Interesting Facts about the Great Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania
Standing out as one of the most spectacular wonders of the natural world, the Great Migration is an annual migration of millions of wildebeest, zebras, and other herbivores migrating clockwise through the Serengeti in Tanzania and Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of good water and green pastures.
This event is also one of the world’s most famous and sought after spectacles by photographers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The great wildebeest migration is renowned for being one of the worlds most visually stunning and breathtaking adventures.
But determining when to travel to witness this amazing spectacle depends on a number of factors, as different times of the year are marked by variations in scenery so it is best to seek out advice from a reliable operator and experienced tour guide as they know when and where you should be.
Here’s an overview of the path of the event
January – February:
During this time, the wildebeests assemble by the droves in the southern part of the Serengeti where they give birth to thousands of baby calves. This is also known as the Serengeti calving season
. The soil in this area is rich in potassium, phosphorus, and calcium, so the grass is usually lush.
This period sees extensive levels of predatory activities taking place as the huge congregation of so many preys and new calves make easy targets for lions, cheetahs, and other carnivorous animals. This action quickly prompts a change of environment for the wildebeests.
April – May:
This is when the Serengeti starts to dry up and the grass disappears prompting the herds to move west towards the Grumeti River.
June – July:
At this time, the herds begin heading towards the Masai Mara, but before they get there, they are faced with the challenging obstacle of crossing the Grumeti river. This is arguably the best time of the year as travelers would be able to view all the excitement unraveling around the Grumeti River and beyond.
August – September:
By this time, the herds have crossed the Grumeti river and are en route to the Mara River. This is also a dramatic crossing that captures nature in its rawest form.
This month sees the herds crossing the Mara river into the pool-table flat Masai Mara grasslands where they usually graze till the end of the month and continue their journey back to the northern Serengeti where short grass will have become abundant.
November – December:
The wildlife reaches the Seronera area where they will remain till they head back to the southern part of the Serengeti for calving season.
Interesting Facts About The Annual Great Wildebeest Migration
World’s largest concentrated migration of wildlife traveling over 800 km on an annual journey.
Hundreds of thousands of zebras, Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, impalas, and antelopes join approximately 1.5 million wildebeests in the great migration.
The zebra and the wildebeest are naturally good friends helping each other out all year round during the great migration, they feed on the same plant but different parts of it enabling them to graze harmoniously.
While the wildebeests are extraordinarily good at sniffing out water from the ground, the zebras help out in protecting and navigating the wildebeests keeping them on the course all through the year-long voyage driven mainly by their search of water and food, making the zebra and the wildebeest inseparable friends.
The Serengeti ecosystem
is one of the oldest in the world — the vegetation, fauna, and climate of the Serengeti ecosystem have remained the same for thousands of years.
Wildebeests are known to operate using what researchers call swarm intelligence meaning they act upon problems encountered and bring about solutions as a unit.
Approximately 8000 wildebeest are born every day for about 3 weeks usually in mid-February and the calves are able to walk as soon as they are born.
Asides the lions that prey on the wildebeests, other life-threatening predators include leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, and crocodiles.
Most of the migration takes place in Tanzania circumnavigating the Serengeti national park, Loliondo game controlled area, Ngorongoro conservation area, and the Grumeti reserve while the migration stretches to the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya bordering the Serengeti national park.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti National Park is the jewel of Tanzania
and is famous for its abundance of wildlife, long stretches of rolling grasslands, breathtaking rivers, and budding ecosystem.
It is bordered by Kenya to the north where it runs into the Maasai Mara National Reserve; the Ikorongo and Grumeti game reserves to the west, while the Ngorongoro conservation area to the southeast, and to the northeast lies the Loliondo Game controlled area, all together forming the larger Serengeti ecosystem which consists of five main regions.
With the Serengeti plains known for its treeless grassland and a natural habitat where wildebeest and other hoofed animals such as gazelles, impalas, zebras, topi, hartebeests, buffalos, and waterbucks breed.
The Southern Serengeti
The Southern Serengeti plains are home to numerous migratory herds especially during the green season due to its nutrient-rich plains with short grasses rich in phosphorus, making it an ideal location for the Great wildebeest migration calving season with a spectacular wildlife viewing of over two million animals spread across the open plains.
