Tanzania Wildebeest Migration: The Best Places To See The Wildebeest Migration
The wildebeest migration, dubbed “the greatest display on earth,” involves huge herds of about two million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles traveling thousands of kilometers in a roughly circular manner from the southern Serengeti to Kenya’s Maasai Mara and back.
The migration is a typical safari experience in Africa, attracting travelers all year to view this amazing display.
The herds go through the whole life cycle, from mating to calving to death – frequently in the jaws of their numerous predators, the crocodiles and large cats, who are themselves maintained by Mother Nature’s magnificent, if harsh, cycle.
This never-ending voyage involves herds separating and reuniting, retracing their steps before continuing on, and other variants that might make the entire affair seem more chaotic than it is. Furthermore, although the herds normally follow the rains, it’s impossible to predict when they’ll arrive at each location. The dates and routes vary from year to year, making the exact spot for a migration safari difficult to anticipate.
Staying in a movable safari camp increases your chances of spotting migrating herds because these properties move seasonally to follow the migration pattern. If you have the time, stay at two or three safari camps in various parts of the Serengeti or the Mara, depending on when you visit.
The stunning river crossings are the most sought-after sights, but planning your whole vacation around them is perilous since the crossings are so unpredictable, and it’s far from assured that you’ll be in the right location at the right time. Consider viewing a river crossing as a bonus rather than the primary purpose for your trip.
Where to Go to See the Wildebeest Migration
Top destinations for migratory safaris
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Ndutu Plains
The distant territory to the south of Serengeti National Park (known as Kusini, or’south’ in Swahili) borders the Ndutu Plains in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Maswa Game Reserve to the southwest, forming a huge stretch of open grassland interspersed by clumps of acacia forest.
During January and March, the wildebeest migration travels through the Ngorongoro and Ndutu regions. Calving season has arrived, and the herds of wildebeest (along with zebras and gazelles) have swollen to hundreds of thousands of newborn calves.
Yet, the broad grassland plains and scant tree cover provide an excellent hunting environment for big cats and hyenas, who attack on newborn calves when they are most vulnerable. The marvel of new life and progress is balanced by the brutal reality of the prey-predator relationship, making this a dramatic—and traumatic—time. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas may all be found in the area.
The Maswa Game Reserve borders the southern Serengeti, with two private reserves, Maswa Mbono to the north and Maswa Kimali to the south. The reserve is critical to the conservation of the Serengeti environment. Effective anti-poaching operations have increased animal populations, and it serves as an important barrier between the village and the Serengeti National Park, decreasing encroachment and making it more difficult for poachers to enter the Serengeti.
Lake Ndutu, a soda lake (very alkaline and salty), is also nearby and a well-known feeding place for the lesser flamingo.
Apart from animal watching, the area boasts some breathtaking landscapes with signs of early human occupation, such as rock drawings on kopjes (rocky outcrops) and Olduvai Gorge, an important archaeological site where some of the oldest hominid bones were found in 1973.
The Serengeti’s central and western corridors
The ‘long rains’ begin in April and the wildebeest wash up through the southern Serengeti where the massive herds separate and stretch out into the middle Serengeti and, ultimately, into the ‘western corridor’.
The Seronera River and its adjacent valley are at the center of the national park. The Seronera is a perennial river that offers year-round habitat for animals, including lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Because of the diversity of habitats and the year-round availability of water, this region is home to an abundance of herbivores like as zebras, Bohor reedbuck, and Grant’s gazelles. The neighboring Lake Magadi is also home to flamingos.
The environment is littered with enormous kopjes, which are a product of volcanic activity in the region and are popular perches for big cats. Simba Kopjes, which translates as “Lion Rocks,” inspired the towering boulders in the Disney classic The Lion King. The famed ‘gong rocks’ at Moru Kopjes are among these stones, which are said to have been utilized for communication over the wide plains. There are also caverns nearby that were utilized by the Maasai until about 50 years ago, replete with rock painting.
The last surviving black rhinos in the Serengeti may also be found near the Moru Kopjes, south of the Seronera River.
Front runners will reach the western corridor, where they will ultimately meet the Grumeti River, the first significant river crossing for the wildebeest on their long trip north. While the Grumeti is not as broad or perilous as the Mara, numerous magnificent crossings may be found here.
In Maasai Mara, zebras cross the Mara River. Kenya
The Mara River is crossed by zebras.
The Mara River and the Northern Serengeti
The herds, still scattered, move north through the Ikorongo Game Reserve to the Kogatende and Lamai districts on the banks of the Mara River.
From July and October, the Kogatende region in the northern Serengeti is an excellent site to watch the migration, with July and August often being the best months. There is a year-round resident lion pride in the region, as well as additional leopards and cheetahs.
The Mara River, which runs along the extreme northern boundary of the Serengeti National Park, serves as the background for the famous migratory river crossings. During the peak summer months, the Kogatende is an excellent place to base oneself. River crossings happen on a regular basis, and there will be significantly less visitors than in the Maasai Mara, just over the border.
Elephants in Kenya’s Maasai Mara
A herd of elephants traverses Kenya’s, Maasai Mara.
Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara National Reserve (Mara for short) in Kenya comprises the northern rim of the Serengeti ecosystem, most of which is in Tanzania.
From June and October, the herds usually migrate through the Mara. The Mara River passes through the reserve’s heart, making area great river-crossing territory. Throughout the summer, the herd will be crisscrossing the river in a frenzy, anxiously avoiding the crocodiles hiding under the waterline.
