Most years, the beginning of the migration (wildebeest and zebra galore!) would have coincided perfectly with our arrival in the Masai Mara.
Except this year. When it didn’t. Because of the rains, the animals hadn’t felt the need to move yet and we could see them through binoculars (herds of them) on the other side of the Kenyan border, making their way from the Tanzanian Serengeti into the Masai Mara. We were just days off.
There is both an upside and a downside to these events. On the upside, the Mara is simply beautiful when empty. Vast, expansive, and incredible. There aren’t herds of vehicles as well as animals (though there are definitely some). And we saw lots of amazing Hartebeest and Topi (and babies), both of which I love. On the downside, it is truly empty. And it’s enormous. With more drivers in the Mara, companies will communicate about where to find things, like rhinos and such, but without more communication, it’s possible to drive forever and not see much.
Because it’s the Mara, when you don’t see the migration, I think you get the advantage of enjoying the flora, the fauna, and a lot of other things that you’d probably just drive by quickly to see if you could see a river crossing during the high season. For example, we saw lions mating (totally bizarre and curious mating patterns that I didn’t know about), my husband tried literally for an hour to get a picture of superb starling that buzzed near his head and taunted his photographic skills, watched lots of Agama lizards, and I could stare at baby Hartebeest all day long. Who knew antelope could be so adorable?!
It’s not as if you can control when the migration happens, and travel plans set months in advance aren’t flexible to last minute change (a downside of being a part-time traveler, I’d guess). I would definitely go back and spend some time in a mobile Mara camp (Leleshwa, where we stayed, has a mobile camp during the migration that I’d love to return to!). But that’s not to say the Mara wasn’t incredible anyway. It was. And I don’t regret going to the Mara when we did, at all.