The images of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest trekking across the Serengeti plains, followed by lions and hyenas, and then braving crocodile infested rivers are perhaps the most famous wildlife pictures ever produced.
The migration does not only involve more than a million White bearded wildebeest – about 150 000 (some scientists claim 200 000) Burchell’s zebras and smaller numbers of Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelles, eland and other antelope make the never ending, roughly circular, annual journey in search of the rains and grazing. The migration takes place across the Serengeti plains of north western Tanzania and Masai Mara region of southern Kenya.
Many predators, including lions, hyenas, cheetahs and crocodiles, depend on the ungulates for their survival and in turn, vultures watch the predators to ensure that they too benefit from kills. Most of the wildebeest calves are born between late January and early March.
The movement of the animals is determined by the timing of the rains which varies from year to year.
The animals move over a vast area and it is best to consult your safari specialists about the best time to visit different locations. There are two rainy seasons. The “short rains” fall in November and December but the longer, and heavier “rains” fall during April and May.
At the end of the dry season, September and October, many of the animals gather in Kenya’s Masai Mara and then move south into Tanzania as the “short rains” begin. The herds then move in a roughly clockwise direction throughout the Serengeti ecosystem for the rest of the year.
The herds begin the spectacular, and dangerous, crossing of the Grumeti River in June. Huge crocodile await and ambush the slow or unlucky. A similar hazard awaits the wildebeest when they cross the Mara River in late July and August.
Although the large mammals are the focus of most tourists’ attention many smaller creatures combine to make up the region’s biodiversity.
T he tourism industry of the region is highly developed and offers a wide range of accommodation and tour options. Some lodges use mobile tented camps which allow them to adapt to the movements of the animals.
Permanent lodges operate in areas, where experience has shown, the migration passes through at similar times each year.
All lodges employ trained guides to drive game viewing vehicles and to provide guests with facts and figures about the migration and the wildlife of the area.
Liuwa Plains, Western Zambia
A far less well known and much smaller wildebeest migration takes place in Western Zambia with more than 40 000 Blue wildebeest moving from the Liuwa Plains National Park into