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The Wildebeest Migration Made Simple

Kenya vs. Tanzania: Viewing the Wildbeest Migration in East Africa

Kenya's Declining Wildlife

Kenya Travel Warning

Wildebeest Migration - The Migration Made Simple

Wildebeest location updates (see below) and a month by month guide to lodges and camps giving you the best opportunity to witness the east Africa’s wildebeest migration.

The endless plains of east Africa are the setting for the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle - the 1.5 million animal ungulate (wildebeest) migration. From the vast Serengeti plains to the champagne colored hills of Kenya’s Masai Mara over 1.4 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra and gazelle, relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators, migrate in a clockwise fashion over 1,800 miles each year in search of rain ripened grass.

There is no real beginning or end to a wildebeest's journey. Its life is an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water. The only beginning is at the moment of birth. An estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six week period early each year - usually between late January and mid-March.

As of September 1, 2008: The Wildebeest herds are currently in the northern areas of Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and in Kenya's Masai Mara Reserve. Wildebeest have been crossing the Mara River daily. Guests staying at the Governor's Camps in the Mara and at Migration Camp in the Serengeti have been seeing hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra daily.

As of November 1, 2008: October continued a trend of cool mornings and warm days in Kenya's Masai Mara. The migrating herds of wildebeest and zebra have grazed the Mara grasses right down. The northern and central areas of the Serengeti have received some very heavy rain showers and the herds have followed their noses in search of lush, green grass. The end of the month was marked by large river crossings as wildebeest and zebra left the Mara on their long trek down south. The herds now stretch from Lobo through the Tagora plains area to central Seronera area and down to Naabi Hill. It is common to receive patches of wet weather in the Serengeti towards the end of the dry season (in October), so the rain may just be this and not an early onset of the short rains. If this is the case, it will dry out rapidly and the wildebeest will head back north until they feel the real rains start.

As of January 1, 2009: The mega-herd spent the holidays on the Ndutu plains however, due to lack of rain, have traveled north and west to the longer grass plains around Kusini and Naabi Hill on the border between the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. When the rains return the nutrient rich short grass will green up rapidly and the herds will return southeast to the Ngorongoro Conservation area for calving.

As of March 1, 2009: As of late February, the lack of good rains has forced the migration to move towards the Maswa Game Reserve border. With the coming of the long rains we expect the herds to return to the Ndutu area and complete calving.

As of May 1, 2009: As of late April, heavy rains have returned to the Serengeti and the wildebeest have made their way back to the Ndutu, Gol and southern Loliondo. The Masai have been watering their cattle in this area and it is hoped that the widespread rains will allow the Masai to return to their more permanent homesteads allowing the wildlife to fully relax.

As of July 1, 2009: As of early July our friends at Nomad report that the bulk of the migration is still in Tanzania - along the western corridor / Musabi areas all the way to Grumeti. Large groups of wildebeest are also up in Lobo area. We would expect the herds to remain spread out until it dries out further (there is still a good amount of green grass and reliable water for the wildebeest and zebras).

As of August 1, 2009: The wildebeest have entered the Mara! The northern Serengeti national park personnel have reliably informed us that the migrating herds have taken two wings – one heading north from Grumeti area to the west, while an eastern wing is the one now moving into the Mara. 

As of October 1, 2009: The wildebeest are scattered throughout Tanzania's western corridor, northern Serengeti and Kenya's Masai Mara. Travelers in both Kenya and Tanzania have been witnessing wildebeest crossing the Mara River!

As of January 1, 2010: The wildebeest have moved from the central Serengeti and are now concentrated in the Ndutu area. They are feeding on the new grass in preparation for calving.

As of June 1, 2010: As the mega-herd gradually makes its way north towards Lobo, other wildebeest are favoring the route towards Ikoma, while zebra in their hundreds are still grazing the Seronera plains. Soon the herds will gather for the highly-anticipated Grumeti Crossing

As of July 1, 2010: The lesser known Loita migration (originating from the Loita plains, east of the Masai Mara) consisting of 30,000 animals arrived in the Mara in early June. The Serengeti migration arrived in the Mara earlier than normal - mid June.

As of September 1, 2010: As of early August some wildebeest were still to be seen in the northern part of the Serengeti and in the southern part of the Masai Mara around the Sand River and in the Trans-Mara areas. With the Masai Mara having some decent rain and the Serengeti remaining mostly dry, the Wildebeest Migration ventured north to greener pastures. By early September an estimated 200,000 wildebeest crossed over the to the Klein's area east of the Serengeti however the bulk of the mega-herd remains in the Mara Triangle.

