January to March: New Wildebeests Are Born
The Great Migration begins in the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania, as wildebeests gather to give birth en masse. February is the peak of wildebeest calving season—about 400,000 calves are born over a period of just three weeks!
Wildebeest calves are able to stand within minutes of birth and keep up with the herd within a few days. That’s a good thing, as the mass calving attracts a large number of predators, including lions, cheetahs, and hyenas.
At this time of year, you are likely to see adult wildebeests work together to protect their young from predators. They sound alarm calls, then circle together around the threatened young, defending against predators with their hooves and sharp horns.
A wildebeest calf suckles milk from its mother on the Masai Mara in Kenya. Photo by Kandukuru Nagarjun.
April to May: Fattening Up
Now the Great Migration surges northward. The massive herd breaks up into smaller groups as it follows the rains clockwise toward Serengeti’s Western Corridor. It can be a difficult time to keep up with the Great Migration at this time of year. Seasonal flooding can close roads and block access to areas of the park.
June: Mating Season
The rains dissipate and the herds regroup for mating season in Serengeti’s Western Corridor and Grumeti Game Reserve. It’s an exciting time of year! You should have plenty of chances to watch males fight with each other as they show off their strength to potential mates.
July to August: River Crossings
The most dramatic moments of the Great Migration come when the herds must cross rivers. Here, the animals face crocodiles in addition to all the usual predators. They also risk drowning, especially in years with heavy rain. Rushing waters are difficult to swim through, particularly for calves.
First, they must cross the Grumeti River in West Serengeti. A few weeks later, as the grasses of the Serengeti dry out, they have little choice but to forge the Mara River in search of fresher pastures. Crossing the Mara brings the Great Migration into Kenya.
September to October: Masai Mara
The animals congregate in the Masai Mara, a national reserve that is part of the Mara Plains ecosystem on Kenya’s southern border. They move more slowly this time of year, as there is usually plenty of greenery to go around. In particularly lush years, they may stay into November.
November to December: Return South
Light rains return to the Serengeti in November, luring the wildebeest and company away from Masai Mara. They travel southward along the eastern edge of the Serengeti, eventually reaching the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Pregnant females fill up on grass to fortify themselves for the birth of their young.
Soon, the cycle begins all over again!