The best time to see the migration
The Great Wildebeest Migration: nature’s greatest show
Many people ask this question when is the best time to go and see this world greatest show of a movement of almost two million hooved beasties and zebras! Wether you want to travel in February or September and watch thundering sky, flooded river and the great migration crossing or the magic of seeing them giving birth. Read on to find out exactly when is the best time to see the great wildebeest migration, and where you should be…
The herds of wildebeest congregate to munch on the newly-sprouted grasses of the southern Serengeti around Lake Ndutu and Kusini. Following the rains in November and December, the plains are covered in a thick carpet of juicy green grass – a nutritious feast for the discerning gnu.
After a devouring nutrient-rich grass, the female wildebeest prepare to give birth on the southern Serengeti plains. Between late January and March, over 400,000 calves are born (that’s 7,000 every day!) and gangly babies dot the landscape. A heart-warming spectacle, but similarly heart-breaking as the predators line up for their fill of easy prey…
The last of the babies appear and the wildebeest continue to nibble on the luscious grass. Following the localised rain showers, the wildebeest move across the Southern plains in search of the juciest shoots and can wander as far as the northern reaches of the Ngorongoro Crater (but never into the crater itself). Hungry predators follow them every move…
Feasting complete and leaving behind a rather barren landscape in the south, the herds follow the rumblings of thunder northwards. Mega columns of wildebeest stretch from the south, through the Moru Kopjes in the central Serengeti and all the way to the Western Corridor.
A few rogue wildebeest head even further north of the central region, but the masses make their way across to the Western Corridor. Here, they congregate in their heaving hundreds of thousands on the banks of the Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers and the first real challenge of the trek awaits: how to get to the other side…
By June, the herds begin to spill across the murky pools of the Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers. Although not quite as dramatic as the northern crossings, there’s plenty of drama in store as the crocodiles prepare for their annual wildebeest-tastey meal. Mating season is also underway and the plains are alive with testosterone-fuelled males chasing their chosen ladies.
The survivors continue to the northern Serengeti. The treacherous waters of the Grumeti may be behind them, but worse is in store in the shape of the great Mara River. The river itself winds through the north-western Serengeti before twisting into the western Masai Mara in Kenya and viewing is good in both countries. Depending on rainfall, the crossings can begin as early as June or as late as August.
By August, the river crossings are well underway. Plunging into the waters of the Mara River, the wildebeest must survive the snapping jaws of the Nile crocodile before dodging the lion lying in wait on the other side. Marabou storks and vultures flock to the river to feast on the fallen and game viewing is dramatic, bloody, frenzied and sensational. Book early!
After the drama of the river crossings, some of the beasties will remain contentedly in the northern Serengeti but most will make their way to Kenya’s Masai Mara. On the lookout for fresh grass (they need it after those crossings!) the herds will wander all over the place, crossing and re-crossing the dreaded river and facing predators wherever they turn.
Most of the herds will begin making their way back south through the Serengeti, answering the call of the rains in their search for juicy new grasses. Some unlucky animals may still have a river crossing to face, but they become fewer as the month passes. And of course, the hungry predators are still hot on their heels.
The herds continue toward the Southern Serengeti, the journey becoming more urgent as the rains begin to fall with fervor – they must reach the southern plains as soon as the first grasses begin to sprout. For the best wildebeest-watching, head to the eastern side of the Serengeti and the central Seronera region.
And it’s back home! The majority of the herds have reached the southern Serengeti plains by December and are rewarded with those all-important new shoots. Feasting begins, the predators come out to play and the cycle of life begins again….