The Great Migration of the Serengeti

THE GREAT SERENGETI WILDEBEEST MIGRATION

 

INTRODUCTION

The Great Migration of the Serengeti is a spectacular event in the vast ecosystem in North of Tanzania. It spans 12,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometres), giving rise to its name, which is derived from the Maasai language and means “endless plains.”
 
Africa is unimaginably old. Not far from the original site of the game warden’s house at banagi, a few kilometers out of Seronera, stand some of the oldest rock on earth – two to three billion years.
 
For much of this time there were no animals all. But the ancient land Hs Witnessed the migration, and an array of wild animals the like of which will never be seen again. Spectacular as today herds appear, they are a mere fragment of that golden age of mammals which reached its zenith in
 
Pliocene times, millions of years ago.
Today only the granite kopjes stand as a reminder of the ancient land buried beneath
The region hosts the largest mammal migration (The great migration of the Serengeti) in the world and is a popular destination for African safaris and is the most.
The view of the Serengeti Plains when migration departs
Altitudes in the Serengeti range from 920 meters to 1,850 meters, The usually warm and dry climate is interrupted by two rainy seasons — March to May, and a shorter season in October and November.
The Serengeti landscape can be divided into two regions defined by their dominant vegetation — woodland (bush savanna) and grassland (open savanna).  Woodlands, which are grassy areas dotted with trees, can then be broken down further by their dominant trees —Acacia woodlands and Terminalia woodlands. Grasslands include riverine, plains and derived grasslands (or those grasslands that are only there because of repeated fires).
Wildebeests on the plains during the Sunset
The southeastern area lies in the shadow of the Ngorongoro highlands and is composed of short grass treeless plains, as this area does get rain. Some 43 miles (70 km) west, acacia woodlands rise suddenly and extend west to Lake Victoria and north to the Loita Plains.
The landscape is dotted with a number of granite and gneiss outcroppings known as kopjes, which are large rocky formations that are the result of volcanic activity.
The Simba Kopje (Simba Rock) is a popular tourist stop.
Serengeti – Meru Kopje lions.
Much of the beauty is attributed to its sweeping vistas and dramatic natural features that extend over 30,000 square kilometers. The Serengeti has more than 2 million herbivores and thousands of predators.
Blue Wildebeests, gazelles, zebras and buffalos are the animals most commonly found in the region. Apart from wildebeest, the Serengeti plains are also home to lions, hyenas, rhinos, leopards, cheetahs, jackals, servals, aardwolves, and wild dogs. Also there are elephants, buffalos, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, baboons, velvet monkeys, zebras, gazelles, elands, kudus, impalas, nyalas, waterbucks, bushbucks, duikers, mongoose, honey badgers, ostriches, herons, flamingos, buzzards, vultures and hundreds of species of birds.

Photographers and nature lovers – Mara river crossing

 

THE GREATER SERENGETI ECOSYSTEM.

The Serengeti National Park itself covers about 15,000km² of mostly flat or gently rolling grasslands, interspersed with the occasional rock outcrops, or kopjes. But this is just the centre of a whole ecosystem which covers more than double that area, and includes Grumeti Reserve, Ikorongo Game Reserve, Loliondo Controlled Area, Maswa Game Reserve, part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and also Kenya’s relatively small Maasai Mara Game Reserve. This combined area is often referred to as the Greater Serengeti area, or the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
Greater Serengeti Ecosystem

SOUTHERN PLAINS

Vast short-grass plains cover the south of Serengeti National Park, stretching into the north of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the south-west Loliondo and Maswa Game Reserve. Occasionally there are small kopjes which, like the forests around Lake Ndutu, harbour good populations of resident game.
However, around these oases of permanent wildlife, the majority of this area is flat and open. It’s alive with grazing wildebeest from around late-November to April, but can be relatively with less animals for the rest of the year.

 

THE SERONERA AREA.

