The Great Wildebeest Migration
As if the stunning 12,000 sq miles of pure wilderness and rich resident wildlife isn't enough for the celebrated Serengeti it is also the home of the famous Great Migration; an endless movement of an estimated 2 million wildebeest, 500,000 zebra and gazelle.
The Serengeti Migration is the largest mass movement of land mammals on earth and is known as one of the most magnificent spectacles of nature and iconic images of Africa.
I would like to stress here that the migration does not include all the animals of the African savannahs - the lions and cheetah, leopard and giraffe etc. all tend to stay within their home territories and ranges year-round and do not follow the herds on the massive annual trek.
The driving force of the migratory patterns are the rains; the grazers are always in search of the new grass. Therefore while the migration follows a general pattern year by year it is never totally predictable and is fully dependent on the weather (and sometimes the whimsy of a wayward herd leader listening to ancient messages we lowly humans cannot hear)
The guidelines below are the general pattern but cannot be guaranteed.
In general the recognized 'best' times to see the spectacle of the migration are:
Jan- Feb when the herd mass on the Southern Serengeti and Ndutu plains to calve.
Aug - Sept when the herds are in the north and there's an excellent chance to witness an iconic river crossing of the crocodile infested Mara River a la National Geographic.
The migration is concentrated in the south-eastern Serengeti National Park, spilling over into the Ngorongoro Crater.
The short-grass plains are the main feeding ground for over 1.8 million wildebeest, 800,000 zebra and many gazelle. Predators follow close by, feeding on the newly born. There is plenty of food for the predators at this time. This is the main month for wildebeest births. The great herds are on the move towards the Ndutu Woodlands.
Mid February this is the time the wildebeest start to give birth
This month is also known as the calving season.
The commencement of long and heavy rains is the time when the fresh grass is now depleted from several months of grazing and newborn wildebeest are strong enough to move and keep up with the migration. Now is when the migration heads west wards towards Maswa Game reserve in search of better grazing.
Heaviest rainy month and the herds are in the Maswa area, with the Wildebeest being almost evenly scattered in the region, although it is not a great month to view them as the region is very wet and roads are often impassable.
Rains comes to an end and the herds start migrating northward, crossing the Grumeti River, where many wildebeest and zebra lose their lives every year, but provide a yearly feast for the huge crocodiles who wait at the popular crossing points. This is a popular time for sighting the large cats. July /August All going on schedule, the migration should now be in the northern Serengeti crossing over to Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Regarded as the best months to see the River Crossing on the Mara River from Masai Mara, offering fantastic photographic opportunities.
The migration should now be in Kenya’s Masai Mara Nature Reserve just across the northern border from the Serengeti National Park. This is the best said to be the best time to visit Masai Mara.
The time when Maasai Mara Nature Reserve having plentiful supplies of water and good grazing, hence a popular month to view the great herds in the Masai Mara.
If the short rains come this month, the migrating herds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Gazelle will start to head southwards, out of the Masai Mara National Reserve, crossing Kenya’s border into Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.
Usually the migration will now be arriving on Serengeti’s Southern plains, where there is abundance of new, fresh young grass to feed on. When the migration heads southward to Southern Serengeti, the migrating zebras begin to give birth