The Great Wildebeest Migration

All About the Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania

All About Wildebeest Migration

All About Wildebeest Migration in East Africa

What is Wildebeest Migration?

What is the Great Wildebeest Migration? The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest animal migration in the world. Every year, more than 2 million animals (wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles) migrate across the ecosystems of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. This world wonder phenomenon happens all through out the year, that is from January to January. 

 

Where does the Wildebeest Migration Take Place?

The wildebeest migration occurs over a wide area across Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. These parks are one continuous ecosystem divided by an invisible man-made border.

Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Best Time for Wildebeest Migration - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings
Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings

The best time to see the Great Migration

When is the Best Time to Go on a Migration Safari?

There is no single time of year to see the Great Migration since it is an eternal annual cycle from place to place, year in and year out.  However, depending on either the aspect of the Great Migration you want to witness (such as river crossings) or the time of year that you prefer to travel, your safari can be tailored to give you the best chance of seeing what you desire.

It is believed that the wildebeest life starts in Ndutu Conservation Area and Serengeti South, where more than 8000 Wildebeest Calves are born daily and later migrate up North to Serengeti North and later Masai Mara in Kenya. The Great Migration can be summarised in this way as having these four seasons.

Alternatively, you can learn more about when to travel via this month-by-month breakdown of the Great Migration. Whether the great herds are calving in the south or on the move north in search of greener pastures – and then back again – there is a huge variety of astounding scenes unfolding before you.

Most people think that the Wildebeest Migration only takes place between July and October, but it’s actually an ever-moving, circular migration with various but equally exciting events that occur year-round. The popular river crossings usually coincide with safari’s high season (June to October), hence the perception that this is the only time of the year that the wildebeest are on the move or can be seen.

Can one predict or know when the great wildebeest Migration River Crossings can occur?

No, not even the wildebeest know when they’re going to cross! Some arrive at the water and swim over immediately; some arrive and spend days hanging around grazing; some arrive and turn back to where they came from. We wish we could predict the crossings, but no-one can. This is why it is best to have as much time on safari as possible if you hope to see a river crossing.

Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings
Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Migration Crossings - Wildebeest Sightings

Wildebeests migrate to graze and mate

The wildebeest bulls begin their mating ritual by calling and attracting the wildebeest cows. An estimated 200,000 wildebeest bulls and 600,000 wildebeest cows meet this way. The dominant bulls give out a very distinct calling sound through their nose. A resonance almost like the one of a frog. They fill the plains. Both in numbers and in sound. The wildebeest mating ritual is believed to last few days only; to ensure all calves are born on the very same time for greater protection.

And then. In the mid of October, when most of the grasses on the Mara savannah have been eaten, the wildebeest prepares to move southwards to seek the generous grasslands areas of the Serengeti. To give birth to their calves on the plains of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. When the area begins to dry out and the grasses and water becomes scarce the wildebeest set to move again. Scientists believe that the old wildebeest can sense water up to a distance of 50km away using lightning and thunder as the guiding light. These patriarchs will urge the herds onwards. In search of water a greener pastures. Returning to the Masai Mara and yet again begin the cycle of life.

The wildebeests contribute to the Masai Mara Ecosystem. It is estimated that they leave behind 60,000 tones of dung fertilizing the Mara grassland.

Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings
Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Migration Crossings - Wildebeest Sightings

Major Crossing Points in Masai Mara and Serengeti

There are three favored crossing points in the Masai Mara. Our nearest crossing point is the Kichwa Crossing Point, which is located within the Mara North Conservancy, The second crossing is the Little Governor’s Crossing Point, which is located within the Masai Mara National Game Reserve, The third crossing is the Serena Crossing Point and is also located within the National Game Reserve. 

Other Major known wildebeest crossing points in Masai Mara are the Lookout Crossing Point and the Sand River Crossing Point. These are major crossing points in Masai Mara as they invite and seem favourable to thousands of wildebeest crossings, and offer guests views of intensified and thrilling crossings.

