The Great Serengeti Migration
The Great Migration
The great Migration of the Serengeti is considered one of ‘The Ten Wonders of The Natural World’, and one of the best events in Tanzania to witness. A truly awe-inspiring spectacle of life in an expansive ecosystem ruled by rainfall and the urge for survival amongst the herbivores of the Serengeti plains.
The humble leader of the migration is the Wildebeest. This super herd reaches up to 1.5 million in number. Accompanied by 200,000 zebra, 350,000 gazelles and 12,000 eland this strange wonder of the natural world circulates the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, its path dictated by rainfall and the resulting growth of grasses on the plains.
There is neither a start nor finish to their journey; merely a relentless sequence of life and death. The only beginning is the moment of birth and the only ending is death – which can come only too easily in the migration.The precise timing of the migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns each year. Nor is it confined to the un-fenced National Park, and instead seamlessly flows into the surrounding Game Reserves.
When to see it
Between January and March the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Maswa Game Reserve, south-east of the Serengeti offer refuge during what is the short dry season thanks to its numerous rivers and spring grasses, allowing an opportunity for the Wildebeest to rest and give birth. Up to 400,000 calves are born in synchronized birthing within just two to three weeks of one another!
By April the Wildebeest begin their journey, moving en-masse, head to tail, northwards into the National Park and passing through the popular central area of the park at Seronera.
In May the Rainy season arrives and brings heavy precipitation to the west of the park. Shortly after this the fertile plains bear a heavy cover of grass drawing the migration westward towards it.
The Western Corridor including the Grumeti Game Reserve and Ikorongo Game Reserve host the majority of the migration through June, offering the Game a chance to build up their strength for the journey ahead.
From here the migration heads north again, through the park and towards the Kenyan border where it will arrive by July. It is from this point that the migration takes on one of its most spectacular and deadly advances: – the river crossings; in the Serengeti the Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers, and in Kenya, the most famous crossing; the Mara river.
Once reaching the grasslands of the Masai Mara in August, the wildebeest spend several months feeding and fattening once more, taking advantage of the scattered distribution of green pastures and isolated rainstorms.
By late October, the first of the short rains fall on the scrawny grass plains to the south of the Serengeti, filling seasonal waterholes and bringing fresh growths of grass. The wildebeest will instinctively start heading south again, trekking down through the eastern woodlands and back into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Wildebeest scatter and spread out again once they reach the open plains having completed a journey of over 500 miles.