Serengeti Wildbeest Migration

The Great Serengeti wildebeest migration is the breathtaking migration of vast numbers of the Serengeti’s wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant’s gazelle, Thompson’s gazelle, eland, and impala. These magnificent creatures migrate in an annual pattern which is fairly predictable. They usually migrate throughout the year, constantly seeking fresh grazing land, and it’s now thought better quality water. The precise timing of the Serengeti wildebeest migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns each year.

Month by month: the Serengeti wildebeest migration

The short rains start in early November. In late November and early December, soon after the rains have begun,  the herds of wildebeests arrive on the short grass plains of the Serengeti in the south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu, including the north of the Ngorongoro conservation area. The wildebeests and zebras are dispersed across these plains feeding on the fresh, nutritious grass. They will remain here into January, February, and March. Most wildebeest calves are born in a short window around February. They gradually spread out across the plains and begin the great northern migration in April.

In May, all the Serengeti wildebeest seem to be moving north, to find fresh grazing lands and water. The area around Moru Kopjes and west of Seronera is hectic with a series of moving columns which often contain hundreds of thousands of magnificent animals, including zebras and a scattering of Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles.

Some of the migration heads towards the north of Seronera, but most go further west. Around June, the wildebeest migration is usually at a stop on the southern side of the Grumeti River, which has channels that block or slow down their migration north. They normally congregate here, in the Western Corridor, building up to a high number before crossing the river. This river is usually a series of pools and channels but it is not continuous, and there is, therefore, an annual feast for the Grumeti River’s large crocodiles. This usually isn’t as exhilarating as the crossing of the Mara River which is further north.

The wildebeest continue to move north in July and August, often spreading out across a broad front; some heading through Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo, and others through the heart of the Serengeti National Park.

September sees the herds spread out across the northern Serengeti, where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. This river gushes through the northern Serengeti from Kenya’s adjacent Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Watching the frantic herds of the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River can be very incredible; there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. It’s common to see herds cross the Mara River north on one day, and then back south a few days later.

By October the wildebeest herds are migrating again with more accord: all are heading south, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park’s Lobo area, returning to the green shoots which follow the rains on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti in November.

Then the whole Serengeti Wildebeest migration starts again.