How The Wildebeest Migration Works


It is rated as one of the world's most spectacular natural events - every year over a million wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrate clockwise around the Serengeti/Masai Mara ecosystem, taking in two different countries and making time for birthing, courting and mating on the way. Well, for those who do not get pulled down by ravenous predators, that is.

But the trouble with the wildebeest migration is that if you get your timing wrong, you will end up gazing out over a wildebeest-less savannah and wondering why all the other animals are all laughing at you. You need to work out where to go and when.


Based on historical data, this guide is not infallible (changing climate patterns do not help) but it will give you an idea of whether your safari will be one full of dramatic imagery - unbridled nature in full tooth and claw - or whether you will be showing your friends photos of your lodge room instead.

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JANUARY: The herds are in Tanzania's Serengeti, moving south from the north-east region and into the southern Serengeti, Ndutu area and Ngorongoro Conservation area - which often means out of the confines of the (unfenced) national park itself. It is calving season - prepare yourself for lots of Bambis, and lots of gore as predators swoop in.

FEBRUARY: The good grazing of the Southern Serengeti, Ndutu and Ngorongoro Conservation area means the herds remain in the far south.

MARCH: They are still in the south but the grasses have all been munched up, the last calves squeezed out and the herds are starting to gather in preparation for the next leg.

APRIL: Make sure you are on the southern Serengeti plains - the wildebeest begin their northward journey, and many have left already and are in the central and even western Serengeti.


Where to stay: Serengeti Under Canvas and Olakira Camp are mobile tented camps which follow the wildebeest migration across the Serengeti plains. 

Where to Safari - The great Wildebeest Migration can be witnessed in the Sereneti & Masai Mara
The thousands of grazing wildebeest is truly a remarkable sight.

MAY: Wagons roll! The massed herds are on the go, huge columns of up to 40km in length can be seen as the wildebeest funnel up into the central and western Serengeti.

JUNE: Head for the central and western Serengeti - the herds are there and beginning to get a bit jittery ... trouble is coming.

JULY: Book early - it is the Big Event: river crossings. The herds have reached the western Serengeti and Grumeti Reserves and are nervously peering at the brown waters of the rivers they have to cross. Why? Five-metre-long crocodiles, that is why.

AUGUST: The survivors stumble up into the northern Serengeti and begin crossing back into Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. You need a passport to cross; the wildebeest are exempt.


Where to stay: Serengeti Migration Camp is centrally located for all the action; on the Masai Mara side, Governors' Il Moran and Rekero Camp are both excellent options.

How the Migration Works - the herds cross the Mara River
The herds cross the Grumeti & Mara Rivers during July & August - the most dramatic aspect of the Great Migration.

SEPTEMBER: The herds break up into smaller bite-sized chunks - about half of the animals remain in the northern Serengeti, the rest are swopping stories in the Masai Mara ('Did you hear that Nigel didn't make it across the Grumeti?')

OCTOBER: Your best bet is the Masai Mara but bear in mind it is a far smaller reserve than the Serengeti and there may be a lot of other visitors. And I mean a LOT. The conservancies in the Mara are much less crowded and, not only will you stil be able to witness the Migration, you will also be benefitting the Maasai communities who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

NOVEMBER: The short rains have begun, propelling the wildebeest to leave the now denuded grasslands of the Masai Mara and back into the rejuvenated Serengeti.

DECEMBER: Fresh grazing sees the wildebeest clustered in the north-eastern Serengeti (around Lobo in particular) as well as the southern Serengeti. Calving begins again, the predators move in again, and the wildebeest get hammered. Again.


Where to stay: In the Masai Mara, head for Bateleur Camp or Sala's Camp; if you've followed the herds back into the Serengeti, mobile Serengeti Safari Camp will put you in the right place at the right time.


Written by Dominic Chadbon. Connect with him on Google+.

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