The Great Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti National Park
The Great Wildebeest Migration is extraordinary and sought after an experience where large numbers of animals move annually in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, during the migration millions of wildebeests, gazelles, zebras and other herbivores migrate in search of water and fresh pastures across the plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya to the Serengeti plains in search of water and fresh pastures. During the journey of these animals, there are many challenges as thousands of animals are taken by crocodiles and predators like lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs among others.
Every year over 1.5 millions wildebeests, 350,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 200,000 zebras, elands and other antelopes participate in the great wildebeest migration where they move across the plains of Serengeti Tanzania and Masai Mara in Kenya. The wildebeests and zebras help each other during the great migration in that they both feed on the same plants but have different grass eating habits as one group eats the top of the tallest grass and the next group eating the medium height grass which helps them to graze in harmony. The precise timing of the Serengeti wildebeest migration is primarily dependent on weather or rainfall patterns of each year where its believed that their journey is dictated by the rains and the growth of new grass, some experts also believe that animals react to lightning and thunderstorms in a distance whereby they say that wildebeests can locate rain more than 50km away.
The great migration in January, February and March
During January the migration will be finishing a southwards trek moving to the eastern edge of the Serengeti plains into the Ngorongoro conservation area where the plains are rich and the grass lush hence providing the best conditions for calving where around 400,000 calves are bone within a period of two to three weeks. The birth of young calves means that there will be predators such as lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards among others surrounding the area to hunt the weak and vulnerable animals therefore visitors who are interested in witnessing calving and big cats on the hunt should visit Serengeti national park during this period. Around the end of January and the beginning of February the wildebeest herds will occupy the short grass plains in the northern slopes of the Ngorongoro crater highlands and around Olduvai Gorge.
The great migration in April and May
After the birth of young calves the wildebeests, zebras and small antelopes begin moving towards the northern part of Serengeti national park for fresher grass around the month of April and as the calves mature the herds cover greater distances each day reaching the central part of the park. In may they stretch to the Moru kopjes close to Dunia camp where visitors will have great views of the migration and as the grass dries up in Serengeti the wildebeest herds will follow the Grumeti River to the west.
The great migration in June and July
The dry season starts in June and it’s also known as the mating season where the males fight each other to get attention of females. During this period herds begin moving towards the Grumeti river, the migration continues to July as large concentrations of wildebeests in the western Serengeti cross the southern banks of Grumeti river towards the Masai Mara in Kenya and during the migration animals face a challenge of crossing the river due to low water levels in the River which leaves crocodiles infected pools that feast on the animals therefore visitors will be able to witness the drama as wildebeest herds cross the river in confusion and panic due to the awaiting crocodiles. Later in July the animals that will have made it across the Grumeti River will be found in Kenya’s Masai mara where visitors in Kenya will have great views of animals crossing the Mara and Talek Rivers.
The great migration in August, September and October
During the month of August the wildebeest herds will have crossed the Grumeti River and are now in the Masai Mara northern region with some remaining in the northern Serengeti. During the crossing of the rivers there will be predators waiting such as lions, cheetahs which causes loss of many animals. By September to October visitors will see herds of animals crossing the Mara River into the Masai Mara grasslands where they will graze until the end of October but they will be expected to start the journey once again towards the northern part of Serengeti national park where short grass will be in plenty.
The great migration in November and December
After the short rainy season in late October and early November the wildebeest herds will move down from Kenya to the eastern part of Serengeti past Namiri plains, an area that is known for sighting cheetahs. By December the wildebeests will spread throughout the eastern and southern plains where the grass is greener and in early January the grass in the southern part of Serengeti will be lush due to rain hence attracting thousands of herds for calving and the cycle will start repeating itself again.
Best time to go for the great wildebeest migration in Serengeti
Viewing of the great wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park can be carried out anytime throughout the year though the best time for wildlife viewing is during the dry season in the months of June to October because during this period wildebeest herds will be crossing the Grumeti River which gives you an opportunity to witness the chaos and drama as the animals cross the river in panic and confusion due to awaiting crocodiles.
Viewing of the great wildebeest migration in Serengeti national park can also be done during the rainy season in the months of January to March because during this period the plains are rich and the grass lush which makes it the best time for calving therefore you will be able to witness the calving and big cats or predators on the hunt.
Where to stay during the great wildebeest migration in Tanzania
There are a number of accommodation facilities where you can stay during your safari in Tanzania including Serengeti Serena safari lodge, Kati Kati tented camp, Serengeti pioneer camp among others. The lodges offer great views of the wildebeest migration and views of other animals, the park among others which makes your safari memorable.