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The Great Migration

The Great Migration Spectacle

There can be little doubt that east Africa’s great wildebeest migration truly is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth. A constant cyclical movement over one and a half million wildebeest and zebra through and eco-system comprising of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara, it is perhaps most famously know for the the dramatic and spectacular river crossings of Kenya’s Mara River where thousands of animals pour into the crocodile-infested waters in a chaotic rush to reach the other side.

The Circle of Life

But this is only one part or a much wider and continuous story that has no real beginning and no real end. It boasts a cast of millions, of predator and prey alike, young and old, strong and weak, and the most natural and overwhelming of instincts to reproduce and ensure the continuation and survival of a species.

Animals of the Great Migration

Be it the ungulates and grazers of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and antelope constantly on the move is search of fresh pasture triggered by seasonal rains, or the predators that lurk in the tall grasses all along the migration’s route, the prides of lions, the explosive speed and velocity of the cheetah, or the elusive, nocturnal and ambush-specialist leopard, the stage is set for a year-round display of Mother Nature at her most awe-inspiring, her most brutal and her most incredible in one of the greatest wildlife regions on this planet.

Our Latest Migration Images

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The Great Migration Explained

Wildlife TV often leads you to believe that the Great Wildebeest Migration takes place once a year in a certain spot, the fact is the wildebeest never stop moving.  Almost 2 million wildebeest are continually in search of food and water. They move across the Serengeti – Mara ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya, constantly being stalked by predators hoping for an easy meal.  The herd doesn’t follow a calendar schedule, they follow nature’s clues. Whilst many take calculated guesses where the herds might be, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you see nothing.  Great Migration Camps does’ wait for the herds to come to us,  we follow the wildebeest year round, and take our guests to the migrating herds – guaranteeing a migration experience any day of the year.

The Great Migration Calving Season

Many people think that wildebeest stampeding through rivers avoiding hungry crocodiles, is the great migration.  River crossings however are just one part of the annual cycle. Arguably the best kept secret is calving season – where millions of wildebeest gather on the Southern Serengeti Plains and the Ndutu/Ngorongoro Conservation Areas.  Wildebeest are unique from other African animals in that they calve within the same short span of time, during the month before or start of peak rainy season. 

Some time during January or February,  almost half a million wildebeest calves are born, and the wildebeest stay on the southern plains for as long as possible for the calves to gain strength for the long journey ahead.   The number of hungry predators in the area during this period increases due to the abundance of food – lions, cheetah and leopard searching for an easy meal and often teach their young how to hunt.   Calving season is a time of abundance with lots of interaction between predator and prey. Take your time, be patient and the rewards follow.

The Great Migration Rutting Season

The wildebeest have no leader and the herds split into smaller groups that fork off and wander in different directions. From April – June herds can easily be scattered around the Serengeti as the weather starts drying out.  The movement is different every year, although historically large numbers move north-west into the Western Corridor. some head up through Seronera and the central area and some move north along the eastern boundary of the Serengeti National Park. The beginning of the mating season is called the rut. Throughout the mating season, breeding clusters of wildebeest form from within the bigger herds. Territorial males create and guard territories and cows and will fight for dominance in a noisy and sometimes violent way.  The Bulls make a show of bucking and cantering and mark their territory by urinating, defecating and spreading secretions. An aroused bull will try to herd as many cows as possible, and will not sleep or eat for excitement if a female is nearby and it’s a fascinating time of year.

The Great Migration Crossing Season

The star of the Great Wildebeest Migration show is the river crossings – this is when the wildebeest  herds cross the mighty Mara River. Watching the wildebeest plunge across the water is amongst the most exciting game viewing you’ll ever witness – drama, exhilaration, chaos and commotion.  The first crossings usually take place during mid July and can continue well into October depending on the year and the weather. A common misconception is that the herds arrive en masse, cross the river, go to Kenya’s Masai Mara, hang out and then return.  First of all, it’s not one herd of wildebeest – there are numerous herds -big and small, all with their own agenda. The herds move backwards and forwards across the park and can move 40 km overnight. 

Crossing season takes time and patience and we recommend as much time as possible if you hope to see a river crossing. Not even the wildebeest know when they’re going to cross! Some arrive at the water and swim over immediately; some arrive and spend days hanging around grazing; some arrive and turn back to where they came from. We wish we could predict them but no-one can.