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Great Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti

When is the Best Time to Visit Tanzania?

Africa’s Great Wildebeest Migration – also known as the Wildebeest Migration, Serengeti Migration, and Masai Mara Migration – is one of the last mass movements of terrestrial wildlife on the planet. This is the main reason why so many travelers venture to Kenya and Tanzania on a migration safari, especially in the middle of the year.

Migration is one of nature’s greatest paradoxes: timing is vital, but it is impossible to predict when animals will move. We know that wildebeest (and some zebra and antelope) cross the Mara River – but no one knows exactly when. We also know that rain prompts wildebeest to move to fresh pasture – but no one knows exactly when it rains.

Fortunately, we have been planning wildebeest migration safaris in Africa since 1998. We have helped thousands of travelers to be in the best possible place, at the best possible time, at the best possible price. If you’re looking for expert design advice, look no further. We’ve collected all our expert tips in this handy beginner’s guide to wildebeest migration safaris…

How does the Wildebeest Migration work?

No, not even the wildebeest know when they cross! Some reach the water and immediately swim across; some arrive and spend days grazing; some arrive and turn back to where they came from. I wish we could predict the crossings, but no one does. Therefore, it is best to spend as much time as possible on the safari if you hope to see a river crossing.

Most people think that the wildebeest migration only takes place between July and October, but it is actually a constantly moving, circular migration with different but equally exciting events that occur throughout the year. Popular river crossings tend to coincide with the main safari season (June to October), so the perception is that this is the only time of year when wildebeest are on the move or visible.

Because the Great Migration is the fluid, year-round movement of approximately two million animals through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, there is no set start or end point. The wildebeest migration is triggered by the rains of East Africa, and the animals follow an ancient path in search of fresh pasture and water. This epic journey takes the wildebeest across the plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara all the way south to Tanzania’s Serengeti and the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, then up and around in a clockwise direction.

It is generally believed that the Great Migration in Africa is primarily dictated by the wildebeest’s response to the weather. They move after the rains and the growth of new grass, essentially following a natural instinct to find food to survive. Some experts believe that wildebeest are triggered by distant lightning and thunderstorms, but there is no scientific evidence for this.

A Month-by-Month Breakdown of the Wildebeest Migration

January to March

All the vast herd of wildebeest herd give birth more or less simultaneously, usually over a period of three weeks sometime between January and March, when optimum grazing is available on the short grass plains around Ndutu

April to June

Typically, the wildebeest head north-west from the short grass plains to the Grumeti River in late April. This river is their first real obstacle and crocodiles are waiting eagerly. From Grumeti, in June or July the herds move north, often spilling over into the Klein’s Camp Concession, before moving north into the Maasai Mara.

July to November

As they enter Kenya they must cross the Mara river with huge losses to the waiting crocodiles. The surviving wildebeest then rest on the Mara grasslands until October or November. Then, as the storm clouds gather in the south, the vast herds regin their journey south to return to their breeding grounds which, by the time they arrive, are once again green and lush and the cycle begins again.