What Is the Wildebeest Migration?
The migration of wildebeests also known as “The Great Migration ” is an occurrence where, than a million wildebeests, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of zebras, gazelles and other plains animals travel across the East African savannah in a cyclical pattern. This journey is motivated by their search for grazing lands and water sources. It is regarded as one of the awe inspiring phenomena on our planet.
Typically the migration commences in the plains of Tanzanias Serengeti between December and March during the season. The herds then gradually move towards the northern regions of the Serengeti around June. The thrilling part unfolds from July to September when they cross both the Grumeti River in Tanzania and the Mara River on the border between Tanzania and Kenya—both notorious for their crocodile populations.
Once they arrive at Kenyas Masai Mara, which usually occurs between July and October they. Reproduce until there is no grass left to sustain them. Around November compelled by the seasons arrival these wildebeests commence their journey back, to Serengeti—thus completing their entire migratory cycle.
Why & Where Do Wildebeests Migrate?
Wildebeest undertake journeys, in search of pastures and water. This incredible migration, known as the Great Migration involves than 1.5 million wildebeest along with hundreds of thousands of herbivores such as zebras and gazelles.
Several key factors drive this migration;
1. Seasonal. Grass Growth; The rainfall patterns in the Serengeti Mara ecosystem play a role in determining the availability of grass which serves as the primary source of food for wildebeest. They follow the rains that bring about grass growth. For example they begin their journey in the Serengeti where short rains occur around November December resulting in rich grass.
2. Calving Season; During January to February half a million wildebeest calves are born simultaneously in the fertile southern Serengeti region. The presence of grass during this period is crucial for wildebeests as it supports lactation.
3. Access to Water; Daily access to water is essential for survival. Their movement is often determined by its availability. During the season (around July to October) they migrate northward, towards the Mara River where water sourcesre more abundant.
4. Predator Avoidance; The migration serves as a measure for wildebeest to evade predators and increase their chances of survival.
By moving in groups they reduce the chances of being preyed upon as individuals.
The Great Migration also has effects, on the Serengeti Mara ecosystem;
Predator Populations; The migration sustains populations of predators such as lions, cheetahs, hyenas and crocodiles which rely on the migrating herds for food.
Grassland Health; The grazing behavior of wildebeest and their contribution of dung and urine are essential for maintaining the health of the grassland ecosystem. They play a role, in cycling facilitating the growth of fresh grass.
The Best Time To Visit Tanzania During the Wildebeest Migration
Here’s a general guide to help you decide the time to visit Tanzania for a wildebeest migration safari;
December, to March; During this period the herds usually gather in the plains of the Serengeti for the calving season. It’s a sight as around 500,000 calves are born within a span of 2 3 weeks in February. This time also offers opportunities to spot predators who take advantage of the abundance of young wildebeest.
April to May; These months mark Tanzania’s long rainy season, which is not typically considered ideal for safaris. However it’s when the herds begin their migration towards the central parts of Serengeti. The landscape is lush and picturesque but keep in mind that road conditions can be challenging.
June to July; During this period you’ll find the herds in the region of Serengeti as they start moving northward. One highlight during this time is witnessing the river crossing at Grumeti River—a thrilling spectacle that can be both exhilarating and nerve wracking.
July to September; This is considered time for a visit because its when the herds brave their crossing of Mara River between northern Serengeti and Masai Mara in Kenya. This event is highly sought after due to its drama and action with large crocodiles often seen preying, on wildebeest.
Keep in mind that the timing of the migration can differ each year due, to factors like rainfall and environmental conditions. It’s an idea to reach out to travel experts or safari operators around the time of your visit for the up to date information. Additionally remember that Tanzania offers wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, beyond the migration making it a destination worth exploring throughout the year.
Southern Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Tanzania
The incredible migration of wildebeests known as the Great Wildebeest Migration takes place in the Southern Serengeti during the season. This remarkable journey commences, in December. Reaches its peak in January with the wildebeests returning to the central part of the Serengeti by March. It is a spectacle that unfolds in both the region of the Serengeti and the northern area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Ndutu.
