Watching two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle crossing the Serengeti and Mara plains is a once in a lifetime experience. Immense herds plunge chaotically into crocodile infested rivers then cover the vast grassy plains in their thousands. Africa Exclusive will tailor your Tanzania safari or your Kenya safari to show you the migration with expert guides at any time of year wherever it is. The important thing is to do this in a way which avoids large numbers of other tourists.
We do this by using small luxury camps like Migration Camp and Cottars which are located on private reserves in the Serengeti and Masai Mara. We also use mobile camps which are still very comfortable and which move as the migration progresses. If you want a really private experience, you can even have your own luxury camp – perfect for families or a small group of friends. Top guide Alex Walker’s private Nkorombo Camp can be set up anywhere in the Mara giving you the ultimate migration adventure.
He recently sent us a report from his camp in the northern Serengeti saying “Wow, mega herds moving everywhere, north to the Mara, south across the river, west back across the river. wildebeest, more wildebeest and yet more wildebeest!... The river here is totally different with a far greater concentration of crocodile, hundreds of hippo and elephant all over”. Even though Alex has spent years in the bush, you can sense his raw excitement.
The migration moves clockwise in a great circle beginning deep in the Southern Serengeti from December to March. As the rains arrive, they move north west through the Serengeti reaching the crocodile infested Grumeti River around May. Then they continue north crossing more rivers into Kenya’s Masai Mara during July. They roam the great Mara plains before crossing back into the Serengeti in late October, returning to the south to begin again. Of course, a migration safari also shows you elephants, giraffe, buffalo, antelope and many other animals. The passage of the migration is also the highlight for the local predators and lion, leopard and cheetah are frequently seen.
A Guide to the Wildebeest Migration - January to March
During this time the wildebeest migration is on the grassy plains surrounding Ndutu and extends towards Ngorongoro. Part of the reason that the herds stay in the area is to give birth to young. In just three weeks, an incredible synchronized birthing of around 500,000 wildebeest occurs. This is an opportune time to see the migration. The reason the births are synchronized is partly due to them having safety in numbers, this enables the young to reach a level of maturity before the migration moves north. This also means that the young are less susceptible to big cats if they are all of a similar size.
Kusini is a luxury permanent camp located in the far south on the grassy plains near an enormous granite hill, the perfect location for a sundowner with spectacular extending views. The camp is in a more central location and therefore may move towards the end of this period due to the migration heading north to Grumeti.
A Guide to the Wildebeest Migration - April to June
By the time April comes around, the short grass is lacking in nutrients and rain showers encourage fresh growth further north. This is when the migration really gets exciting – 400,000 zebra take off, bounding through tougher grasses leaving the tender blades for the 1.8 million wildebeest due to their mouths being unsuited to taller grass. 100,000 gazelles join in the migration as they follow behind. The migration is not one extensive herd, in fact it is a series of large herds and lines of the animals moving. The Serengeti is such a large area that even skilled guides can struggle finding them for a short while.
During May and June the animals approach the Western corridor of the Serengeti and the Grumeti with plentiful rivers, forests and undulating plains. In May the wildebeest rut and the males begin to establish their minimal territory which is usually 3,000 square metres which they use to attract the females. Whilst this occurs, the herds have to cross the Grumeti River – known for inhabiting some of Africa’s most enormous crocodiles, this makes for an exciting viewing!
Kirawira and Grumeti River Camp are both superb camps with ideal locations neaby the Grumeti River. Both camps are fantastic places to stay all year round due to there being abundant wildlife through all seasons. For those seeking the ultimate luxury in accommodation and style, Singita Grumeti Reserves are hard to beat. Relax in your private plunge pool with incredible views over the Serengeti.
A Guide to the Wildebeest Migration - July to October
As the migration continues its on-going journey north in search of rich nutrient grass, over two million wildebeest and zebra bound through yet more rivers and plains to reach the northern Serengeti. Some of the herds cross over into Kenya’s Masai Mara, whilst others stay in the Serengeti and head east. Resident prides of lion are attracted to the irresistible prey and begin their mighty hunt whilst leopard and cheetah make use of their impressive speed and tactics to catch the animals that have been separated from the herds. Hyenas and vultures wait in the wings for any leftover meals.
These few months can turn into chaos as the massive herds approach a river, stop, circle and then charge en masse. This is referred to as “swarm intelligence”. Although some of the animals are seized by hungry crocodiles, the mass of the herd manages to pass to the other side unharmed. When it comes to big cats, a male wildebeest is very powerful and can be a real danger to a lion as it reaches a running speed of 40 mph. Herds often run in large groups with the strong adult males on the edges where they can be used to protect the vulnerable members. During the night, males often take turns to sleep and stand guard. If they catch sight of a cat a loud alarm call will be used to warn the herd.
During this time you can chose to either see the migration in Kenya, staying at luxury camps such as Cottars. However, from this camp you cannot cross the border from the Serengeti, meaning you take your main safari in Kenya. Alternatively, if you stay in the Serengeti your Tanzania safari could consist of staying at fantastic permanent camps including Sayari or Lamai, set on a massive rocky outcrop with incredible views.
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A Guide to the Wildebeest Migration - November and December
As the year comes to an end, the wildebeest, zebra and gazelle return to the southern Serengeti in order to drop their young and embark on this migratory cycle once again. Many of the females are heavily pregnant by late November and the migration splits in to many smaller herds during these two months. Lamai Camp is located on a huge rocky outcrop and is a fantastic base to witness the migration during this time.
Lamai also has an eight bedded private camp which is perfect for a family or large group of friends. Moving further south are impressive rolling plains with the mighty Gol Mountains protruding in the east. On this mighty private reserve is Nduara Loliondo Camp, accommodating guests in huge “Yurts”. All yurts are eight metres wide with a conical canvas roof adjoining wooden sides, opening in the day. From this camp you can embark on an exciting walking safari with an armed guide, heading out across the plains and through the valleys of the Gol. All game drives are in private 4x4 vehicles with your private guide, enabling you to go at your own pace and enjoy the beauty of the location.
Nduara Camp is transported south as it follows the migration; this makes it an excellent choice as part of your Tanzania safari when travelling from any time during late October to early January.
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