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The Angama Guide to the Great Migration

It is the largest land-based animal migration on the planet – more than a million wildebeest and zebras migrating en-masse on their never-ending journey in search of greener pastures. Most will survive the hazards faced along the way, but hundreds of thousands won’t. This is without a doubt, the greatest show on Earth
Above: Sometimes getting in the water isn't the scariest part

When is the Great Migration?

Contrary to popular belief, the Great Migration isn’t a singular event, but rather a year-long trek, with the mega-herds making a clockwise, round-trip journey of around 600km between the Maasai Mara in Kenya in the north and the southern Serengeti plains in Tanzania, with their travel schedule guided by the seasons and rainfall patterns.

Most often it is the dramatic river crossing scenes that happen in the Maasai Mara National Reserve that are etched into people’s minds. These tend to happen towards the end of July and into August – although like many things in nature, it is completely unpredictable and can change dramatically depending on the whims of the wildebeest. The mega herds of wildebeest, along with zebra and topi will stretch as far as the eye can see across the Mara Triangle offering incredible game viewing as you criss-cross the Reserve from July into early October.

Read more on the timing of the Great Migration:

On the Move – The Great Migration
A Bonus Migration Season

The dust and the noise makes this more than just a visual spectacle
Fraught with danger, the crossings are heart-racing for all

What To Expect

Although each year’s spectacle varies from the one to the next, particularly when it comes to the timing and size of the mega herds, there are some constants you can expect time and time again. Drama and excitement by the bucketload as hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra plunge into the jaws of the monster-sized crocodiles in the Mara River. For those that make it to the other side, a journey across the grassy plains of the Mara, and into the gaze of the predators that await.

How to witness the Migration river crossings

Angama guests have a front-row seat as it only takes about 45 minutes from the lodge to get to the Main Crossing site – there are about 10 sites in total. The crossings happen mostly at midday, but you need to leave early to get a prime position along the banks for the best viewing. We recommend having your guide pack a picnic breakfast and lunch for a full-day safari so as not to miss any of the action.

You can sometimes wait hours to witness a crossing, but there is always something to observe — hippos and crocs in the water, opportunistic lions on the banks, riverine birds and sometimes elephant families crossing from one side to another. You wouldn’t be the first to catch a siesta in the safari vehicle either. But there is something wonderful about being in nature with no cellphone signal or timetable. 

Young and old must make the dash together
You might have to wait, but the reward is worth it
You will be on the edge of your seats

Why are there so many cars?

It’s the busiest time of year as people come from all over the world to witness the Great Migration. Many guests stay in the Northern conservancies (they must drive 2+ hours to reach the crossing points in the Mara Triangle), some will be at lodges closer to Angama as well as lodges in the Greater Reserve, plus the self-drive visitors and tour companies from Nairobi. Thankfully, Angama guests enter as soon as the Reserve opens at dawn and are amongst the first vehicles at a crossing point.

With so much going on, you'll want to have eyes on the back of your head

Is the Great Migration a good experience for children?

It can be a long time to wait; children often bring books and things to do. They will nap too, of course. But it is an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. The sights and sounds can be frightening, as many animals perish leaping from the banks, while others are taken by crocodiles in the water, and those who make it across may be ambushed by big cats lying in wait. Booking a private safari vehicle is recommended for families travelling with children at this time of year, as it allows you to plan your safari around the children's needs. 

The migration is not for the faint of heart, but in the end, it's a story of survival

 

Read these accounts to discover what awaits during the Migration Season:

A Chaotic Carnival of Wild Abundance
Not a Crossing for the Faint of Heart
A Photographer’s Dream
Danger Around Every Corner

How to Escape The Crowds

There is another, gentler, more exclusive way to experience the Mara at this time of the year. With most visitors focusing on the river crossings, it leaves the vast majority of the wildlife-packed Triangle yours to enjoy without another soul in sight. Exploring the inselbergs (a formation of large hills) down near the Tanzanian border, home to a large pride of lions and some of the best cheetah viewing in the Mara, is the best way to spend a migration day surrounded by the thronging herds of millions of grazing herbivores. In the forests along the escarpment, elephants are known to stand on their hind legs looking for fruit in the trees.

The three Inselberg males enjoy a mid-morning snooze on the main road without a car in sight

 

Discover the ‘other side’ of the Great Migration:

The Best Kept Secret of the Great Migration
It’s All About the Crossing – Not!

Where to Stay

In the heart of the action

Tucked away in private sites deep in the Mara, guests staying at Angama Safari Camp have the mega herds right on their doorstep. From this light footprint, exclusive-use camp, it’s just a short drive to various crossing sites. Staying inside the Reserve means that you can be the first to take prime position in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the day. This is true wilderness camping, capturing the spirit of the Golden Age of safaris, but without having to sacrifice any of the comforts of 21st-century camping. Experience the thrill of having nothing but canvas between you, the Mara, and the mega herds of the Great Migration.

Angama Safari Camp is situated deep in the Mara

The best seat in the house

At certain times of the year, the mega herds of hundreds of thousands wildebeest congregate right below Angama Mara, making it the best vantage point to take in the true scale of the Great Migration. High above the Maasai Mara, you are far enough from the busyness below but close enough to get to the Main Crossing site in under an hour, and many others not much further away. With breathtaking views and elegant design, this is the perfect place to experience the Great Migration in style.

Overlooking the migration from a sun lounger is a special (and comfortable) way to do it

But why choose? With each property offering a unique perspective, nothing could be better than combining the two with our Best of Both offer.

Filed under: Stories From The Mara

Tagged with:

Great Migration , Kenyan Migration , Wildebeest Migration

About: Sue van Winsen

Part of Angama's sales and marketing team with over 16 years’ experience in travel and tourism, Sue has the inside track on what makes the travel industry tick. She is passionate about all-things-African and is an unashamed cat fanatic. When not travelling, she can usually be found cooking in the kitchen.

Browse all articles by Sue van Winsen Meet the angama team

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