Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, eland and impala migrate throughout the year, constantly seeking fresh grazing and better quality water. The exact timing of the migration is entirely dependent upon the weather, environmental factors, and the animals themselves.
The wildebeest and zebra populations stay in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro areas of Tanzania during the rainy seasons from November through to March, when the rains end. Calving season is normally in January and February, and this is a period of intense territorial and mating behaviour of many of the game species. It’s also a period of intense hunting by the predator populations such as Lions, Cheetahs and Spotted Hyaenas.
The hoofed animals gradually spread west across these plains, then around April they start their great migration north to the grassier plains of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor. By May the Serengeti’s wildebeest all seem to be moving north, migrating to seek fresh grazing and water.
Around June and July, when the rains stop, the wildebeest migration is often halted at its first obstacle, the Grumeti River. The wildebeest congregate there, often building up to an incredibly high density before crossing the river, some providing a feast for the river’s massive Nile Crocodiles. However, the crossing here is normally not quite as spectacular as the crossings of the Mara River, further north.
The wildebeest migration continues moving northwards into Kenya during the end of July and August, often spreading out across a broad front. Early September sees the herds spread out across the Mara triangle, where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. Watching the frantic herds of wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River is spectacular and sometimes disturbing, with many of the panicking animals drowning or falling prey to some more huge crocodiles.
By October the wildebeest herds are migrating again; all are heading south, returning to the green shoots which follow the rains on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania in November.
And then, incredibly, the whole Great Migration starts again …
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