One of the highlights of a visit to Tanzania is the chance to witness, in person, the Great Wildebeest Migration. Together, Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara form one ecosystem, which provides the setting for what is, without a doubt, the most incredible wildlife show on Earth!
Each year, approximately two million wildebeests, accompanied by thousands of zebras and gazelles, move in a clockwise circle between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, following the rains in search of fresh pasture and water. The animals make an annual trek of more than 2,900 kilometers (approximately 1,800 miles), which is not without its dangers; each year more than 250,000 wildebeests die in the mouths of predators or from injury and/or exhaustion!
It is still a mystery as to how the wildebeests know which way to go, but the general consensus is that they follow the rains, since, where there is rain, there is likely to be fresh pasture and water to drink.
Witnessing the Migration is a bucket-list item for many nature enthusiasts, especially from late July through early September, and then again in October. This is the exciting period of the Mara River crossings, when the wildebeest herds risk their lives attempting to cross the crocodile-infested river from the Northern Serengeti to the Masai Mara in search of fresh grazing and water, and then back again, when the food and water supply in the Masai Mara has been exhausted.
the short rains begin in the southern part of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, sending an impulse to the wildebeest herds that it’s time to be on the move again to enjoy the new, sweet grasses there. Now, with greater unity, the herds begin to rapidly head south through western Loliondo and the eastern Serengeti’s Lobo area, arriving late November/early December on the short-grass plains of Ndutu in the northwestern section of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area on the edge of the Southern Serengeti plains. The herds will stay here through March, feasting on the new green shoots. The abundance of nutritious grasses also provides the perfect environment for newborn calves, most of which will be born during a two-to-three-week period in February, giving a total of about 400,000 new wildebeest (i.e., approximately 8,000 newborns per day). Along with the river crossings, this is a major highlight for visitors who wish to see the Great Wildebeest Migration, and a fabulous time to see the herds congregate on the “endless” southern plains. February is the only time of year when you are almost guaranteed to see the big herds all together, as they always come south for calving season.
Whether up at the Mara River or down in Ndutu, these are great periods of the year to book one of our Migration Safaris!
the long and heavy rains arrive. With the depleted southern plains now less attractive, the wildebeest herds are on the look-out for new pasture and water. Some of the herds continue their trek north straight through the middle of the Serengeti, while the majority head west toward the long-grass plains of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor. By May, all of the wildebeest are heading north. In the area around Moru Kopjes in the southern part of the Central Serengeti and west of Seronera, it is possible to see hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles.
most of the herds have usually come to a stop on the southern side of the Grumeti River, whose channels and pools slow the migration northward. The wildebeest congregate in the Western Corridor, building in number before crossing the river. While the local crocodiles still enjoy their yearly feast here, the river crossings are not as spectacular as those up north at the Mara River.
the rains subside, the grasses and water dry up, and the wildebeests are on the move again, continuing their trek north, often spreading out across a wide area, with some of the herds heading through the Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo, while others head north through the middle of the park. Eventually, all paths will lead once again to the Northern Serengeti and Mara River, continuing the yearly cycle.
It is important to understand that the Great Wildebeest Migration is a natural phenomenon influenced by rain patterns. Predicting with accuracy where the Migration will be at any given time in any given year has become increasingly difficult, owing to global climate change.
While we will do everything possible to place you in a location that gives you the best chances of witnessing this incredible wildlife spectacle, it is difficult to provide any guarantees. Our travel consultants will be happy to discuss with you the likely location of the herds depending on your travel dates. Planning a migration safari is best done far in advance, as suitable accommodation (located in the right areas at the right times of year) is pre-booked months ahead.