Wildebeest migration cycle
The endless plains of east Africa are the setting for the
world's greatest wildlife spectacle - the 1.5 million animal
ungulate (wildebeest) migration. From
the vast Serengeti plains to the champagne colored hills of
Kenya's Masai Mara over 1.4 million
wildebeest and 200,000 zebra and gazelle, relentlessly tracked
by Africa's great predators, migrate in a clockwise fashion over
1,800 miles each year in search of rain ripened grass.
There is no real beginning or end to a wildebeest's journey. Its
life is an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and
water. The only beginning is at the moment of birth. An
estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six week
period early each year - usually between late January and
DECEMBER, JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH
The Serengeti National Park / Ngorongoro Conservation Area is
arguably the most impressive wildlife sanctuary in the world.
During the months December through March the seemingly unending
plains of the southern Serengeti and the Conservation Area are
inhabited by enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra. The great
herds graze on rain ripened grass. In the calving season (late
January through mid March) the herds concentrate at the
plains ( Southern Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area)
attracting the attention of predators like lion, cheetah and
During the months April and May the depleted plains are unable
to sustain the endless herds. The migration, sweeping west and
north, moves from the short grass plains of the southern
Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the long grass
plains and woodland of the Serengeti's western Corridor, almost
to Lake Victoria . This period is during the long rains and is
considered off season for wildlife viewing in east Africa as
roads are often impassable.
By the end of May the wildebeest have exhausted the Western
Corridor's best pastures and the herds must move further north.
Entering the Lamai Wedge and the
Mara Triangle breeding occurs May through June. This is a
transitional period between the rains and the dry season.
JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER
By July the countless herds have
amassed along the swollen Mara River - a final barrier from the
short sweet grasses of the Masai
Mara. Sometimes the crossing place they have chosen is shallow
allowing the majority of animals to pass safely. In other areas
the waters boil with drowning wildebeest and slashing
crocodiles. Between July and October the wildebeest reside in
The arrival of the short rains call the migration southward.
As November ends the migration is making its way back to the
southern Serengeti and early in the year they once again give
birth. The circle of life is complete.
*Note - the migration is a natural event and the timing varies
month by month; year by year.