The Mara National Reserve is small in contrast to the Serengeti National Park, yet Kenya is by far the most popular safari destination, thus it may become crowded during peak migration months.
Throughout the Mara, there are around 300 camps and lodges ranging from dirty yet affordable to opulent. Costs per person per night vary from $150 to $1,000. You may stay on the reserve itself, but the finest places to stay are in the conservancies that surround it. With such a wide pricing (and quality) range, it’s generally best to book via a trustworthy safari expert to prevent disappointment.
The Serengeti of the East
The eastern Serengeti is a grassland environment broken by acacia trees and rocky outcrops, the most notable of which is Gol Kopjes. This is an excellent location to see large cats pursuing their prey, such as Grant’s or Thomson’s gazelles.
The herd disperses again in October and November for its lengthy and fast-moving trek south, passing via the Loliondo and Lobo districts. At this time of year, catching the migration is difficult, but there are lots of other species to see, and low season offers excellent value at some very stunning lodges and camps.
Outside the park’s eastern limit is an active volcano known as Ol Doinyo Gol (‘Mountain of God’ in Maasai). It is very tiny in comparison to the famed Kilimanjaro (5,500m), yet it is nonetheless a hard full-day hike. The lava flows of the volcano have replenished the surrounding grasslands, making it an appealing destination for wildebeest on its way south.
Lake Natron, located much farther east, is another soda lake that serves as an excellent breeding habitat for thousands of lesser flamingos.
The Soit le Motonyi cheetah conservation project, which is home to a robust cheetah population, is well-known in the region. Until recently, the area’s stable water sources provided habitat for year-round animal populations. It’s an excellent location for seeing cheetahs and other large cats.
The Serengeti grasslands herd grazing
Considering a wildebeest migration safari?
Kenya versus Tanzania Migration Safaris
The Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is a more affordable option for seeing the wildebeest migration. Although having a shorter migratory season, Kenya offers more flights, more visitors, more competition, and a wider range of economical lodging options than Tanzania.
Because of Tanzania’s vastness, traveling beyond the Northern Circuit usually requires domestic flights, therefore visiting the parks in the south and west is more costly but often considerably more exclusive.
The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is far larger than the Maasai Mara, having more private hotels and campgrounds in less populated places. Having said that, the center of Serengeti can still become quite crowded, so choosing your camps wisely is essential.
In general, Kenya is the superior choice for family safaris, those on a tight budget, and those with limited time. Tanzania may be your best choice if you want to spend, get away from the throng, and see various destinations.
Where do wildebeest migrate to and from?
The rhythmic migration has no actual beginning or finish; rather, it is a constant cycle that repeats year after year, with variations. Maybe it’s best to imagine the voyage starting with the birth of each calf in the Ndutu plains beyond the southern Serengeti. The herd then wanders north across the Serengeti, passing the Mara River and finally into Kenya’s Maasai Mara before returning to the southern plains.
What causes the wildebeest to migrate?
Wildebeest move across the Serengeti-Mara area in search of new grasses that emerge after the rains. We don’t know how they detect where it’s raining; hypotheses include the scent of rain, a shift in air pressure, and evolutionary instinct.
Migration is not limited to wildebeest. Thousands of zebras, gazelles, and impalas are among the herd. These mega herds have benefits that go beyond simple safety in numbers. Zebras munch on the longer, rougher grass, preparing it for the wildebeest’s larger muzzles, which prefer shorter vegetation. Predators like lions and leopards do not move with the herds; instead, they engage when their routes intersect.
A ‘wavy front’ has been noticed as the herds begin to move, indicating a degree of cooperation among the wildebeest. It is uncertain how they transmit this.
Lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, and crocodiles are among the top predators that hunt wildebeest. A fully mature wildebeest, on the other hand, is no easy meal, and adults can badly damage most predators, even lions, by impaling or tossing assailants with their immense power and horns.
A wildebeest, with a peak speed of 80km/h, is also not the simplest beast to capture. When confronted with a predator, they will congregate, with younger animals being screened by adults. They also have lookouts who will scream out to alarm the herd if they see a predator. When the herd is aroused, it all rushes in the same direction to avoid being attacked.
River crossings are one of the most spectacular parts of the journey. Although it may seem that the wildebeest leap into the water at random, generating a flurry of activity, study suggests that it may be more premeditated than initially imagined. A herd of wildebeests seems to have swarm intelligence,’ as they work together to investigate and conquer obstacles.
Is the wildebeest migration threatened?
The wildebeest migration is a complicated interaction between people and animals in terms of conservation. The existence of the whole ecosystem is precariously balanced.
Local communities, growth, and tourism
The Maasai were formerly semi-nomadic herders who coexisted with animals. Nonetheless, tourism has spurred more settlement surrounding parks such as the Serengeti.
Private wildlife conservancies established surrounding national parks have had limited success, enabling locals to make a consistent income from their property while also maintaining well-managed grazing areas. Nonetheless, increased tourism and population development have led to additional expansion, placing strain on park boundaries and causing human-wildlife conflicts.
A shifting climate
Another major concern to the region has been the increased intensity of seasonal floods and drought, which may be caused by climate change. As the Indian Ocean warms and prevailing winds carry precipitation across East Africa, more extreme episodes of rain and drought occur, presenting the possibility of a new danger to the Serengeti’s keystone species and their migration.