Noted among the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Annual migration of Wildebeest in Kenya is the most exhilarating East African safari event that tops the list of a wildlife spectacle like no other. This annual natural event takes place between the months of July to September and involves millions of wildebeest accompanied by hundreds of zebra, antelope species of gazelles, impala and elands with their newly-born young as they attempt to cross the vast Tanzania’s Serengeti plains northwards into Kenya’s Masai Mara National reserve in search of food and water. This tough yet clockwise journey driven by age-old instincts and the dwindling grass plains covers an enormous distance of 1800 miles, and is estimated to contribute to the loose of life for over two thousand wildebeest. The impressive sight of migration in Kenya Masai Mara is centred on the crossing of the Grumeti River in Tanzania and the Mara River in Kenya, where thousands of crocodiles lie in wait for weak ungulates and feeble animals unable to withstand the heavy currents of the already swollen rivers.
Witnessing hundreds of thousands of migratory animals grazing in the plains as they move towards the river crossings with predators such as leopards, lions, wild dogs and hyenas on tow provides an excellent opportunity to calving or courtship scenarios, or a spectacular hunting spell in action. The animal scent exuded by the massive herd coupled with the resounding simultaneous sound of hooves, or the sight of calves struggling to keep up with their running mothers is a sight to behold. Albeit this natural event topping the list of every safari experience, the path of wildebeest migration Kenya may vary each year in both the crossing location and timing, depending upon environmental factors such as weather and the growth of grazing pasture. Often referred to as the most intense natural show on earth, the Great Annual Wildebeest Migration Kenya is initiated by the start of heavy rains which herald the calving season, an obvious predator attraction due to the immense number of easy to hunt stragglers. This epic drama unfolds the myriad of hardships and challenges the wildebeest experience as they move from region to region in dusty great columns, while struggling to evade capture across the rivers where the notoriously huge and vicious crocodiles lie in wait, or succumbing to predators within the plains. The migration provides differing experiences for safari enthusiasts but depends on where they are based and at what precise moment.
The Migration in Tanzania
The Great Annual Wildebeest Migration journeys across the expansive 40,000 km square Serengeti plains and is fairly predictable, since it is controlled by an age-old instinct to search for fresh grazing and quality drinking water. Triggered by the sequence of a rainfall pattern commencing in early November, the migration leads the herds towards the short fresh grass plains within the east and south of Tanzania’s Seronera, Ndutu, Maswa and the Ngorongoro regions.
In January, the herds gather to graze upon the expansive and lush green vegetation, and spread out among the plains of Serengeti, Loliondo and Ngorongoro Conservation Area within the 2 to 3 week window of February, to bear over 400,000 calves providing a feast for predators. The animals remain within this area in March, until the dry season sets in. They begin to migrate in April heading north via the Seronera and the Moru kopjes areas in pursuit of the rain and new grass. The northward pattern continues in May, June and July towards the western corridor where the animals amass in great numbers at the banks of the Grumeti River, with crossing taking place sometime in August. The journey is relatively slowed down mainly due to hindrances caused by narrow channels and pools on the southern side of the river, and encounters with the large crocodile inhabitants.
A portion of the herd however, moves towards the park in a north-western pattern heading north into the heart of Serengeti. By September, the Great Annual Wildebeest Migration reaches the immense front on the northern part of an area that borders Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve in an attempt to cross the Mara River.
The Migration in Kenya Masai Mara
The wildebeest converge at the borders of the Mara River gathering for days as their numbers build-up as while they seek options for a suitable crossing point that is placid, and with less vegetation to conceal predators. Crossing fords may vary each year, with some attracting immense numbers more than others depending on the ease of crossing. Due to the great numbers of animals struggling to reach the other side some may opt to cross the river from suicidal sections, resulting in hundreds of their number succumbing to drowning.
The lucky wildebeest who reach the Maasai Mara grasslands feed and fatten upon the fresh green pasture within these vast plains for several months, while following the ongoing rainstorms. The Great Annual Wildebeest Migration involves the constant movement of the herds which is an additional benefit to their longevity since the predators are not capable of following a moving herd far away from their marked territories, or abandoning their young, who are extremely dependent on their mothers.
In late October when the short rains commence upon the Serengeti encouraging new grass growth and filling up the seasonal waterholes, the Great Annual Wildebeest Migration occurs once more, with the animals commencing their migratory journey heading southwards. The cows are at this time heavy with young as they cross the Mara River and trek through Tanzania’s eastern woodland in a tight group that spreads out when it reaches the open plains.
The Great Migration of Wildebeest in kenya is neither the beginning nor the end of the continuous search for water and food for the wildebeest and their accompanying herbivores across the Serengeti and Mara plains in an incessant sequence of life and death. This much awaited dynamic event by both predators and tourists defies predictability with each year varying in finer details, governed by migration's main defining factor of the weather’s four season cycle of dry to rain conditions. Set upon the endless vast plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti, and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park, this dramatic thrilling and daring large scale display of survival is a sensational and spectacular sight to behold.