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4 Days Great Wildebeest Migration Safari Maasai Mara, Kenya

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Affordable Kenya Safari

You are invited to this 4-day safari in Kenya by Wild Safaris and Travel, where you can spot the great wildebeest migration with the affordable price. You will explore Maasai Mara which is Kenya's most popular game sanctuary where you will have the best opportunity of spotting the Big 5. So, this is your chance to get to know more about the safari in Maasai Mara. Come and join this safari!

Overview

  • Starting point and ending point: Nairobi
  • Main wildlife to be viewed: the Big Five, hippos, crocodiles, giraffe, wildebeests, zebras, warthogs, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs, antelopes, and wildebeest
  • Vaccines needed: yellow fever certificate is required in Tanzania regardless of country of origin. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended.

Highlights

  • Game drives activity
  • Service of a professional guide
  • Greatest spot for wildebeest migration
  • Game parks or national parks entry fees
  • Transport in a custom-made tour van
  • 3 daily tasty meals and water
  • Return airport transfers
  • 3 nights' lodging

Skill level

  • Beginner

Styles


3 activity days
Group size: Maximum of 8 participants
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Accommodation

During this safari, you will be accommodated in self-contained tents fitted with camp beds / linen is provided.

Program

Day 1: Nairobi - Masai Mara

Maasai Mara is Kenya's most popular game sanctuary where you will have the best opportunity of spotting the Big 5: lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, and elephant.

You will depart Nairobi in the morning and drive through Kikuyu farmlands to the edge of the Great Rift Valley. You will stop briefly to view the Great Rift Valley at the view point. You will have lunch at Narok, where you have a walk around the Maasai town. You will arrive at the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve, the jewel of Kenya's wildlife and the greatest spot for wildebeest migration in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight will be at the campsite.

Day 2: Maasai Mara (full day)

After breakfast, you will proceed for a full day of game viewing at the Maasai Mara reserve, it is Kenya's most popular game park in Kenya. Maasai Mara hosts an amazing concentration of wildlife. You are guaranteed to see the Big 5. Lions abound throughout the park as do leopards, cheetah, hyenas, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, topi, baboons, warthogs, buffalo, zebra, elephants, and of course hippos and crocodiles in the Mara River. You will have your picnic lunch at the Hippo pool. Dinner and overnight will be at the campsite.

The Mara offers wildlife in such variety and abundance that it is difficult to believe: over 450 species of animals have been recorded here. You will easily see lions, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, giraffe, wildebeests, zebras, buffalo, warthogs, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs, buffalo, leopard, many kinds of antelopes and elephant. It is in the Mara that perhaps the most spectacular event of the natural world takes place. This is the annual migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra from the Serengeti (Tanzania) in search of water and pasture. Following on their heels are the predators of the savannah; lion, cheetah, wild dog, jackal, hyena, and vultures

Day 3: Maasai Mara (full day)

Another full day is spent in the Maasai Mara which is Kenya's most celebrated game reserve, it offers the possibility of seeing "the big 5" and many other species of game. This is where the great wildebeest migration is a spectacle to behold for any would-be visitors to Kenya mainly in July to October of each year. This day, you have an option of going to visit the Maasai village to learn more about their culture. All meals and overnight will be at the campsite.

Kenya, Maasai Mara, Maasai Mara National Reserve

The great wildebeest migration is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”

Nowhere in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the wildebeest migration, over 2 million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya during July through to October.

The migration has to cross the Mara River in the Maasai Mara where crocodiles will prey on them. This is one of the highlights as the animals try and cross the Mara River alive.

In the Maasai Mara, they will be hunted, stalked, and run down by the larger carnivores. The Maasai Mara also has one of the largest densities of lion in the world and is no wonder this is the home of the BBC wildlife channels Big Cat Diary.

The stage on which this show sets, loosely termed the Serengeti Ecosystem, about 40,000 square kilometers pretty much defined by the dominant migration routes of the white bearded wildebeest (Consociates tuarinus means) and comprises parts of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the south; the Serengeti National Park, the adjacent Maswa Game Reserve, and other ‘controlled’ areas in the centre, east and west; and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve to the north.

The principle players are the wildebeest, whose numbers appear to have settled at just under 1.5 million, with supporting roles from some 350,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 200,000 zebra, and 12,000 eland. These are the main migrators and they cross the ranges of over a quarter of a million other resident herbivores and, of course, carnivores. The lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and lesser predators await the annual coming of the migration with eager anticipation

In reality, there is no such single entity as ‘the migration’. The wildebeest are the migration there is neither start nor finish to their endless search for food and water, as they circle the Serengeti - Mara ecosystem in a relentless sequence of life and death. ‘The only beginning is the moment of birth,’ notes acclaimed East African author and photographer Jonathan Scott, who has spent the better part of the last 30 years chronicling the events of the Serengeti and Maasai Mara. Similarly, the only ending is death.

