It is a common question that we get asked – ‘At what time of year can I see the great wildebeest migration in Africa?’ What a lot of travellers do not realise, is that the wildebeest are always migrating. You can actually see the migration at any time of the year in various parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Here is our guide to help make following the great migration or coordinating a viewing of the great migration into your travels easier.
The great trek usually begins in Tanzania and the Serengeti in January after the herds have exhausted the available pastures.
The migration involves well over a million animals and approximately 810km of travel. The true migrants are the Wildebeest or White bearded gnu and Zebra. Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles participate but only partially as the predators only trail the herds for obvious reasons – easy prey! It is questionable whether the Zebra make the full journey and it is certain that the gazelles do not leave the Serengeti.
At this time of the year the wildebeests are scattered across the medium and short grass plains south of Serengeti depending on the water and grazing. They criss-cross the plains with large concentrations remaining around Lake Ndutu and Olduvai gorge. Many travel onto the Ngorongoro crater increasing the numbers of animals in the crater considerably.
At this time, there are scattered thunderstorms on the plains, the surface waterholes are full and the grazing is good. Wildebeest calving occurs in February and there are literally hundreds of calves. Predatory activity is high with an abundance of Lion, Cheetah, spotted Hyena with frequent sighting of Leopard. Crooked Compass can organise a mobile camp site to following the calving (birthing) of the new born wildebeest.
By the end of March, the rains begin to taper off and the surface waterholes begin to dry up, the grazing is becoming short and the animals begin to panic. The wildebeest begin to gather into large herds and start moving north and west towards Lake Victoria as they graze. The herds continue west following Grumeti river and reach within 20 miles of Lake Victoria. It is for this reason the western arm of the Serengeti was included in the national park and is called the migration corridor.
The animals move off the plains into high country and the corridor.
The herds are still moving off the plains and into the corridor.
The great herds are now in the corridor. At the same time in June, the herds move north again through Musoma and head for the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Depending on the rain and grazing they reach the Mara river towards the end of July and the greatest wildlife show on earth begins. During this time until the end of August, it is possible to view the herds crossing the Mara river. If you are planning to travel to see the river crossing, please keep in mind that this is peak season. Prices are at their highest and the parks are very crowded.
July, August, September
The great herds are more concentrated now and remain in Maasai Mara area for approximately 2-3 months. During this period, the courtship and breeding takes place. By the end of September they have consumed most of the grass from the Mara river to the Loita plains in Maasai Mara.
The animals become restless and start moving south through the Keekorok (Maasai Mara) and Lobo (Serengeti) Valleys en-route to the plains.
The herds are normally in the highlands, acacia woodland around Lobo in Tanzania. They arrive on the long plains of the Serengeti around Seronera at the end of November and stay in this area for about a month before dispersing onto the vast plains that form the medium and short grass areas of the Serengeti ecosystem.
The herds are in Seronera area (central Serengeti) and the long grassy plains.
The cycle repeats itself.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.