Seasons in The Masai Mara: When to visit and what to Expect

Africa is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife viewing on the planet, and it should come as no surprise that the vast migratory herds filling the plains of the Masai Mara and Serengeti is among the continent’s top attractions. In fact, The Masai Mara National Reserve has been voted the Greatest Game Reserve in the world, and the adjacent Mara Triangle has received multiple 5-star TripAdvisor ratings and Travelers Choice Awards, and both for very good reason.

The incredibly well managed Mara Triangle, home to our very own Wild Eye Mara Camp, is arguably Africa’s finest wildlife destination boasting sensational wildlife viewing year-round.

The Great Migration, occurring in the Masai Mara from July through to October each year, sees the arrival roughly 1.6 million wildebeest, 500 000 odd Zebra and countless Thompsons Gazelle in one of earth’s greatest wildlife spectacles. Witnessing the famed river crossings, where thousands of animals cross the Mara River in search of nutrient-rich grasslands truly is a spectacle to behold.

Great Migration Safari Wild Eye
Migratory herds dominate the lansacpe of the Masai mara during the peak of the Migration Season (End of July through to first week of October).
Great Migration Safari Wild Eye
Some of the biggest skies imaginable are on display during the Mara Experience weeks running in July, October and November.

This sheer volume of animals, and the pandemonium it brings, gives rise to a healthy presence of predators such as Lion, Leopard, Hyena, Cheetah and massive Nile Crocodiles, all of which laying in wait along the river’s edge to grab unsuspecting prey, and providing incredible predator – prey interactions in the process.

The Mara also remains an incredibly dynamic ecosystem even outside of the traditional migration period, where the resident predators, breathtaking landscapes and multitude of plains game still abound. This begs the question of when is the best time to visit the Masai Mara and, hopefully, this post will help you get to grips with when to visit and what to expect when visiting our very own, Wild Eye Mara camp which is situated in the most idyllic setting, directly on the banks of the Mara River.

wild eye mara camp

Totally unfenced, the camp provides a truly authentic wildlife experience completely immersed in nature. Laying in your tent at night is more often than not accompanied by the sounds of lions roaring, hyena whooping, leopard territorial calls, grunting hippo and more, making for one of the most memorable parts of the experience.

Sitting around a campfire at night with a cold beverage in hand, being entertained by our Maasai staff sharing their incredible and mesmerizing culture so foreign from our worlds, will leave you wondering how a relatively simplistic culture, based largely on respect, could be implemented into our often-frenetic existences.

Location

The location of our Mara Camp being on the banks of the River itself is key, with many camps being a good 1-2 hours’ drive (or more) from the river and the key crossing points of the migratory herds. This generally means that the mornings and afternoons are fairly quiet around the river with more vehicles arriving mid-morning and hanging around until early hours of the afternoon before making their way back to their respective camps. This has often meant that our team (given that we are located mere minutes away from some of the most iconic crossing points) has enjoyed early morning and later afternoon crossings without any other vehicles present.

Flexibility

Flexibility is the next variable which you’ll need to consider. The option of being able to stay out for the entire day waiting for a potential crossing, without having to return to camp to drop other guests off, or to get some lunch is invaluable. We have regularly had our camp team bring lunch out to guests in the field whilst they are waiting for cheetah to hunt or for the crossings to take place. The last thing you want to do is have to dash back to camp only to return and see that the wildebeest have crossed in your absence.

Duration

The duration of your visit is also important. 3 nights is simply not enough and we have built our safaris around 6 nights and 7 days at a minimum in order to give guest the best possible chance of not only witnessing the dramatic crossings but also to experience the rest of the Mara – there is so much more! We typically, if the herds are along the river system and moving, focus on crossings for the first couple of days before exploring further afield once guests have experienced a number of these crossings.

When to Visit & Which of Our Tours Suites You Best

We have created two different levels of experiences which can be broadly distinguished by the time of year . These are defined as The Great Migration Safaris and Mara Experience Safaris, both of which incredible in their own right. The breakdown below will help you get to grips with what to expect from each of these experiences and will hopefully reinforce the fact that there is no "bad time" to visit the Masai Mara.

