Wildebeest migration is the annual migration/movement of thousands of wildebeest occasionally joined by zebras as they cross the Mara River and Grumeti river from Serengeti national park in northern parts of Tanzania to Maasai Mara game reserve located south of Kenya in search of greener pastures and freshwater. This migration is like the ancient movements of the African tribes across vast lands to search for the places that had better pastures and fertile lands for grazing their animals, cultivating and settlement. Different species through processes such as predation, parasitism, and competition have a relationship among themselves which creates the Serengeti ecosystem.
The great migration is considered one of the seven wonders in the world as it is an amazing spectacle that attracts different tourists from different destinations at different times of the year depending on the seasons which determines the route of the migration of the wildebeest. The large numbers of wildebeest crossing the Mara River is a major tourist attraction. The savanna plains can be seen in the background during the migration of the multitude of wildebeest.
The connection from Kenya to Tanzania to areas of Serengeti National Park can be made through Isebania about 24 km by road. This connection favors itineraries which involve both Kenya and Tanzania involving viewing the great migration. Different safari companies offer different packages that contain the wildebeest migration safaris that combine both countries, for example, a 5 Days Tanzania Wildlife Safari or even a longer 12 days Kenya Tanzania safari. Tourists who are already on safari in Maasai Mara Game Reserve or safari Serengeti national park can drive or use a hot air balloon to fly to points where they can view the great migration depending on their locations and the area where the migration of wildebeest is taking place. The possibilities of witnessing the great migration are widened as hot air balloons are also available at Serengeti National park offering an aerial view as the wildebeest crosses the Mara River. The two locations are often compared by tourists to determine which location offers the best wildebeest migration experience since the migration takes place in both Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park.
Different important factors apart from seasons and time of the year are considered when choosing the right viewing spot for the tourists to witness the migration which include safety of the tourists, route used by the tourists as there are different entry points which offer access to Serengeti national park and Maasai Mara game which are the main sites where the wildebeest migration takes place. The entry fee at Serengeti national park is $70.8 for an adult person. The viewing spots as recommended by experienced guides include the river banks of the Mara River which offer a closer encounter with the wildebeest migration from the western parts of Serengeti National Park, the southern plains of Serengeti National Park around Ndutu-Seronera area.
Best time to view the Wildebeest migration
The times of the year best suited for going on a wildebeest migration safaris and their different locations are as follow
- December – May: Ngorongoro area
- June – July: Central Serengeti Area
- July – August: Grumeti Reserve Area
- August – September: Across Mara River and Northern parts of Serengeti national park towards Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya
- October – November: From Maasai Mara Game Reserve to northern parts of Serengeti national park.
This means that all year round the great migration takes place but in different parts of the national parks January to March being the months where the wildebeest give birth to young ones (calving season). The younger wildebeest are mostly targeted by predators such as lions during the wildebeest migration since they are naïve and defenseless with no sense of danger associated with the migration.
The crossing of the Mara River
The crossing of the Mara River during the Wildebeest Migration Safaris is one of the most interesting scenes on this safari. Mara River plays an important role in the great migration of wildebeest as it is the major crossing point for the wildebeest. The crossing of the Mara River, however, gets a little complicated due to the presence of crocodiles waiting to feast on the wildebeest. This attracts vultures that wait to feed on the carcass of the dead wildebeest. Other predators such as lions and leopards also prey on the wildebeest depending on the parts of the national parks where the migration is taking place hence the circle of life is complete as the predators feed on the wildebeests and the carcass of the wildebeests is devoured by hyenas and vultures while the remains of the carcass decomposes creating a natural fertilizer for the soil which promotes growth of grass. The fertile grasses which are eaten by the wildebeest and the cycle repeats itself. On a lighter note, preying on the wildebeest does not stop the migration which continues to the destinations with greener pastures for the wildebeest. Search for greener pastures is a major reason behind the great migration as this is a source of food hence the survival of the wildebeest depends on finding greener pasture for grazing.
Zebras which are seen accompanying the wildebeest also play an important role in the migration. These zebras feed on the long grass along the trails where the migration occurs which creates a passageway that eases the movement of the wildebeest. Other species of wildlife are not seen trailing along with the wildebeest during the migration such as elephants, kobs and many other species of wildlife despite being found within the national park.