During this period you’ll find wildebeests covering territories within Kusini, which is situated within Serengeti National Park. They also venture into Ndutu, a part of Ngorongoro Conservation Area that extends into Maswa Game Reserve. The Kusini Kopjes serve as a refuge for predators like cheetahs, leopards and lions who patiently await their chance to hunt down grazing wildebeests. These predators often target those individuals who have strayed from their herds as they become more vulnerable to ambushes.
Not do wildebeests dominate these plains during this migration but zebras, kobs and other grazers also gather on Ndutus grasslands. They rely on this time to regain strength following the birth of their ones. It’s astonishing to note that over a thousand calves are born each day during this period. Unfortunately for them this attracts a number of predators who seize every opportunity to prey upon these vulnerable newborns.
Throughout February you can witness these wildebeests together with their offspring grazing, on nutrient rich grasslands found within Ndutu.
However come March they start their journey back, to Serengeti National Park through Kusini. This migration becomes a test of survival as predators lie in wait amidst the Acacia woodlands and Kopjes.
After the wildebeest migration the region remains teeming with wildlife. It is home to an array of animals that rely on the microclimates found near the kopjes, where water collects in rock basins. Predators like lions and jackals keep an eye from above while unusual creatures such as aardvarks and pangolins find nourishment from towering termite mounds. African hedgehogs, hares and voles scurry among the rocks while colored lizards swiftly dart across them.
The Maswa Game Reserve, in Southern Serengeti is renowned for its dry season grazing grounds that attract animals including buffalos, impalas and gazelles throughout the year beyond calving season.
The Western Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari Tanzania
The Western Wildebeest Migration is a natural event that occurs during the rainy season usually, from April to early June in the Serengeti National Park. It’s a time when large herds of grazers like wildebeest, elands, zebras and gazelles gather and journey through the Western Corridors of the Serengeti located south of the Grumeti River.
This migration can be quite dangerous due to the abundance of predators both on land and in water. The Grumeti River for example is home to crocodiles creating an obstacle for the migrating herds. Additionally land predators pose a threat during this migration period resulting in a number of wildebeest casualties compared to other stages of their journey across the Serengeti.
Visiting the Western Serengeti during this time provides an incredible opportunity to witness this captivating spectacle amidst the vast expanse of the Serengeti plains. Enough not all wildebeest participate in this adventure. Some members of their population choose to remain near the Mbalageti River and make it their permanent home. The Mbalageti River dries up during the season. Serves as a vital habitat, for various animals before that time.
The Grumeti River area is home, to a range of wildlife. You can find black and white colobus monkeys, patas monkeys, olive baboons, impalas, topis, waterbucks, wildebeest and different types of antelopes. When you go on game drives in this wilderness you might be lucky enough to spot some elusive creatures, like leopards, nocturnal porcupines, aardvarks, honey badgers and bat eared foxes.
Northern Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
The Northern Serengeti Wildebeest Migration is renowned as one of the natural wonders, in the animal kingdom capturing global attention. This incredible wildlife event occurs between July and September in the north of Serengeti National Park near the Lamai Triangle. During this period countless wildebeest embark on a journey across the Mara River to reach Kenyas Maasai Mara National Reserve via the Serengeti Maasai Mara ecosystem.
This migration is truly awe inspiring. The sight of other grazers courageously leaping into the water while facing danger from enormous Nile crocodiles creates a captivating display of natures power. Interestingly humans find it difficult to predict when this migration will happen. Predatory animals somehow sense its arrival and patiently wait nearby for their anticipated feast.
This spectacle vividly demonstrates survival of the fittest as each wildebeest strives to cross the river and survive while crocodiles rely on them for sustenance. To add to the drama navigating through the challenging river is made more treacherous by the steep cliffs of Rift Valley Escarpment. Once a wildebeest commits to crossing there is no turning. In addition, to witnessing this event lucky observers may also spot leopards, hippos, hyrax, mongoose and other wildlife during this northern wildebeest migration.
In October the wildebeest commence their return, to the Serengeti making the Mara Serengeti ecosystem come alive with activity. If you’re interested in witnessing the migration cycle, a visit to the Serengeti in July followed by a trip to the Maasai Mara, in October offers a perspective of this extraordinary wildlife spectacle.
