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Serengeti Great Wildebeest Migration

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Great Wildebeest Migration

Experience the awe-inspiring marvel of the Great Wildebeest Migration, a captivating display of nature’s grandeur that enthralls wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers worldwide. Witness over a million animals, including wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles, embark on an epic journey across the vast Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, spanning hundreds of miles. From the southern Serengeti plains near Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the calving season begins, to the lush grasslands of Kenya’s Masai Mara, this annual migration unfolds as a majestic odyssey of life and vitality.

Amidst the breathtaking landscapes, the migration is a theater of natural drama, with predators such as lions, cheetahs, and hyenas orchestrating thrilling hunts against the backdrop of the savannah. Yet, amidst the peril, new life emerges as thousands of calves are born, symbolizing nature’s resilience and the enduring cycle of life. Join us to witness this extraordinary spectacle and immerse yourself in the wonders of the natural world on a journey you’ll never forget.

Great Wildebeest Migration
Serengeti Great Wildebeest Migration Sia Yangu Safari

The Great Migration stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring wonders of the natural world. With up to 1,000 animals per square kilometer, the majestic columns of wildebeest are so vast that they can be observed from space. This unparalleled phenomenon involves over 1.2 million wildebeest, accompanied by 300,000 zebra, as well as topi and other gazelle, embarking on an extraordinary journey through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in search of vital sustenance and water.

A Month-by-Month Breakdown of the Great Migration

With climate change, the long and short rainy seasons in Tanzania and Kenya are no longer as regular or predictable as they once were. The rains can be late or early, which will throw the whole wildebeest calendar out of synch. This is, once again, why it’s important to plan for as much time on safari as possible. You cannot fly in for two nights, see a river crossing and fly out again – nature simply doesn’t work that way.

This is a very general guideline for where the herds are during the year – bearing in mind that the entire Gnu Migration is triggered by rain, which can be early, late or on time:

The Great Migration in January, February and March

In January, the wildebeests finish traveling south and reach the eastern part of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Here, there’s lots of good grass for them to eat, which helps them take care of their new babies. Even though the migration doesn’t really have a clear beginning or end, we can say that when the wildebeests start having their babies, it marks a special time. By late January or early February, they settle in areas with short grass around the Ngorongoro Crater highlands and Olduvai Gorge. In just two to three weeks, an incredible 400,000 calves are born, which means almost 8,000 new babies every day.

During this time, you can hear the sounds of baby wildebeests and see their moms looking after them. It’s a time of lots of energy and new beginnings, showing how nature keeps going. For the wildebeests, having their babies here isn’t just a beginning but part of their journey, following their instincts and the changes in nature. They remind us how important it is to take care of the natural world where they live.

The Great Migration in January, February and March

The Great Migration in April and May

After giving birth to their young in February and March, the wildebeest herds start moving northwest in April, heading for the fresher grass in the central Serengeti. They’re joined by thousands of zebras and smaller groups of antelopes. By May, you can see long lines of wildebeests stretching for miles as they gather.

In May, mating season begins, and male wildebeests start fighting each other. This period, called ‘the rut,’ is when the journey slows down a bit, with the wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles grazing as they move. As time passes, more and more animals join the migration, and the wildebeests start to group together in the Serengeti’s Western Corridor. Although it might not be as famous as the Mara crossings, there are still plenty of wildebeests for the crocodiles in the Grumeti River to feast on. May is considered the low season at Ubuntu, which means fewer tourists but still fantastic wildlife sightings on safaris in the Serengeti.

The Great Migration in April and May


The Great Migration in June and July

As June rolls in, the dry season begins, and you’ll find big groups of wildebeests in the Western Serengeti and along the southern banks of the Grumeti River. Each animal in the migration faces the tough task of crossing this river, which is full of crocodiles—a tense and dangerous moment for them.

Moving from June to July, the hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and zebras keep heading north, sticking to the western side of the park. Their next big challenge? The Mara River in the north of the Serengeti. These river crossings are some of the most thrilling events in the animal kingdom. They usually start in July, coinciding with the high season, but it all depends on nature’s timing.

In July, you’ll often find the herds in the Northern Serengeti. During this time, you can witness daily river crossings at the Mara and Talek rivers, creating truly incredible scenes.

The Great Migration in August, September and October

By August, the herds have tackled the Mara River and are now spread out across the northern region of the Masai Mara, with many still lingering in the northern Serengeti. Crossing the river can be a perilous endeavor, especially when it’s flowing strongly. The chaos at these crossings, with predators lurking and currents surging, can result in significant losses of life among the animals. Even in years with gentler waters, crocodiles and other predators pose constant threats, waiting to ambush any wildebeest that manage to make it across. Each crossing spot varies: some have only a few individuals, while others witness a continuous stream of animals for hours on end.

As September turns into October, the peak chaos subsides, and the migrating herds gradually shift eastward. However, their journey isn’t over yet. They’ll soon face the daunting challenge of crossing the Mara River once more as they prepare for their return trip southward.

The Great Migration in August, September and October

The Great Migration in November and December

After the short rains in East Africa in late October and early November, the wildebeests start their journey from Kenya towards the eastern part of the Serengeti, passing through Namiri Plains, which is famous for its cheetah sightings. By December, they’ve spread out across the eastern and southern parts of the Serengeti.

As the new month begins, the grass in the deep south of the Serengeti becomes lush with rain, attracting not just the wildebeests but also hundreds of thousands of zebras and other animals. This cycle repeats itself, and soon the calving season starts all over again.

FAQs About the Great Wildebeest Migration

What is the Great Wildebeest Migration?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest herd movement of animals on the planet. It involves over 1.2 million wildebeest, accompanied by 300,000 zebra, as well as other grazers, traversing the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in search of grass and water.

When does the Great Migration occur?

The migration is a year-round cycle, but the peak movement typically occurs from late November to August, with variations depending on weather patterns and the availability of grazing.

Where does the Great Migration take place?

The migration spans the Serengeti plains in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya, covering a vast area as the herds move in search of fresh grazing and water sources.

What triggers the Great Migration?

The migration is primarily driven by the availability of food and water, which are influenced by seasonal rains. The herds follow the rain patterns and the growth of new grasses across the landscape.

How far do the wildebeest migrate?

Each wildebeest covers a distance of 800 to 1,000 kilometers during the migration, embarking on a remarkable journey along age-old migration routes.

What predators do the wildebeest face during the migration?

The migrating herds face a myriad of predators, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, and crocodiles, all of which prey on the weaker or more vulnerable individuals.

What are the dangers encountered during the migration?

The migration poses numerous hazards, including river crossings where animals risk drowning or falling prey to crocodiles, as well as exhaustion, injury, and predation by carnivores.

What role do zebras and other grazers play in the migration?

Zebras and other grazers accompany the wildebeest herds during the migration, forming a symbiotic relationship where their combined presence helps in detecting predators and sharing grazing resources.

How long does the Great Migration last?

The migration is a continuous cycle that lasts throughout the year, with the timing and duration of specific stages varying depending on environmental factors such as rainfall and grass availability.

Is the Great Migration visible from space?

Yes, the sheer size and density of the migrating herds are so vast that they can be observed from space, making it one of the most remarkable natural phenomena on Earth.


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