Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria, is transmitted by a mosquito into the dermis and must reach the liver before infecting erythrocytes and causing disease. We present here a quantitative, real-time analysis of the fate of parasites transmitted in a rodent system. We show that only a proportion of the parasites enter blood capillaries, whereas others are drained by lymphatics. Lymph sporozoites stop at the proximal lymph node, where most are degraded inside dendritic leucocytes, but some can partially differentiate into exoerythrocytic stages. This previously unrecognized step of the parasite life cycle could influence the immune response of the host, and may have implications for vaccination strategies against the preerythrocytic stages of the parasite.