GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION GUIDE 2019/2020
Experience the Greatest show on Earth.
At the heart of the Serengeti ecosystem lies an ancient phenomenon that is the largest movement of wildlife on earth. In pursuit of food and water, over one and a half million wildebeest and half a million zebra and antelope migrate north from the Serengeti to the adjoining Masai Mara reserve in Kenya every year. It is rated as one of the world's most spectacular natural events - every year over a million wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrate clockwise around the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem, taking in two different countries and making time for birthing, courting and mating on the way.
But the trouble with the Wildebeest Migration is that if you get your timing wrong, you will end up gazing out over a wildebeest-less savannah and wondering where all the animals went. You need to work out where to go and when.
Based on historical data, this guide is not infallible (changing rainfall patterns make predicting the Migration an inexact science) but it will give you an idea of where the herds are likely to be.
The herds are in Tanzania's Serengeti, moving south from the north-east region and into the southern Serengeti, Ndutu area and Ngorongoro Conservation area - which often means out of the confines of the (unfenced) national park itself. It is calving season - prepare yourself for lots of wobbly babies... and lots of heartbreak as predators swoop in.
The good grazing of the Southern Serengeti, Ndutu and Ngorongoro Conservation areas means the herds remain in the far south.
They are still in the south but the grasses have all been munched up, the last calves born and the herds are starting to gather in preparation for the next leg.
Make sure you are on the southern Serengeti plains - the wildebeest begin their northward journey, and many have left already and are in the central and even western Serengeti.
Wagons roll! The massed herds are on the go, huge columns of up to 40km in length can be seen as the wildebeest funnel up into the central and western Serengeti.
As the wildebeest have often exhausted the Western Corridor's best pastures and the herds begin to move further north. At this point, the migration often splits and one column passes west to Lake Victoria, another passing north through the northern Lobo area of the Serengeti.
On this month, the countless wildebeest groups have amassed along the swollen Mara River, a final barrier from the short sweet grasses of the Masai Mara. If you are trying to catch a river crossing at this time of year, you should try to locate yourself in either the Serengeti's Western Corridor or its northern reaches; however, in some years being on the Kenya side during these months offers the best views. Be advised that catching a crossing is unpredictable as the timing and duration depend on rains and dry season. Where there has been little rain, few wildebeest actually cross the Mara River into Kenya. Book early, it is the river crossings big event. The herds have reached the western Serengeti and Grumeti Reserves and are peering closely at the brown waters of the rivers they have to cross.
The survivors celebrate by feasting in the northern Serengeti and begin crossing back into Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. You need a passport to cross; the wildebeest are exempt.
The herds break up into smaller groups - about half of the animals remain in the northern Serengeti, the rest are swapping stories in the Masai Mara ('Did you hear that Nigel didn't make it across the Grumeti?').
Your best bet is not the Masai Mara because it is a smaller reserve than the Serengeti and there may be a lot of other visitors. The conservancies in the Mara (Serengeti) are much less crowded and, not only will you still be able to witness the Migration, but you will also be benefitting the Maasai communities who have lived there for thousands of years.
The vast herds return to their breeding grounds, which, by the time they arrive in October, are once again green and lush. The short rains have begun, propelling the wildebeest to leave the now denuded grasslands of the Masai Mara and back into the rejuvenated Serengeti.
Fresh grazing sees the wildebeest clustered in the north-eastern Serengeti (around Lobo in particular) as well as the southern Serengeti. Calving begins again, the predators move in again, and the cycle of life begins all over again.