The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of the most iconic natural events in Africa, specifically in East Africa, between Tanzania and Kenya. This migration is an annual pattern of movement by over 1.5 million wildebeests, accompanied by large numbers of zebras, and smaller numbers of Grant’s gazelles, Thomson’s gazelles, elands, and impalas.

In the Serengeti ecosystem of Tanzania and the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, this large group of animals cycles through the regions in a clockwise manner, following the rainfall and resulting growth of grass in order to find fresh grazing and water sources.

The migration usually starts in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania, around late November to December, where the wildebeest breed and give birth from January to March. As the dry season approaches around May, the herds then start moving west and then north, crossing the Grumeti River in Tanzania and eventually the Mara River into Kenya around July to September.

The crossing of the Mara River is often considered the most spectacular event of the migration, where thousands of wildebeest attempt to cross the river that’s often full of crocodiles. This is a time of feast for predators, and many wildebeest don’t survive the journey due to predation or exhaustion.

By the end of the dry season around October, the herds start moving back towards the Serengeti with the start of the short rain season, and the cycle repeats.

This epic journey is driven by the animals’ instinctive need to find fresh grazing, and it’s a spectacle that attracts many tourists from all over the world who come to witness one of nature’s greatest events. It’s an amazing display of the ecosystem’s dynamics, illustrating the interplay of climate, geography, and wildlife in a dramatic fashion.

The Great Migration Cycle

The most awe-inspiring natural events in the world.

Calving Season

The migration begins in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the southern Serengeti with the calving season, which typically occurs from late January through March. Over 500,000 newborn wildebeest are introduced during this time, providing plenty of action as predators take advantage of this period.

Late January to March

Heading towards Grumeti

As the rains end in May, the herds start moving towards the Western Corridor of the Serengeti, where they will have to cross the Grumeti River. This journey is fraught with danger, as the Grumeti River is home to large Nile crocodiles lying in wait.

April to June

Crossing the Mara River

After crossing the Grumeti River, the wildebeest and other herds start moving northwards, typically reaching the Mara River around July. The river crossing is considered one of the most dramatic events of the migration. The herds must overcome crocodile-infested waters and steep river banks to reach the lush, untouched grazing of the Masai Mara.

July to September

Masai Mara

The herds enjoy the abundant grasslands in the Masai Mara before they start their journey back to the Serengeti as the short rains begin around November. The migration isn't the same every year, with the exact timing and path of the migration changing in response to the weather and available grazing.

October to November

What to Expect

If you’re planning to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration, you’re in for a spectacular experience. Here’s what you can typically expect:

  •  Large Numbers of Animals: The sight of over a million wildebeest, along with hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles moving across the plains, is truly breathtaking. The sheer numbers of animals can stretch to the horizon.
  • River Crossings: One of the most dramatic events of the migration is when the herds cross the Mara and Grumeti Rivers. Wildebeest dive into the waters en masse, often facing danger from large Nile crocodiles. These crossings are unpredictable and can happen at any time, but once they start, they provide incredibly intense and exciting viewing.
  • Predators: The migration is a time of feast for predators. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and crocodiles follow the herds, picking off the young, weak, or distracted. The drama between the predators and the herds is a sight to behold.
  • Calving Season: If you visit the southern Serengeti around February, you can witness the calving season. Over 500,000 calves are born in a short span of a few weeks. This is another period when predator activity is high, as they take advantage of the abundance of inexperienced young.
  • The Sounds: The sounds of the migration are as memorable as the sights. The constant calling of the wildebeest, the thundering sound of thousands of animals running together, and the noises of predators on the hunt combine into a powerful symphony of wild nature.
  • Changing Landscapes: The migration covers a variety of landscapes, from the open grass plains of the Serengeti, to the hilly, bushy terrain of the Masai Mara, and the challenges of river crossings. Each of these landscapes offers a different viewing experience.