Tours & Travel

Inside the great Wildebeest Migration Safari

The exceptional wildebeest migration is a wondrous movement of about 2 million animals mainly comprising of wildebeest and some zebras and gazelles in two of Africa’s extraordinary safari destinations.

It is an annual movement that starts in the southern plains of Serengeti national park in Tanzania northwards through the western section, to Kenya’s Masai Mara and back to Serengeti. The trip covers about 1,800miles.

There is nowhere else in the world that you’ll encounter migration of such a big number of animals and this makes these destinations the world’s most iconic.

The exceptional wildebeest migration is a wondrous movement of about 2 million animals mainly comprising of wildebeest and some zebras and gazelles in two of Africa’s extraordinary safari destinations (PHOTO/Courtesy)

 

Located 208 miles from Arusha in Northern Tanzania, Serengeti National Park is best known for being a natural habitat to wide number of animals and the highest concentration of mammals in the world. It is famously known for the wildebeest alongside featured with lions, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, cheetah, hyena, hippo and about 518 bird species.

Masai Mara is one of the most spectacular places of Africa’s safari destinations. It regularly receives rainfall which is ideal for vegetation growth that attracts large number of herbivores including the wildebeest and others.

These herbivores are preyed on by carnivores in the park; lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena and this makes it easy to spot a variety of wildlife in Masai Mara national reserve. Other animal species in the park are elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, zebra and about 500 bird species.

There are different species of wildebeest namely; the Blue or brindled wildebeest in the south of river Zambezi, the Eastern white-bearded wildebeest in the East of Gregory in Kenya and Tanzania and the Western bearded wildebeest, a kind that is seen taking trips through Serengeti and Masai Mara.

The great wildebeest migration is pushed by the season when water gets scarce and grass drying up in southern Serengeti. Animals resort to searching for these necessities in Masai Mara in Kenya. The animals move in large herds but wait for each other when they arrive at Grumeti River.

As they cross the river, some are preyed on by crocodiles while others will be attacked and eaten up by carnivores in Masai Mara and others die of hunger and thirst on the way. Some of them remain on the way due to exhaustion.

Because the movement depends on availability of food and water, the migration is not accurately predictable and questions about the best time to watch it may have differing answers. However, though the animals often arrive at Masai Mara in July.

Best time and place to observe the Great Wildebeest migration

January, February and March

There are many herds of wildebeest and zebras in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ndutu and the south of Serengeti during this time of the year. Wildebeest cows wait to give birth on the short and rich plains in these areas.

The area is good for grazing. End of January to mid- March is calving season and lots of calves are born. The big number of calves attracts predators which feast on them. The area is also perfect for spotting predators during this period.

From January to March, it is easier to watch these wildebeest from mobile camps though staying at mobile camps is discouraged by the presence of flies around the area.

The alternative is staying at Lake Masek Tented camp and Ndutu lodge where great views of the animals are captured. Mwiba lodge provides luxury accommodation and can always transfer guests to the closest areas where the wildebeest can be watched.

From January to March, it is easier to watch these wildebeest from mobile camps though staying at mobile camps is discouraged by the presence of flies around the area (PHOTO/Courtesy)

April to May

From the end of March to the beginning of May, it is not a perfect time to spot large population of wildebeest and other animals. This is when Tanzania receives a lot of rain, the grass is tall and roads are not easily driven through because of rain, so getting to the park is not easy.

Those who have visited the park in April have chances of viewing the migration if they stay at Kasini Camp, Ndutu safari lodge or Serengeti Kati Kati camp and Osupuku safari lodge.

Due to the abundant wildebeest and other herbivores, grass is massively chewed and all areas are left with very short plains in May. By the end of May, waterholes are staring to dry up as the dry season sets in.

The herds start moving northwards through the western corridor of Serengeti and areas close to Lake Victoria where they find some water and grass. Long columns of wildebeest and other animals like zebra, gazelles and others are seen others heading to the north Seronera and others westwards.

June

More wildebeest herds are leaving the southern part of Serengeti to the western and central Serengeti to search for food and water. They start concentrating on the south of Grumeti River because the river has channels which slow down the movement.

This river is surrounded by a forest that harbors elephants and other animals. River Grumeti also harbors crocodiles which feast on the wildebeest as they try to cross to continue with their journey.

To watch the migration around this area, visitors can stay at Faru Faru River lodge, Sasakwa Hill Lodge, Sabora Plains tented camp, Grumeti River camp and Kirarwa camp.

July- August

As the grass around Grumeti River and water reduces, the wildebeest cross the river and continue northwards. Others move via the central of Serengeti and others through Grumeti reserve and Ikorongo and begin crossing to Masai Mara national reserve. So the migration can be watched at Singita Grumeti Reserve.

September and October

The herds of wildebeest divide into smaller groups and about half of them reside in the northern Serengeti Park and others cross Mara River to Masai Mara national reserve.

When they arrive here during the dry season, wildebeests converge around River Mara to drink where they are also attacked and eaten by crocodiles.

October is the best time to watch the wildebeest in these two national parks; the north of Serengeti national park and south of Masai Mara National Park.

Besides the animals, the communities of the Masai that have lived in the area for thousands of years should not be missed out on the tour, visit them and explore more about the culture and lifestyle of these people.

To watch the migration during this period, there are many lodges and camps one can stay in and the best rewards of the safari. Some of them include; Mara River Tented camp, Sayari Camp for luxury accommodation and Lemala Kuri Hills, Governor’s Camp and Nomad’s Lamai Camp among others.

November and December

November comes with rain and animals have grazed on the grass. They start to leave the south of Masai Mara to the east and back to areas that are developing fresh grass in Serengeti.

In December, the wildebeests start to move back to southern Serengeti. They enjoy the fresh grasses in northeast of Serengeti and Southern Serengeti. They arrive by the end of December and beginning of January to end the trip. Calving starts at the end of January.

If your safari takes place during this period of the year, you could stay at Namiri Camp to watch the great wildebeest migration and other animals.

Having a combined tour

A safari to view the great wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania is one of the best and exceptional experiences of travel for wildlife in the world. However, the tour can be combined with other activities such as community visit to experience culture and other traditional practices, game drives, guided nature walk, visiting the beaches, bush dining and more. Consult us for remarkable safaris.

How to get there

As earlier mentioned that the movement of the wildebeest may sometimes slightly change due to varying seasons in different years, it may be tricky for you to predict about the migration as you plan for the best time for your wildebeest migration safari. Organizing your tour with Adventure in the Wild safaris will make your planning easy, expect the best of the great migration experience.

It is easier to get to the wildebeest destinations (Serengeti national park and Masai Mara) when you pass via Kenya. Fly to Jomo Kenyatta international airport then connect to Nairobi for domestic flight to Masai Mara. Masai Mara is about 167miles northwest of Nairobi and it would take you approximately 5 hours to reach by road. When preparing for your safari, ensure that you have a yellow fever migration card, visa and a passport.

If you are connecting directly to Tanzania and thereafter head to Serengeti, then you’ll start in Arusha.  Fly to Kilimanjaro international airport and drive 46km to Arusha. From arusha, you may choose to fly to the park or drive for about 8hours to get to Serengeti national park.

As you prepare for your 2020 wildebeest safari

Find out more about the great migration and other animals in the parks and get to know how they interact. With this, it will be easy for you to follow each and every step of the tour and clearly understand the reasons for animal behavior in these parks. For you to plan well for what to wear on the safari, find out about the weather and climate of the region.

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