The Great Wildebeest Migration

The Great Wildebeest Migration is a spectacular event which most people will have learnt of while planning on visiting Africa for a Safari. Here, we've answered some frequently asked questions on The Great Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania and Kenya, which takes place throughout the year in a clockwise direction from January to February and back.


The Great Wildebeest Migration Chart

What is The Great Wildebeest Migration?

Every year, about 1.5 to 2 million wildebeest travel from Tanzania (Serengeti) to Kenya (Masai Mara) and back. Both Serengeti and Masai Mara are of the same ecosystem, divided by the international border. Although most of the plains belong to Serengeti in Tanzania, Masai Mara is also one of Kenya's most famous national parks.


Why do wildebeests migrate?

The main reason why wildebeest migrate is in search of food. They are nature's lawnmowers. The grass begins to grow as soon as the rains stop. Once the grass grows up to consumable height, the wildebeest will graze it and follow the taste. Scientists are still unclear on how they know their way around, but many studies say that they simply follow the rain and graze the savannah based on their sense of smell.


How/Where does the cycle start?

The cycle starts in the small area of Ndutu, located near Ngorongoro, Tanzania. The calving season begins around January and continues up to March every year. It is believed that nearly 2000 calves are born every day. During the calving season, the kills are high in number to the large number of weak calves. The herds remain here for almost 3 months before moving on to the next place to consume fresh and nutrient-rich grass.


Where should I stay to witness the great migration?

Since the wildebeest move around a lot, to make the sighting as easy as possible specific accommodations will switch into what's called "Mobile Camps". This, unlike dismantling the tent after your stay is over, have a fixed location for several months, and then will be moved to a different place where the possibility of the migration is likely. There are some permanent camps/lodges in some areas, but they will be closed during non-migratory months in that particular region.


How does the migration safari take place?

The migration safari is quite different when compared to the regular Safari. This is mainly because the herds are unpredictable and will be on the constant move. Thus, it's quite hard to spot them in one particular area. We recommend a stay of at least 3 nights in each place where the migration has happened in the previous cycle. It does not matter which camps/lodge you choose as long as you stay in the mobile camps or permanent lodge in that area. You can always drive around in search of the herds.


Which is the best place to spot the river crossing?

There are 3 significant spots where the river crossing takes place for sure:

  1. Grumeti River in Western Serengeti (March to June).

  2. Mara River in North Serengeti (June to August).

  3. Mara River in Masai Mara (Kenya) (July to September).

These two rivers flow for long distances in several areas, and the herds travel as far as 100-120 KM in a day. So determining the exact location where the river crossing takes place is slightly tricky. This is often a hit or miss chance and also depends on luck. To improve your chances, we recommend staying for a longer duration.


How can I track the migration herd?

Tracking migration is not an easy task. This is because it's a natural event based on the weather, and the weather can get very unpredictable. We can predict it based on the analysis of previous cycles, and these predictions have a 70% chance of being successful. Millions of wildebeest will be split into multiple herds and then these herds travel around grazing. To increase the likelihood of witnessing the migration, we recommend choosing a longer duration of stay.


Monthly Wise Migration Tracker.

Below are the month-wise details of the migration. This information is based on analysis from the last 5 years, i.e., from 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.


January:

During January, most herds travel from East Serengeti to South Serengeti, Lake Ndutu, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area through Seronera (Central Serengeti). January is one of the trickiest months for this reason. Please note that they do not enter the Ngorongoro Crater. The Female wildebeest are generally pregnant and they will be moving swiftly to find the perfect spot for birthing in Ndutu.

Recommended region to stay: Central Serengeti and South Serengeti (Ndutu)


February:

During this month thousands of wildebeest calves are born every day. The chance of witnessing a birth is high, and once the calves are born, the herds will not move immediately. Instead, they tend to remain there for some time. Hence, it is one of the best months to see the migration as most herds will be accumulated near the Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek region. This pattern has not changed in the last 10 years, although the location might vary by a few kilometres.

Recommended region to stay: South Serengeti (Ndutu)


March:

The herds now start to move slowly with their one-month-old calves. The vulnerable calves are easy prey for big cats such as Lions, Leopards, and Cheetahs.