In Serengeti, the crossing points are numbered from 1 to 10. All these crossing points are used by the wildebeests to cross from Serengeti to Masai Mara. The common major crossing points are number 4, 7, and 10. But this does not guarantee any sightings of wildebeests crossing.

Wildebeest Migration and Crossings in Serengeti National Park
Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings

Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti

Serengeti Wildebeest Migration and Crossings

Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti is one magical experience you would love to experience. It’s known that wildebeest migration starts in Serengeti, and goes back to Masai Mara and later back to Serengeti every year. Wildebeests migrate in huge numbers, approximately 1.5 million animals all together including the wildebeests, zebras, impalas, gazelles, and many others. 

As wildebeest stay in the South of Serengeti, or in Ndutu Conservation Area, they give birth to more than 8000 calves daily, that’s approximately more than 500,000 calves in the calving season. Theres a lot of activities that happen during this season, that is from January to March, when predators find lots of ready food.

Wildebeest are always in search of food and water and Ndutu provides a good environment for calf birthing and the temperatures are favorable. In late March, the grant great migration start off to the north, since now the long rains are in Central Serengeti and North Serengeti.

They disperse in the various areas of the Serengeti, as some move to East of Serengeti and others move to Central and others to West of Serengeti in divided herds. As the migration continue to divide, they have only one purpose, and is to get to the north, where the intensity of the migration increases as they cross the great Mara River. Wildebeests cross the great Mara river infested with crocodiles and also risked an entire 3 months migrating through the great Serengeti Plains.

Wildebeest Migration - Wildebeest Crossings in Masai Mara and Serengeti - Wildebeest Sightings
Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings

Wildebeest Migration in Masai Mara

Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration and Crossings

After the wildebeests migrate from South Serengeti through the great plains of the Central Serengeti, they arrive in North Serengeti ready to enter Masai Mara through their commonly known entry routes including the Sand River and Lookout Crossing Points. Wildebeests in Masai Mara stay for a short time, maybe 3 to 4 months only. These are the months of July to October before they start migrating back to the Serengeti. 

The Masai Mara offers a very conducive environment and temperatures for Wildebeests to mate, and sire calves. They will later now migrate back down to Ndutu to give birth to the millions of Calves. 

While they are in Masai Mara, these wildebeests tend to occupy the entire reserves including the conservancies around. Big cats such as lions and cheetahs are mostly active during this time due to the readily available food for them around the reserve and conservancies. 

Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings
Great wildebeest Migration in Serengeti National Park

Wildebeest Migration - Month to month

Which is The Best Month to See the Wildebeest Migration

Wildebeest Migration - Month to month

Which is The Best Month to See the Wildebeest Migration

With climate change, the long and short rainy seasons in Kenya and Tanzania are no longer as regular or predictable as they once were. The rains can be late or early, which will throw the whole wildebeest calendar out of synch.

This is, once again, why it’s important to plan for as much time on safari as possible. You cannot fly in for two nights, see a river crossing and fly out again – nature simply doesn’t work that way. It’s unpredictable, and you can wait for so many days before an event happens.  

This is a very general guideline for where the herds are during the year – bearing in mind that the entire Gnu Migration is triggered by rain, which can be early, late, or on time:

January

The herds are in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, moving south from the northeast region of the park and into the area near Lake Ndutu Conservation Area and the southern region of Serengeti. The Serengeti is not fenced, so the herds are free to move where they can find green grounds and water available for calving

Remember that although up to two million wildebeest, zebra, and antelope form the Serengeti Migration, they are not all in a single herd. The animals break up into mega-herds of thousands or hundreds of individuals at a time.

February to March

It is the calving season (over 8,000 wildebeest calves are born each day!) so prepare yourself for lots of bubbly calves… and lots of heartbreak as the big predators hunt them down. The Serengeti’s big cats take the big share, but hit-and-run jackals, packs of wild dogs, and hyena clans add to the spectacle making it a thrilling experience. It’s a bittersweet experience; the circle of life drama is played out as a documentary on Natgeo, live on the ground.

If the short rainy season (Nov–Dec) produces good grazing and plenty of vegetation, the herds feed with no hurry and remain in the Serengeti’s southern plains until they slowly start moving west in March.

