The wildebeest migration is an annual mass animal movement of the wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and some antelopes over the Masai Mara and Serengeti ecosystems. This movement is one of the natural wildlife wonders and involves over millions of these grazers. The migration follows seasonal rains and herds move through dangerous big cats territories and over the Grumeti and Mara Rivers that have deadly Nile Crocodiles.
Wildebeest are the majority of the herds with about 1.5 millions of these. Zebras often range from 250,000 to 300,000 individuals and other antelopes including Thompson gazelles and the Topi. The Wildebeest also belong to the antelope family and entirely depend on grass of the open savanna and woodland plains. These grazers are estimated to cover a total distance of about 800 to 1000 kilometres along the migration circuit if they survive the predators. The survival journey is narrow as apart from the predators, they go through steep slopes on the River banks where some break their legs trying to Jump over.
The Wildebeest Migration Month Per Month
The herds are always on the move stretching from one month to another. This migration however involves new births even though a reasonable number of the wildebeest and other major grazers are eaten by the predators especially the lions. Below is a brief journey of the great wildebeest migration every month. This helps one to plan accordingly on the best month to Visit depending on where the wildebeests are.
The Migration from January to March
Since the wildebeest migration is a continuous cycle, there is no particular point where the herds stop. By January throughout March, the herds would have moved stretching over southern Serengeti through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Ndutu area. They do not necessarily go through the Ngorongoro crater floor but the floor itself has a number of wildlife species including the wildebeest. By this time they would have returned from Northern Serengeti and their way back from Masai Mara and therefore find pastures they thrive on.
This period is a transition one to the short rains of March which favours the growth of more lush vegetation and grasses. The first quarter also doubles as a calving period and an estimate of about 7,000 calves are born daily. This is a great boost to the herds and rejuvenates the herds generally however these young ones are often targeted by the predators.
During this period you can enjoy Discovery Journeys adventures in Ngorongoro, Ndutu conservancy and southern Serengeti. There are high chances of seeing a birth one game drives and some predators in action. Serengeti national park being a lion conservation unit, it has one of the highest lion populations along with other major big cats including leopards and cheetahs. These entirely thrive on the herds and hunting during this first quarter is even easier for them.
The Migration from April to May
As the month of April sets in, the wildebeest herds start to move towards central Serengeti. This is a wet season coupled with rains that favour even more vegetation growth providing plenty of pasture that the grazers continually feed on. This enables the calves to grow steadily as the mating season also begins by the end of May.
The growth of more lush vegetation and tall grasses provide a hiding and hunting grounds for predators. These especially the stealth hunters like the leopards take down their unsuspecting prey after taking camouflage in the tall grasses. The herds continue moving towards the western corridor of Serengeti national park until they Cross River Grumeti. This is their second major obstacle considering the constant threat of the usual predators. The Grumeti River has deadly crocodiles that eagerly await the herds taking down the weak ones.
River crossings are a highlight of the great wildebeest migration and this Grumeti River crossing is exclusive and very enjoyable. The wet season being a low tourist season, the number of people in the area is not as high as that in the peak tourist season. With this visiting Central and western Serengeti enables you to enjoy exclusive adventures with more opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography. These are our kinds of preferred Discovery Journeys that are more experiential and rewarding.
The wildebeest Migration from June to July
As June sets in, the Grumeti River crossings continue as more and more herds continue with their quest. A number of these are seen on the southern banks of the River waiting to jump over the deadly crocodiles. Those that make it continue moving through western Serengeti to northern Serengeti where they meet yet another River crossing of the Mara River. This is even tougher as the wildebeest jump over the steep River banks with some ending in the arms of the awaiting crocodiles.
The Mara River crossings continue throughout July as this is more spectacular. June and July are a dry season that doubles as a peak tourist season and the tourist numbers are usually high. To avoid missing out on this it is better to book your wildebeest migration safari in advance even a year in advance as lodges and camps get fully booked. Towards end of July, a number of these herds would have crossed over to Masai Mara and River crossings can continuously be enjoyed along the River till mid August.
The Migration from August to October
As more herds continue crossing the Mara rivers, they evenly spread over the Mara ecosystem throughout the northern part of the reserve. The herds that would have been concentrated in Northern Serengeti also continue crossing, meeting the River Obstacle, the crocodiles and predators. These crossings are sometimes in big numbers and sometimes few.
The fluctuating water levels also affect the migration in a way where in situations when the water levels are high they also become a challenge for the wildebeest and other major grazers to cross.
Even on the side of Masai Mara there are usually predators waiting and so the hunting and fighting for life for survival continues throughout the migration. In September and October the herds continue moving through Masai Mara drifting to the eastern part of the reserve. Masai Mara National reserve is therefore the best place to be for a wildebeest migration safari from July to October. The rains set in again from mid October being a transition month and here the herds slowly drift southwards where they cross the Mara River again on their way back to Serengeti.
The Migration from November to December
The migration herds continue their journey southwards across the border into northern Serengeti national park. By this time the pastures would have grown and the rains in October and November encourage more pastures to grow. By this time the expectant would be about to deliver and the calving period eventually sets in for the cycle to begin again.
Beyond the wildebeest migration and the major wildlife species involved in the migration, visiting Serengeti and Masai Mara for a safari is very rewarding. The ecosystem is also a home to the different bird species, big five mammals including buffaloes, elephants, rhinos, leopards and lions. All these can be seen while on game drives in the different sectors of the parks.
Best time for the wildebeest Migration Safari
The dry season is generally the best time for safaris in East Africa including the wildebeest migration safari. This is from June to September when the herds are crossing from Serengeti to Masai Mara. Here you will get to enjoy the Mara River crossings and get a chance to see the predators live in action. The period from December to March is also great for having a wildebeest migration safari. Being the calving period, a number of predators take advantage of this and the herds this time around are in the Ngorongoro, Ndutu and Southern Serengeti area so when considering the migration these are the places to visit.
We tailor make safaris to Serengeti and Masai from 3 days and above. We recommend one to spend more days on safari for more wildlife viewing opportunities. You can check out our safaris including Masai Mara and Serengeti Safaris.