Serengeti National Park to Maasai Mara national Reserve and then back to Serengeti Wildebeest migration
The annual Wildebeest Migration, which occurs during the season, from July to September is a journey that takes place between the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This cyclical event spans Tanzania and Kenya as the wildebeest seek out grazing lands.
During the leg of their migration the wildebeest traverse from the Serengeti National Park to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Unfortunately this trek comes with its share of tragedies as many wildebeest lose their lives while crossing the Mara River.
However their journey doesn’t conclude in the Maasai Mara. In October to November, when the short rains begin in the Serengeti these resilient animals embark on their return journey back to their habitat. Like before this phase poses dangers with yet another treacherous crossing of the Mara River. Sadly thousands of perish during this stage before they can reach safety in the Serengeti.
Ultimately this ongoing cycle of migration symbolizes a search for pastures driven by seasonal changes—a testament to both resilience and determination displayed by these incredible creatures. Despite facing risks and inevitable losses along their path they persist year after year due to enticing pastures, in Maasai Mara and rejuvenating rainfall in Serengeti.
Kusini (Serengeti) to Ndutu (Ngorongoro conservation Area) and back Wildebeest migration
The migration of wildebeests, from Kusini in the Serengeti to the Ndutu region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and then back again is truly a sight in nature. This specific journey is a part of the wildebeest migration cycle.
During the months of the year typically starting in December wildebeests embark on their migration from the region of the Serengeti, specifically Kusini towards the southern area of the park and the northern part of Ndutu within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This migration period peaks in January. Coincides with calving season when wildebeests give birth to their young. As a result there is an abundance of predators as these newborns are weak and vulnerable making them easy prey.
Wildebeests along with grazers like zebras and gazelles graze on the nourishing grasslands found in Ndutu during February. This sustains them after enduring a calving season. It provides nourishment for their newborns well.
As March approaches herds of wildebeests begin their journey back to parts of Serengeti by passing through Kusini again. However this return journey poses dangers as predators lie in wait, along their route.
Despite the dangers involved the wildebeest bravely continue their journey, motivated by the changing seasons and their need, for pastures. This migration from Kusini to Ndutu and back to the Serengeti though fraught with risks showcases the endurance of these animals. Represents a crucial element of their yearly plan, for survival.
Grumeti River & Its Contribution To Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania
The Grumeti River holds importance within the ecosystem of the Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania. Here are some key facts and figures about this river;
Location; Situated in the corridor of the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, East Africa the Grumeti River is a crucial water source for the park.
Length; Spanning 80 km this river originates from the part of the Serengeti flowing towards Lake Victoria.
Crocodile Population; The Grumeti River is famous for its population of crocodiles. Some Nile Crocodiles found here can grow up to 5 meters (16 feet) long.
Wildebeest Migration; Every year, between May and July the Great Wildebeest Migration encounters a challenge at the Grumeti River. Hundreds of thousands of other grazers like zebras must cross this river creating one of natures awe inspiring spectacles.
Wildlife; In addition to crocodiles and migratory wildebeest a diverse range of wildlife thrives along the banks of this river. This includes hippopotamuses, gazelles, impalas and an array of bird species.
Ecosystem; Playing a role in sustaining life within the Serengeti ecosystem this river provides water for animals while supporting vegetation, along its shores.
In the season the Grumeti River tends to dry up and form pools. As a result animals gather around these remaining water sources.
When it comes to tourism, the river and its surroundings are sought after spots, for tours. Tourists flock here to witness the crossing and observe the resident wildlife.
About Serengeti National Park & Wildebeest Migration Safaris in Tanzania
The Serengeti National Park, situated in Tanzania, East Africa is widely recognized as one of the wildlife reserves worldwide. Here are some intriguing details, about the Serengeti;
Size; Covering an area of 14,763 square kilometers (5,700 square miles) the Serengeti National Park stands as one of Tanzanias largest national parks.
Ecosystem; The Serengeti ecosystem holds significance due to its origins and profound scientific value. It encompasses not the park itself but several other protected areas.
Wildlife; Within this park you’ll find an array of wildlife. It is estimated that around 70 different species of mammals and 500 species of birds call this place home. Notably it boasts the presence of Africas Big Five”. Elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos and rhinoceros.
