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The Great Wildebeest Migration

The Great Wildebeest Migration - the annual migration of giant herds of grazers across Northern Tanzania and Kenya is a truly spectacular event. Over two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles move through the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems in search of green pasture, in a regular pattern. This is surely one of the greatest wonders of the natural world.

Understand the Serengeti Migration - Why do the Wildebeest Migrate? 


The wildebeest migrate around the Serengeti, and into the Masai Mara for the sole purpose of following the rainfall. For their calving from December - March they always begin their cycle in the Southern Serengeti Ndutu area and follow wherever the grass is greener... Whilst we have a good idea of where the wildebeest should be at any given time of year, it really does depend on where the rain falls.  Therefore, revolving your whole safari around the norotiously unreliable location of the wildebeest can sometimes be a mistake! 

Where to stay for the Wildebeest Migration


If you would like to safari at the heart of the Great Wildebeest Migration, the best approach is to book one of the Serengeti's famous mobile camps.  Two in particular set themselves apart from the others for their commitment to keeping up with the herds - Nomad Tanzania's Serengeti Safari Camp and &Beyond's Serengeti Under Canvas. These are the two mobile operations which we consider truly mobile and will be located near or amongst the herds at any time of the year.  Then there are the mobile camps of Alex Walker's Serian, Asilia's Olakira, Ubuntu and Kimondo which offer superb mobile operations from July to November, and from December through to March.  For the rest of the year these fabulous camps are closed.

If going mobile is a little too adventurous for you, then the Serengeti has various permanent lodges that will offer all the creature comforts you need together with a good location to see the herds on your Tanzania safari.  Here is an overview of the movement of the herds, and the best permanent lodges to stay at for each each time of year.

Serengeti Migration Seasons - Best time to see the Serengeti Migration


This is a hard question as there are perks to every time of year, but generally there are two main events of the Serengeti's migration, when the herds are the most concentrated: 

  • July - October: This is when the wildebeest are in the northern Serengeti plains, and you have a chance of seeing up to thousands crossing the great Mara River.
  • December - March: At this time the wildebeest are in the southern Ndutu plains of the Serengeti, and it is calving season. It is a fabulous time to see the herds on the dramatic sweeping plains of the south. 

  • Serengeti Wildebeest Migration explained:


    December to March

    The Southern Serengeti's huge grass plains extend into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. From December to March the Serengeti Migration congregates around Lake Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  When it reaches the area the herd splits up and spreads out leaving wildebeest herds as far as the eye can see.  Ndutu Lodge and Kusini are the only permanent lodges in the area; Kusini is best towards the end of the period whereas Ndutu Lodge works throughout.  Asilia's Dunia Camp is also a good option at the beginning of December and again when the herds push north in March.


    April to May
    The Wildebeest migration moves north into the plains of the southern Serengeti with front runners stretching out to the Western Corridor and centre of the park at Seronera.  Asilia's Dunia Camp is a great option at this time as are any of the central Serengeti hotels such as the Serena or Sopa.  Early herds may well have pushed up to the Grumeti River Camp, Kirawira and Mbalageti Lodge area of the Western Corridor.

    June
    By June there are wildebeest herds spread from the Western corridor through the heart of the park.  One group tends to head West into the Western Corridor and crosses the Grumeti River before leaving the park and entering the exclusive Singita Grumeti Reserves.  This herd will then head up through the Ikorongo game reserve on the Serengeti's Western corridor before the front runners arrive into the Kogatende area in July.  The other herds head directly to the north of the Serengeti, passing straight up the middle through Seronera, Lobo and up to the Bologonja river area near the Eastern border with the Loliondo reserve at Kleins.  It is true to say that at this time herds can be anywhere from the Western corridor through to the Eastern side of the park.  Splinter herds will break from the main herds, covering huge areas in their search for fresh grasses.  We would recommend Grumeti River Camp, Faru Faru, Sasakwa, Sabora, Mbalageti Lodge and Kirawira for the Western corridor, whereas some herds will have pushed up as far as Migration camp in the Northern Lobo area.  Late July will see any of the Kogatende permanent lodges having good herds, Serengeti Lamai and Sayari Camp being the places to go towards the end of July.

    August through to October
    From August through to October the herds are in the Northern Serengeti at Kogatende as well as in Kenya’s Masai Mara. River crossings often happen daily here.  With only a fraction of the visitor numbers that flock to the Mara, Kogatende is an exceptional destination.  Given that the herds are simply following local rainfall, some move north, some move south… and many move in both directions in the same day.  The sprawling mass moves in a circular fashion throughout these months – and as a result this is a fantastic time of year to see the herds.
     
    November
    In late October and November the herds start their second Great Migration south towards the fertile lands of the Ndutu plains where the rains will have rejuvenated the grasses since the herds were last there earlier in the year. This can be a tricky time to catch the mega herd, as it covers vast distances every day.

    By the beginning of December, the herds are returning to Ndutu to calve, and the whole process is ready to start all over again.

    However, we must reiterate….wildebeest are not the most predictable of animals!  The Migration is also entirely dependent upon rain, with the herds constantly searching for fresh grasses. As a result, it is a challenge to predict with any confidence where the herds will be during any particular week, and therefore to decide where best to stay. Our migration map is a great indicator of what the herds are 'supposed' to do throughout the year; choosing a permanent camp for your Tanzania safari that is located in the 'right' area for the time of year will clearly increase your chances, but there are no guarantees.  Once again, the very best way to catch the herds is to stay in one of the Serengeti’s famous mobile camps, which move with the herds.

    While we try and make our website as comprehensive as possible, if you would like some more background information on the Great Migration, or Tanzania in general please give us a call, or have a read through the Cadogan Guide to Tanzania and Zanzibar, written by our director Annabel. The most recent edition was published in 2005 so some of it might be slightly dated but generally it’s as comprehensive as they come.

    Wildebeest Migration - Further Reading 


    While we try and make our website as comprehensive as possible, if you would like some more background information, have a read through the Cadogan Guide to Tanzania and Zanzibar - The Great Migration Chapter, written by one of our director’s Annabel. The most recent edition was published in 2005 so some of it might be slightly dated but generally it’s as comprehensive as they come. 

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