In the heart of the national park, just to the north of the short-grass plains, Seronera has all the best features of the Serengeti and also, sadly, its worst. Scenically, it’s a lovely area – with open plains, occasional kopjes and lines of hills to add interest.
Seronera Area
Lions along Seronera river
The resident game here is phenomenal, with high densities of relaxed leopards, cheetah and lion. These live off the resident herbivores, as well as the migrating game. The migration passes through here in April/May, but Seronera is within reach of both the Southern Plains and the Western Corridor – so from about November to June, it can be used as a base to see the migration. Seronera’s big drawback is that it is always busy;

 

WESTERN CORRIDOR.

Stretching to the west, almost to Lake Victoria, the Serengeti narrows into what’s known as the Western Corridor. The key feature of this area is the two rivers, the Grumeti and the Mbalageti, which run almost parallel, each supporting a band of most, evergreen riparian forest.
area sustains a very good permanent game population, including plenty of zebra and wildebeest, all the predators and forest ‘specialists’ like colobus monkeys. The birdlife is particularly varied. The migration passes through between about May and July – pausing to gather momentum before crossing the crocodile-rich waters of the Grumeti River, into the Grumeti Reserve.
Hippos in Grumeti River

NORTHERN SERENGETI

Stretching from Seronera for about 100km north, to the Kenyan border, the northern Serengeti is gently rolling country, broken by small rivers and occasional hills and kopjes. There are good permanent populations of wildlife in several areas here, including the very beautiful Lobo Kopje.

 
The further you go north, the fewer vehicles you see. Even when the migration is here, between about August and October, you can still enjoy spectacular crossings of the Mara River. A particularly stunning are is the wild Lamai Wedge – the area of land between the Mara River and the Kenya Border – which includes the picturesque Wogakuria Kopje, and a beautiful series of game-rich valleys and plains. This is the only area of the national park where off-road driving is acceptable.
 

GRUMETI RESERVE.

Singita Grumeti Reserves covers almost 1,500km² of private reserves which run along the north side of the Western Corridor. Within this are three, very different luxury lodges.
Elephants foraging in Serengeti Plains
All offer unrivalled exclusivity for watching the migration as it journeys north, and recycle all of their profits into local conservation and community development initiatives.

 

LOLIONDO RESERVE.

West of the Serengeti National Park, between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Kenyan border, lies Loliondo game Controlled Area – an area belonging to the Maasai tribes that live there. The western side of this, beside the park, is very much part of the Serengeti’s ecosystem; it has much resident game and the migration passes through here as well.

 

THE BIRTH OF MIGRATION -THE CALVING PERIOD.

 
While on the great migration of the Serengeti safari, Most people ask where the migration begins. Surely there must be a start and a finish? But there is no real beginning and end of the wildebeest’s journey. Its life is an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water. The only beginning is here, at the moment of birth (calving period).
The Herd on the Serengeti Plains
The moment is so carefully synchronized that eighty percent of pregnant cows drop their calves within a few weeks of each other – usually between late January and mid-march at the southern Serengeti fertile grazing grounds. Almost all cows over three years old produce a calf. 
 

January.

January is a tough month to predict. There’s a lot of movement from north to south as the herds await the first Serengeti rains. Like June, is a hard month to predict because the herds’ movements depend on when it starts to rain on the southern plains.
Female wildebeest are carrying calves and are almost ready to give birth. The herds move swiftly, in search of favorable grasslands to provide sustenance for the arrival of their young.
Wildbeests in Serengeti fresh grass plains
We recommend staying as central as possible and then move north or south from there, depending on the circumstances at the time.
With a bit of luck, you’ll be right where you need to be, for your great migration of the Serengeti safari in January.
 

February.

February is the easiest month to predict where the migration will be in the Serengeti.
Calving Period in Serengeti Southern Plains
Wildebeests giving Birth
February is calving season – a period when wildebeest, zebra and other migratory animals give birth to their offspring.
Once the calves are born, the herds don’t move much.
A calf on the Green Serengeti
The chance of witnessing a wildebeest birth is high. Predator interaction is also very likely, as lion and leopard move into the region to prey on young and vulnerable calves.
 

March.

March can be fairly wet. Grasslands are lush and green, providing much needed sustenance to the large wildebeest herds.
The herds move slowly and predictably, as the one-month old calves are fed constantly. The glut of calves make easy prey for predators.
 
