When and where to see the Wildebeests Migrations in Tanzania and Kenya

Posted by shiriadv on 2022-05-16 09:22:19 | Last Updated by shiriadv on 2022-10-01 09:01:54

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The Great Wildebeest Migration

The Great Migration is an annual migration of millions of wildebeests into Tanzania. The spectacle has been repeated for thousands of years and is the largest annual movement of animals anywhere on earth.  Serengeti National Park is the world-famous site of this yearly phenomenon, where herds of wildebeests, zebras, antelope and more make the dangerous trek.  

The Great Migration showcases nature in its most raw form: as herds of animals move across the plains of Africa, through dangerous rivers and over beautiful landscapes, you will be enraptured by Africa.

It is worth noting that the Great Migration in the Serengeti National Park takes place all year in some form. Due to its massive size, it is possible to meet herds of wildebeests in different parts of the park.

Migration seasons of antelopes

November - January

The migration cycle of  Serengeti National Park begins in this period when animals move from Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve to the southeast part of the Serengeti. This is the dry season in Tanzania and approximately 1.7 million antelopes, accompanied by 260,000 zebras and 470,000 gazelles move to the Serengeti’s alleys covered with short grass. This time is also mating season for zebras and therefore vital to the future of these species. 

February - March 

In February, the migration passes through the south part of  Serengeti National Park and in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This period is the peak season for fertility for antelopes and is important for the formation of the next generation. New antelopes are born during this season, and visitors may see the young walking with the herd, protected from predators and able to run at an incredible speed at only a few days old.

By early March the fodder near the Ngorongoro disappears and antelopes have to migrate to the western part of the Serengeti, to the region of the Grumeti River.

April 

The big herds of animals move to the central part of the park named Seronera. This period is the rainy season in Tanzania. Heavy and prolonged rainfalls give animals tens of thousands of square kilometres of fresh grass for their nutrition.

May - June

This is the end of the rainy season. Herds of antelopes continue to move to the west, to the region named Western Corridor. On their way, they must cross the Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers. National Geographic and Discovery Channel continue to organize expeditions and film the incredible Grumeti River crossing, capturing the danger of the herds charging through crocodile-infested waters. It is a truly exciting thing to watch and seeing it all live, in-person can never be matched with a television episode.

July 

July is the beginning of the dry season in Tanzania. There are no rains and animals continue to move to the north, towards the border with Kenya along the Grumeti region. At the end of August, this amazing cycling of animals reaches the borders of monitoring areas of Ikorongo (where there is the famous German Fort Ikoma, described in Bernard Grzimek’s book “Serengeti shall not die”).

August - October 

At the end of September, the migration reaches the border with Kenya. In October, during the peak of the dry season, most of the animals migrated to the Maasai Mara in Kenya where there is a lot of fresh water and plenty of grass.


Where and When to See the Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania and Kenya

The Wildebeest Migration sees not thousands or even hundreds of thousands of animals making the perilous trip between the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara, but millions! Zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest make up the bulk of this migration, but behind them are the predators looking to pick off the stragglers.

But what is the best time to see the Wildebeest Migration?

Whether you witness its beginnings during calving season in Ndutu, the spectacular river crossings on the Mara River, or the return journey from Kenya’s Maasai Mara, you are witnessing one of the wonders of the natural world – a migration that covers a huge distance and sees almost 250,000 wildebeest perish each year.

When it comes to capturing the rhythms and the almost casual mortality of life for Africa’s herbivores, the Wildebeest Migration offers a stunning and sometimes confronting window into the realities of life on the plains of Africa.

 

What is the Wildebeest Migration?

The Wildebeest Migration is an annual migration of wildebeest from the Ndutu region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area/southern Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in southern Kenya.

From December until March, the recent rains leave the stunning caldera reserve with an abundance of grass for zebra and wildebeest to feast upon, and it is at this time of year that the wildebeest calving season begins. It is also an opportune time for predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, and even hyenas to pick off weak and confused calves.

When the rains end in April/May, the zebra begins the process of heading north towards the Maasai Mara. Where the zebra go, the wildebeest follow.

The vast herd crosses the Grumeti River in June/July and the Mara River between August and November, and it is at this time that some of the most spectacular photographs and video footage can be captured. The swollen rivers sweep away members of the herd, predators harry the stragglers, and the opportunistic Nile crocodiles have a feast as animals venture into the water seeking to cross. It is a bloody, dazzling display of the food chain at work.

Once the crossings are complete, the herd settles in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. After remaining in the more fertile Mara for the duration of the dry season, the migration heads south again in preparation for another calving season in the New Year.

 

Where to see the Wildebeest Migration

The exact timing of the Wildebeest Migration is completely dependent upon rainfall patterns, making it a difficult thing to predict with any certainty. A particularly heavy or light rainfall might completely alter the movement of the massive herd.

This can make planning your safari an occasionally complicated affair, so it pays to spend as much time as possible in the Serengeti so that you can adjust to the sometimes mercurial movements of the herd.

