Why the migration occurs
Animals migrate because of rain or the lack of it. When a seasonal drought dries up grass and water supplies in one area, the grazing animals move on to the next area along the migration route to where seasonal rains are falling.
The major migrating animals
Over a million wildebeests participate in the Migration. Hundreds of thousands of zebra and Thomson's gazelles join them. Although lions and other carnivores do not migrate with the grazing animals, they feast on them when their paths cross.
Know the path and schedule of the migration
The highlight of an African safari is seeing the annual migration. Over a million large wild animals travel the 500-kilometer circular migration route annually.
The migration path
December – April (Ngorongoro Conservation (Ndutu) Area & Southern Serengeti)
The grass in these areas is high in nutrition, making it the ideal feeding grounds. February is the calving season where you can witness approximately 400 000 wildebeest calves delivered over a period of a few weeks.
April – May (Central Serengeti)
During this time the migration begins moving through the central Serengeti and towards the west. This is a beautiful time to travel and there are very few people around at this time of the year. May is the time of the annual rut, with half a million cows mated in less than a month.
June (Western Serengeti & Grumeti Reserve)
The migration move north west through the Serengeti reaching the crocodile infested Grumeti River, where the crocodiles wait for an easy meal.
July (Northern Serengeti and cross the Mara River into the Masai Mara (Kenya))
Wildebeest arrive at the Mara River in their tens of thousands, and gather waiting to cross. For days their numbers can be building up and anticipation grows but many times, for no apparent reason, they turn and wander away from the water’s edge.
July - October (Northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara)
During this time the wildebeest regularly cross the Mara River moving between the Northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Kenya.
November - December (Northern, Central & Southern Serengeti)
October, when the first of the short rains are falling on the Serengeti’s short-grass plains, the wildebeest start heading south again. The herds trek down through the eastern woodlands of the Serengeti, some 90% of the cows heavy with the new seasons young. The wildebeest start arriving back at the Southern Serengeti in December.
The migration is rarely ever precisely the same in terms of timing and direction, as local conditions influence grass growth. So it is, that the wildebeest may move off the open plains earlier in some years, and remain in the northern woodlands for longer, in others.