Much of the Southern Serengeti lies outside of the Serengeti national park so unlike other areas of the Serengeti, off-road driving and walking safaris are permitted. The Southern Serengeti plains are excessively seasonal so during the dry season, the Southern Serengeti is transformed into a semi-desert and herds usually drift off these plains as the area dries out.
The Central Serengeti (Seronera)
A lively and vigorous wildlife area, the Central Serengeti is renowned as the best resident game
compared to other regions of the Serengeti National park as it is ideally located centrally. It is the perfect location for a well-rounded safari adventure because game viewing here in the Central Serengeti is excellent at any time of the year.
During May and early June, the northbound wildebeest migrate to through the Central Serengeti and again in November to early December, the wildebeests also migrate when they are on their way back south to the short grass plains.
The Northern Serengeti
This region is home to large herds migrating during the months of July to November. It is a relatively unexplored wilderness boasting some amazing landscapes and inhabited by scores of magnificent wildlife.
Visitors here are offered exceptional and dramatic sightings of wildebeest and zebras as they make the perilous journey across the Mara river into the Masai Mara region. These animals are not just wary of the large crocodiles lying in wait, but also the but also the rushing waters of the river itself.
It is a tense moment for some visitors as they witness these exhausted and terrified wildebeests and zebras attempt to brave the torrential flow. Some are able to make it across with exerted efforts, but others are not so lucky as the strong water currents either drown them or return them to the same side of the river allowing the ordeal to begin again.
The Grumeti Reserve
Established in 1994 covering 2000 sq km, the Grumeti game reserve
forms a part of the larger Serengeti Masai Mara ecosystem where the annual great wildebeest migration takes place and is located along the Northwestern border of the Serengeti National Park and this is where it is easy to see the movement of huge herds of zebra and wildebeest.
The most suitable time to visit this reserve is from June to October and January to February. A migratory corridor for herds of animals passing through the area naturally, the Grumeti game reserve is a remote lush location that offers a far greener safari experience with rolling hills, river and woodlands patch, worked into the extended terrain as far as the eye can see.
This is where the herds face off against the turbulent waters and the hungry crocodiles of the Mara river. Those that do make it across are rewarded with the lush grazing grass stretching across the rolling plains of the Masai Mara.
By the end of May, the rains will have fully ceased, prompting the herd to move northward. However, the dry months of July through October remains the perfect game viewing period as the receding vegetation makes it a lot easier to witness the animals as they continue their movement back to the Serengeti.
Only a fraction of the greater Mara ecosystem, The Masai Mara is a large game reserve
in Narok County, Kenya neighboring with the Serengeti national park in the Mara region, Tanzania. It is known for its exceptional population of predators and prey alike — cheetahs, leopards, and lions and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, topi and wildebeests to and from the Serengeti annually from July to October.
The wildebeests, topi, zebra, Grant’s gazelle migrate into and occupy the Mara reserve from the Serengeti plains to the south and Loita plains in the pastoral ranches to the northeast.
Book With A Reliable Tour Operator
The great wildebeest migration happens every year, but there is still no guarantee that you might see it if you decide to do it all by yourself as you might end up not knowing where and when to go.
That’s why it is important to book a reliable and experienced tour operator
. Take for instance, the overlapping of the migration which is the crossing of the Mara river which also coincides with the peak safari season and can be viewed from both countries, each offering an equally thrilling but unique aspect of the great wildebeest migration.
It is extremely difficult for DIY travelers to be at the right places at the right time to witness it. Famous sightings like the paradise crossing are used by tour guides every year, which enables them to know where to position their vehicles while they await the first wildebeest to cross.
If you’re on the Tanzanian side, you’d see the wildebeests leave and if you’re on the Kenyan side, you’d see them arrive.
There are also lots of people during this peak season and the rates are usually higher, so it is best to book in advance, several months ahead of your intended visit to ensure you have your choice of location and accommodation.
Gosheni Safaris specializes in great wildebeest migration tours and has served guests all over the world.
Through the years, we have become renowned for making well-crafted and personalized itineraries to see the famous Great Migration both in Kenya and Tanzania.
Our staff is regularly and professionally trained to ensure they meet your expectations, whether budget or luxury. Get in touch with us today to discuss your next great migration safari adventure
Check out these best tours for witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration:
7 Days The Great Wildebeest Migration Calving Safari
10 Days Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari
11 Days The Great Kenya and Tanzania Migration Safari
Written by: Branded Africa