The great wildebeest migration is an annual animal migration between Serengeti and Masai mara ecosystems in Kenya and Tanzania. It features vast numbers of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, and other antelope species moving over the plains of Serengeti and Masai Mara for fresh pasture. This natural phenomenon happens month per month gradually transitioning into the other as the grazers move facing deadly predators, especially the big cats.
In January at the beginning of the year, the migration is often in Southern Serengeti. Here they evenly spread throughout the Ndutu conservation area and part of the Ngorongoro Crater. They would have returned from Kenya’s Masai Mara around mid-October spreading throughout Northern Serengeti.
The wildebeest stay in southern Serengeti throughout the months of February and March also double as a calving period. The young ones are a great addition to the wildebeest population that eagerly awaits to take on their journey up north once again. The calves are however targeted by the predators like lions, leopards, and cheetahs that often hide in the lush grasses ready to take down their prey.
In April and May, the wildebeest steadily start moving towards northern Serengeti as the wet season ends. These ushers in the dry season in June as the animals spread further west. Here they encounter River Grumeti their first major obstacle on their journey. The high water levels from the rains in the wet season discourage the wildebeest from quickly crossing over. The River banks are also graced with some of the deadliest Nile crocodiles that the wildebeest have to look out for.
In July and August at the peak of the dry season, quite a number of them would have crossed the Grumeti River. They move further north towards Masai Mara crossing the Mara River that has a number of predator crocodiles that take advantage of the wildebeest numbers. The Nile crocodiles feast big time on the herbivores that also fight hard to continue on course northwards. The wildebeest move over the Masai Mara Ecosystem till around mid-October when they start crossing back to Serengeti.
The Migration cycle then starts all over again a journey that wildlife enthusiasts often want to be part of.
The Big cats
Serengeti and Masai are among the few places in East Africa with highest concentrations of big cats. These have large prides of lions whose survival is directly linked to the wildebeest and the many herbivores that they prey on. The wildebeest migration is among the few places where you can catch live action hunting in the wild.
Apart from the lions, the wilds’ most stealth predators the leopards are also many in Serengeti and Mara ecosystem. These also take advantage of even the calving period to hunt prey for their survival. Cheetahs are also present here and use their speed advantage to race out herbivores. The big cats are often accompanied by hyenas that like to steal some of the already hunted prey.
Hyenas are also deadly predators that are evenly distributed in the region. These attack in groups to easily maximize their chances of a kill.
The wildebeest Migration Experience
The best way to enjoy the wildebeest migration is on a day game drives in the parks and the respective conservancies. Luckily the migration can be easily predicated month per month which enables travelers to plan accordingly on where to visit at a particular time. Early morning game drives are highly recommended for those who would like to catch up with the early risers.
Evening game drives are ideal for you to see the wild animals retire from a busy hunting and grazing day. You are also able to catch up with the African sunset while on evening game drives. The nocturnal wildlife then start heading out as they are most active at night including the big cats.
Hot air ballon safaris are also highly recommended as they offer a panoramic view of the wildlife. It is always refreshing to observe wildlife from an elevated point of view and in the masai mara and Serengeti it is even more spectacular. The best time for ballon safaris are early mornings and late evenings. For the early morning expeditions, you can have bush breakfast that is prepared and served in the wilderness offering you uninterrupted views of the game.
There are a number of accommodation facilities that are strategically located within and at the outskirts of the parks. Staying at one of these beautiful Wild places ahead of your wildebeest safari expedition is very ideal. You can start your game drives right from your lodge or tented camp and occasionally have wildlife visitors like lions and other big five mammals including elephants.
It is very important to book the appropriate accommodation depending on the wildebeest migration movements. There are temporary safari camps that move with the migration throughout the year. Before you book your tour it is better to be certain where the wildebeest are for you to book the most convenient accommodation option.
The dry season from June to September doubles as the peak tourist season a time when accommodation facilities get fully booked. Incase you plan to travel during this Time it is highly recommended for you to book your accommodation in advance. October is a transition month from the dry to wet season but still busy and features River crossings of the wildebeest from Masai Mara to Serengeti. You would still need to book your accommodation in advance a year or couple months before to avoid missing out.
During the wet season mainly in November, March, April and May, there are high chances of rainfall which makes some game drive trails impassable. This however does not prevent one from enjoying the migration especially with the calving period. A number of lodges also offer discounted rates during this time of the year and could ideal to travel if you want to save some money.
For birders, the wet season is the best time to visit as the migratory birds set in coming from as far as Europe. General wildlife viewing is also great including the big cats that are spotted hiding in the lush vegetation.
Now that we are in the middle of the peak tourist season, you can plan your safari now and visit towards the end of year or book for the next season come 2023. Visit East Africa for these and much more wildlife adventures.