Thousands of wildebeest and zebra migrate between the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara, constantly driven by their search for fresh grazing. The Wildebeest and Zebra migration follow a pattern (as shown below) but please be advised that the migration is not a constant phenomenon and the timing of the annual migration depends on the rains. The rains are notoriously unpredictable as the migration is spontaneous. The migration literally moves in a clockwise direction from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara and back again.
Brief Overview of the migration
December – March: During the months of December through to March the endless plains of the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are inhabited by enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra. Calving season (late January through to mid-March) in the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater attracts many predators such as lions, hyenas and cheetahs. This is a great time for game viewing in the open short grass plains of the Serengeti as dozens of calves are born each day and predators can be seen in the plenty on these calving grounds waiting for their meal opportunity.
April – June: During April and May the migration moves away from the depleted short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti and heads north to the long-grass plains of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor, almost to Lake Victoria. This period marks the long rainy season and the migration moves west as they graze the plains of the Serengeti. By the end of May, the migration has exhausted the Western Corridor’s best pastures and the herds start to move north, where mating begins to take place mid-June.
July – November: Around July or August the migration starts to cross the Mara River and this constitutes for spectacular river crossings. Sometimes the crossing place they have chosen is shallow allowing for the majority of animals to pass safely. In other areas, the waters boil with drowning wildebeest and slashing crocodiles. The migration resides in the Maasai Mara until October before the arrival of the short rains in the southern Serengeti call the migration southwards. As November ends the migration is making its way back to the southern Serengeti and early in the year they once again give birth. The circle of life is complete.
The best time to see the migration is between June and August when the wildebeest prepare to cross the famous Grumeti River and head into the Maasai Mara.
If you arrive in the Maasai Mara (the Kenyan side of the Serengeti) you can expect the wildebeest to make their arrival as early July, but they generally arrive between August and September and remain in the Maasai Mara in October before heading south to the Serengeti plains. There is no real beginning and end to a wildebeest’s journey. Its life is an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water. The only beginning is the moment of birth. There is much to see and experience in east Africa with each month having its special events. Whilst the Great Migration is indeed spectacular it is by no means all there is to see and experience here. So Karibu (means “Welcome” in Swahili) to East Africa and enjoy everything it has to offer!