Complete Guide to Wildebeest Migration in East Africa

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Wildebeest Migration

The Great Wildebeest Migration in Africa also known as the Serengeti Migration and Masai Mara Migration is one of the last mass terrestrial wildlife movements left on the planet. It’s the chief reason why so many travellers venture to Kenya and Tanzania for a Migration safari, especially around mid-year.

The Migration is one of nature’s greatest paradoxes: timing is absolutely vital, but there is no way to predict the timing of the animals’ movements. We know that the wildebeest (and a smattering of zebra and antelope) will cross the Mara River but nobody knows exactly when. We also know that rain will trigger the wildebeest to move onto fresh grazing but nobody knows exactly when the rain will fall.

What is the Great Wildebeest Migration?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is the annual movement of millions of wildebeest, zebras, Thomson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles and other antelopes between Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and the Maasai Mara in Kenya. On their journey the animals face predators including lions, cheetahs and crocodiles.

How Does the Great Migration Work?

  1. Can the Migration River Crossings Be Predicted?

No, not even the wildebeest know when they’re going to cross! Some arrive at the water and swim over immediately; some arrive and spend days hanging around grazing; some arrive and turn back to where they came from. We wish we could predict the crossings, but no-one can. This is why it is best to have as much time on safari as possible if you hope to see a river crossing.

  1. What Month is the Wildebeest Migration?

Most people think that the Wildebeest Migration only takes place between July and October, but it’s actually an ever-moving, circular migration with various but equally exciting events that occur year-round. The popular river crossings usually coincide with safari’s high season (June to October), hence the perception that this is the only time of the year that the wildebeest are on the move or can be seen.

  1. Where Does the Great Migration Start?

Because the Great Migration is a fluid, year-round movement of about two million animals across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, there are no defined start or end points. The Gnu Migration is triggered by East Africa’s rains and the animals follow an age-old route in search of fresh grazing and water. This epic journey takes the wildebeest across the Masai Mara plains in Kenya, all the way south into Tanzania’s Serengeti and the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, before circling up and around in a clockwise direction.

  1. Why Do Wildebeest Migrate?

It is generally believed that the Great Migration in Africa is dictated primarily by the wildebeest’s response to the weather. They move after the rains and the growth of new grass, essentially following a natural instinct to find food to stay alive. Some experts believe that the wildebeest are triggered by distant lightning and thunderstorms, but there is no scientific proof of it.

  1. Which Animals Participate in the Great wildebeest migration?

Over 1.6 million wildebeest will lead the way as the rains approach in the Serengeti in late October or November and this is accompanied by 400,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 300,000 Zebra, and 12,000 Eland. These are the main migratory and they cross the ranges of over a quarter of a million other resident herbivores and, of course, carnivores. The lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and lesser predators will always follow the migration and this will be observed as more numbers of predators are seen following the wildebeest migration at the beginning of the circle.

  1. Are the chances high to witness the River Crossing?

It’s very tricky to tell when the wildebeest will start crossing between July and August but your chances are relatively higher at the end of July and August. Mid-February to march is also a perfect time to witness the action-packed wildebeest calving season in the Ndutu plains.

  1. How Many Wildebeest Survive the Migration?

1.5 million wildebeest that take part in the Serengeti Migration and around 250,000 die each year. Many are killed by predators that follow the migrating animals or fall foul of crocodiles during river crossings. Others die from natural causes like thirst or exhaustion.

  1. Tips for Planning Your Migration Safari
  • Book Early – At Least a Year in Advance: Lodges and camps fill up fast, especially for a Great Migration safari from June to October. Remember, this is safari’s high season and when the popular river crossings happen, but you can see the herds any time of the year.
  • Arrange Your Timing Carefully: The Migration is a fluid, often unpredictable affair. It’s important to know where to go and when to go on a Wildebeest Migration safari to ensure your expectations are met. Choose and arrange your timing according to what you want to see and experience.
  • Avoid the Crowds: The Masai Mara National Reserve and Serengeti National Park experience high visitor and vehicle numbers during safari’s peak or high season (about June to October). The private conservancies adjoining the Masai Mara offer exclusivity, luxurious accommodation and excellent game viewing in sole-use areas. You’ll also be offered activities not permitted in the main reserve, such as night drives, bush walks and off-road game viewing. There are camps in the Serengeti that are located a little further away from the Migration hot spots – meaning you can easily get to all the action, but also retreat to tranquility.
  • Diversify Your Game Viewing: A Wildebeest Migration experience can get busy, noisy, smelly, and far removed from a general Big 5 safari. We highly recommend ending at a lodge or camp that’s located away from the herds to enjoy a bit of tranquility and a diverse game viewing experience.
  • Augment Your Migration Safari: The Masai Mara and Serengeti combine easily with each other, and each can also form the focal point of a larger safari itinerary. We recommend combining the Masai Mara with Amboseli and Laikipia, or adding the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and the Rift Valley Lakes to the Serengeti.

In conclusion, this is considered a trip of a lifetime however we advise clients to prepare the way in advance to get the best of the safari for more information contact info@goafricansafaris.com. For budget minded travelers, you can easily hire a car in Kenya with a driver and get started with witnessing the wildlife phenomena that has been listed among the world’s seven wonders.