For wanting of a better place in which to ‘start’ the migration, it’ll begin in January and February, when the wildebeest cows drop their young in a synchronized birthing that sees some 300,000 to 400,000 calves born within 2 to 3 weeks of one another, 8,5 months after the rut. The birthing occurs on the short-grass plains that, at the southernmost extent of the wildebeests’ range, spread over the lower northern slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater highlands and are scattered around Olduvai Gorge. Here, at the ‘cradle of mankind’, many notable fossil finds have been discovered, including some that show that wildebeest have grazed the Serengeti almost unchanged for over a million years.

The annual period of birthing provides a feast for predators. Driving across the plains, one can count literally hundreds of hyenas and dozens of lions scattered about. It may seem that the wildebeest are doing the predators a favor by dropping their young all at the same time, but in fact a surfeit of wildebeest veal in a very short-period results in the predators’ becoming satiated and unable to consume as much as they would if the calving happened over a longer time span. The predators thus have only a limited impact on the population of newborn calves; any calves born outside the peak are far more likely to perish.

To watch any birth is amazing but watching the wildebeest birthing verges on the incredible. A newborn wildebeest gains coordination faster than any other ungulates and is usually on its feet two to three minutes after birth. It can run with the herd at the age of 5 minutes and is able to outrun a lioness soon thereafter. Notwithstanding this, many do die within their first year, from predation (although research indicates only about one percent die this way), malnutrition, fatigue, or disease. Many calves get separated from their mothers when the herds panic (which happens frequently) or cross rivers or lakes in their path. The calves then wander for days looking for mum, bleating and bawling incessantly. On rare occasions, they may be lucky to find her, but no wildebeest cow will adopt a strange calf, even if she has lost her own and is lactating at the time. As it weakens, a lost calf becomes an easy victim for any watching predator, from jackal up to hyena and lion.

The start of the circle

Towards the end of the short dry season, around March, the short-grass plains of the southernmost Serengeti begin to dry out and the wildebeest begin (or continue) their journey, heading towards the western woodlands. How do they know which way to go? There are at least two possible answers, according to behaviorist and ecologist Harvey Croze, co-author of The Great Migration. The wildebeests journey is dictated primarily by their response to the weather; they follow the rains and the growth of new grass. Although there is no scientific proof that this is true, it seems that they, and other animals, react to lightning and thunderstorms in the distance. ‘It would be surprising if even the wildebeest could overlook such prominent portents of change,’ writes Croze.

However, it is probably instinctive knowledge, etched into their DNA by hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection, that is the major reason why these ‘clowns of the plains’ know in which direction they must travel. Over the millennia, those wildebeest that went the ‘wrong’ way would have died (of thirst and starvation) long before they could reproduce, so the wildebeest that lived to produce the future generations were the ones that went the ‘right’ way.

From the plains around Olduvai the herds head west towards the trio of small lakes, Ndutu, Masek and Lagarja. At this time, their biggest need is usually to find water, and these more westerly areas can provide it. Still feeding and fattening on the nutritious short grass the herds scatter widely across the plains, shifting on a whim in response to factors beyond our knowledge. On any given day, they’ll be spread out in their tents and hundreds of thousands across the expansive plains west of Ndutu, the next they’ll be gone. By now the first downpours of the long rains will be falling, and the wildebeest will canter across the plains towards the distant thunderstorms, frequently returning a day or two later if the promise did not match the reality.

The rut

As the rains set in, the herds head north-west past the granite outcrops of the Simba and Moru Koppies and into the woodlands of the hilly country west of Seronera towards Lake Victoria. This is the time of the annual rut, with half a million cows mated in less than a month as the herds consolidate in the woodlands and on the plains of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor. The peak of the rut seems heavily influences by the state of the moon, with the full moon in May / June being a good bet for anyone seeking the most action.

Seemingly vicious fighting between dominant or territorial males takes place during the rut, though there is generally little actual violence or serious injury. In spite of these energetic duels, the males have little say over their choice of mates, for it is the females who do the actual choosing.

The crossing

From the western Serengeti the herds head north, following the rains (or their effects) into Kenya and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. On their trek, the wildebeests’ path is cut several times by rivers: in the Serengeti by the Mbalageti and the Grumeti, and in Kenya by the Mara. For most of the year these rivers are relatively placid, but they can become violent torrents in response to rainfall in their catchments areas, and then they present major obstacles to the progress of the wildebeest.

