It is amazing that around the same time every year, year in and year out, millions of wildebeest gather to start their movement towards better grazing and drinking grounds. During this Great Wildebeest Migration, the animals move instinctively in a clockwise direction from the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area in the south of Tanzania, through the Serengeti National Park and then north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya.
The first phase of the Great Migration lasts three months, from January to March. Then the females drop their calves in the lush rain-watered savannas so that there is food for them and their offspring. They are preceded by thousands of zebras and followed by thousands of more gazelles.
Feeding and calving
These millions of wildebeest remain in their feeding grounds in the south-eastern region of their clockwise movement, adding some 500 000 calves to their herds. They mix these new calves in with the year-old calves from the previous year to better disguise them from predating cats, hyenas, crocodiles and jackals.
Then, at the closure of the rainy season in May, the animals start the last section of their migration to the north into the regions around the Grumeti and Mara Rivers. Many tourists go for the river crossings in July which are dramatic and terrible for the wildebeest and their accompanying herds of zebra and gazelles. Hundreds of crocs lie in the river waiting for an easy meal and many young animals die before reaching their new homes.
To Kenya and back again
Finally, the animals arrive in Kenya in late July/August where they stay throughout the dry season. Then, a few months later, the herds move again towards the short grassy plains of the southeast, arriving there in December and getting ready for the calving season again in February. And do the cycle continues.
The sad news is that this 800km route of migration is tough and up to 250 000 wildebeest die en route to the Maasai Mara – from predation, exhaustion, thirst and hunger. The Serengeti is vast (30 000 square kilometres) and extremely diverse in terms of habitat and wildlife – the Kenyan section is called the Maasai Mara and both Game Reserves are hot spots for the best game viewing in the world.
Endless and infinite, the trek must go on
Serengeti means “Endless Plains” in the Maasai language, Maa. And yes, the Great Migration never ends, each year the animals instinctively moving as the seasons change on the same route, to find food, drop their calves, and move back.
When you book your safari to Tanzania to see the Great Wildebeest Migration, you will also see majestic elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, buffalo and other magnificent creatures. Chat to Voyage2Africa about the best time for you to go and which luxury camp you will choose as your delightful safari tour base.