Our Family-Friendly Guide to The Annual Wildebeest Migration

On the prowl for the most memorable family safari, ever? It MUST include a stay in the world famous Masai Mara (Kenya) or Serengeti (Tanzania), homes to the greatest annual migration on earth!

What is the Annual Wildebeest Migration?

The annual wildebeest migration is the movement of over 1.5m wildebeest, 500,000 zebra, 200,000 Thompson’s gazelle and 18,000 eland across the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania and the Maasai Mara National Reserve & surrounding conservancies, Kenya. This movement offers the viewer unbelievable experiences, both incredibly beautiful & brutal.  The migration follows the rainfall (the animals follow the green grass), therefore is weather dependent, but we thought you might find our general explanation helpful.  

First & foremost, we would like to inform you that the wildlife viewing in the Serengeti or the Maasai Mara is excellent all year round, so any time is a good time to travel to either places, you just need to know where to base yourselves (Please feel free to contact safaris@thesafaricoltd.com about this)!! Please use this only as a guideline when planning your East African safari as it is indeed weather dependent…. We’ve had double migrations before, early ones and late ones of course! 

Map of Annual Wildebeest Migration Route

When & Where to view the Great Migration

    • January to March – The big herds are often in the South / South East Serengeti  (mainly Ndutu & Kusini). Calving often takes place in Jan / Feb, therefore there are loads of young, lots of predators and great visibility. A great time to travel here.
    • April & May – The herds are now generally moving towards central Serengeti (Seronera).  This is typically the time of the long rains in East Africa; generally rain appears in short bursts leaving dramatic skies and beautiful sunsets and game viewing is still excellent. NB. There are some great discounts available at lodges and camps throughout Kenya & Tanzania, and at The SAFARI Company, we love this time of year for photographers! 
    • June – The large herds of wildebeest are generally in central Serengeti (Seronera) as well as western Serengeti (Grumeti) in June.  We love this time of year, the grass is usually greet, lots of young, beautiful skies and low volumes of visitors.
    • July & AugustThey start to head north towards the Mara River (the river in between the Serengeti & the Maasai Mara). July is usually when the annual wildebeest migration all kicks off. River crossings may be seen in both the Western Corridor (Grumeti area) and the North (Mara River) within the Serengeti… as well as the northern Maasai Mara, The Mara Triangle and Musiara area.
    • September & OctoberThe herds have indeed filled up the Maasai Mara plains at this time of year as they move north and then east through the Masai Mara (from The Triangle, they move through Musiara, through Mara North Conservancy, Olare Orok Conservancy, Naboisho Conservancy and the Talek area, Siana and Olderkesi, starting to cross back to Tanzania in October / November.

Though the serengeti is amazing, in our opinion, the Masai Mara is the premier game viewing reserve in the world (as its little!!). Quite simply nowhere else compares for wildlife viewing! Book a stay at one of our favourite Family- Friendly lodges on the reserve here.

Read about one of our most memorable family trips to the Masai Mara here!


The Real Thing, A Safari at Offbeat Mara, Kenya

What are you looking for in a safari? I’m looking for The Real Thing! A safari, staying at Offbeat Mara; a real tented camp on an outstandingly beautiful, private conservancy bordering The Masai Mara Reserve, where kids … and adults can be kids. This ticks my boxes!

What do you mean by the ‘Real Thing’ you ask? and what boxes? Do let me explain:

