The arrival of the rains this week signals the southward march of the epic annual migration. The migration actually never stops: wildebeest, zebra and gazelle travel constantly clockwise over a huge territory in pursuit of fresh grazing. For the animals that prey on them, they’re literally a moveable feast.
You’d think a million wildebeest would be pretty easy to spot, but in fact when they are on the move, they have an uncanny knack of disappearing. It’s at times like this when you have to draw on your experience as a guide or hunter: as bizarre as it sounds, what you need to do is think like an animal. There are many fewer visitors to the bush this month.
The advantage of Traveling to Kenya or Tanzania now is that when you track down the wildebeest you’re on your own: just you and a million animals. It’s hard to put an experience like that into words. The sense of connectedness it gives you is extraordinary. You no longer have to tell yourself to think like an animal — you’re reminded you are one.
On the vast open plains of the Serengeti and deep into the rolling hills of the Masai Mara the largest animal herds on the planet move in a never-ending natural pattern in response to an undeniable imperative – the need to find fresh, nourishing grazing. This exceptional natural phenomenon is renowned as Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacle. The thundering hooves of the herds and the enormous clouds of fine red dust they leave in their wake have become an icon of East African safari.
Where to see the Migration
Experience the wonder and immensity of the Great Migration on the vast plains of the Serengeti or in the spotted land of the Masai Mara. Witness great numbers of wildebeest calves being born within the space of a few weeks or watch in breathless wonder as the massed herds plunge into the swirling waters of the Mara or Grumeti Rivers.
Depending on the time of year, game drives from the following & Beyond camps and lodges will do their utmost to place guests in the midst of the thundering hooves:
December to May
For the wildebeest only one place is truly home – the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti, from Lake Nduni to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is where they are born and where they seek to return whenever there is plentiful grazing. From December up to May, once the November rains create ample grazing, up to two million wildebeest can be found here.
April – June
The herds disperse throughout the central Serengeti, heading mostly in a north-western direction, towards the Western Corridor and the Grumeti River. Some will travel directly north, towards Seronera, while a few leave the Serengeti altogether.
June – July
The wildebeest encounter the first major obstacle in their quest – the Grumeti River. In dry years, the river is reduced to a series of pools and the herds can easily pick their way between the hippos and crocodiles in their depths. In wet years, the wildebeest are forced to plunge headfirst into waters inhabited by some of Africa’s largest crocodiles.
July – September
The herds head north towards the lush plains of the northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara. The next set of spectacular river crossings takes place at the Mara River any time between July and October. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest may congregate on the banks of the river, gazing dreamily at the green grass on the other side but not one will make a move.
Most of the wildebeest are now in Kenya’s Masai Mara, although some still remain in the Serengeti. As the rains shift from east to west, the herds may cross the Mara River repeatedly, following the life-giving rains and the green grass that springs up after them.
The herds now return to the place of their birth, the grassy plains of the southern Serengeti. Unlike their previous movements, the wildebeest do not wander off in smaller groups, but depart suddenly in a concerted movement, arriving in the south within just a few weeks.
By mid-December almost two million wildebeest will have returned to the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti.