In search of three million wildebeest: One of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the world.
In East Africa, each year, an estimated three million wildebeest, surge over to Kenya from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania. In search of fresh pasture, these ungainly creatures, together with hundreds of zebras, crash and stampede their way through the Mara River to the lush pastures of the Maasai Mara in this incredible annual event.
The question is how many will fall prey to the watchful predators who follow and lie in wait? Enormous Nile crocodiles lie submerged in the river, scores of big cats (lions, cheetahs, leopards) and hyena join the snorting, running, puffing, panting ungulates on their incredible journey across a treacherous river and through the African plains. It’s a perilous time, but it makes for a thrilling Kenya safari.
We set off with a feeling of excitement on a scenic journey through Africa’s Great Rift Valley to see these ungainly beasts and the hope of experiencing something really rather wonderful! Our journey took us along winding roads with panoramic views that stretch on into what seems like infinity through hundreds of miles across East Africa. On we drove, through endless wheat fields with acacia trees and beyond.
Our first game drive was after lunch and we were not disappointed. The Mara was indeed completely full of the dark, strange looking beasts. It was an amazing spectacle to see them winding along in lines that stretched as far as the eye could see; running, chasing, plodding along on their annual pilgrimage. For vast stretches of the park, everywhere you looked, the wildebeest were there. Hidden in among them were large groups of cuddly looking lions and their cubs. Cheetahs, leopards, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and of course giraffes, just to name a few other animals easily seen in this place of natural beauty in Kenya. This is truly the land of the Lion King. We didn’t manage to see the incredible stampede through the Mara River, but some small numbers of wildebeest were still crossing carefully avoiding the jaws of the enormous crocs. Instead, we smiled to see a tiny newly born hippo slide into the river, escorted carefully by his enormous mother who kept a close eye out for her precious offspring.
We’d stayed in a gorgeous 5 star campsite, saw and heard Maasai Warriors. It had been an amazing experience to see a natural world that was so much more vivid and larger than any photo could ever explain. With a feeling of harmony and freedom and being at one with this wonderful world we live in; this is a part of Africa that you really must see.
The Maasai Mara is a huge area with a wide range of accommodation to suit every type of traveler. From basic campsites located just outside the park, to beautifully designed and furnished 5 star accommodation right in the middle of the reserve, the Mara has it all.
Where To Stay
Top End: For the height of luxury, we recommend Cottars Camp.
An incredibly exclusive luxury camp with an emphasis on excellent guides and a history of safari expertise dating back almost a century. Governors Camp is the oldest permanent tented camp in Africa and is also a fantastic place to visit.
Another option where you can’t go wrong is Mara Intrepids which pride itself on its eco-friendly approach and luxurious accommodation in Safari Style tents.
Mid-Range: Set outside the Game Park is Siana Springs, which is about a half hour drive from the park. This is a mid range luxury camp which gives a wonderful insight and views of the traditional Maasai Villages. Early in the morning, as you drive out on your game drive, you’ll see huge herds of cattle inside the Manyatta’s (traditional Maasai Villages) kept safe from prowling lion. Siana Springs is an attractive Camp with good amenities.
Budget: If this all seems too far from your price range, another option may be to drive yourself and camp at the Acacia campsite. Here you pitch your own tent and the camp provides running hot water, flush toilets and good amenities, making this one of the best camping spots in the area for budget campers. Alternatively camp at a budget tented camp where the tents and beds are provided with flush toilets and hot showers in the tent.
Things To Do
As if there wasn’t enough to do by simply being in this amazing animal filled environment, visitors can also visit a traditional Maasai Village. Take photos of these beautiful people and learn how the Maasai people live. A Sunrise balloon ride should not be missed, followed by a champagne breakfast in the bush. For those who want to relax between game drives, most camps and Lodges offer a chance to pamper and indulge yourself with an open air massage.
A Kenya walking safari is also sometimes a possibility and also a picnic or open dining experience in the middle of the bush among the elements. Almost all luxury camps have a swimming pool and can arrange bird watching walks, where you can see up to 400 species of birds. These are often led by an (English speaking) Maasai Moran, clad in red cloth, beads and spear! This is the real deal!
Holidays With Children
Many camps offer activities for young explorers. Your children may be shown how to track wild animals, learn how to shoot a bow and arrow or make a mud hut from dung! Under the close watch of a trained Maasai safari guide, youngsters will have great fun in safety, while mum and dad relax in the sunshine by the pool!
Who to Book With
There are a huge number of safari companies and travel agents who can help you to book a holiday to Kenya.
Top-End: Ker and Downey entertain clients from rock stars to Royalty. They pride themselves on their experienced, knowledgeable and charismatic guides. Booking a holiday with Ker & Downey will ensure that your accommodation and holiday is unique, personal and designed with thoughtful insight about your needs, right down to the last detail. Among other high-end travel companies are Origins and who all offer excellent services to discerning travellers.
Mid-Range: Rhino Safaris are professionals in the Safari business. With a large network of vehicles and expert knowledge have everything they need to arrange a successful trip to the Mara. They offer a variety of lodges and camps and will help you choose something that specifically fits your budget and preferences. Private Safaris and Pollmans are also leaders in this area with excellent resources and good customer care.
Budget: Gametrackers are based in Nairobi and offer budget packages to travellers, students and those on a tight budget. They are a reliable company who have their own vehicles, campsites and experienced guides. They offer no frills all-inclusive packages to the Mara and elsewhere.
When To Go
You can visit the Maasai Mara anytime a year and see a more dynamic range of animals, than almost anywhere else in the world. The time to see the migration is anytime between June and early September. After this comes the birthing season where many baby animals can be seen between October through to around March. April and May are quieter so this is a great opportunity to enjoy the tranquility of watching animals and birds in peace with fewer tourists around! Let’s be honest – any time in the Mara is pure magic!