Great Migration in the Masai Mara: Perhaps a Better Alternative than Serengeti?

thick packs of wildebeests crossing the mara river
Every year, the great wildebeest migration sees millions of wildebeests, gazelles, and zebras journey in a circular route from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara. Often regarded as the most spectacular of Africa’s natural phenomena, the wildebeest are driven by pure instinct in search of greener pastures, making it the greatest natural show on earth. They are also accompanied by predators stalking them as they move from grasslands to wooded forests in an epic journey that crosses thousands of kilometers in an endless cycle.



Now for many travelers, one of the most frequent questions on their minds is where to best witness this phenomenon. The Serengeti hosts the bulk of the event, but a Masai Mara migration experience is also pretty amazing. In any case, there is no straightforward answer and is instead something that will be determined by examining a few similarities and differences between the Serengeti safari and a Kenya safari in Masai Mara.

Wildlife

Zebras and wildebeests on the fields of Masai Mara
The wildlife of both the Mara and the Serengeti is very similar. At either location, you will get to observe the Big Five, the wildebeest and other animals across the plains in great numbers, along with numerous bird species. It’s not necessarily the country that determines which animals you will see, but the type of habitat. Since the Masai Mara and the Serengeti are basically the same regions, the game viewing experience isn’t too different.

Weather

If you are leaning toward spending the bulk of your safari adventure in Kenya, then the Mara is the natural choice for your great migration experience. You’ll be pleased to know that the weather in Kenya varies by location, from mostly cool every day, to always warm/hot, but the climate along the coast is tropical. In Tanzania, the climate is usually tropical while the coastal areas tend to be hot and humid, especially at the start and end of the dry season.

Accommodation

Elephants on the fields of governor's camp
Both countries offer very similar accommodation options, which range from budget-friendly to all-out luxury. Several establishments also offer mobile camping to follow the Great Migration, so in this instance, your choice of where to go will usually be determined by where the herds are at that time of the year and which accommodation options are closest.

Experience and Exclusivity

What tourists come to learn is that it is seasonality that usually makes one destination more attractive than another. This is also the case for the camps and lodges to be found along the way, which tend to differ in terms of location, level of luxury, and safari activities on offer.

Depending on whether your accommodation is in a private concession or park, you could find yourself jostling for a prime game sighting along with plenty of other tourists, or you could experience the feeling of having the wild all to yourself. Interestingly enough, Kenya and the surrounds of the Mara have more private concessions than Tanzania’s Serengeti, which makes a Masai Mara honeymoon more appealing.

Masai Mara National Reserve Facts

a giraffe walking the fields of masai mara
Hippos are abundant in the Mara River as well as very large Nile crocodiles, who lie in wait for a meal as the wildebeest herds cross into Kenya.

Evidence of early human establishments, including pottery and arrowheads discarded by Neolithic man 2000 years ago have been discovered within the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Scientists have identified almost 600 species of wild birds in the park, many of which are migrants. Over 50 birds of prey, including eagles, storks, and vultures, make up Mara’s abundant birdlife.

Due to the high concentration of Hyenas in Kenya, the Masai Mara has been considered as a research center for Hyenas.

Serengeti National Park Facts

thick herds of wildebeests in the serengeti
The name Serengeti is derived from the Maasai word siringit, which translates to “endless plains.” This is a rather accurate description considering the whole ecosystem stretches over 30,000 square kilometers!

The park has been listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its biodiversity and ecological significance.

The Serengeti eco-system is one of the oldest on the planet, boasting a diversity of flora and fauna that is unavailable anywhere else on earth.

The expanse of the Serengeti is home to Ol Doinyo Lengai, the only active volcano in the area. It ejects mineral-rich carbonate lava that fertilizes the land.

So is the Masai Mara a better option for the Great Migration?

Perhaps. The migration is definitely better in Kenya if you arrive around July to August, or if you wish to explore other destinations that are nearer in Masai Mara than the Serengeti together with your Great Migration adventure. Either way, they’re both fantastic safari destinations so you can be sure of having the time of your life.

Experience the magic of Masai Mara National Park! Check out these tours for you:

5 Days Masai Mara Migration Safari

4 Days Maasai Mara Lodge Safari

Written by: Branded Africa