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The Great Wildebeest Migration

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WILDEBEEST MIGRATION BETWEEN MAASAI MARA (KENYA) AND SERENGETI (TANZANIA).

Did you know that the wildebeest migration is one of the seven wonders of the world?   If you didn’t know, here is your chance to find out.

Whether you are a safari enthusiast or a wildlife lover, you just can’t beat seeing the famous wildebeest migration from the southern plains of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, and back again. It takes place annually and is the biggest movement of animals on the planet. More than 1.5 million wildebeests make the 1,000-mile circular journey every year.

The sight, sound and smell of the great number of wildebeests and zebras on the move, followed by scavengers and hungry predators, such as lions, hyenas and opportunistic leopards, yearning for a kill is jaw dropping. Not forgetting the famous river crossing, though an obstacle to the wildebeests and zebras, adds on to the spectacular view that entails over two million animals running towards congested crossing points, dodging the huge and dangerous crocodiles of the Mara waiting to make a meal out of them.

It’s an ancient battle of life and death, and one of the best and awe instilling wildlife shows on the planet. Add this on your travel diary and let us, The Gidtor Travel Diaries take you to the wilderness of the Mara and Serengeti for an unforgettable experience. We have expert guides who will make your trip memorable by making sure that you enjoy exclusive sighting.

This vast migration occurs between the months of July and October. The main immigrant animals include: Wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelles, Zebras, Elands among others. In the actual sense, there is no definite time that the migration occurs. The migration is highly dynamic and can happen at two distinct times in two consecutive years as the animals move in search for food and water.

This movement poses as a major tourist attraction for tourists who venture this spectacular wildlife habitat situate in Kenya and Tanzania. There are four different seasons and weather changes per year which influence the timing and Wildebeest migration. They include:

  • The short dry season between December and February/March
  • Long rains between March and May
  • Long dry season from June to September
  • Short rains from October into November.

However, with the ensuing global climate change, weather patterns have become quite uncertain and do not follow a definite timeline as they used to a few decades ago.

Wildebeest calving and the predators of the Mara

The beginning of each year welcomes the calving season of animals. There are about 400,000 calves born between two to three weeks. This takes place in the short-grass plains spreading over the lower northern slopes of the Ngorongoro highlands and scattering around Olduvai Gorge. Wildebeests are said to have grazed around this area for over a million years.

The birthing period provides an excellent opportunity for predators that are always on the lookout for young ones since they are weaker and easy to overpower. The calving season however, takes a short time and predators have a limited time to take advantage of the situation.

What amazes me the most is the fact that calves are able to get on their feet and outrun predators two or three minutes after birth. As a result, calves have a high survival rate. However, this sometimes results in separation of the calves from their mothers and when this happens, the lost calf becomes an easy target for predators.

Wildebeest migration to Serengeti National Park

At the end of the short dry season around March, Wildebeests start their annual trek towards Kenya as they seek for fresh grazing grounds and water. However, this also largely depends on the weather, which more often than not dictates the direction they will take. Most of the times, the Wildebeests end up in central and western Serengeti.

The Mating period

During the great sojourn, the wildebeests head Northwest into the woodlands of the hilly country, west of Seronera, towards Lake Victoria. It is here where mating takes place. The males usually fight one another during this period as they compete for mates. All the same, this does not result in serious injuries.

The precarious crossing of the Mara River

This the most spectacular stage of the wildebeest migration. I will tell you why in a short while. From the Western Serengeti, the animals head north into Kenya and specifically the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. This takes place between June to September.

The animals cross several rivers during the trek to the Maasai Mara. However, crossing the Mara river is most dangerous due to the speed and large volume of water and gigantic flesh eating crocodiles.

Although the wildebeests can use other safer routes or opt for other grazing fields, they always use this same path irrespective of the dangers they have to contend with.

So how does the famous river crossing take place?

This is how. First, the wildebeests gather on one side and find a suitable crossing point as they familiarize with each other. If you thought that only human beings have the ability to interact, well you thought wrong.

It is not only the wildebeests that know of the famous river crossing. Predators such as lions and crocodiles are well aware of it and they take it as an opportunity to feast on the not so lucky wildebeests. In spite of the dangers posed by both land and water predators, a good majority of wildebeests manage to cross on to the other side safely.

The wildebeests then spend several months grazing in Kenya. What is most amazing about these animals is their ability to find good grazing areas in foreign land and the fact that they adapt quickly in new environments. Another factor that helps preserve their large numbers is the fact that they are always on the move, hence predators are not able to keep up with them. This always works to the wildebeest’s advantage.

In October, the first phase of short rains begins, enabling the grass to grow on pasture lands in the Serengeti. At the same time the wildebeests start to move south back to the Serengeti. They usually move in large groups then disperse as they reach the open plains.

 

Tips for viewing the wildebeest migration.

  • The famous river crossing

If you are looking forward to seeing the famous river crossing, it is best that you travel around late June and the beginning of July, when the wildebeest cross the Mara River into Kenya, and late September and into early October , when they head back into Tanzania.

  • The wildebeest migration

When it comes mother nature, nothing is ever guaranteed. However, the migration follows a fairly regular pattern across the vast Serengeti and Mara every single year. The Wildebeests are usually found in the southern part of the Serengeti from January to March and then move to the Maasai Mara from July to October.

Final thoughts

The wildebeest migration is one of the most spectacular tourist attractions in East Africa. The movement covers 240 kilometers and takes place on an annual basis.  Why not make the Wildebeest migration your next must see tourist attraction? We at Gidtor Travel Diaries will be delighted to plan your trip.

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