The Great Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania
The Wildebeest Migration is a dramatic story. It takes place within Tanzania and Kenya and is the greatest wildlife show on earth. Between the open plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, thousands of wildebeest and zebra’s migrate to greener pastures as the seasons change and the circle of life and death continues. Predators closely follow the Wildebeest Migration waiting for an opportunity to strike weak prey as they make their way into different territories.
One of the natural wonders of the world is the Serengeti migration of 1.5 million wildebeest and zebra. It is the largest large mammal migration on earth, drawing exceptional numbers of cheetah, lion, and hyena. Along with the herds are other animals taking advantage of water and grazing conditions, such as topi, gazelles, eland, elephant and others. It can provide the most magical wildlife viewing experience in Africa.
The precise timing of the Wildebeest Migration changes annually and it is a very unpredictable and spontaneous natural event – The calving season takes place in the Serengeti between the months of January and mid-March before the Wildebeest Migration begins heading towards the Western Serengeti in June. The best time to see the migration is usually between June and August when the wildebeest congregate and prepare to cross the famous Grumeti River.
There are a few excellent camps in this area where you can stay to witness this natural phenomenon. If you are in the Masai Mara you can expect the wildebeest to make their arrival as early as July, but they generally arrive between August & September and remain in the Mara between October & November. Between December and January the wildebeest gradually begin their migration back towards the what is the Great Migration.
The annual wildebeest Migration is a drama in two acts: the arresting dash for freedom as the herds swarm across the Mara and other rivers in the north – braving enormous Nile crocodiles, lion, hyena, cheetah and leopard – in search of water and new grazing, followed by the remarkable months of calving in the lush grasslands of the south.
It is the largest herd movement of animals on the planet. In fact, with up to 1 000 animals per km2, it can be seen from space. The numbers are astonishing: over 1,2 million wildebeest and 300 000 zebra along with topi and other gazelle move in a constant cycle through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in search of nutritious grass and water. Guided by survival instinct, each wildebeest will cover 800 to 1 000km on its individual journey along age-old migration routes. Hungry predators – lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and crocs – make sure only the strongest survive.
It is thought that rainfall over 50km away can trigger the start of the mass movement – perhaps through smell or the recognition of thunder and lightning on the horizon. The circuit takes the animals from the Ngongorogoro Conservation Area in the south of the Serengeti in Tanzania, up through the Serengeti and across into the Maasai Mara and back again. The journey is beset with danger: young calves are snatched by predators; the slow are brought down by prides of lion, brave beasts break legs on steep river slopes, crocodiles take their share of the stragglers, and the weak and exhausted drown.
Ndutu area is located directly in the path of the Wildebeests migration. From January to April, the southeastern plains of the Serengeti ecosystem and the open woodlands around Lakes Ndutu and Lagaja become the centre of activity of the migratory animals which can be seen congregating in their thousands.