The Serengeti migration is known as the “World Cup of Wildlife” and is considered one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World.” The migration itself is the annual movement of some 1.4 million wildebeest, 500,000 Burchell’s zebra and a smattering of 250,000 Thomson’s gazelle, eland and impala. The herds migrate with two things in mind – fresh grazing and water. In total, the event covers an oval circuit of more than 1,200 miles.
Below is a month by month description that better details the migration’s path. It truly is a natural wonder that every safarist visiting Tanzania must see.
The migration begins in Tanzania’s Serengeti where populations of wildebeest begin to congregate in December. In January and February the mass gives birth to approximately 300,000 calves in southern Serengeti. The location is ideal for the newborns since the region’s soil and grass (rich in potassium, calcium and phosphorous) means naturally rich milk for nursing mothers.
By April, the multitudes of calves have devoured the area’s grass supply. The southern Serengeti also begins to turn dry. In response, the herds start to follow the Grumeti River west.
June witnesses even drier conditions and the herds adjust their travels towards Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. These months represent a significant obstacle for the migrating animals for they must cross the Grumeti River given the change in their path. The drier conditions, however, mean that the Grumeti is low, and the river’s voracious and abundant populations of crocodile have an easier chance to catch the herds.
The drove typically reaches Masai Mara beginning in August. Once they arrive, their travels take them across the Mara River before heading across the plains of the northwest. August is quite arguably the best month to catch a crossing. The act is a waiting game though and patience is definitely a valuable item to pack. For the lucky travelers, three or four high-drama crossings in a single day can take place.
During this time, the short rainy season starts in Tanzania and the herds turn back towards the Serengeti. By early October, the Masai Mara grasslands are also pool-table flat. As the million-beast march travels back south, the animals will consume approximately 5,000 tons of grass a day.
The great Serengeti migration, and all of its raw beauty, is one wildlife encounter travelers must see when visiting Tanzania. Don’t be fooled, your sights will not only be on wildebeests and zebra, but on their many predators – lion, cheetah, crocodiles and hyena – as well.