The Serengeti Wildebeest Migration

The great Serengeti wildebeest migration is the movement 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 move in an annual pattern which is fairly predictable. They migrate throughout the year, constantly seeking fresh grazing 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 – here we explain how the broad pattern works.

The short rains begin around early November. A little after this, in late November and December, the herds of the wildebeest migration arrive on the short-grass plains of the Serengeti. These are south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu and include the north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Dispersed across these plains, wildebeest and zebra are everywhere – feeding on the fresh, nutritious grasses. They stay here through January, February and March, with most wildebeest calves born in a short window around February. Gradually they spread west across these plains, then around April they start their great migration north.

By May the Serengeti’s wildebeest all seem to be moving north, migrating to seek fresh grazing and water. The area around Moru Kopjes and west of Seronera is then hectic with a series of moving columns, often containing hundreds of thousands of animals – joined by many zebra, and a scattering of Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles.

Some of the migration then head due north of Seronera, but most are usually further west. Around June the wildebeest migration is often halted on the south side of the Grumeti River, which has some channels which block or slow their migration north. The wildebeest then congregate there, in the Western Corridor, often building up to a high density before crossing the river. The river here is normally a series of pools and channels, but it’s not continuous – and so whilst they always represent an annual feast for the Grumeti River’s large crocodiles, these aren’t usually quite as spectacular as the crossings of the Mara River, further north.

The wildebeest migration continues moving northwards during July and August, often spreading out across a broad front: some heading through Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo, others north 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 spectacular; 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.

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Sample Itinerary

10-Day Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari from Arusha

Day 1: Arrival in Arusha

You will be picked up at Kilimanjaro International Airport. Your guide will facilitate transfer to your hotel and provide briefing on your upcoming safari.  Overnight at the hotel, depending on the package selected.

Meals: D

Day 2-4: North Serengeti

After breakfast, we transfer to Arusha airstrip for your flight (own expense) to Serengeti North. Serengeti, among other incredible wildlife and stunning views is famed for the annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and hundred thousands of zebras, a frenzied bout of territorial conquests and mating happening from July-October.  We will have 3 days of game viewing to witness the Serengeti Migration. River crossings at Kogatende starts in August as the mega herd settles into the area. Between August- October, game viewing is at its best with river crossings pretty much guaranteed every day. There is no distinct movement as the herds tend to cross back and forth over the river, following the rains and subsequent fresh grasses. Overnight as per selected budget package.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 5-7: Central Serengeti National Park – Seronera

After breakfast at the camp, we drive to Serengeti central, Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park and a world heritage site. The Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Overnight as per selected budget package.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 8: Ngorongoro Crater

After breakfast, we will have an early morning game drive to Ngorongoro inside the Crater. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is an extensive highland area along the eastern arm of the Rift Valley, with the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater as its focal point. Ngorongoro was established to conserve wildlife and other natural resources. It also safeguards the interests of indigenous people and promotes tourism. Overnight as per selected budget package.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 9: Tarangire National Park

Today, we will proceed to Tarangire for a full day game drive in the park located slightly off the main safari route. Tarangire National Park is a lovely quiet park in Northern Tanzania most famous for its elephant migration, and birding safari with a quiet atmosphere. Overnight as per selected budget package.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 10: Arusha (B/L)

After breakfast, we head back to Arusha and pass by a shopping market on the way. After which, we will facilitate your transfer to Kilimanjaro International Airport for your onward flight.

Meals: B, L

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