Dates

  • First 3 weeks of July

Why Should you Visit:

  • Pricing is around 45% less than peak months.
  • Usually far less vehicles and visitors in the Mara during this period
  • You are hosted by one of the experienced Wild Eye Guides in the Wild Eye Mara Camp.

What To Expect

  • Migratory herds often start to arrive by the middle of July.
  • They cross the sand river and approach the Mara river from the Eastern side of camp and their constant bellowing normally signals that river crossings will be witnessed in the coming days.
  • With the arrival of the initial herds Predators become more active to take advantage of the prey species that have been absent for many months.
  • The grass is longer and provides excellent cover for predators
  • Crocodiles who have been dormant for many months, embark on a hunting frenzy when first herds arrive and cross the Mara river.

Dates:

  • End of July, August, September and the first week of October

Why You Should Visit:

  • This is the period when your chances of witnessing the dramatic river crossings made by the migratory herds are at their best.
  • Dramatic crossings aside, the sheer volume of wildlife present in the Masai Mara during this time of year is something quite spectacular.
  • You are hosted by two experienced Wild Eye Guides in the Wild Eye Mara Camp.

What to Expect:

  • The mega herds, in which 100’s and thousands of wildebeest start to arrive in the southern parts of the reserve, crossing the Tanzania border into the Mara Triangle.
  • The sight of these animals spread across many hectares of the open plains, as far as the eye can see, is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles imaginable.
  • Due to the amount of prey species, lion or hyena kills can often be witnessed.
  • The weather is normally dry during August which gives rise to very dusty river crossings, adding to the drama that can be captured in your images.
  • The massive herds constantly grazing on the nutritious grasses, reducing the height and making game viewing easier.
  • There are often localized thunderstorms that occur in the late afternoons and early evenings also adds to the opportunity of capturing great dramatic images with dark skies and spectacular cloud build ups as a backdrop.

Dates

  • Second week of October through to the end of November

Why You Should Visit

  • There is still a chance of experiencing smaller wildebeest and Zebra river crossings.
  • This is an excellent time of year to extend your visit to include Samburu and Amboseli National Parks
  • You are hosted by one of the experienced Wild Eye Guides in the Wild Eye Mara Camp.

What To Expect

  • In early October the herds have started to make their way back south to Tanzania.
  • There is still a substantial amount of wildebeest and zebra and, over the years , some of our more memorable river crossings have been experienced during this month.
  • By now the grasses have been grazed low to the ground and the opportunity to spot predators is far easier.
  • Photographing the animals make for far cleaner images as you don’t have to deal with "that blade of grass" running across your subjects face.
  • There is also a greater chance of seeing the smaller cats such as Serval and Caracal.
  • The reduction of vehicle pressure at river crossings is key and ensures that they don’t interfere with the event.

Don't forget that all stays at the Wild Eye Mara Camp are inclusive of 6 nights accommodation (no single supplement), all meals, drinks (alcoholic and alcoholic), conservation fees, return flights ex Wilson Airport in Nairobi (including additional weight for camera gear), daily game drives in pop-top Toyota Land-cruisers, a traditional Maasai Cultural evening in camp as well as the services of your Wild Eye Guides (1 on Experience weeks and 2 on the Great Migration weeks).

Additional extras such as hot-air balloon flights and extensions to Samburu, Amboseli and Lake Nakuru can be handled by our experienced team of travel planners for you on request!

The Great Migration

Teeming with wildlife, and with grasslands as far as the eye can see, the Masai Mara is one of the most iconic destinations in the world, ideal for any aspiring wildlife photographer looking to add true diversity to their portfolio.

The Mara Experience

The Masai Mara offers incredible photographic opportunity outside of the typical migration period. In fact, many an award winning image have been captured during the shoulder season either sides of the migratory movements.

Amboseli & Masai Mara Safari

The Amboseli and Masai Mara Safari combines two of Kenya's most iconic parks in the form of Amboseli and the Masai Mara, a feast for the senses & a visual experience of epic proportions.

The Masai Mara Wildlife Photography Workshop

The Wild Eye workshop signals a return to a focused and inspirational wildlife photography experience with one goal in mind – to make you a better wildlife photographer

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