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The Great Wildebeest Migration

Animals as far as the eye can see.

Vast herds of animals.

You can hardly believe your eyes!

The phenomenon, which is known as the Great Wildebeest Migration, is one of Tanzania’s and Kenya’s greatest attractions.

What is the Great Wildebeest Migration?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is the annual migration of herds of some 2 million animals between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya.

The herds consist mainly of wildebeest, but zebras and gazelles also migrate with them.

It is the world’s largest and furthest migration of land mammals, and the natural phenomenon is listed as one of the seven natural wonders in Africa, along with the Ngorongoro Crater, Victoria Falls and Kilimanjaro.

Why does the Wildebeest Migration take place?

There are various theories. One of them is that the migration is led by the rain.

When the grass disappears, the herds head for lusher land to eat and drink. The numerous animals are constantly on the move towards greener pastures to ensure their survival, despite the dangers lurking along the way.

Where can I experience the Migration?

The migration takes place in a clockwise cycle between the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, and back again – a stretch of almost 3,000 km.

Serengeti and Masai Mara are part of the same ecosystem, but the animals have no concept of national borders, and they migrate to places where they can find food and water.

They often travel in groups of several thousand animals on the “normal” migration route, but it is not unusual for groups to take a different route.

When can I experience all the animals?

The migration is an ongoing process that takes place again and again, year after year. So, it is not just an annual event, but something you can experience all year round at different places along the animals’ route.

As it a natural event, it is difficult to determine the exact time of the migration, the precise route and when the animals will be in a certain place. The guide below is therefore indicative.

Time of the Great Migration

1) January–March: Calving season

From around January, the herds are in the southern part of Serengeti National Park and in the Ngorongoro Reserve, including the area around our camp, Ngorongoro Wild Camp.

And at this time of the year, it is calving season.

Over a period of two to three weeks, more than half a million wildebeest calves are born. In fact, up to 8,000 calves are born a day at the height of calving season. The small wildebeest calves are up on their feet fast, quickly becoming part of the herd – if they don’t fall victim to carnivores such as lions and leopards, that is.

As we near March/the end of March, when the grass is becoming scarce and the calves have joined the herd, it’s time to move on in search of fresh food.

2) April–July: Northward migration

The herds then slowly make their way north-west.

From April to May, it is the rainy season in Tanzania, and for that reason, it can be difficult to follow the migration at close range.

From mid May to July, you can see the herds right up close to our camp, Ikoma Wild Camp, located between the Ikorongo and Grumeti wildlife reserves – just outside the north-west area of Serengeti. The animals graze in the area for a while before moving on again.

3) July–October: Crossing the Mara River

From July/August, the world-famous crossing of the Mara River begins.

To get to Masai Mara in Kenya and the fresh grass, the herds must cross the river.

Those that survive remain in Masai Mara to graze for a period before returning to Tanzania, which means another trip across the Mara River.

The crossing is one of highlights of the Wildebeest Migration. Crocodiles lurk in the rivers, waiting for the crossing prey, making it a dramatic struggle for survival.

July and August are one of the best times to experience the dangerous and spectacular crossing, but as the migration is staggered, crossings can be experienced until around October.

4) November–December: Southward migration

Having crossed the river back into Tanzania, the herds begin to migrate south through Serengeti National Park.

As we head towards December/January, the herds are more or less back where they started and the season starts again.

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