The wildebeest crossing can be spotted from the banks of the Mara River from a tourist vehicle giving a clear view of the great migration.
Activities associated with the Migration
When choosing in a wildebeest migration safaris, there are a number of amazing safaris that one can decide to take park of as part of their tour. Some of these activities include;
- Hot Air Balloon safaris which provide an aerial view of the migration,
- Game drives which include morning game drives, evening game drives, and night game drives are carried out along trails where the great wildebeest migration takes place.
- Birding as different bird species can be spotted such as ostriches, secretary birds, flamingos, and many other bird species within the areas around the locations for the wildebeest migration.
- Nature walks along safe trails which offer a view of the wildebeest migration in the company of an experienced and well-trained guide.
Attractions that Surround the Migration Areas
The migration areas in Tanzania and Kenya have quite a number of tourist attractions that surround them since it crosses different national parks of the same country. Some of the fascinating attractions include:
- the flora and fauna,
- the Grumeti River,
- Mara River which is the major crossing point during the wildebeest migration,
- Moru kopjes which consist of a granite rock outcrop that provides a vantage spot for viewing the great wildebeest migration,
- savanna plains where the wildebeest graze,
- Ngorongoro conservation area
- The Maasai being the occupants of parts of Serengeti national park and Maasai Mara Game reserve are also an attraction.
Maasai People: The nomadic way of life of the Maasai is a unique cultural feature due to their preserved culture which attracts tourists who are on their wildebeest migration safaris. The Maasai contribute greatly to tourism in that they do not poach but rather depend on their cattle for food. The Maasai also have art and crafts such as Maasai sandals and beads, their traditional wear which can be sold to the tourists. The Maasai are hospitable towards the tourists and welcome them into their homesteads as they share with the tourists stories about their culture and explain different aspects of their culture. Benefits from tourist activities are shared with the Maasai community to give them a sense of ownership of tourism. The Maasai also act as guides to the tourists with the aid of an interpreter to ease communication between the two parties.
These attractions are an additional experience of a safari through Serengeti national park alongside witnessing the great migration.
The migration of the wildebeest also offers an opportunity for great photography and crews filming documentaries also have a chance to record every single moment of the great migration. Movie lovers who wish to experience the reality of the migration as seen in movies such as the lion king are also not forgotten as Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara Game Reserve offers this opportunity.
The experienced guides around Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara Game reserve are aware of the different seasons that the great migration of wildebeest takes place and therefore they direct the safari to the perfect spot which offers a chance to view the migration as it occurs. Game rangers are also present during the wildebeest migration experience to ensure that the tourists are out of harm’s way during their game drives to view the migration.
Accommodation when on a Migration Safari Tour
The different accommodation facilities around Serengeti National Park that are closer to the Mara river also allow the tourist to view the great migration while still in the comfort of their accommodation facility. Tourists who visit Serengeti National Park, therefore, choose accommodation facilities which offer them a view of the great migration of the wildebeest.
The strategic locations of the accommodation facilities at different sections of the Serengeti National Park also increase the chances of viewing the great migration of wildebeest. Some of the accommodation facilities that would enable you to view the migration on time include Serian Serengeti Camp, Kati Kati Camp, Ndutu safari lodge, Seronera wildlife lodge (budget), Dunia camp near Moru kopjes, Serengeti Sopa Lodge, Kusini camp (luxury), Grumeti river camp (luxury), Kirawira camp (luxury).
These accommodation facilities offer quality services and ensure the safety, comfort, and relaxation of the tourists staying there. Accommodations around the viewing sites of the migration are usually booked to full capacity in July and August when the migration takes place. This downside does not guarantee that each occupant at the accommodation facility is there for the wildebeest migration experience courtesy of a variety of attractions found within Serengeti national park and, Maasai Mara game reserve which attract tourists.
To satisfy curiosity about this great wonder, tourists are encouraged to partake safaris to experience the great wildebeest migration which is made possible from different locations therefore making the sight hard to miss at the right viewing point and at the right time of the year which guarantees maximum satisfaction and an unforgettable experience which can be got from a safari to Serengeti national park or Maasai Mara game reserve.
“Book a wildebeest migration safaris to Kenya and Tanzania and be able to view the great scenes of the wildebeest striving to cross lands to survival”