It is hard to imagine millions of wildebeest, terrified and panicked, moving to win the fight for life and their offspring. Surely you have often watched TV programs about animals struggling for survival. Now you can be an eyewitness to this amazing force of nature. Impressive herds of wildebeest and zebras traveling through the savannah of Tanzania, during one of the largest migrations in the world, fighting the eternal struggle for survival. Watching this amazing phenomenon you certainly won’t be disappointed. Huge herds of animals move in search of food, water, and to raise young during seasonal changes. It’s a game for survival. Huge clusters of animals, especially newborns, are an easy target.
That is why predators, lions and hyenas follow the Great Migration and thin out herds. And many animals simply die of exhaustion.
Great Migration is the name of the movement of over 1.5 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelles. The animals move all year round in search of fresh grazing and better water quality. The herds move according to an annual pattern, which is quite predictable. However, the exact migration time is completely dependent on the rainfall in a given year. Great Migration is a phenomenon occurring in East Africa, most of the year in Tanzania and about 3 months in Kenya. The animals travel about 2,000 kilometers a year from the southern plains of Serengeti / Ngorongoro to the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, and back again. However, all herds do not move exactly in one line. For example, zebras more often reach the Maasai Mara before wildebeest, because they are slightly faster.
The movement is clockwise. It’s a constantly changing cycle. It is difficult to give exact dates of animals’ movements, which may change every year because they are completely dependent on rainfall. Unfortunately, climate change increases the difference from year to year. The rainy seasons in Serengeti are becoming more and more irregular. Some years have early downpours, while in others they prolong and disturb the natural balance of the herds.
Our guides keep track of animal paths and, depending on their movement, choose a place for safari and accommodation.
The Grumeti River, flowing through the Serengeti National Park, is an ideal place where you can observe the wildebeest crossing. Crocodiles fill the river and unexpectedly attack wildebeest during the crossing. Wildebeests cross the river to reach pastures in the north. There is no other way, so crossing the river is a desperate but necessary feat.
Mara River. Migrating herds must cross another Mara River. Also, the Mara River flowing through the Serengeti National Park to the country of Narok in Kenya is one of the best viewing spots. Watching panicked wildebeests passing through the Mara River in great moons is spectacular.
Ndutu Area. Calving usually occurs within 3 weeks in February. Then over 500,000 young wildebeest are born on open plains to later join the mega-herd. Wildebeest calves, just born, are key targets for predators. Cheetahs are especially focused on calves, an adult gnu is sometimes too big for a cheetah to attack. In addition to cheetahs around such herds circling lions and hyenas.
At the beginning of November short rains begin, and moments later, wildebeest flocks arrive on the Serengeti plains. They are located in the south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu and cover part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The wildebeest and zebras scattered on these plains live everywhere – they feed on fresh, nutritious grasses. Here, wildebeests give birth to young. In February, around 500,000 calves are born in a short period of two to three weeks. Wildebeests are in constant motion, and calving does not disturb this rhythm. What’s more, wildebeest calves are tough animals – they can stand three minutes after birth and join the herd at just five minutes of age. After a few days, they can even overtake predators. At this time of year there are spectacular actions – lots of newborns in herds and predators lurking around willingly. They remain until March. Then they gradually spread to the west to the plains, and then at the end of April they begin the great migration to the north.
At the turn of March / April, Tanzania begins with long rains and the herds begin to migrate to the Western Serengeti Corridor. During this period, following wet roads behind herds can be difficult. However, it is an amazing time to visit due to the small number of tourists. You can still experience migration and have Serengeti almost exclusively for yourself.
The end of May is the end of long rains in eastern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro and the herds begin to move north, migrating in search of fresh grazing and water.
Individual groups gather and form larger herds and the mating season begins. Some of them are heading north, but most are heading west. The area around Moru Kopjes and west of Seronera is the best place to observe the development of the action.
Around June, Great Wildebeest Migration is often stopped on the south side of the Grumeti River. This is the first high risk obstacle – crossing the river. The river is deep because of rain. Therefore, apart from crocodiles awaiting their victims, drowning is a high risk for wildebeest when crossing the Grumeti.
In July and August, wildebeest migration goes north, often spreading to the broad front: some pass through the Grumeti and Ikorongo reserve, others north through the heart of the Serengeti National Park.
In September, the herds move across northern Serengeti, where they meet the next obstacle – the Mara River. During this time, migration remains on both sides of the river. Huge Nile crocodiles are waiting for animals, which, driven by the call of nature, enter the water to graze power on opposite banks. By September, the last herds have crossed the Mara River.
From October, all herds start unanimously heading back south. Through west Loliondo and the Lobo area back to Serengeti in November.
Then the migration starts again …