April

It’s the start of the long rains in the Serengeti (Apr–May) and the herds generally move in a north-westerly direction towards the Moru and Simba Kopjes. The action-packed rutting (breeding) season is in full swing, featuring testosterone-fuelled jousts between males competing for the right to mate with receptive females.

May

The Wagons herd roll towards the north! The massed herds are on the go, huge columns of up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) in length can sometimes be seen as the wildebeest funnel up into the central Serengeti. Everyone’s moving a little quicker now that the calves are stronger. Also due to rain and water, the herds seem to move faster north as the rain falls around the northern region.

June

The wildebeest are usually in the central Serengeti and getting ready for the toughest part of their odyssey. The herds may have split up, with some already crossing the Grumeti River.

July

The Great Migration has reached the Grumeti region and northern parts of the Serengeti and is peering closely at the infested waters of the Mara River they have to cross into Kenya. Why? Huge Nile crocodiles, waiting for them, that’s why!

As mentioned, it is impossible to accurately predict wildebeest river crossings in either Serengeti or Masai Mara, they depend entirely on the rains and the often unpredictable wildebeest themselves. But the main and vital thing that makes them migrate is their biological clock. From July to October, they come to Masai Mara to mate due to the favorable climate conditions, and in Jan and March, they give birth.

It’s vital to book your Wildebeest Migration safari in Africa up to a year in advance to get a camp or lodge on or as close to the river as possible – this cuts down on travel time to lookout/crossing points. 

The wildebeest do have historical crossing areas and you may spend days staked out in the hope of seeing the crossings. We recommend choosing a mobile safari camp that moves with the Migration to ensure you’re in the right place at the right time to witness this major world wonder.

August

August is generally considered the best time to witness the dramatic wildebeest river crossings from the northern Serengeti into the Masai Mara through the Mara River. You’ll need a passport to cross into Kenya; the wildebeest are exempted. The Masai Mara National Reserve is open to members of the public so for a more exclusive safari experience, book camps and or lodges inside the reserve or within the reserve

September

The wildebeest herds break up into smaller groups, as not all the wildebeest migrate into Kenya. Less than half of the animals remain in the northern Serengeti, the rest are swapping war stories in the Masai Mara. So you could still see wildebeest in the Serengeti (just not the mega-herds) but as a general rule of thumb, the Masai Mara is the best place to witness the Migration in September.

October

Your best bet is still the Masai Mara, but bear in mind it is a far smaller reserve than the Serengeti and there may be a lot of other visitors. The wildebeest herds graze widely in the reserve and fill the entire reserve and neighboring conservancies. Some groups move down to Northern Serengeti from Masai Mara. 

November

In a ‘normal year,’ the short rains have begun, propelling the wildebeest to leave the now-denuded grasslands of the Masai Mara and head back into the rejuvenated Serengeti. Bear in mind that the rain can be late or early, which is also unpredictable.

The herds are generally on the move but can be seen around the north-eastern parts of the Serengeti where they may split into smaller groups for their journey southward.

December

Fresh grazing sees the wildebeest move south, covering the northern and eastern Serengeti to feast and prepare for yet another death-defying, 1000-km  odyssey.

Wildebeest Migration and Crossings in Serengeti National Park
Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Calving Season - Wildebeest Migration Safaris - Wildebeest Sightings

Wildebeest Migration Map

Detailed Wildebeest Migration Map - Wildebeest Migration Routes

The below wildebeest migration map shows you their general movement from South Serengeti all the way through to North Serengeti and finally the cross over to Kenya Masai Mara.

It is detailed how they move monthly, just from the South of Serengeti during their Calving Season in Ndutu and Serengeti to Masai Mara. The months are predicted from their previous movements and migration routes they have been using. 

Wildebeest Migration Map in Kenya and Tanzania - Wildebeest Sightings

Wildebeest Migration FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Wildebeest Migration?

Which is the best time to see the  great WIldebeest Migration?

Follow us on Socials

Get Real Time updates on our Socials

Send an Inquiry

Stay Up To Date

Join our mailing list to get Wildebeest Migration updates