Expect lots of lion and leopard encounters.
A wildebeest nursing her baby at the fertile grazing plains in South Serengeti.
 

Where is Mama?

Among such enormous number of animals it is all easy for the calf to become separated from its mother. Predators and cars sometimes cause the herd to panic, scattering wildebeests in very direction. Calves bleat when they are lost, and it is thought that a cow –given time – learns to recognize the sound of her calf as well as its smell.
Orphans wonder through the herd for days, desperately trying to re-find their mothers.
But no cow wildebeests will accept the calf for another, even if she has recently lost her own calf and still has abundant milk with which to suckle an orphan. Consequently, these calves pass from cow to cow, each of whom lowers her head to smell them before nudging them on their way again.
A calf protection lies in its ability to gain coordination faster than any other ungulate, in being constantly on the move, and in seeking the anonymity of the herd.
Some calves are undeterred, following for several kilometres, in the footsteps of a cow and her calf. Even bulls receive tentative advances from lost calves, who soon find themselves rebuked for their error with a rough sweep of the male’s horns.
 
Just occasionally, the seemingly impossible happens and a calf find itself re-united to its mother. But many never do! The marked season of peak birth ensures that young calves are unavailable to predators for much of the year – they are all vulnerable at the same time, and in the same part of their range: predators are glutted by the sheer volume of calves.
 
Calves bleat when they are lost, and it is thought that a cow –given time – learns to recognize the sound of her calf as well as its smell.
And therein lies the individual’s best chance for survival. Those born ‘out of season’ are invariably taken out by predators.
 
A calf protection lies in its ability to gain coordination faster than any other ungulate, in being constantly on the move, and in seeking the anonymity of the herd. But many still die before their first year’s journey has ever begun victims of under nutrition, diseases and predation.
Orphans crossing the plains, finding brief comfort in the presence of a fellow creature
 

The Wildebeests enemies during calving period.

Spotted hyenas are by far the most numerous of all the Serengeti’s larger predators. More than three thousand of these formidable creatures spend the wet season on the plains, carefully tracking the movements of the wildebeest as they wonder across the grasslands.
Hyenas are among the biggest enemies of wildebeests during the calving period
Sometimes two orphans will race across the plains towards each other, finding brief comfort in the presence of a fellow creature. But they do not consort for long before rushing off again in search of something more closely resembling the size of their mother – even if not of the shape.
 
Too young you have benefited from the cumulative wisdom of the herd, calves blunder towards hyenas already fat from the day of feasting, or trot blithely into the fatal embrace of lions.
Depicted as scavengers, hyenas are actually skillful hunters
 
Hyena hunts mainly under cover of darkness, though they are great opportunists, responding quickly, to the presence of vulnerable prey animals.
Their methods are those of coarser, relying on the speed and dogged endurance.
 
When hunting in groups, hyenas are capable of killing adult wildebeests and zebra. Even a single hyena sometimes pulls down a full grown wildebeest. If it does, other hyenas soon arrive and together they tear their victim apart.
Cheetah Chasing Young Wildbeest
A more subtle kind of protection against predators, in particular against hyenas, is the time of the day, when most calves are born. Some are born at Night while shrouded in the darkness.

 
But the majority of births occur around the middle of the morning, even at the midday. By this time, most hyenas are safely out of sight, seeking the shade provided by shallow erosion terraces or lying belly deep in mud wallows, and the lions are sprawled among the cool granite rocks of the nearest kopje.
Calves born in mid-morning have the rest of the day to gain strength before predators rouse themselves to hunt again.
The Calves have ability to stand within five minutes of birth
For all its ability to stand within five minutes of birth and to out distance a short winded lioness, a wildebeests calf will always be vulnerable on the Serengeti plains to the speed and endurance of a coursing predator such as a wild dog which are mainly in the south part of the Serengeti and Maswa game reserve.
The Calf’s hope of survival against these formidable hunters lies in passing unnoticed, in being only one amongst thousands of others.
Its only hope of survival against these formidable hunters lies in passing unnoticed, in being only one amongst thousands of others. But for all their legendary killing efficiency, the impact of the Serengeti wild dog’s population is barely noticed in relation to such enormous number of prey animals.
The African wild god is an enigma.
 
