THE GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION

The Wildebeest Migration

The 'Great Wildebeest Migration' has to be one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles in the animal kingdom. For those lucky enough, this once in a lifetime experience can be viewed in the surrounds of The Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania and the Masai Mara of Kenya.

This is one of the largest and last mass migrations anywhere in the world, determined by the annual short and long rains . With the herds on a constant move in search of rain reared pastures and drinking water, only a small number of wildebeest remain sedentary, whilst the majority opt  to make the annual 1800 mile journey.

December, January, February, March

The lush and fruitful short grass plains of the southern Serengeti and the Conservation Area are inhabited by countless  herds of wildebeest (1.8 million) zebra (500,000)  and plains game (100,000), who graze on the sweet, fresh and plentiful plains that the long rainy season has provided.

The main calving season occurs in late January through mid March, when the herds congregate at the Southern Serengeti / Ngorongoro calving grounds. Approximately 500,000 calves are born within a 2 - 3 week period, one of the most structured and synchronised mass births in the animal world. Even though most of these open plains and birthing grounds are not the normal hunting areas of predators such as hyena, cheetah, lion and wild dog, the opportunity and attraction of plentiful food for some is hard to resist.

April, May

The grazing opportunity for the endless number of animals, all vying for some sweet sustenance,  is greatly diminished by the months of April and May. The seemingly endless plains have been diminished and consumed for another season, with the arrival of the long rains heralding the migration to begin their journey west and north into the plains of the central Serengeti. The promise of further nourishment pushes the herds closer to the long grass plains of the Serengeti's Western Corridor.

By the end of May the long rains usually subside and the rutting season, subsequently begins.  This is prime time for the males all vying for territories and amassing large groups of females to mate with. Wildebeest Bulls become territorial between 4/5 years and females may be ready for first conception at 1½ to 2 years of age. Gestation usually lasts for 8 or so months with a conception rate of more than 95% in most cases. By the end of May the once again exhausted food supply that was abundant through the Western Corridor has been utilised.

Wildebeest Migration on tour with Oasis Overland
Wildebeest Migration on tour with Oasis Overland
Migration on tour with Oasis Overland

June 

Whilst awaiting the oncoming dry season and finally exhausting the last remaining pockets of fertile grasslands, the herds start moving further north towards the Masai Mara. By the end of June through to July the migration usually splits in two, with one group journeying into the Western Corridor before crossing the Grumeti River, and the other heading north towards Kenya; but not before they must face one of their biggest hurdles on their journey : the crossing of the swollen Mara River.

July, August, September, October

The massing of animals along the banks of the Mara is truly a sight for sore eyes. Many of the animals, especially the young and weak, may die from exhaustion before even reaching the river, or may find their ultimate fate as they jostle and struggle over the river with hundreds of others. Over 250,000 animals lose their life along the great migration - many hundreds of deaths can be attributed to this one final challenge along this life journey.

Depending on the amount of rainfall the river can be swollen in the chosen crossings, with fast flowing currents and steep difficult banks. Nile Crocodiles usually have their fill at this time of year, an annually awaited buffet to suppress their long hunger. Lion and Hyena will also feed on corpses by the waters edge if they can transfer them safely to land.

Presidence is set up in the lush green plains of the Masai Mara of Kenya. With the coming together over 2 million animals, this is classed as a time of plenty for many predators in search of sustenance for their own young families. Lion, Leopard and Hyena may all be spotted preying on the masses of plains grazers.

November 

The arrival of the short rains in the south and east Serengeti call the migration southward yet again. With this journey they are faced with the same hurdles as experienced only a short time ago. The Mara River awaits their return - as does the reward of another successful crossing for most. The mass of animals will make their way back to the Serengeti's eastern plains by February. The continuation of this cycle marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another, repeating the process once again.

As is typical in the natural world, animal sightings and /or timings can never be guaranteed due to varying annual differences in weather and rainfall. The above information should only be used as a guide.

JOIN ONE OF OUR AFRICAN OVERLAND ADVENTURES

NAIROBI to DAR ES SALAAM (33 days) Gorillas, Gameparks & Zanzibar
Travel Style
Overland Adventure
Departing
Most Months
NAIROBI to VICTORIA FALLS (53 days) Apes & Lakes
Travel Style
Overland Adventure
Departing
Most Months
NAIROBI to CAPE TOWN (75 days) Grand Adventurer
Travel Style
Overland Adventure
Departing
Most Months