Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari
The journey for the key players in the Great Wildebeest Migration safari, the roughly two million wildebeest, starts in the south of the Serengeti, with the birth of half a million calves between January and March. A favourite season for many of the seasoned Serengeti guides: the air during these months is full of new life and action. Read all about Africa’s biggest wildlife event on this page.
The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth
Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari is a better representation of the circle of life probably cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The journey starts in Southern Serengeti when wildebeest calves are being born. Predators like lions and hyenas are constantly hunting for babies, and thousands and thousands of calves are born within a couple weeks of each other – a feast for the eyes of true wildlife enthusiasts.
When the drought comes in May, the herd moves north, towards the Masai Mara in Kenya, chomping down the high green grass, quickly followed by the gazelles and zebras. The migration is not without risk: crossing rivers means facing about 3,000 crocodiles, patiently waiting for a kill. Not to mention the famous Serengeti lion population: by far the largest in Africa. Despite the abundance of hoofed meat in this area, life is not easy for these big cats in this unforgiving landscape. But seeing a group of lions collaborating to hunt down a wildebeest is an unforgettable sight.
Then, with the beginning of the short rains in late October, the wildebeest migration safari makes its way back into the Serengeti. By December, the herds trek past Seronera – a small settlement in central Serengeti where the official Serengeti Visitors’ Centre is located – to return to their calving grounds again, and the circle is complete.
Wildebeest Migration Safari Areas
Vast short-grass plains cover the south of Serengeti National Park, stretching into the north of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the south-west Loliondo and Maswa Game Reserve. Occasionally there are small kopjes which, like the forests around Lake Ndutu, harbour good populations of resident game. However, around these oases of permanent wildlife, the majority of this area is flat and open. It’s alive with grazing wildebeest migration safari from around late-November to April, but can be very empty for the rest of the year.
In the heart of the national park, just to the north of the short-grass plains, Seronera has all the best features of the Serengeti. Scenically, it’s a lovely area – with open plains, occasional kopjes and lines of hills to add interest. The resident game here is phenomenal, with high densities of relaxed leopards, cheetah and lion. These live off the resident herbivores, as well as the migrating game. The Wildebeest migration safari passes through here in April/May, but Seronera is within reach of both the Southern Plains and the Western Corridor – so from about November to June, it can be used as a base to see the wildebeest migration safari.
Stretching to the west, almost to Lake Victoria, the Serengeti narrows into what’s known as the Western Corridor. The key feature of this area is the two rivers, the Grumeti and the Mbalageti, which run almost parallel, each supporting a band of most, evergreen riparian forest. This area sustains a very good permanent game population, including plenty of zebra and wildebeest, all the predators and forest ‘specialists’ like colobus monkeys. The birdlife is particularly varied. The migration safari passes through between about May and July – pausing to gather momentum before crossing the crocodile-rich waters of the Grumeti River, into the Grumeti Reserve.
Stretching from Seronera for about 100km north, to the Kenyan border, the northern Serengeti is gently rolling country, broken by small rivers and occasional hills and kopjes. There are good permanent populations of wildlife in several areas here, including the very beautiful Lobo Kopje. It’s interesting, varied country that’s far from the park’s main entry point in the south – and hence it receives delightfully few visitors.
The further you go north, the fewer vehicles you see. Even when the migration safari is here, between about August and October, you can still enjoy spectacular crossings of the Mara River. A particularly stunning are is the wild Lamai Wedge – the area of land between the Mara River and the Kenya Border – which includes the picturesque Wogakuria Kopje, and a beautiful series of game-rich valleys and plains. This is the only area of the national park where off-road driving is acceptable.
Singita Grumeti Reserves covers almost 1,500km² of private reserves which run along the north side of the Western Corridor. Within this are three, very different luxury lodges. All offer unrivalled exclusivity for watching the migration as it journeys north, and recycle all of their profits into local conservation and community development initiatives.
West of the Serengeti National Park, between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Kenyan border, lies Loliondo game Controlled Area – an area belonging to the Maasai tribes that live there. The western side of this, beside the park, is very much part of the Serengeti’s ecosystem; it has much resident game and the migration passes through here as well.
There are a few camps here which have the flexibility to offer night drives and walks, often using Maasai guides – and visits to local Maasai villages. Around about October and November, there’s a good chance to see part of the migration safari here, as it returns south.
Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari Offers
Wildebeest Migration Safari Calving Season
We can find the main calving grounds in the area southeast of Seronera: typical Serengeti plains stretch all the way to the Ndutu area near Ngorongoro. Triggering their move to this area are the short rains in November and December.
The wildebeest stick around this area until the end of the long rains, end of April, early May. The delightful news is that this section of Serengeti National Park is easily accessible and that in this period the landscape becomes lush. February is usually calving season in the Ndutu area and the southeastern plains: the very best time to visit this area.
As wildebeest, zebra and other ungulates are so many, and give birth to so many calves, the spectacle works as a magnet for predators. As early as March or April the herd may move again in search of greener pastures. Seeing the actual migration in this period is more difficult, but chances are that you will encounter very large herds on the move.
Wildebeest Migration safari Natural Phenomena
This is the period that the wildebeest, after having feasted on the short green grasses of the southeastern Serengeti and after having giving birth to their offspring, start getting ready for their 800 kilometer long trek.
The actual starting date may be anytime between late April and early June. This is the time to you may have the privilege to see one of the greatest natural phenomena in the world: more than a million marching animals in a column up to 40 kilometers long. During the migration, the herd will move towards the Western Corridor, where they will face the first major obstacle: crossing the Grumeti River.
Many animals don’t survive the crossing as they are being awaited by the area’s population of oversized crocodiles ready to feast. The herd may congregate on the southern bank of the river and stay there for up to two weeks before crossing the river.
Wildebeest Migration Safari River Crossing
When the Grumeti River obstacle has been taken, the herd moves further north and starts crossing the next big hurdle, the Mara River, in July or August.
The Mara River crossing is where so many iconic Great Migration photos have been taken. After this crossing the herd flocks to the northwest plains and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
The August – September period is considered being a bad time to visit Serengeti National Park and see the Great Migration as the herd moves into the Masai Mara in Kenya.
However, migration patterns show that about half of the herd stays on the Tanzanian side, in the Mara Serengeti area. In this period, smaller herds of wildebeest (well consider small… herds may count up to between 500 and thousands of individuals) frequently cross the Mara River, back and forth, for no apparent reason. This is an excellent time to stay at one of the Serengeti Mara camps.
Wildebeest Migration safari River Crossing
Crossing the Mara River northbound means that, at one point, the herd needs to cross the river one more time before commencing the trek back in a southerly direction. This usually happens in October, but sometimes earlier. In this period the herd will cross the northern plains and Lobo area.
This section of Serengeti National Park is little-visited, so if you are looking to see the migration in relative quietness, this would be the time.
The wildebeest return to the short- grass plains and calving ground around Ndutu in late November. And from here, the Great Migration starts all over again.
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