When and where to see the wildebeest migration
The Great Wildebeest Migration is a mesmerizing natural phenomenon that takes place in Tanzania and Kenya, captivating travelers from around the world. To make the most of your safari experience, it’s important to understand the migration’s position and highlights in each month. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the wildebeest migration month by month, discussing seasonality, safari prices, and the remarkable sightings you can expect.
January, February, and March: Southern Serengeti and Ndutu Area
- During these months, the wildebeest herds gather in the southern Serengeti and Ndutu area for the calving season.
- Safari Prices: The calving season attracts a high demand, leading to relatively higher safari prices.
- Highlights: Witness the miracle of life as thousands of wildebeest calves are born on the plains. Predators such as lions, cheetahs, and hyenas are abundant, making it an ideal time for predator-prey sightings. The lush green landscapes provide a stunning backdrop for this remarkable cycle of life. Around late January or February, the herds occupy the short-grass plains that spread over the lower northern slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater highlands and around Olduvai Gorge. Some 400,000 calves are born here within a period of two to three weeks, or nearly 8,000 new calves every day.
April and May: Central Serengeti and Western Corridor
- After bearing their young in February and March, around April the wildebeest herds begin to drift northwest toward the fresher grass of the central Serengeti, drawing with them thousands of zebra and smaller groups of antelope. By May, columns of wildebeest stretch for several kilometres as the animals start to congregate by the Moru Kopjes. The herds embark on their northward migration, crossing the Seronera region and venturing into the Western Corridor.
- Safari Prices: April to May falls within the “shoulder season,” where safari prices are slightly lower than the peak season.
- Highlights: Experience the exhilarating Grumeti River crossings as the wildebeest navigate the treacherous waters, contending with crocodiles. This may not be as spectacular as the famous Mara crossings, but there are still enough wildebeest to provide the Grumeti crocs with a veritable feast. Safaris at this time offer great value since there are relatively low numbers of tourists in the Serengeti, yet the wildlife viewings remain excellent.
June and July: Northern Serengeti and Maasai Mara Reserve
- During June, the dry season starts with large concentrations of wildebeest in the Western Serengeti and on the southern banks of the Grumeti River. As June moves into July, the hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra continue to head north along the western edge of the park toward an even riskier barrier: the Mara River in the north of the Serengeti. They usually begin at the onset of high season in July, but timing all depends on nature. The migration reaches the northern Serengeti in July, with some herds venturing into the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya.
- Safari Prices: July is considered the peak season, attracting higher safari prices.
- Highlights: Witness the iconic Mara River crossings, as wildebeest battle swift currents and hungry crocodiles. This period offers incredible opportunities for predator sightings, including lions, leopards, and cheetahs.
August, September, and October: Northern Serengeti and Return Journey
By August, the herds have faced the challenge of crossing the Mara River and are spread throughout the Maasai Mara’s northern region, with many remaining in the northern Serengeti. There is no single crossing: at some spots, there are just a few individuals, while others see a mass of animals moving without break for hours. By September to October, the main chaos has ended and the migrating columns have gradually moved eastward. However, they wildebeest will face the heavy waters of the Mara River once more as they prepare to cross once again for their return journey southward.
- Safari Prices: Prices may be relatively lower during this period, as it marks the start of the low season.
- Highlights: Observe the dramatic Mara River crossings as the wildebeest head south once again. Encounter resident predators, including lions and hyenas, who closely trail the migration.
November and December: Southern Serengeti and Ndutu Area
- After the short rains in late October and early November, the wildebeest move down from Kenya and into the eastern limits of the Serengeti past Namiri Plains, an area known for outstanding cheetah sightings. By December, they are spread throughout the eastern and southern reaches.
- Safari Prices: December falls within the low season, offering potentially lower safari prices.
- Highlights: Witness the beginning of the wildebeest calving season, as newborn calves populate the plains. Predators lurk nearby, leading to thrilling wildlife interactions.
Migration Predictability: While the migration follows a general pattern, exact timing can vary due to factors like rainfall and grazing conditions. Consult with with Top Climbers safari experts to plan your visit accordingly.
Balancing Price and Crowd Levels: Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (April to June and October to November) to strike a balance between lower safari prices and fewer tourists.
Year-Round Wildlife: Even outside the migration months, Tanzania’s national parks offer incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, including resident populations of animals like lions, elephants, and giraffes.
By understanding the wildebeest migration’s position and highlights in each month, you can plan your safari adventure to witness this extraordinary natural event in all its glory. Whether it’s the calving season, river crossings, or the return journey, each phase offers unique and awe-inspiring experiences that will leave you with lasting memories of the great African wilderness.