Great Migration; Perhaps the iconic event associated with the Serengeti is its Great Wildebeest Migration. Each year, 1.5 million wildebeest along with 200,000 zebras and 300,000 Thomsons gazelles embark on a journey spanning up to 800 kilometers (500 miles) in search of grazing pastures.
Predators; The Serengeti harbors a concentration of predators such as lions, leopards cheetahs and hyenas. In fact it is believed to house Africas lion population due to the abundance of prey species, within its boundaries.
The Serengeti National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 because of its wildlife and ecological importance.
Every year the Serengeti attracts a number of tourists who come to witness the wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. The park boasts a variety of scenery ranging from grassland plains in the south to wooded hills in the north.
In terms of climate the Serengeti enjoys temperatures that typically range from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (59 77 Fahrenheit). The region experiences two seasons; the short rains occur during November and December while the long rains extend from March, to May.
Extensive research and conservation efforts are actively taking place in the Serengeti to better understand and protect its biodiversity. These initiatives play a role in addressing issues such, as poaching, habitat loss and the impacts of climate change.
Ngorongoro Crater Wildebeest, Park Facts & Figures
The Ngorongoro Crater, located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, in Tanzania holds the title of being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lets explore some details;
Size; This remarkable crater is not the intact volcanic caldera on Earth but also remains unfilled. With a diameter of 19.2 kilometers (12 miles) and covering an area of around 300 square kilometers (116 square miles) its scale is truly awe inspiring.
Formation; The formation of this crater dates back millions of years when a colossal volcano erupted and subsequently collapsed in on itself. Its believed that the original volcano was even taller than Mount Kilimanjaro, which currently stands at a height of 5,895 meters (19,341 feet).
Wildlife; Within the confines of the Ngorongoro Crater resides a variety of wildlife including rhinoceroses, cape buffalos, elephants, leopards and lions. In fact it boasts one of the populations of lions known to exist.
Uniqueness; What sets this place apart from others in Africa is its opportunity to witness all members of the Big Five” (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros) within a single day—an experience like no other across the continent.
Lakes; Among its captivating features lies Lake Magadi—an shallow soda lake within the Ngorongoro Crater that serves as a gathering place, for countless flamingos. Additionally there are two lakes where hippos often luxuriate in their domains.
The Maasai people inhabit the area surrounding the crater. They are known for their customs and distinctive attire leading a nomadic lifestyle.
Situated at an altitude of 1,800 meters (5,900 feet), above sea level the floor of the crater is slightly lower than its rim, which stands at over 2,200 meters (7,200 feet).
The significance of this region extends to its value. Olduvai Gorge nearby holds evidence dating back to our ancestors making it an essential site for researchers.
Ngorongoro serves as both a conservation area and a habitat for humans and wildlife to coexist harmoniously. Conservation efforts prioritize maintaining this balance while preserving biodiversity.
Within the Serengeti ecosystem lies the Ngorongoro Crater which plays a role in facilitating the annual Wildebeest Migration. This phenomenon is particularly notable, during the season when herds of wildebeest, zebra and other migratory animals venture into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and southern Serengeti plains in search of grasslands nourished by rainfall. Consequently numerous wildebeest give birth during this period resulting in a surge of calves.
Facts About The Wildebeest Migration
A staggering number of animals participate in the Migration; 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and 350,000 antelopes, including species like eland Thompsons gazelle and impala. This massive movement makes it the largest overland migration worldwide.
The Great Migration takes place throughout the year; Although the dramatic river crossings are often associated with this event it actually occurs continuously. Depending on which aspect of the migration you’d like to witness you can observe it at any time during the year. For example if you’re interested in seeing the northern river crossings in the Serengeti region plan your visit between August and October. On the hand if you want to witness the calving season head to Southern Serengeti, between January and March.
It’s quite a journey; These animals travel a 500 miles every year on their migration path, which takes them from Tanzania to Kenya and back, in a large clockwise loop. However the majority of the migration happens within Tanzania.
The Migration is full of surprises; It mainly depends on the start and end of the seasons, which prompts the herds to move in search of grazing areas. However changes in weather patterns can significantly affect when and where they migrate.
Crossing rivers can be dangerous; Many rivers along their route are home to hippos and Nile crocodiles. Besides these predators if the water level is too high or too fast the river itself becomes an obstacle.
