The great wildebeest migration is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world and that’s for good reason. For nature enthusiasts, it’s a sight to see as you witness over 1.5 million Wildebeest together with Zebras and Gazelles trekking over 600 km across the Serengeti and part of Mara.
It’s the largest mammalian movement in the world as the animals move in search of migration and water. It’s not quite clear how these animals know which path to take to reach their destination with speculation being that they follow the growth of new grass and the rains. The migration can be said to be in response to the weather patterns.
We have to point out that there is no start time or end time for the migration as it’s an all-year-round event. With that said, the calving season is generally considered to be the beginning of the mass migration. This period lasts from December to March. It’s around February that the Wildebeest move into the Ngorongoro Conservation area where up to 400,000 calves will be born in the space of 2 to 3 weeks.
It’s towards April that the herds start migrating north as they seek fresh pastures and water. At this time, moving columns of Wildebeests (numbering in the hundreds of thousands) can be seen forming around the Western Corridor of the Serengeti and around the Moru Kopjes area. It’s at this time that the Gazelles and Zebras also join in with the herd moving north. Let’s quickly point out that only some of the animals move north at this point with a majority of the group still staying in the Western Corridor.
Around June, some of the Wildebeest will have reached and congregated around the Grumeti River in Kirawira in the Western Corridor. At this point, the migration is halted or slowed down as the channels on the river prove difficult to cross. It’s here that the crocodiles in the Grumeti River get their annual feasts as hundreds of Wildebeests cross at the same time hoping to make it to the other side. The migration on Kirawira ceases in the month of October.
The Mara River crossing commences around June and stops around November. Considered the final crossing as the herds try to get to Mara where water is reliable and grass is plentiful. It’s around August and September that a larger group of herds can be seen scattered around Northern Serengeti trying to make the crossing.
They don’t all cross at one go, it could be a small trickle at times or if you’re lucky, it’s a whole horde moving non-stop for hours. It’s at this point that nature and the circle of life are witnessed. The plains are dry and there is a sense of urgency. Animals die in the hundreds and thousands as the strong current, crocodiles, and predators circling the bank take their toll on the herd.
Around October into early November, the herd can be seen moving southwards via the East of Serengeti back to the short grass plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation area. By December, the herds will have reached their destination, spread out in the South of the Serengeti. At this time, the Southern region contains plenty of grass to feed the Wildebeest, Zebras and other animals whilst they prepare for calving season as the migration cycle starts again.