Complete Guide To Wildebeest Migration Safari 2024 – 2025 : The Great Wildebeest Migration also known as the Gnu Migration “Serengeti Migration and Masai Mara Migration’ is one of the last mass terrestrial wildlife movements left on the planet and the largest migration of wildlife ever witnessed.
The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of nature’s greatest paradoxes, the migration is not predictable “it is hard to predict the timing of the animals’ movements” that is why timing is absolutely vital. All is known about the wildebeests together with zebras and gazelles is that they will cross the Mara River but nobody knowns exactly when, as it is known the wildebeests are triggered by rain to move onto fresh grazing but nobody knowns exactly when the rain will fall.
Fortunately, Engabi Safaris and its travel experts have been planning wildebeest Migration safari for many years, through our experience we are able to help you planning the best safari for you to witness the great wildebeest migration.
How Does the Great Migration Work?
Can the Migration River Crossings be Predicted?
During the annual migration, the wildebeests cross many rivers including Grumeti and Mara River. Though the river crossing are the best scenes to watch, no one can predict when the herds are going to cross. Some arrive and spend days hanging around grazing, some arrive and turn back to where they come from.
What Month is the Wildebeest Migration?
To most people, the Wildebeest Migration only takes place between July and October, but the migration is an ever – moving, circular migration with various but equally exciting events occurring year – round. The popular river crossings (Grumeti and Mara River Crossings) usually coincide with safari’s high season (June to October) hence the perception that this is the only time of the year that the wildebeests can been seen on the move.
Where Does the Great Migration Start?
The Great Migration is a fluid, year –round movement of about two million animals (wildebeests, zebras and gazelles) across the Serengeti – Mara ecosystem, there are no defined start or end points. This Gnu Migration is triggered by East Africa’s rains and the animals follow an age-old route in search of fresh grazing and water, this epic journey takes the wildebeest across the Masai Mara plains in Kenya, all the way south into Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater before circling up and around in a clockwise direction.
Why Do Wildebeest Migration?
Generally it is believed that the Great Migration in Africa is dictated primarily 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 for survival.
To some experts, it is believed that the wildebeests are triggered by distant lightning and thunderstorms but there is no scientific way to prove it.
What Happens When?
A Month by Month Breakdown of the Great Migration.
With the climate changes, the long and short rainy seasons in Tanzania and Kenya are no longer constant, regular or predictable as they were. The rains can be late or early which will throw the whole wildebeest calendar out of synch, because of this it is important to plan for as much time on safari as possible.
This monthly breakdown is a general guideline for where the herds are during the year.
Note: The entire Gnu Migration is triggered by rain which can be early, late or on time.
The herds are in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, moving south from the north – east region and into the area near Lake Ndutu. Because Serengeti is not fenced, the herds freely move to where they can find green pasture.
Although over 2 million wildebeests, Zebras and antelopes take part in the Gnu Migration, they are not all in a single herd. The animals break up into mega herds of thousands or hundreds of individuals at time.
February to March
This is the calving season with over 8,000 wildebeest babies being born each day, be prepared to witness lots of wobbly calves learning to walk and lots of heart breaks as the fierce predators take away the babies.
Serengeti’s big cats such as lions, wild dogs, hyenas, cheetahs and leopards snatch away the vulnerable babies, this is a bittersweet ballad as it is the true definition of the circle of life played out as a live action drama.
If the short rainy season (November – December) produced good grazing, the herds feed frenziedly and remain in the Serengeti’s Southern plains until they slowly starting moving west in March.
This is the start of the long rains (April – May) and the herds generally move in north – westerly direction towards the Moru and Simba Kopjes. The action packed rutting (breeding) season is in full swing featuring testosterone fueled jousts between males competing for the right to mate with receptive females.
The herds are on the go with huge columns of up to 40 kilometers in length, these columns can sometimes be seen as the wildebeest funnel up into the central Serengeti. Every animal is moving a little quicker now that the calves are stronger.
The wildebeests are usually in the Central Serengeti and getting ready for the toughest part of migration, the herds may have split up with some already crossing the Grumeti River.
The Great Migration have reached the Grumeti region and northern parts of the Serengeti and are congregating closely at the treacherous waters of the Mara River they have to cross in Kenya.
As mentioned, it is impossible to accurately predict river crossing, they depend entirely on the rains and the often unpredictable wildebeest themselves. It is vital to book your wildebeest Migration Safari a year in advance so as to get accommodation (lodge or camp) on or close to the river as possible.
The wildebeest do have historical crossing area and you may spend days staked out in the hope of seeing the action.
This month is considered the best time to witness the dramatic river crossing from the northern Serengeti into the Masai Mara, you will need a passport to cross into Kenya.
The herds break up into smaller groups as the wildebeest migrate into Kenya, less than half of the animals remain in the northern Serengeti, so you could still see the wildebeest in the Serengeti plains though not the mega – herds. Masai Mara National Reserve is the best place to witness the migration in September.
October is the best bet to see the migration in Masai Mara national reserve, bear in mind Masai Mara is smaller than the Serengeti and there may be a lot of other visitors. The neighboring conservancies referred to as Masai Mara conservancies are much less crowded and not only will you be able to witness the Migration but also contribute to the Maasai Communities. These conservancies also offer Night game drive and walking safaris which are not permitted in Masai Mara national reserve.
In a normal year, the short rains have begun by November which propels the wildebeest to leave the now denuded grasslands of the Masai Mara national reserve and head back into the rejuvenated Serengeti.
Keep in mind that the rain can be late or early which is also unpredictable.
The herds are generally on the move but can be seen around the north-eastern part of the Serengeti where they may split into smaller groups on their journey southward.
Because of the fresh grazing, the wildebeest move south covering the northern and eastern Serengeti to feast and prepare for yet another migration of over 3000 kilometers.
What is the Best Time to Go on a Migration Safari?
After knowing how the Great Wildebeest Migration works, the best time to go to witness the migration depends entirely on which event you are personally interested in seeing.
Note: Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve protect abundance of wildlife and wide open landscapes which make them fantastic year –round safari destinations.
Calving (Birthing) Season
To witness the calving season, February to March is the best time to see newly born babies. The best place to see the calving season is in the Southern Serengeti.
Rutting (Breeding Season)
The best time to witness the rutting season is from April to May and the best place to witness it is Western and Central Serengeti.
Grumeti River Crossings
The spectacular Grumeti River Crossing can be witnessed from May to June and the best place to see them is the Central Serengeti.
Mara River Crossings
The Mara River Crossing is the most sought for episode of the Great Wildebeest Migration, the best place to see the Mara River Crossing is Northern Serengeti and Masai Mara National Reserve.
On the Move
Witnessing the wildebeests on a move, November to January is the best time and the best place is Masai Mara National Reserve and Northern Serengeti to Southern Serengeti.
Book your wildebeest migration safari with Engabi Safaris.