The rivers and indeed the few isolated lakes in the south of the Serengeti, are terrifying to the wildebeest firstly because of the animals’ fear of the water itself and the creatures it may hide, and secondly because water generally means vegetation, and thickets that may conceal predators. Yet the wildebeest have an inherent instinct to trek in a certain direction at any cost - despite their terror. The lakes in the south - Ndutu, Masek and Lagarja - for example, are little more than a few kilometres long, and could easily be walked around. However, natural selection steps in once more: the wildebeest that crossed the lakes in previous generations survived to breed, so the waters pose no fear to their progeny; those that did not make it gave no further input to the gene pool.

In his definitive documentary on the migration, The Year of the Wildebeest, filmmaker Alan Root describes how he watched a crossing at Lake Lagarja, where, once the main body of the herd had crossed cows that had become separated from their calves turned back to look for them re-entering the water and swimming back. On reaching the other side, it's still not reunited with their offspring, they turned back once again. This toing and froing went on for seven days, until eventually the numbers of arriving wildebeest built up again and the stragglers were forced to move on with the main body of the herd. Thousands of wildebeest died in the lake that year. While such tragedies may appear to be a disaster for the wildebeest, the deaths only represent a mere handful of the hundreds of thousands of calves born each year. Without a degree of natural mortality, the wildebeest population could spiral out of control.

Wildebeests arrive at the Mara River in their tens of thousands and gather waiting to cross. For days, their numbers can be building up and anticipation grows but many times, for no apparent reason, they turn and wander away from the water’s edge. Eventually, the wildebeest will choose a crossing point, something that can vary from year to year and cannot be predicted with any accuracy. Usually, the chosen point will be a fairly placid stretch of water without too much predator-concealing vegetation on the far side, although occasionally they will choose seemingly suicidal places and drown in their hundreds. Perhaps, once again, this is because crossing places are genetically imprinted in the minds of the animals.

Some fords do attract larger numbers of animals than others though, probably because they’re visible from a greater distance and the arriving herds are able to see others of their kind either in the process of crossing the river or grazing on the lush grass on the far side.

The predators

Once on the grasslands of the Maasai Mara, the wildebeest spend several months feeding and fattening once more, taking advantage of the scattered distribution of green pastures and isolated rainstorms. A remarkable feature of their wanderings is their ability to repeatedly find areas of good grazing, no matter how far apart. The physiology of the wildebeest is such that it has been designed by evolution to travel large distances very quickly and economically, apparently requiring no more energy to run a certain distance than to trudge along at walking pace. Every facet of its life and behavior is designed to save time - wildebeest even mate on the move, and newborns are, as it's been seen, up and running in minutes.

While the wildebeest are drawn into migrating by the needs of their stomachs, the fact that they’re constantly on the move has the added benefit that they outmarch large numbers of predators. The predators are unable to follow the moving herds very far, for many are territorial and can neither abandon their territories nor invade those of others. Moreover, the young of most predators are highly dependent upon their mothers, who can’t move very far from them.

Closing the circle

By late October, when the first of the short rains are falling on the Serengeti’s short grass plains, filling seasonal waterholes and bringing new flushes of growth, the wildebeest start heading south again. The herds trek down through the eastern woodlands of the Serengeti, some 90 percent of the cows' heavy with the new season’s young. Tightly grouped as they pass through the wooded country the wildebeest scatter and spread out again once they reach the open plains.

Day 4: Nairobi

You will have a pre-morning game drive in Maasai Mara, Kenya's most popular game sanctuary, where you will have the best opportunity of spotting the Big 5; lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant. After breakfast, you will depart to Nairobi with game drive en route and picnic lunch, you will arrive at around 17:00.

Location

This safari will take place in Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Food

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Brunch
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Snacks
  • Drinks

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Hallal
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

Things to do (optional)

You have an option of going to visit the Maasai village to learn more about their culture.

What's included

  • 1-liter mineral water per person per day
  • 3 meals per day whilst on safari, prepared by Wild Safaris and Travel's cook
  • 3 nights' accommodation in self-contained tents fitted with camp beds / linen is provided
  • Complimentary return airport transfers in Nairobi
  • Game drives as per the itinerary
  • Game parks or national parks entry fees
  • Services of a professional English-speaking guide
  • Transport in an 8 seater custom made tour van with a pop-up roof - each person is guaranteed a window seat

What's not included

  • Cultural visits to Maasai villages (costs 25 USD)
  • Drinks
  • Hotel accommodation in Nairobi before and after the safari
  • Kenya visas
  • Personal effects
  • Tipping

How to get there

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). Transfer to the airport is included, but the transfer from the airport is available upon request.

Wild Safaris and Travels offers airport transfers shuttle services from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) for the clients who value comfort, safety, speed, and efficiency whether traveling for business or fun safari, transit in Nairobi or boarding Nairobi Arusha, Moshi, and many others shuttle buses.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 30% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 1 days before arrival.
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