ABOUT GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION
THE GREAT MIGRATION OF WILDEBEEST IN SERENGETI, TANZANIA.
It is the greatest show on earth, a natural spectacle like no other and a life-changing experience. With a presence all along the migration route, Africa Unique Safaris & Travels will transport you to the best seat in the house.
The earth vibrates with the thundering of millions of hooves as heaving herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles fill the plains to chase the rains in the epic annual struggle for survival known as the Great Migration. It is the greatest show on earth, a natural spectacle like no other and a life-changing experience.
Few lifetime experiences can beat that of watching over a million wildebeest plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebra – followed by their predators – embark on a 1,000km-long circular trek through the unfenced Maasai Mara and Serengeti in search of seasonal pasture and water. This natural spectacle is both thrilling and profoundly moving.
Deciding on the best time and place to witness this astounding phenomenon can seem daunting, but our network of camps are ideally positioned along the route to offer you a front-row-seat to all the action.
What is the Great Migration?
The Great Migration is the largest herd movement of animals on the planet. In fact, with up to 1,000 animals per km², the great columns of wildebeest 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 crocodiles – 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 Ngorongoro Conservation Area (although not into the Crater itself) in the south of the Serengeti in Tanzania, up through the Serengeti and across into the Maasai Mara in Kenya, 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.
When to see the Great Migration
Strictly speaking, there is no ‘migration season’ as the Great Migration is, in fact, an eternal annual cycle from place to place, year in and year out.
So 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.
December to March: The Calving season (SOUTHERN PLAINS)
The herds congregate on the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti and northern most regions of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. An estimated 500 000 calves are born during a two- to three-week window in February. This mass calving draws a staggering number of predators eager to prey on the vulnerable newborns.
December to January – The Southern Plains…. endless plain
The Southern Plains are lush with fresh, sweet grasses for the wildebeest to graze on. The areas around Ndutu and the northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area are where the herds will spend some time enjoying the abundant grazing in preparation for the birth of the new calves.
February – Between late January and mid-March over 80% of fertile female wildebeest drop their calves within a few weeks of each other. Over 400,000 tiny wildebeest dot the plains and the predators swoop in to feast on the easy prey. With the new addition of vulnerable calves, predators such as lion, leopard, Hyenas, jackals and cheetah are not far behind to profit the naïve newborns.
March – At this time, the wildebeest are still occupying the southern area of the Park but preparing to move north as the plains dry out.
Apr – Mid June: (Western & Central Serengeti (April – Mid June)
As the rains come to an end and the ground dries, the herds start making their way north into the central Serengeti where the grass is still fresh and they can graze and tend their young. Moving slowly, they graze as they go, making the most of the fresh grass.
The ‘Western Corridor’ of the Serengeti is a narrow strip of lush grassland that stretches almost all the way to Lake Victoria. During this stage of the migration, the wildebeest move slowly through this region, grazing and tending the newborns. There are two rivers in this region – the Grumeti and the Mbalageti – that the wildebeest will cross on their way northwards to the Maasai Mara.
This the mating season for wildebeest and the males do fierce battle for a mate. Throughout the rut, the journey continues as some herds head west into the Western Corridor and cross the Grumeti River through the central area of the park.
May – The impressive columns of wildebeest up to several kms long can be seen flooding the Moru Kopjes in the central area of the park.
First week or half of June – Large concentrations of wildebeest can be seen on the southern banks of the Grumeti River in the Western Serengeti, ready to face their first challenge of crossing the crocodile infested river.
Mid Jun – November: River Crossings
The herds head towards the north of the Serengeti. The river crossings, considered by some the most exciting events of the Great Migration, usually start in July, but timing all depends on the rains.
July – The migration gathers momentum and huge herds of wildebeest can be seen spread out across the Western corridor as they continue the journey north. The first herds will begin to arrive in the North in early July.
August – As the dry season approaches, the wildebeest face the second challenge of their trek: the Great Mara River. Many will perish in the stampede but the thousands of calves that are born more than make up the numbers. The herds can be found in the Northern Serengeti as well as in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Daily river crossings can be seen at the Mara and Talek rivers. This is often the base of the most exciting crossings.
September – The herds are mostly concentrated in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, the northernmost range of the trek, but many still remain in the Serengeti.
October – The wildebeest face the swollen waters of the Mara River for the second time as they cross on their journey back south. The herds usually cross back to the Serengeti from the Mara and head towards the now fertile southern Serengeti. The herds travel fast and cover long distances in a single day.