No natural leader emerges; Despite the scale of this migration it’s fascinating to note that there isn’t a leader among the wildebeest. The herds sometimes split into groups. Generally stick to the same overall route.
It’s not about Wildebeest Only; The Great Migration also involves zebras and antelopes attracting predators like lions, cheetahs and hyenas who seize opportunities to hunt.
Safety lies in numbers; Predators pose threats, to these migrating herds. Having such large numbers provides some defense.
During the migration it is estimated that, around 250,000 wildebeest and 30,000 zebras become prey for predators.
In the season which takes place between January and early March than 400,000 wildebeest calves are born on the southeastern grasslands of the Serengeti. These young ones are highly vulnerable and unfortunately only about one third of them make it back to the plains of the Serengeti alive after a year.
The relationship between wildebeests and zebras is quite interesting. While wildebeests prefer to graze on grass shoots zebras are not as picky and opt, for grass. This complementary behavior of zebras “mowing down” the grass allows wildebeests to access grass that meets their needs. This beneficial arrangement ensures the survival of both species during the Great Migration.
The Predator Animals To The Wildebeest & Zebra During The Migration
The Great Wildebeest Migration is truly a phenomenon that occurs on our planet and it holds great significance, as part of Tanzanias abundant biodiversity. However it’s not the wildebeest, zebras and gazelles that contribute to this cycle. An array of predator species also actively participate in this captivating spectacle.
As the majestic rulers of the savannah, lions are deeply intrigued by the migration. Of following the migrating herds they strategically position themselves within their territories to take advantage of the passing migratory species. The abundance of prey during this migration period often leads to heightened lion activity and a successful hunting spree. For those enough to witness it this presents thrilling opportunities to observe these magnificent creatures in action.
Renowned for their speed cheetahs are frequently spotted during the migration as they target weaker members of the herds. Unlike lions who cannot handedly bring down a grown wildebeest cheetahs focus their efforts on capturing calves or vulnerable adults.
Dotted with spots hyenas have a role, in both hunting and scavenging throughout the migration. They actively contribute to maintaining balance by participating in aspects of this event.
Considered by many, as one of Africas predators they have a knack for capitalizing on the chaos that ensues during river crossings or stampedes enabling them to isolate and capture their prey with precision. Additionally hyenas are scavengers who frequently take advantage of kills made by predators.
Unlike their counterparts leopards are creatures that tend to be more elusive. However even they get drawn into the excitement of the migration. Leopards are masters of ambush. Prefer dragging their kills up trees than actively participating in group hunts.
The migration offers some inspiring moments when herds must navigate rivers like Grumeti and Mara. These waterways harbor Africas crocodile species – the Nile crocodile. Patiently lying in wait they become adversaries for other animals leading to tense and dramatic encounters.
African Wild Dogs
Although sightings may be rare due to their endangered status African wild dogs exhibit hunting prowess. On occasion they can be spotted taking advantage of the prey available, during the migration.
Grazing Animals That Attract The Prey
The Great Wildebeest Migration is not, about wildebeests. Also involves several other grazing animals. These herbivores follow the seasons in search of pastures and water creating a captivating natural spectacle.
The migration revolves around the wildebeests, which number over 1.5 million. They follow a route through Tanzanias Serengeti and Kenyas Maasai Mara seeking grass that grows after seasonal rains.
Alongside the herds 200,000 zebras are part of this migration. Zebras consume grasses allowing wildebeests to feed on their preferred grasses. This symbiotic relationship benefits both species as zebras have memory and eyesight to assist wildebeests in navigation and predator detection.
Joining the migration are around 350,000 Thomsons gazelles— in size but equally spirited. They usually migrate last. Take advantage of the grasslands made accessible by wildebeests and zebras. Their timing aligns with their birthing season ensuring food for their young.
Although not as numerous as wildebeests, zebras or gazelles in the migration elands—Africas antelope—follow a pattern, in smaller herds.
Impalas, recognized for their agility and speed are also participants, in the migration although their numbers are relatively smaller. They have a diet consuming both grass and foliage which grants them some adaptability in their patterns.
Another species encountered during the migration is Grants gazelles, distinguished by their captivating lyre shaped horns. Although they are not as abundant, as species they still contribute to the migratory movement.