  1. The Place – The Masai Mara reserve in the most incredible wildlife spectacle in the world, which sadly means at some times of the year it’s hotter than Oxford Circus/5th Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. Offbeat Mara is situated within the 74,000 acre Mara North Conservancy which borders the Masai Mara reserve; the scenery, the animals and the culture is all the same; the area is full of wildlife yet open to a few member camps only and has a strict policy on game viewing etiquette… loads of game, no lodges on every corner, no bustling within cars to see animals.  For these reasons you get a properly exclusive wildlife experience that is otherwise becoming impossible to find … for those looking to experience the migration in the heart of the reserve; crack on, you can dip in and out of the circus to your hearts desire.
  2. The Camp – a small, traditional safari camp, with only seven tented rooms, Offbeat Mara is a simple, cosy, private homely feel (in the good way that the English use, not the American version!) in the bush. Each tent is en suite with flush loos and traditional hot safari showers, privately scattered within the beautiful riverine forest encouraging privacy and offering a gorgeous view. The heart of the camp is a simple main ‘mess’ tent, on wooden decking, which has a sitting room , dining room and bar/library area.
  3. The People – well, in my opinion this is exactly what the Masai Mara is all about. The wildlife is here, there and everywhere, the scenery is mind boggling, it’s a great guide that make The Mara a trip of a lifetime or not … and Offbeat have good guides, of yes they do! Kind, caring, thoughtful, amusing and dam they know their stuff!
  4. The Experience – your 1st game drive in Africa makes tears come to your eyes, wild animals living in their natural habitat, happily roaming around the Savannah, the incredible views that await you around every corner, the beautiful Maasai people living at one with nature, striding across the African plains …. you don’t want 3 days of only game drives though, nope you don’t. By then the kids are screaming for their IPads and if you see another lion, you’re going to scream (us humans are weird) …. what you wanna do is:
    1. Walk, get out on that African soil with your own feet, see nature, real nature with your own eyes. Learn about the little stuff, the bugs and beetles, the grasses and what poo belongs to who .. why not?
    2. A surprise bush dinner party, under the stars.
    3. A sundowner. Not a lot beats a Kenyan sundowner; set up under a lone acacia tree, overlooking miles and miles of Bloody Africa with a G&T in hand.
    4. Go and see how the Maasai people live. It’s bright, cheerful, interesting … and quite shocking … it will stop you complaining about how your new Farrow & Ball paint which doesn’t quite match the Racing Car green on your chaise longues .. for a while.
    5. Hell, why not hop on a hot air balloon for the morning … this is how to see the Mara, the peace, quiet of floating above the best wildlife spactacle on earth.

My little family are so very lucky. We stayed at Offbeat Mara, with 3 other families, all with small kids, for a long weekend. I simply cannot express what an incredible time we had. We stayed in an amazing little double tent, a family tent; the camp is indestructible so you’re not on the edge, terrified that your mini-terrorist is about to break the family crystal; the food was absolutely delicious, the G&T’s better; there was always something amazing to do, something amazing for the kids and adults .. walks, sundowners, picnics, nature walks, game drives … we literally couldnt fit in everything; the Offbeat team are out of this world with the adults, and kids .. and the best part is once the kids go to bed, a friendly Maasai guard sits on your tent verandah watching over sleeping beauty … whilst you can have a scream with your friends not far away.

Practicalities:
Offbeat Mara – Will forever remind me of a natural, happy, homely time, spent with family, and friends. A simple tented camp, with everything you should want.
Mara North Conservancy, The Maasai Mara – as I mentioned above, this is literally the best place to stay when visiting the Masai Mara, especially over the annual wildebeest migration, it gets you away from the crowds, but in the action.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – Do it, stay at Offbeat Mara. It’s simple, comfortable and offers them a ‘real’ safari experience, but with all the comforts you need.
For those who live in East Africa – get a couple of families together and GO!!! You’ll have a scream.
Weather – warm days and a little bit chilly nights.
What to Pack? – A good camera and binoculars. Layers … jeans and a warm jumper / jacket for the evening and early mornings and shorts and a t-shirt for the day. High SPF sun cream, hats.
Price – From USD460 per person per night which includes it all; all your meals, all your drinks (apart from champers), your game drives, walks, bush meals, amazing guiding etc. etc. BUT they have a tonne of amazing special offers for honeymooners, families, groups, early bird bookings etc. you can get this price down by 25%!! Contact Lilian to make the most of these!
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to experience safari how it always was, but with all the luxuries you need, Offbeat Mara will suit you perfectly.

A Proper Kenyan Safari, with Old Friends, and their families

Need a little pick-me-up? An adventure? A change of pace? Raucous laughter? Easy, rally together your oldest friends and COME … come on a proper Kenyan safari, with old friends, and their families. 

I have just been lucky enough to go on a Proper Kenyan Safari, with my Old University Housemates … and their families. Did we LAUGH? That’s an understatement. Did the 7 kids love it? Oh yes!

