Discover Mara River And Great Wildebeest Migration Crossing : The Mara River, also known as “the river of death,” is famed for its part in the Great Migration. Every year, tens of thousands of wildebeest race down Mara’s steep banks into the deadly waters below. As they scramble to the other side, the wildebeest must avoid a swarm of prowling crocodiles.
The Mara River is located between Narok County in southern Kenya and the Mara Region in northern Tanzania. The river travels from the Kenyan highlands through the Maasai Mara plains in southern Kenya and the northern Serengeti National Park in Tanzania before emptying into Lake Victoria. The Mara River runs for 395 kilometers and has a basin size of 13,504 square kilometers.
WHERE DOES THE MARA RIVER FIT INTO MY KENYAN/TANZANIAN SAFARI ADVENTURE?
The Mara River is most known for its contribution to the Great Migration. From July to September, visitors throng to the river to watch this natural spectacle. Over two million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles migrate across Serengeti National Park and the Maasai Mara National Reserve each year in search of richer pastures to graze. Scientists cannot predict when the Great Migration will occur; therefore, we recommend planning a long journey to the Mara Region between July and September to maximize your chances of experiencing the phenomenon.
If you just have a short time in Kenya and Tanzania, you may miss out on the crossing. However, the Mara River is home to a plethora of wildlife all year, including hippos, Nile crocodiles, and elephants, so even if you miss the event, you will have plenty of opportunity for animal viewing.
THE MARA RIVER AND GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION
The Great Migration starts in Tanzania’s south, on the Ndutu Plains and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. 500,000 wildebeest calves are born over a six-week period during the early months of the year, just after the short rains.
As the plains begin to dry up, the wildebeest and other grazing mammals migrate north in a clockwise path into the Serengeti, where they are hunted by predators such as lions, crocodiles, and leopards. The Mara River cuts across the migration route of the wildebeest, forcing them to cross this swift-flowing, crocodile-infested river.
Whether you see the migration as majestic or a painful reminder of the harsh realities of the wild, it is critical to the ecosystem’s health. Every year, over 6,000 wildebeest perish during the Great Migration, providing an important food supply for predators and fish. Experiencing the Mara River during the Great Migration is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
OTHER WILDLIFE TO SEE AT THE MARA RIVER
The Mara River is home to hippos and Nile crocodiles, Africa’s largest species. Elephants, eagles, lions, and even leopards have been known to drink from the river. Adventurers who are lucky enough may see a black rhino. These endangered creatures used to be abundant in Serengeti National Park, but they have suffered greatly as a result of poaching in recent decades.
HOW DO I GET TO THE MARA RIVER?
The Serengeti National Park is the best way to get to the Mara River. Several airstrips provide flights to the Serengeti, and one is located within the park itself. The Seronera Airstrip gets flights from Dar es Salaam (flight times vary according to plane size), Arusha, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, and Ruaha National Park. Because most flights to the Serengeti are small bush planes, we urge that you keep your luggage as light and modest as possible.
The 8-hour drive from Arusha to the Serengeti is a safari adventure in and of itself, with plenty of wildlife and magnificent scenery along the way. This tour takes you via the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, so you may opt to drive through here, resting overnight and continuing the next day in the Serengeti after a three-hour drive. Your trip to the Mara River will be determined by the lodging you select.
The closest permanent tented camp to the Mara River is Singita Mara River Camp. Although driving to the camp is an option, Singita recommends that you let them handle your scheduled flight or private charter.
The Singita Sasakwa airfield serves as the destination for all aircraft. A direct flight from Kilimanjaro to Singita takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and a direct flight from Arusha to Singita takes only 1 hour. All transfers will be handled for you if you book your adventure with us at Focus East Africa Tours.
WHEN SHOULD I VISIT THE MARA RIVER?
The Mara River is best visited between July and September, according to the Great Migration cycle. The date of the migration, however, varies, and there is no certainty that it will occur during your stay. The Great Migration coincides with the overall high season for game in this area, so you’ll see lots of species whether or not you see the crossing.
We recommend booking a year in advance to ensure your preferred itinerary and accommodations. Booking with us at Focus East Africa Tours ensures that you do not miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime animal encounter. If you are unable to visit the Mara River, the Grumeti River crossing is an excellent substitute.
The crossing occurs outside of peak season, between May and June, in a 1-2 week timeframe. Because of Grumeti’s distant position, you will not be disturbed by a trail of safari cars. During the Great Migration, approximately 30 safari vehicles congregate on the banks of the Mara River, but Grumeti’s banks will be inhabited by half as many vehicles.
WHERE DO I STAY AROUND THE MARA RIVER?
Only a few lodges are permanently built near the river, but several mobile tented camps provide temporary accommodation during the Great Migration’s peak period. Prices will soar throughout the busy months, making finding affordable lodging difficult. The following high-end lodges are recommended:
Singita Mara River Camp: As one of the few permanent tented camps in the area, the Mara River Camp guarantees elegance and comfort with excellent river access. The lodge is environmentally friendly and runs totally on solar power.
Acacia Migration Camp: This tented camp, on the lower end of the budget for this area, provides modest but comfortable lodging.
Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge: Located in the Northern Serengeti’s Wogakuria Hills, this eco-friendly lodge offers breathtaking views of the surrounding green hills.
Lemala Mara River Camp: Choose from 12 elegant tents set under the shade of giant Euclea trees.
Taasa Lodge: The lodge has 12 spacious tents that are all immaculately decorated, as well as a pool with views of the Serengeti. The resort is in a remote position, but the Mara River can be reached on a game drive.