As of November 1, 2010: The wildebeest are back in the Serengeti and are moving south. They can be seen around Lobo in the Serengeti. There are still some herds in the Masai Mara as well.

As of January 1, 2011: In early December the wildebeest were in the central Serengeti and rains around Ndutu have the herds moving rapidly to that area.

As of December 1, 2011: The wildebeest are on the move. In the last week they left the Mara River and have already passed the central Serengeti enroute to the Ndutu area.

As of February 1, 2012: Big numbers of wildebeest, as expected, are around the Ndutu area in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Calving is also starting to occur.

As of June 1, 2012: This is one of the more tricky times of the year to pinpoint the 'herd' as the migration spreads out for the journey north. In the past week the main bulk of wildebeests and zebras were located near Golini but were shifting all the time.  The main collection of animals is still in central Serengeti with no real shift northwards. The rain continues to be heavy right across the eco system which may well have an effect on how quickly they advance towards the Mara in the coming month.

As of July 23, 2012: Herds are pouring into Nyamalumbwa in the northern Serengeti and there are still plenty of zebras and wildebeest around the Bolagonja area where the grass is high, the ground is wet, and there are some fires in the area.

As of September 10, 2012: The pas few weeks it has been all about crossings as wildebeest and zebra took the plunge and crossed the Mara River in their thousands. Did you know that 80% of the Mara River is bordered by Tanzania on both sides? And that unlike viewing from the Masai Mara in Kenya where massive crowds of vehicles are the norm that in Tanzania's northern Serengeti most crossings are witnessed by 1 to 6 vehicles... open vehicles are the norm here and you can go off road in this part of the Serengeti as well!


The Migratory Path (see chart below)

December, January, Feburary, March: The Serengeti National Park / Ngorongoro Conservation Area is arguably the most impressive wildlife sanctuary in the world. During the months December through March the seemingly unending plains of the southern Serengeti and the Conservation Area are inhabited by enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra. The great herds graze on rain ripened grass.

In the calving season (late January through mid March when over 80% of the wildebeest give birth over a period of a few weeks) the herds concentrate at the Ndutu and Salei plains (Southern Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area) attracting the attention of predators like lion, cheetah and hyena.

During this period the migration is best observed from a luxury mobile camp in the Ndutu / Naabi area or from Ndutu Safari Lodge.

April, May: During the months April and May the depleted plains are unable to sustain the endless herds. The migration, sweeping west and north, moves from the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the long grass plains and woodland of the Serengeti’s western Corridor, almost to Lake Victoria.

This period is during the long rains and is considered off season for wildlife viewing in east Africa as roads are often impassable. Ndutu Safari Lodge, Kusini Camp and the Serengeti Serena Lodge are fine for wildlife viewing during this time. So are campsites in the Ndutu/Naabi area.

June: By the end of May the wildebeest have exhausted the Western Corridor’s best pastures and the herds must move further north. Entering the Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle breeding occurs May through June.

This is a transitional period between the rains and the dry season. Faru Faru River Lodge, Sasakwa Hill Lodge, Sabora Plains Tented Camp, Grumeti River Camp, Migration Camp, and Kirawira Camp are good options for viewing the migration at this time. Seronera and Moru area campsites are best.

July, August, September, October: By late July and August the countless herds have amassed along the swollen Mara River - a final barrier from the short sweet grasses of the Masai Mara. Sometimes the crossing place they have chosen is shallow allowing the majority of animals to pass safely. In other areas the waters boil with drowning wildebeest and slashing crocodiles. Please note that the vast majority of travelers do not witness the wildebeest crossing of the Mara as the timing and duration varies widely each year - in years of little rain very few wildebeest cross the Mara River into Kenya.

Between July and October the wildebeest reside in the northern Serengeti and Masai Mara. Most travelers are not aware that 80% of the Mara River is bordered by Tanzania on both sides. Only 20% of this river is located in Kenya. As Kenya’s Masai Mara now has over 3,700 beds we suggest clients stay in the northern Serengeti where there are only 11 safari lodges and camps. We recommend northern Serengeti properties such as Sayari, Singita Mara, Bushtops, Migration Camp, or a mobile camp in the Kogatende area. These properties offer the chance to see the wildebeest crossing the Mara River in a pristine environment.

November: The arrival of the short rains call the migration southward. During the short rains of November the wildebeest migration is best viewed from Klein’s Camp. Campsites in the Lobo area are best.

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.

*Note - the migration is a natural event and the timing varies month by month; year by year.

Photo credits: Ian Proctor, Dave Christiansen, Michael Poliza, Calvin Jones, Bailey Donnally, Ron Lucas, and others

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