In 1997, three cocky youths left some ‘sort-of’ an university in Cardiff, Wales to tackle the world as it was; 21 years later, one in Australia, one in the UK and one in Kenya; we, for some reason, decided the time was right for a New Year safari … together … with our families (age 3 to 13). Apart from a couple of weddings, we had not been together for all this time, why, and how, on earth would it work?

We started our adventure at Muthaiga Country Club for a celebratory evening ;o) in Nairobi, before heading north on a rather  … hmmmm, how would you say it … adventurous journey …. in our 4×4’s to El Karama Lodge, Laikipia.

A gorgeously rustic little family-owned, family-run six-bedroom eco-lodge on a 4,800 hectare private wildlife ranch just north of Mt. Kenya, the characterful El Karama is steeped in family history and truly supports the community and the environment, thoroughly. Our time at El Karama was incredible, indeed it is an incredible place to stay. Richard said he felt like he was ‘on safari at a ski-chalet’ , I rather like that explanation .. super-fun-filled days with food and drinks produced at all the most important times.  We spent our time on game drives seeing an incredible amount of wildlife (hippos wallowing, lion on a kill, a tiny baby giraffe, a family of hyena, jackals on the hunt,  the rare Gerenuk, the endangered Grevy’s zebra … the list continues), line fishing for the young boys, putting the world to right by the swimming pool, swimming in the gorgeous swimming pool, visiting the dairy and the humongous organic fruit and veggie garden, enjoying Tusker-time (and kids picnic supper) under an acacia tree overlooking miles and miles of Laikipia …. and of course snuggled up by the roaring fire at night telling the same old stories, hell we hadn’t heard them for 20 years, a lot of catching up was to be done!

Onwards & upwards, it was time to explore elsewhere, on with another character-building journey and this time it was on to one of the Great Rift Valley lakes, Lake Baringo. Yes, we made the decision to stay at Island Camp on Lake Baringo for our New Years Eve celebrations … and what a change of pace that was. A lovely little tented lodge on an island in the middle of this incredibly peaceful lake (no jet skiis, no power boats …. just hippos and crocodiles!!). Time here was spent by the pool, on the boat looking at the hippos, crocodiles, the incredible bird life and the interesting culture around the lake; Hmmmmm …. and quite strangely deciding to waterski, wake board, biscuit and donut in amongst it all … the kids were in heaven, the adults thought they were kids again …. and 2018 was introduced, in style.

Our final destination of this adventure was the Maasai Mara, of course. The best place in the world to see The BIG 5.  After the most adventurous journey of all (yup a little bit of getting stuck!) … we arrived at none other than the truly gorgeous House in the Wild. One of our group had a tear dropping down her cheek as we walked in, she said it was ‘just so incredible and beautiful and we are all so lucky to stay here’, well this was just the beginning; the people, the food, the experiences, it literally knocked our socks off! House in the Wild is a private home on the banks of the Mara river, tucked away on a 1000 acre private estate, Naretoi, on the edge of the Maasai Mara.  A little 6-room lodge with a casual and laid back atmosphere, away from the crowds, we settled into another four days of incredible safari entertainment with the best food I’ve ever experienced on safari. We danced with Maasai,  we swam in the pool, watched a pod of hippo in the river, saw squillions of incredible wildlife (lion, cheetah, rhino, elephant, hippo, crocs, buffalo, so many gazelles, antelopes, wildebeest etc.), had a ‘sundowner under an acacia tree’, played hilarious card games into the night ….. and we walked with the rhino, oh we did!!!!!! Did we see the Big 5 … of course we didn’t, we had far too many noisy children, but we saw four out of five and had the time of our lives.

What incredible men those two cocky youths have turned into; amusing, kind, generous, successful and adventurous. What truly exceptional wives they managed to find themselves (pheow) … and truly impressive children who, completely out of their comfort zones, couldn’t have been more fun, interested or better company, maybe Cardiff ‘not-quite-good-enough-to-be-a-university’ wasn’t so bad after all!!!

Cheers to friendship; cheers to 2018.
(To book a proper Kenyan safari, with old friends, and their families, contact The SAFARI Company )