Wildebeest Migration travel guide
2 MINUTE SUMMARY
The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of natureís biggest wildlife events; a once-seen, never-forgotten drama on a blockbuster scale. The stars of the show are some 1.5 million wildebeest, with a supporting cast of zebra, gazelle and eland, who spend the year circling the vast Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya, chasing the rains in a constant search for food. Far from a pleasant amble between grasslands, though, this is a journey loaded with risk as the legendary Serengeti lions Ė some 3,000 of them Ė lie in wait, along with leopards, cheetahs and hungry hyenas. One of the most perilous moments is when the mega herds cross the Mara and Grumeti Rivers, where enormous crocodiles lurk. Any visitors with front row seats are guaranteed eye-watering scenes, as wildebeest plunge down the steep banks and thunder into the treacherous waters. This is nature red in tooth and claw on an incredible scale; a spectacle so vast itís both hard to miss and not-to-be missed.
Our Wildebeest Migration travel guide explains how best to see this spectacle.
Wildebeest Migration vacations
WHAT DOES THIS TRIP ENTAIL?
First things first...
The Migration doesnít follow a map and timetable, as only seasonal rains dictate the start time, and once on the move, the herds split up and head north in different directions moving across an area of 390,000 square km that includes not only the Serengeti National Park and Kenyaís Masai Mara game reserve, but dispersal areas beyond. From the short-grass plains of the Southern Serengeti, where calves are born, some head north through the Seronera Valley in the central Serengeti, others travel along the Western Corridor towards the Grumeti River crossing. The scale and scope of the Migration means there are numerous places and times to catch it throughout the year, although July to September is peak season, when the sight of wildebeest ploughing into the Mara River, dodging crocs and lions as they go, draws visitors in their droves. Organised safaris run throughout the Wildebeest Migration region, but typically focus on seeing the dramatic river crossings, before moving on to other parks in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, to offer a mixture of wildlife habitats and sightings.
How to see the Wildebeest Migration
Your vacation company will be monitoring the progress of the Migration and can take you close to the mega herds. Once here, cutting the engine and just watching as the thousands of animals graze and move is the best way to soak up this spectacle. Remember to put the camera down, too, and properly take it all in, listening to the snorting and snuffling of the herd. In amongst the wildebeest, youíll see Thomsonís gazelle, zebra and eland, and look out for predators in the long grass, eyeing up their next meal. Although thereís a general push north during the dry season, the Wildebeest Migration involves a fair bit of meandering, too, so itís fascinating to observe the massing and moving of the wildebeest up close. Herds tend to cross back and forth over the rivers, following the rains and the fresh grass. At the Mara River itís possible to see different herds crossing in different directions on the same day!
The Wildebeest Migration covers a great deal of ground, but the animals linger to feed, too, so this isnít a blink-and-youíll-miss-it experience. Traveling overland is the best way to catch up with the herds as they progress through the Serengeti and Masai Mara, but expect as many as 200 other jeeps parked up to watch the Mara River crossing, on the border with Kenya and Tanzania. From here, you are within driving distance of the Ngorongoro Crater and the Great Rift Valley. This keeps costs down as domestic flights are pricey, but does entail long journeys on bumpy roads. Only super-intrepid travelers contemplate self-driving within the Serengeti and Masai Mara. Itís much easier, and more enlightening, to book an organised safari with a driver and experienced guide.
Best time to see the Wildebeest Migration
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IN EAST AFRICA
The Mara River crossing takes place from Jul-Sep and while itís an iconic sight, itís not the only way to experience the Wildebeest Migration. The best time to see the Wildebeest Migration is in late Jun or Sep Ė when animal herds rush across the rivers, but tourist crowds are dispersing outside the peak summer season. In late Oct, you can catch the animals heading south through the northern Serengeti or Ngorongoro with the start of the short rains. Head to the central Serengeti in May, as animals move north, and to the Grumeti River in June. Although shallower than the Mara, the Grumeti crossing still serves up the sight of huge crocs snapping at hooves as wildebeest pile through. Outside of Jul-Sep peak season, youíre more likely to find reduced rates, too. Just avoid April, when the rains are at their heaviest, camps close and the plains become quagmires.