The mere mention of its name is guaranteed to arouse strong emotions. Admired for their sociable nature and the care they lavish on their pups, wild dogs still loathed and despised by many people because they kill their prey by disemboweling.
Wilddogs trying to bring down a calf
Man has always been quick to judge other species, relegating the dogs to a position of social outcast in the animal world.

 

Today the wild dogs are among the most endangered predator in Serengeti. There are probably fewer than hundred wild dogs roaming the entire park. The dogs are nomads wondering in search of prey over a large home range of up to thousand square kilometers.
For as long as wildebeest are available, the dogs will try to kill them. But when the migration departs North in April, the wild dogs living in the Serengeti plains survive by hunting the fleet footed Thomson’s gazelles.
Most animals breed during times of plenty, when food is abundant enough to sustain both the adults and the young. This is as true of the wild dogs as it is of the wildebeests. The majority if the litters are born during the rainy season, between December and May during the wildebeest calving period.
 
Wild dogs –Hyena’s major competitors
Surprisingly, perhaps the presence of so many wild animals does not damage the plains environment. The wildebeests never stay long enough to do that.
As they sweep for one grassland to another they constantly enrich the thin soils, helping to recycle the nutrients before they move on.
Everywhere one looks there are dark piles of dung and urine, virtual natural fertilizers. Even as animal clip the grass, growth hormones pass from roots to roots, promoting rapid re-growth. And the saliva of the herbivores acts as stimulants to the grasses.
 
Plants and animals survive in a state of dynamic harmony, allowing both to prosper.
Zebra families are highly coordinated in defense against wild dogs
Zebra families are highly coordinated in defense against wild dogs, bunching together and preventing the wild dogs from reaching the vulnerable foals. The stallions fall back, biting and lashing out with their hooves at any dog that dares to try and close in on one of any of their number. None the less they are packs of the wild dogs that has proved to be successfully hunters of zebras.
 
Such packs contain males experienced in the art of immobilizing the struggling zebra by leaping up and grabbing it by the nose and upper lip. Once it has secured in this fashion, other pack members can safely move in and disembowel their prey.
But it is a difficult and dangerous pursuit and most wild dogs rely on smaller and easier prey.

 

FOLLOWING THE GREEN GRASS HEADING TO THE NORTH.

 
After staying in the South plains through January, February and March, with most wildebeest calves born in a short window around February.
View of the Southern plains from January through March
 
The great Migration of the Serengeti gradually spread west across these plains, then around April they start their great migration north.
 

April.

April is wet in the Serengeti, but you’ll love it. Bring your sense of humour and a raincoat.
Don’t be scared of the long rains in April. It rains mostly in the evening and days are generally clear.
The main effect of the rains, is that the plains will be wet, and the black cotton soil slippery.
Wildebeests and Zebras on the Plains
If you can deal with the rain and slippery roads, you’ll be rewarded with excellent sightings.
 

May.

May is a great time for action photography as the herds move quickly to the Serengeti’s western corridor. It is the wettest month in the Serengeti. Roads can be slippery and tricky to navigate.
The herds gather speed in May as the calves’ legs should have become fully operational by now. They also feed less frequently, so bigger distances can be covered each day.

 
Wildebeest running towards the North
By May the Serengeti’s wildebeest all seem to be moving north, migrating to seek fresh grazing and water. The area around Moru Kopjes and west of Seronera is then hectic with a series of moving columns, often containing hundreds of thousands of animals – joined by many zebra, and a scattering of Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles.
Some of the migration then head due north of Seronera, but most are usually further west.
 