Recommended region to stay: South Serengeti (Ndutu)


April:

This is the beginning of the rains in Serengeti. You can expect a lot of showers during late afternoons and evenings. The weather will be clear for the majority of the day. The grassland will be wet, and the soil will be slippery, so visiting some locations may not be possible. Most of the herds will be travelling to Western Serengeti, although some will still be wandering around in Ndutu.

Recommended region to stay: Central Serengeti and Westeren Serengeti


May:

The rains will be at the peak during May and are also considered one of Serengeti's wettest months. Even during this month, it is difficult to navigate to some areas in the park as the roads are slippery. The herds will now have geared up and been travelling to the North Serengeti quickly. There might be a small chance to witness the river crossing in the Grumeti River during this month.

Recommended region to stay: Central Serengeti and Westeren Serengeti


June:

June is another one of the trickiest months in the migration cycle. Summer begins during this month in Serengeti. Short showers can be expected until the second week. By this time, most of the herds will be in Western Serengeti near the Grumeti River. This is the time where most people witness the Grumeti River Crossing and the hunt of Nile Crocodiles. Be advised, the river crossing will depend purely on luck, as predicting the exact date is impossible.

Recommended region to stay: Westeren Serengeti and North Serengeti


July:

July is a dry month and now the rains have completely stopped. The wildebeests move faster than usual in search of water and fresh grass. During early July, they will still be crossing the Grumeti River, and by late July, they will be near the Mara River. You can also witness the Nile crocodile hunting the weakest wildebeest during the river crossing.

Recommended region to stay: North Serengeti (Near to the Mara River)


August:

During August, the plains of Serengeti will be in their peak of summer. Some herds would have already crossed the river, while some are still crossing. The river crossing survivors will be heading toward the International Border to go into Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. There is no official fencing between the international border in this area, and it has been made so to prevent any interruption in nature's cycle.

Recommended region to stay: North Serengeti (Near to the Mara River) or Masai Mara, Kenya


September:

Almost all herds will have crossed the Mara River and been in Masai Mara National Reserve now. If you have missed the River Crossing in North Serengeti, then you might have a slight chance to witness it in Masai Mara's Mara River. The herds will be grazing the fresh grass of the Masai Mara National Reserve. Some herds will split during this month and wander around the private conservancies in Masai Mara, such as Mara North, Olare Orak, and Naboisho.

Recommended region to stay: Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya


October:

October is the last month of the dry season in both Serengeti and Masai Mara. There might be light showers during the afternoon and evening as well during this month. The Herds will be heading back to Serengeti, slowing. Some herds might stay back in Masai Mara and become resident wildebeests, but most of them will eventually move back to Serengeti.

Recommended region to stay: Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya


November:

November is when the cold chills start in Serengeti by bringing in the short rains. By now, most of the migration herds would have crossed the border and entered Serengeti. The herds will be stationed in the Eastern region of Serengeti and in Seronera.

Recommended region to stay: Central Serengeti


December:

December has also considered one of the wet months as the short rains continue from November. The herds will head down to South Serengeti in preparation for the calving season. They stay in Ndutu once reached, and the whole migration cycle is repeated again.

Recommended region to stay: South Serengeti (Lobo, Ndutu or Masek)



Facts and Tips about the Great Migration:

  1. It is always recommended to book the migration Safari as early as possible because the camps and lodges are limited in number. They fill up very quickly, especially from June to October.

  2. The Majority of the Migration happens in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, and only a small part of the cycle occurs in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.

  3. The river crossings are highly unpredictable, but they generally occur from May to September in different parts. The more the number of days you stay, the higher the chance to witness it.

  4. Since the migration and the river crossing are big events, you can expect more crowds from June to September in Serengeti and Masai Mara.

  5. Always stay close to the river or choose the mobile migration camps for the best game viewing. Although you cannot see the migration from your campsite, you can always drive around and search for them.

We hope that this information will help you in understanding The Great Wildebeest Migration cycle. Trip Quest offers one of the best Migration Safaris, which is wholly concentrated on tracking herds and river crossings. You can check out our packages by Clicking Here.


If you have any questions, please feel free to drop us an email on tanzania@thetripquest.com.

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