Tanzania Wildebeest Migration – All you need to know about the Serengeti great migration

Tanzania’s great wildebeest migration in Serengeti is the movement of large numbers of wildebeest, large numbers of Zebra, Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, elands and the impala. Over two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles move through the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems in search of green pastures in a nearly regular pattern. These wildebeest move in large numbers throughout the year from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.

Tanzania Wildebeest Migration - Serengeti

Wildebeest crossing the Mara River

Wildebeest migration is an annual event where about one and a half million wildebeest accompanied by hundreds of thousands of zebra and numerous antelope species move in search for greener pastures. Their movement covers about 500 kilometres moving mostly in a clockwise direction from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara.

There is a popular tendency of people to think that the wildebeest migration happens in a continually forward motion which is not true. These herds move forward and back and to the sides, they split up, join forces, walk in a line, spread out, spend time in some areas and do anything they wish.

Wildebeest traverse through a large Eco system that includes Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara. During their movement, features like the Grumeti and Mara rivers, Simiti and Lobo hills hinder their smooth movement but they always overcome and go through them.

Though moving across the Serengeti and Masai Mara, wildebeest are usually in Tanzania for most of the year. For about 10 months, they are in Tanzania and spend the other three months in Kenya. Therefore when choosing where to see the wildebeest, beware of when to choose a Tanzania safari or Kenya safari respectively.

Why does the great wildebeest migration occur?

The great wildebeest movement is influenced by seasonal rains and availability of grazing grass. Wildebeest herds move to different areas during the short rains, long rains and in between depending on where there are sweet grass plains.

Their sole purpose of migrating is following the rainfall and where there is good pasture for them to feed. Though the migration is almost predictable, the wildebeest are actually attracted by the rains and can go anywhere with rain within the Serengeti-Masai Mara Eco system. This makes it sometimes hard to predict where the big herds will be at a very specific time.

Best Time/Season for the Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania

Wildebeest migration has specific locations for the different times of the year depending on where they can get food or want to have birth from. Travelers can therefore decide to visit during the best time for Tanzania wildlife safaris or when they are interested in a specific occurring. Here are the best times for different movements of the wildebeest;

The wildebeest settle in the southern plains between January and April since there’s a lot of food.

The river crossing of Grumeti and Mara rivers happens as the wildebeest head back north wards the Mara. This is in the late March or April and May as the long rains set in.

Birthing of their young ones usually happens in the southern Serengeti near the areas of Ndutu, Gol and southern Loliondo where there is short grass plains. This usually happens between February and March within a span of just 4-6 weeks with several hundred thousand calves born in this period. Wildebeest birth attracts predators and therefore that’s why there is a lot of dramatic predator action during this time.

Around October into November, the wildebeest get restless as the fresh short rains start building up anticipating change of season. They move north and south and back again causing very dramatic scenes especially during the river crossings.

After the short rains, between December to April the wildebeest can be anywhere from the Moru Kopjes to the slopes of Ngorongoro crater.

However, it is not that all wildebeest will follow the same route as some can head to the western corridor and the Grumeti River before heading north, others can also go through the Seronera, Loliondo and Lobo areas. If there is plenty grass in the eco system they can also be spread out.

Generally December all through to July is when the wildebeest are in Tanzania and probably the best time to visit them.

When planning to have wildebeest safari in Tanzania, ensure to be mindful of booking with a tour operator who has expertise in where the wildebeest are in the different seasons. Tourists flock Tanzania each year in search of the wildebeest therefore make sure to book as early as possible. Tanzania is a great wildlife safari destination and good for other safaris. Some of the prominent wildlife parks include Serengeti National Park where you can see the wildebeest, Ngorongoro crater, Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Ruaha National Park, Selous Game Reserve and the popular beaches for relaxation

After enjoying a great wildlife experience in Tanzania, East Africa offers another unique experience known as gorilla trekking. Tailor in a short gorilla trekking safari in Uganda or Rwanda gorilla tour and have an encounter with the great mountain gorillas as they live in their natural habitats. For gorilla safaris, there are no migrations but however short movements within their habitat and therefore you will have to trek through the tropical jungles. Charter flights can be organized to connect the Tanzania tour to either Uganda or Rwanda in the shortest time possible for such memorable lifetime experiences.