June

June is traditionally the Grumeti River crossing period. The herds are spread out, so expect longer, rewarding game drives.
June marks the end of the rainy season. The plains are lush and green.
The wildebeest herds cover great distances. Driving times between leading and trailing herds can exceed three hours.
Migration along the Western corridor towards the north
Around June the wildebeest migration is often halted on the south side of the Grumeti River, which has some channels which block or slow their migration north. The wildebeest then congregate there, in the Western Corridor, often building up to a high density before crossing the river.
Wildebeests along the Grumeti river during great migration
Wildebeests leap into Grumeti river during great migration
The river here is normally a series of pools and channels, but it’s not continuous – and so whilst they always represent an annual feast for the Grumeti River’s large crocodiles, these aren’t usually quite as spectacular as the crossings of the Mara River, further north.
June is traditionally the Grumeti River crossing period, but this is mainly dependent on the water level of the Grumeti River.
 
Late Crossing – Thirsty gnus envading the Grumeti river
There is seldom enough water in the river to produce dramatic crossings like those seen at the Mara River in July and August.
 

Rutting.

One of the great mysteries of the wildebeest is the manner in which the animals synchronize the peak in calving, enabling them to bring forth the young at the time most suited to their survival.
 
This is only possible if females ovulate at the same time each year and males restrict their sexual activity to a distinct rut in May and June.
 
The time of mating is critical.
Wildebeests Mating in Serengeti Plains
The way in which this complex chain of events is coordinated is unclear. Seasonal changes in a variety of environment factors are known to trigger the production of sex hormones in many animals.
The exact time of the rut is said to be triggered in some way by the lunar cycle, working in conjunction with seasonal changes in other environment influences. But whether the moon’s influences stimulates ovulation in females, or induces rutting behavior in males is unknown. Perhaps it helps to cue both, or perhaps the estrus in females causes the male to rut.
The rut is refreshing contrast for the human observer. Wildebeest society generally does not favor expressions of individuality: survival is enhanced by immersion in the herd. Stand out and a predator is more likely to select you for its next meal.
Herd of wildebeest taking a drink
It seems to be a drub life, one spent among countless thousands of other similar beings; a life concerned primarily with obtaining sufficient food while avoiding being eaten. When not advancing in an irrepressible feeding front, wildebeests are surging over the horizon in search of fresh pastures or massing at the water hole to drink. There seems little time for anything else.
In years of good rainfall, both males and females have feasted on steady supply of green forge and are in prime condition to withstand the stress of reproduction with large reserves of energy stored in the form of fat deposits. The bulls look big and impressive, their coats shinning grey with dark fingers of coarse hair streaking their muscular necks and shoulders.
By the time the rut begins in earnest the animals are already moving en masse from the plains to the woodlands. They are now at their most concentrated: males and females are at the same place at the same time, and have no need to seek each other out. This helps to synchronize the bulk sexual activity to within a space of few weeks, ensuring that the next year’s calves are born at the optimal time. By then the herds will have returned to the plains and rain permitting, have access to high quality forage for a month or so before the birth of the calves.
Bulls aged between 3 to 4 years are ready to fight for territories and mate
The rutting of wildebeests is closest approximation to organized chaos. So much is happening that you hardly know where to fix your gaze. The noise is deafening. Yet the frantic activity of the bill is far for indiscriminate. To mate they must acquire territory, each year the elder bulls always 3 or 4 years old do battle for temporary possession of a tiny part of turf.
 
Fighting is ritualized as a harmless jousting display designed to select the males most fitted to pass on their genes without unnecessary injuring in their rivals. Territorial bulls constantly perform this ritual with neighboring bulls, galloping out to meet each other, then dropping to their knees, head to head, most of the time they do not make contact. But on occasion they push and spar, horn against horn, the dust rising in clouds around them.
Territorial bulls performing the jousting ritual
 
This unrelenting activities of the bulls leaves little time for them to feed. They are far too busy displaying and defending their territory, mating with as many receptive females as possible, burning out the energy reserves stored during the previous months spent foraging on the plains.
 
The bachelors mean while are able to maintain their condition and provide a reservoir of fit animals to replace exhausted territory holders. Once ousted from this territory a bull can rejoin a bachelor herd and regain conditions before the energy – sapping dry season reaches its peak.

