Great Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
The biggest attraction to the Serengeti is the wildebeest migration. The great Migration of the Serengeti is considered one of 'The Ten Wonders of The Natural World’, and one of the best events in Tanzania to witness. A truly awe-inspiring spectacle of life in an expansive ecosystem ruled by rainfall and the urge for survival amongst the herbivores of the Serengeti plains.
The humble leader of the migration is the Wildebeest, known to be lacking in intelligence, earning it the affectionate moniker ‘clown of the plains’. In its defence, the Wildebeest is a successful team player and as a gregarious herbivore it reaches up to 1.5 million in numbers as part of the migration. Its intelligence and ability to survive in such a harsh environment as the East African bush lies in its strength in numbers - a super-herd in the seemingly never-ending circle of life of the Serengeti.
Accompanied by 200,000 zebra, 350,000 gazelles and 12,000 eland this strange wonder of the natural world circulates the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, its path dictated by rainfall and the resulting growth of grasses on the plains. There is neither a start nor finish to their journey; merely a relentless sequence of life and death. The only beginning is the moment of birth and the only ending is death - which can come only too easily in the migration.
It's drama on a truly epic scale: the migrating herds undergo all manner of challenges and hardships as they move from region to region, and are constantly under attack from predators, none more so than from Africa's big cats and the notoriously huge crocodiles that lie in wait at various river crossing points. You'll need to plan your visit carefully: the wildebeest migration is a fluid, dynamic affair taking place between two countries - Kenya and Tanzania - and subject to the timing of that year's rains. It's also an event of different experiences: depending on where you are and at what time, you may see the wildebeest herds giving birth and courting, moving in great dusty columns, or funneling across muddy rivers.
Month by month: the Serengeti wildebeest migration
The short rains begin around early November. A little after this, in late November and December, the herds of the wildebeest migration arrive on the short-grass plains of the Serengeti. These are south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu and include the north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Dispersed across these plains, wildebeest and zebra are everywhere – feeding on the fresh, nutritious grasses. They stay here through January, February and March, with most wildebeest calves born in a short window around February. Gradually they spread west across these plains, then around April they start their great migration north. By May the Serengeti's wildebeest all seem to be moving north, migrating to seek fresh grazing and water. 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 – joined by many zebra, and a scattering of Thomson's and Grant's gazelles.
Some of the migration then head due north of Seronera, but most are usually further west. Around June the wildebeest migration is often halted on the south side of the Grumeti River, which has some channels which block or slow their migration north. The wildebeest then congregate there, in the Western Corridor, often building up to a high density before crossing the river. The river here is normally a series of pools and channels, but it's not continuous – and so whilst they always represent an annual feast for the Grumeti River's large crocodiles, these aren't usually quite as spectacular as the crossings of the Mara River, further north. The wildebeest migration continues moving northwards during July and August, often spreading out across a broad front: some heading through Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo, others north through the heart of the Serengeti National Park.
September sees the herds spread out across the northern Serengeti, where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. This river gushes through the northern Serengeti from Kenya's adjacent Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Watching the frantic herds of the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River can be very spectacular; there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. It's common to see herds cross the Mara River north on one day, and then back south a few days later.
By October the wildebeest herds are migrating again with more accord: all are heading south, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park's Lobo area, returning to the green shoots which follow the rains on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti in November.
Then the whole Serengeti Wildebeest migration starts again …
Serengeti Great Migration Tour Packages
Planning a migration safari can be tricky; the wildlife is on the move after all! However, with a little help from us, you will hopefully be able figure out where you should be at what time and where it’s best to stay.
If you are interested in traveling to the Serengeti or Masai Mara to witness the great migration, or if you would like some more information on where to stay and what we can offer, do feel free to get in touch, and one of our safari experts would be more than happy to help.