As unpredictable as the herd can be, there is a rough calendar that gives the Shiri Adventures team an idea of where the action will be at any given time of the year.

The beauty of our private safaris is being able to adjust on the fly, and our experienced guides will go above and beyond to give you every chance of seeing the herd in motion.

 

January to March: The Calving Season (Ndutu Region, Tanzania)

Each year, life begins for a huge number of animals on the fertile plains surrounding Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek. On any given day, more than 10,000 wildebeest come into the world and take their first awkward steps on the long road north.

Over the course of a few short months, more than 1,000,000 wildebeest will join the already vast herd and feast on the lush grass that springs up from volcanic soil well-watered by the rainy season.

The Calving Season is best spent in the Ndutu region of the southern Serengeti, and a number of tented camps and lodges spring up each year from December through until March to accommodate the demand for a front row seat.

The calving season isn’t as dynamic as later months, as the herd has ample food and the relative safety of wide open plains to help them spot would-be predators.

Recommended Itinerary: Five Day Calving Season Safari.

April to May: The Green Season (Central Serengeti, Tanzania)

As food becomes more scarce in the south due to the drier weather and the growing number of mouths to feed, the first zebra begin to make their way north.

And where the zebra go, the wildebeest inevitably follow,

The Wildebeest Migration begins with some 1.7 million wildebeest, almost 500,000 antelope, and a quarter of a million zebra.

Their first stop? Seronera in the very heart of the Serengeti.

The Seronera region offers excellent game-viewing throughout the year, but at this time of year, the big cats and wandering elephants are complimented by the passing herd.

Green Season is the perfect time to plan your safari if you’re on a budget. With the evening rains keeping the tourist crowds away, luxury lodges lower their rates to a level that makes them as cheap as camping out on the plains.

Recommended Itinerary: Five Day Wildebeest Migration Safari or Six-Day Big Five Safari.


May to mid-July: The Western Corridor (Grumeti, Tanzania)

The Mara River crossing may be the most well-known highlight of the Wildebeest Migration, but the Grumeti River crossing in the Western Serengeti is no less spectacular.

Drawn towards the shores of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria by the promise of rain and better grazing, the herd deviates into the west.

The only thing standing between the herd and the large freshwater lake? The Grumeti River.

Some of the most spectacular images of the predator-prey dynamic are captured in and around the river, with both the big cats and Nile crocodiles seizing upon this opportunity to strike at the increasingly desperate members of the herd. The Grumeti is home to the largest Nile crocodile population in the region, and these opportunistic predators make the most of things.

Recommended Itinerary: Five Day Wildebeest Migration Safari or Six-Day Big Five Safari.

 

July to September: River-Crossing Season (Northern Serengeti, Tanzania, and Maasai Mara, Kenya)

During this period, the herd continues its movement north towards the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya. There is no tight schedule that these animals follow, so tracking the herd’s movements becomes a day-to-day prospect as the meander slowly but inexorably towards the next big obstacle in their path: the Mara River.

The Mara River poses another deadly barrier for the herd, who must again brave swollen waters and the opportunistic predators if they are to find relative safety on the far side.

Photographers and documentarians from around the world gather to witness the death-defying crossing, but the surrounding landscapes are every bit as memorable as the life and death struggle taking place at the Kogatende crossing.

Recommended Itinerary (Tanzania): Six Day River Crossing Safari or Five Day Fly-In River Crossing Safari

Recommended Itinerary (Kenya): Four Day Maasai Mara Wildebeest Migration Safari or Three Day Maasai Mara Flying Safari

 

 September – November: The Maasai Mara (Kenya)

Tanzania surrenders its claim to the Wildebeest Migration for a few months at the end of each year. The herd passes across the Mara River and eventually makes its way into the Maasai Mara in southern Kenya.

For visitors coming to Africa in the later months of the year, the Maasai Mara offers the best chance to see the herd in motion.

River crossings can still take place on any day, whether it’s stragglers coming into Kenya or confused wildebeest crossing back over temporarily.

Recommended Itinerary: Four Day Maasai Mara Wildebeest Migration Safari or Nine Day Amazing Kenya and Tanzania Safari

 

November - December: Low Season (Northern and Central Serengeti, Tanzania)

Things calm down considerably once the Wildebeest Migration has crossed back over the Mara River into Tanzania, with the herd able to be spotted in Kogatende, Lobo, or the Central Serengeti as it makes its way back south.

November is a great time to visit and take advantage of low-season pricing, while Decemeber segues nicely into the calving season.

Recommended Itinerary: Five Day Wildebeest Migration Safari or Six Day Big Five Safari.

 

A Year-Round Affair

Regardless of the time of year you choose to visit East Africa, there’s a chance to see the Wildebeest Migration.

June through September offer up the most dramatic images due to the river crossings, but prices at this time of year tend to be higher as more and more tourists flock into the country.

For those wanting to save a few dollars, coming in November into Kenya or April/May in Tanzania offer luxury lodges at substantially reduced rates.