November – The short rains arrive, propelling the wildebeest down south to the rejuvenated grasses of the Serengeti. By the beginning of December, Ndutu starts seeing the herds return to calve, and the whole process begins again.
The golden grass plains of the Central Serengeti play host to the Great Migration twice a year as the great herds make their way through across the savannah in search of fresh grass.
In May/June and November/December, hundreds and thousands of wildebeest and accompanying zebra, topi and gazelle pass through the region (and virtually the doorstep of Dunia Camp!).
NORTHERN SERENGETI & MAASAI MARA (MID JUN – NOV)
From July to November, the great herds of wildebeest gather on the banks of the Mara River in the Northern Serengeti, ready to brave the crocodile-infested waters and hungry predators on the other side. Dramatic, exciting and chaotic game viewing awaits as the wildebeest thunder across in their millions and the northern Serengeti is transformed into a pulsing hub of activity.
The famed Maasai Mara National Reserve needs no introduction. It’s 1 500km² are densely populated with wildlife throughout the year, but even more so between June and November each year when the vast herds of migrating wildebeest make their appearance in their quest for greener grazing.
It is at this stage in the migration route that the wildebeest gallop bravely across Mara River, teeming with hungry crocodiles, making for some dramatic and nail-biting viewing.
Camps: Rekero, Naboisho, Encounter Mara, Mara Bush Houses (Topi House)
HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM YOUR GREAT MIGRATION SAFARI?
Our camps offer you a front-row seat to the greatest show on earth. We have carefully chosen prime spots for our camps along the Migration route to offer you exclusive access to the highest possible density of game, far away from the masses.
You can choose an authentic safari experience at our migration camps that move to excellent locations a few times a year to follow the migration, or stay in one of our permanent camps close to the river crossings. All are supremely comfortable, low-key, relaxed and put you in the right spot every time.
MOBILE VS. PERMANENT CAMPS
Our tented mobile camps move location up to three times a year to ensure that our guests are always at the heart of the migration action. These camps offer an authentic safari experience in tented accommodation with all the comfort of a brick-and-mortar camp. We have three mobile camps; Olakira Camp, Kimondo Camp, Ubuntu Camp.
Our permanent camps remain in the same location all year round and offer a few added extras such as WiFi and swimming pools. Our permanent camps along the migration route include: Rekero Camp, Sayari Camp, Mara Bush Houses, Naboisho Camp, Dunia Camp and Namiri Plains.
COMMON MIGRATION QUESTIONS:
1. HOW DO I CHOOSE BETWEEN KENYA AND TANZANIA?
The choice between visiting Tanzania or Kenya for your migration safari will, for the most part, be influenced by when you’re likely to be visiting, as well as where the herds will be and what you’re hoping to see.
Both countries offer superb viewing of the river-crossings, as well as fantastic game viewing even outside of migration season.
2. WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SEE ON SAFARI?
Whether you choose a safari in Tanzania or Kenya, you’re assured of a mysterious experience. Both reserves offer a wonderful wildlife safari including possible sightings of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo, and rhino – although rare), as well as giraffe, zebra, wild dog, hyena, cheetah, and a massive amount of interesting bird species.
Safari activities outside of game drives will largely depend on where you choose to stay, but can include cultural visits, walking safaris, bush breakfasts, picnics and dinners, and hot air balloon safaris
3. HOW DO I CHOOSE WHICH MOBILE CAMP TO VISIT?
All our mobile camps are designed to follow the migration and offer our guests a front row seat. The locations are handpicked to ensure the best migration viewing, and each camp features unique design and décor.
Olakira Camp comprises nine authentic tented suites with a rustic and traditional safari feel.
The camp moves twice a year to offer a prime view from camp of the spectacular sight of the wildebeest crossing the Mara River in the north, and then to Ndutu in the south, bordering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
A romantic, Arabic-inspired camp, Kimondo Camp offers a very personal and intimate stay.
The romance of the 8 tented suites is complemented by the exclusive and quieter locations that the camp visits throughout the year – from the Lamai Wedge in the north to Kusini in the south.
The only one of our camps that moves three times in a year, Ubuntu Camp offers a warm and friendly retreat from which to experience traditional Tanzanian hospitality.
In the north and west, Ubuntu is pitched close to the Mara and Grumeti Rivers respectively, offering spectacular viewing of the wildebeest plunging across the waters. When the camp moves south to the Kusini region, guests can benefit from the more remote and off-the-beaten-track setting.