The reserve is home to the largest population of lions to be found in Kenya, as well as huge herds of Topi and other antelopes. The area is bisected by the Mara River which every now and then comes into tumultuous flood, and which is boarded by a section of luxurious riverine forest. Hippo laze in its waters, while drowsy looking crocodiles sunbathe on the banks, mouths agape. Aside from the marvels of the annual migration, the Mara is rich in resident wildlife and birds.
The Great Migration:
The great trek usually begins in Tanzania and the Serengeti in January after the herds have exhausted the available pastures.
The migration involves well over a million animals and approximate 500 miles of travel. The true migrants are the Wildebeest or White bearded gnu and Zebra. Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles participate but only partially while the predators only trail the herds for obvious reasons – easy prey! It is questionable whether the Zebra make the full journey and it is certain that the gazelles do not leave the Serengeti.
Below is a timetable of the Wildebeests' movements. Click on the tab to open.
January/ February/MarchAt this time of the year the wildebeests are scattered across the medium and short grass plains south of Serengeti depending on the water and grazing. They criss-cross the plains with large concentrations remaining around Lake Ndutu and Olduvai gorge. Many travel onto Ngorongoro crater increasing the numbers of animals in the crater considerably.
At this time, there are scattered thunderstorms on the plains, the surface waterholes are full and the grazing is good. Wildebeest calving occurs in February and there are literally hundreds of calves. Predatory activity is high with an abundance of Lion, Cheetah, spotted Hyena with frequent sighting of Leopard.
By the end of March, the rains begin to taper off and the surface waterholes begin to dry up, the grazing is becoming short and the animals begin to panic. The wildebeest begin to gather into large herds and start moving north and west towards Lake Victoria as they graze. The herds continue west following Grumeti river and reach within 20 miles of Lake Victoria. It is for this reason the western arm of the Serengeti was included in the national park and is called the migration corridor.
JuneThe great herds are now in the corridor. At the same time during June the herds move north again through Musoma and head for the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Depending on the rain and grazing they reach the Mara river towards the end of July and the greatest wildlife show on earth begins. During this time until the end of August, it is possible to view the herds crossing the Mara river.
July, August, SeptemberThe great herds are more concentrated now and remain in Maasai Mara area approximately 2-3 months. During this period courtship and breeding takes place. By the end of September they have consumed most of the grass from the Mara river to the Loita plains in Maasai Mara.
The animals become restless and start moving south through the Keekorok (Maasai Mara) and Lobo (Serengeti) Valleys en-route to the plains.