How to Experience the Great Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania
The Great Wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania is one of the phenomenon wildlife happenings ever noticed on planet earth usually referred to as the wildlife world cup, the great wildebeest migration is an annual movement of over millions of wildebeests accompanied by thousands of zebras, Thomson and grant’s gazelles. The herds taking part in the great wildebeest migration move in large numbers following an old route in their search for green pastures and water among the Serengeti – Mara ecosystem shared by Maasai Mara national reserve and Serengeti national park.
Most researchers say the annual movements of the herds are dictated by rain which hasn’t been proved to be true, this article details the best locations and season (months of the year) to witness the great wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania.
What is the Great Wildebeest Migration?
The great wildebeest migration is an annual movement of about 2 million wildebeests together with thousands of zebras, antelopes, Thomson and grant’s gazelles in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. The great wildebeest migration sets off in the north of Tanzania with a long trek along from Serengeti national park to Maasai Mara national reserve in Kenya as the herds search for greener pastures and water in a Kenya safari.
The great wildebeest migration journey covers about 1800 miles/ 2,900 kilometers running in a clock wise circle, the journey is very unsafe and risky for the herds as they are a target to predators such as cheetahs, lions, leopards and Nile crocodiles which they encounter on their way. On an annual basis, an estimated 250,000 wildebeests, 30,000 zebras and 50,000 gazelles dies during the journey and this is due to exhaustion, attacks from predators, thirst and diseases.
The river crossings are the most dangerous of the great wildebeest migration journey, during the migration herds gather in thousands to forge a way of crossing the water of Grumeti River in Serengeti national park and Mara River on the border of Kenya and Tanzania on their way to Maasai Mara national reserve. These rivers have a gauntlet of strong currents and are infested by crocodiles lurking around, these crocodiles kill and hordes on the crossing animals which are already in panic. The deadly crocodiles make the river crossings not for the faint-hearted though they (river crossings) are undoubtedly the most dramatic wildlife encounters in the world and are very rewarding particularly to wildlife photographers.
After crossing the rivers and away from the river banks, the migration is exciting the witness. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebras, elands and gazelles are seen thronging across the plains which is a spectacular sight to see. The presence of the herds attracts a batch of predators such as the cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, lions and leopards which see the herds as food to feast on. This results into a superb hunter’s action which is a great sight to see for safari goers.
The great wildebeest migration is a natural event with no defined routes, timing and location. However below are the general guidelines to the great wildebeest migration.
The Great Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania
The great wildebeest migration in Tanzania happens in various months of the year as detailed below
December – March
In the period of December – March (December, January, February and March), the herds congregate in Serengeti and Ngorongoro areas in the northern region of Tanzania which are have a lush of green pastures due to the annual rains.
This is the calving season of the great wildebeest migration where millions of babies are born by the wildebeests, for tourists this is an excellent time for viewing the newborn babies. The presence of the new born babies attracts big cats ready to feast the vulnerable babies and killings are very common, the herds are best sighted in the Southern Ndutu and Salei plains each year.
April – May
In the period of April – May, the herds start off on their journey migrating west and north looking for the plains with greener pastures that is the western corridor of Serengeti national park dominated with grassier plains and woodland.
Following the migration in this period is made difficult due to the seasonal rains, due to the rains resulting into the impassable roads some of the smaller camps in Tanzania shut down.
In the period of June, the rain stops and the herds (wildebeests, gazelles and zebras) start moving north, the individual groups begin to congregate forming much larger herds. This is a mating season for the great wildebeest migration and the best place to watch this stage of the migration is in the western Serengeti.
The herds reach Grumeti river which is their first big obstacle in their journey, the river can get deep in places most especially the rain pours have been pretty good. The depth of Grumeti River makes drowning of the herds possible, also there are plenty of crocodiles which take advantage of the herd’s distress and feast on them.
Witnessing the herds around Grumeti River is an incredible safari experience, the best recommended places to stay at include Serengeti Serena Lodge, Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp and Kirawira camp.
The Great Wildebeest Migration in Kenya
The great wildebeest migration in Kenya happens in various months of the year as detailed below
In August, the grasses in the western Serengeti are turning yellow forcing the herds to continue north, after crossing the Grumeti River in Tanzania’s Serengeti national park, the herds (wildebeests, zebras and gazelles) head to Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle in Kenya safaris. The herds make another river crossing before getting to the lush plains of Maasai Mara national reserve.
Mara river crossing is most grand and dramatic stage of the great wildebeest migration, the herds faceoff with the hungry crocodiles in the waters of the river and predators on the banks of the river such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and African wild dogs waiting to feast on the herds. The Mara river crossing is the most sought for episode of the great wildebeest migration and it is a rewarding episode for wildlife photographers.
The best places to stay at to enjoy the Mara river crossing include Kichwa Tembo Camp, Bateleur Camp and Sayari Mara Camp.
September – November
In the period of September – November (September, October and November), the large herds fill the Mara plains to the brim. The herds are followed by the predators and predator action can be encountered.
Some of the best places to stay at in this period/stage of great wildebeest migration include Governor’s Camp and Mara Serena Safari Lodge.
November – December
In the period of November – December the rain starts pouring and the herds start their long trek back to the plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti national park for their calving season (to give birth to their young ones). In the short rains of November, the best places to stay at to watch the migration include Klein’s camp and several campsites in the Lobo area.
Wildebeest migration is an exceptional happening to encounter, we offer amazing wildebeest migration safari experience, all you have to do is to send your safari inquiry at Info@maasaimarakenyapark.com