I will never
forget the biggest spectacle I have ever witnessed. It was an overcast
December day and we drove down from Ngorongoro onto the Serengeti
Plains. First we saw a few animals here, a bit more there and suddenly
we were driving into and amongst a herd of 300 000 blue wildebeest! Can
you try to imagine a sea of animals spread out from horizon to horizon.
Whether you can or can't, nothing can compare it with reality - being
there, seeing them, smelling them, hearing them. 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.
Don't worry if you can't go in a period that coincides with the Great Migration. You
will still see plenty of animals and different species in the Mara, as well as those wildebeest and zebra which choose not to join the migration. Most species do not migrate and so there is always great opportunities to observe antelop, lions, elephant, leopards, giraffes and cheetah. Remember too that it is not so expensive outside of the migration season, and you also greater availability of
December - March
herds of wildebeest spend the rainy season in the volcanic open plains
below the Ngorongoro Crater and in the Southern Serengeti, where the
grass growth is most productive with a high nutrient content. This area
is the starting point for one of the great wonders of the world.
As the sea of grass provides little
cover and the young are easy pickings for a variety of preditors, wildebeest have evolved synchronized birthing. This means
about 90% of calves are born within a three week period. With such a
sudden and massive surge of available food, predators do not make any
significant dent in the newborn calf population. Wildebeest calves can
run minutes after they are born and within three days the calves are
strong enough to keep up with the herd.
April - May
the grass becomes depleted in the Southern Serengeti the herds move towards the
plains and woodlands of the Serengeti's Western Corridor. For the
migrants there is a high mortality rate, due mainly to injury and fatigue, which brings in large numbers of griffon vultures. Northwest from the short grass plains is the Grumeti River, which is their first real obstacle. They also have to contend with the gigantic Nile
crocodiles (growing up to 6 meters in length) that lie in wait for any hesitant wildebeest. These crocodiles are
inextricably linked with the great migration, moving with surprising
stealth and speed as they prey upon the thirsty herds, pausing for a drink on the banks of the river.
rainfalls, the migration moves north before crossing the Kenyan border
into the Masai Mara. Nothing hinders the progress of the stampeding herds, until
they must cross the Mara river, again with its flotillas of
hungry crocodiles. All is far from peaceful, for it is the rutting
season and each male tries to establish a stamping ground. After moving
westwards, the migration divides by some uncanny instinct, one group
turning northeast and the other due north.
July - August - September - October
mass of grunting wildebeests remain on the productive Mara grasslands
until October or November, until a point where the ecosystem
is simply too dry to support them. And then, just as the storm clouds gather
in the south, the vast herds return to their breeding grounds, which are once again green and lush.
November, the army of animals returning southward to the replenished
grasslands of the southern Serengeti, completes the migratory
The migration is never precisely the same in terms
of timing and direction, as local conditions influence grass growth. So
the wildebeest may move off the open plains earlier in some
years, and remain in the northern woodlands for longer, in others. Often
the animals split into two groups as they move, resulting in one group
moving on the western side and another group moving on the eastern side
of the Serengeti, finally meeting up at Ndutu or in the Mara. Viewing
of the migration therefore can't be guaranteed.
Select the desired Camp: Mara Bushtops or Serengeti Bushtops