The extraordinary annual Great Migration of wildebeest and other grazing herbivores across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Tanzania and Kenya is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles. Over two million animals take part in this journey: 1.5 million wildebeest, about 200,000 zebra and 350,000 Thomson’s gazelle, relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators,waiting for an opportunity to strike weak prey.
The animals migrate in a constant cycle that has no end, moving in a clockwise fashion and covering nearly 3,000 kilometres each year in search of better pastures and fresher water. The precise timing of the wildebeest migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns each year and can differ by weeks or even months from year to year. It is a very unpredictable and spontaneous natural event.
In the months from December to March, the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti are filled with great herds of wildebeest and zebra. The wildebeest calve between late January and mid March, attracting the attention of predators like lion, cheetah and hyena. By April/May the depleted plains are unable to sustain the endless herds and the animals move westwards and northwards to the woodlands of the northern Serengeti, almost as far as Lake Victoria. By the end of May the wildebeest have exhausted the Western Corridor’s best pastures and the herds must move further north. The area around Moru Kopjes and west of Seronera is then hectic with a series of moving columns, often containing hundreds of thousands of animals. By late July, August and September the herds congregate along the Mara River in their thousands. This swollen river gushes through the northern Serengeti from Kenya’s adjacent Maasai Mara Game Reserve, providing the migration with its most serious obstacle. Sometimes the crossing place is shallow, allowing the majority of animals to pass safely. In other areas the waiting crocodiles have a feeding frenzy. Watching the frantic herds of the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River can be very spectacular and there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. The wildebeest remain in the Maasai Mara between September and November until the arrival of the short rains means that the wildebeest gradually begin their migration back towards the southern Serengeti for the breeding season to start again. And the cycle continues….
Nowhere in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the wildebeest migration, making it an unforgettable safari experience. The best times witness the large columns of migrating wildebeest is from July to October.