It is a common question for people thinking of heading to Africa … 'At what time of year can I see the great wildebeest migration?'
What a lot of travellers do not realise is that the wildebeest are always migrating. You can actually see the migration at any time of the year in various parts of Kenya and Tanzania.
Here is our guide to help make following or co-ordinating a viewing of the great migration into your travels easier.
The great trek usually begins in Tanzania and the Serengeti in January after the herds have exhausted the available pastures.
The migration involves well over one million animals and approximately 810 kilometres of travel. The true migrants are the Wildebeest or White bearded gnu and Zebra. Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles participate but only partially as the predators only trail the herds for obvious reasons – easy prey!
It is questionable whether Zebras make the full journey and it is certain that the gazelles do not leave the Serengeti.
At this time of year, the wildebeests are scattered across the medium and short grass plains south of Serengeti depending on the water and grazing. They criss-cross the region with large concentrations remaining around Lake Ndutu and Olduvai gorge. Many travel onto the Ngorongoro crater increasing the numbers of animals in the basin considerably.
At this time, there are scattered thunderstorms on the plains, the surface waterholes are full and the grazing is plentiful.
Wildebeest calving occurs in February and there are literally hundreds born. Predatory activity is high with an abundance of lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas and frequent leopard sightins.
By the end of March, the rains begin to taper off and the surface waterholes start to dry up, the grazing becomes restricted and the animals begin to panic. The wildebeest start to gather into large herds and head north and west towards Lake Victoria.
The herds continue west following Grumeti river and reach within 20 miles of Lake Victoria. It is for this reason the western arm of the Serengeti was included in the National Park and is called the migration corridor.
The animals move off the plains into high country and the corridor.
The herds are still moving off the plains and into the corridor.
The great herds are now in the corridor. At the same time in June, the herds move north again through Musoma and head for the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Depending on the rain and grazing conditions, they reach the Mara river towards the end of July and the greatest wildlife show on earth begins.
During this time until the end of August, it is possible to view the herds crossing the Mara river. If you are planning to travel to see the river crossing, please keep in mind that this is peak season. Prices are at their highest and the parks are very crowded.
July, August, September
The great herds are more concentrated now and remain in the Maasai Mara area for approximately 2-3 months. During this period, the courtship and breeding takes place. By the end of September, they have consumed most of the grass from the Mara river to the Loita plains in Maasai Mara.
The animals become restless and start moving south through the Keekorok (Maasai Mara) and Lobo (Serengeti) Valleys en-route to the plains.
The herds are normally in the highlands, acacia woodland around Lobo in Tanzania. They arrive on the long plains of the Serengeti around Seronera at the end of November and stay in this area for about a month before dispersing onto the vast plains that form the medium and short grass areas of the Serengeti ecosystem.
The herds are in Seronera area (central Serengeti) and the long grassy plains.
The cycle repeats itself.
Published under license from Well Travelled.