all depends on Mother Nature and the rains.

The annual migration from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara is one of the great natural wonders of the world – notice that I called it a “natural” wonder which means it all comes down to nature.  The migration itself is completely dependent upon the rains & the grasses as the herds of wildebeest and zebra are driven by the “need to feed”.  This is an annual cycle that has the herds moving from the Serengeti to the Mara and back to the Serengeti.

The typical monthly calendar is as follows:

January – the migration is settled in the short grass lands of the southern Serengeti.  Zebra are foaling.

February – the migration is in the Serengeti Plains. Wildebeest are foaling. The migration is moving slowly and grazing.

March – the wildebeest and zebra are distributed over a wide area moving slowing and grazing.  The heavy rains are approaching from the north.

April – Heavy rains have set. The migration is slowly moving towards the central Serengeti woodlands and on towards the western corridor.

May – the rains are ending and the dry season is approaching. The migration begins crossing the Grumeti River.

June – the dry season has set in and the wildebeest and zebra move north east. The main objective is to find greener pastures as the Serengeti is getting drier.

July – the migrating animals are moving north towards Mara River. This is the start of one of the great spectacles of the migration, the crossing of the Mara River where crocodiles make the crossing precarious for the wildebeest. The migratory animals are looking for the sweet grass of the Kenya’s Masai Mara.

August – the migration moves into Masai Mara in search of water and fresh grazing.

September – the wildebeest and zebra are located in the Masai Mara. The area is dry, but water can still be found in the Mara.

October – the thunder clouds are starting to build up as a sign of the impending rain. The wildebeest start moving south in anticipation of the new seasons rains.

November – the short rains have started and the migration moves quickly south to Tanzania. New grass covers the Serengeti plains and the wildebeest are moving towards the short grass plains of the south.

December – the migration is settled in the short grass lands on the southern plains of the Serengeti.

So if Mother Nature plays fair and all goes according to plan, the best times to see the migration in Kenya are late July, August and September.  But we have had years where the migration has arrived earlier and stayed later, we have even had years with two migrations as the herds returned due to late rains.