The Great Wildebeest Migration

Discover the 8th Wonder of the World

The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of the world’s most thrilling, intriguing and spectacular displays of wildlife behavior.

Every year, around 2 million Wildebeest and a few hundred thousand zebra travel for 1,800 miles across the vast plains of the Serengeti to the champagne coloured hills of the Masai Mara in the search for lush green grass and fresh water. The migration cycle takes a full year to complete; within that year specific events occur that attract millions of tourists to travel to Tanzania. The notorious Mara River crossing, for example, is one of the most thrilling parts of the journey, where many Wildebeest tempt fate by seeking passage through the crocodile infested waters. The gripping yet brutal nature of the crossing is contrasted only a few months later by the Calving season, when birth to new life takes center stage across the boundless savannas of the Serengeti. Discover all the highlights of the Great Wildebeest Migration and their corresponding seasons right here.

The Migration Movements.

Seasons & Highlights

The Wildebeest Migration’s movements are largely dictated by the timing of the rains in East Africa and can be divided into four seasons: Calving season, Long rains season, Dry season and Short rains season. Since nature sets the schedule, it’s hard to predict where exactly the migration will be at any given time. At Nila we use a combination of historic data, experience and local knowledge to achieve the most accurate results.   

CALVING SEASON - Late January to early March is when the Calving season typically takes place. The highlight of this season are the millions of Wildebeest that gather between the southern Serengeti area and the Ndutu flat plains to give birth to their offspring. The rich soil and abundant short rain showers produce nutritious grass and fresh water sources that favor the nurturing of the young calves. Resident predators are drawn by these massive herds of Wildebeest and conditions to sight lion, leopard and cheetah hunts and kills are the most favorable of the year. The Wildebeest will graze here until the rains start to dry up and the grass starts to die, before moving up further north through the western corridor.

LONG RAINS SEASON - April through June is the period that is probably most overlooked by safari goers around the globe, as these months are perceived with negative connotations about the long rains. In truth, rainfall in this season is concentrated in the mornings and late afternoon, and the effect it has on the African savannas is something to behold. The highlight of this season is lesser known River crossing of Grumeti which, despite living in the shadow of the Mara River crossing, is equally as exhilarating to witness. One of the biggest attractions for traveling in these months are the rates, as they are at their lowest for the calendar year, offering great value for money. 

DRY SEASON - July to September are the busiest months for safaris in the northern circuit. The legendary Mara River crossing takes place up north in the Kogatende region of the Serengeti national park, where the Wildebeest herds prepare to risk their lives in the endless pursuit of green plains and fresh water deposits. Their arrival in Kogatende is much reliant on the rainfall during these months; a wet start to the season means a late arrival in the beginning of August, whereas a dry start to the season signifies an accelerated arrival time in around mid-July. A Mara River crossing is simply one of the most gripping experiences the Serengeti has to offer and should be on every safari enthusiasts’ bucket list. 

SHORT RAINS SEASON - During the months of October through till December, the Wildebeest have started making their way back across the border from Kenya, and are slowly moving south towards the central Serengeti region, where the short rains are due to begin. The highlight of this season is the herds of Wildebeest that breakup into small groups and are spread-out across the Serengeti savanna plains. The tall grass can pose a challenge when game viewing in these months, however there is an opportunity to take advantage of the low season rates that are available for this period.

Incredible Speed
Wildebeest have a maximum running speed of approximately 80km/h (or 50mph) which, when coupled with the sheer volume of the animals, can be deadly to even the most fierce of land predators such as lions.
Swarm Intelligence
While aerial footage of the migration has revealed that each individual wildebeest acts of it's own accord in it's movement patterns, there is however a level of what is known as "swarm intelligence" among the herd. This means that, similar to ants, the animals can systematically explore and overcome an obstacle as one. A good example of this is the Mara River crossing, which is filled with hostile predators such as crocodiles.
Nomadic VS Sedentary Wildebeest
Not all wildebeest are nomadic. The Ngorongoro wildebeest population, for instance, are sedentary with males maintaining a network of territories throughout the year. Black wildebeest herds on the other hand can either be nomadic or maintain a home territory of around one square kilometer.
Maasai Mara Sedentary Population
In 1977 there was a recorded population of 119,000 non-migratory blue wildebeest in the Massai Mara in Kenya. Due to the competition between the wildebeest and increasing numbers of cattle for grazing, the sedentary wildebeest population has dwindled to roughly 22,000, a decrease of 81%.
Sophisticated Cooperative Behaviours
Wildebeest have evolved to adopt complex behaviours to aid the survival of the herd. One such behaviour is the positioning of the wildebeest while they run; the older and larger members of the herd will usually stay on the outer rims of the group to protect the younger and more vulnerable wildebeest who will stay in the center. The wildebeest will also sometimes take turns sleeping while others stand guard against potential attacks by nightly predators.

Related Experiences

Here are some experiences we feel complement The Wildebeest Migration

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