 

July

July marks the start of the Mara River crossings as well as mating season in the Serengeti.
July is a warm month. As the dry season approaches, the Serengeti landscape becomes more arid.
The wildebeest herds begin moving faster in search of water and greener grass, making their way across the Grumeti and Mara River. Expect to see crocodile encounters.
The wildebeest migration continues moving northwards during July and August, often spreading out across a broad front: some heading through Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo, others north through the heart of the Serengeti National Park.
The Grumeti River is where you’ll want to be during July to view early river crossings.

August

August is your best month to see the dramatic Mara River crossings in the Serengeti or Masai Mara.
It is a hot and humid month as the dry season kicks into overdrive.
The wildebeest herds will continue their search for lush, greener grass and by doing so, attempt to cross the dangerous, crocodile-infested water of the Mara River.

5 DAYS SAFARI COMBINED WITH ZANZIBAR

 

SURVIVING THE RIVER

The Great Migration of the Serengeti
Born in the shallow swamp of among the dwindling forest of the Mau escarpment, the Mara river flows like great artery for fifty kilometers through the reserve. As it courses from north to south, it draws to it a network of tributaries that provide every corner of the reserve with water.
The river is like a chameleon; in places it flows calm and unhurried between steep muddy banks; elsewhere I rushes over great mud chunks of black rock, a deafening white-water torrent avoided but its larger residents, hippos and crocodiles, which prefer calmer resting places.
During July or early august, thousands of wildebeest streaming from the hill sides of the northern Serengeti join those already crossing the wide stretch of the Mara river. Certain crossing places become imprinted into the minds of the wildebeests. Sometimes they try and cross the Mara at the suicidal places, plunging over sheer cliffs and drowning in their hundreds beneath an insurmountable wall of mud.
Zebra in the midst of wildbeest crossing in the North Serengeti
There may be a historical perspective underlying the wildebeest’s choice which is not apparent when viewed on a smaller time scale. Older, more experienced animals probably return to places where they have successfully crossed before, regardless of how many wildebeests died there I previous years.
Wildbeest great migration Crossing
Certain crossing places attract the largest number of animals because of nature the terrain makes them clearly visible from a long way and creates the setting for a massive exodus of animals across the river. Though the wildebeests and zebra on the surrounding plains and hillsides may not be able to see the river itself, the lie of the land enables them to see other animals heading to that direction.

 
Hippos are continuously eroding new exit point, making trails used by other animals that come to drink. Each animal on in its own way modify the contours of the bank, as does the river itself.
Whatever the factors may be that prompts the herds to cross, and sometimes it’s only a consequence of a build –up animals wanting to drink – nothing deters them once the urge is established. If vehicles or predators disrupt the large crossing at the favorite fording place, wildebeests simply move on to  the next, or establish a new one, even thundering through thick forest to reach the river if need be.
The two most commonly used crossing places in this stretch of the river are only few metres apart. One is relatively open, providing good visibility where the river runs rapidly in a spill of white water over black rocks. But the other is quiete different; a cul de sac of open ground, hemmed in between the river and a dense thicket of cover, where the paradise lions often lie in ambush.
The banks are steep on both sides, except for one stretch of mud flats where the river bends sharply. It is here on the flat mud terrace, that the wildebeests gather to drink and cross and when they do, half a dozen crocodiles will already have entered the water in anticipation.
If the buildup of animals trying to cross is too great, scores of wildebeests are trampled or drowned. Others are swept further downstream by the current and become tangled among the branches of the fallen trees. But despite these losses, the majority eventually finds a way through.
Somehow they manage to pick their way along the steep rim of mud until a hippo trail or another natural break in the bank releases them.But despite the lions and the crocodiles and the five meter wall of mud facing them, the wildebeests remain undeterred. Each year is the same, a crush of animals desperately treading water on the far side of the bank, searching for a way out. Hundreds of horned heads rear out of the river, eyes burgling white with panic. Usually the first animals are swept back to the shallows unharmed.
 
But by then, others have galloped into the water behind them, forced by the swelling tide of wildebeests trying to enter the cul-de-sac. As more and more seek to cross, the dust rises into the sky like a smoke signal encouraging still other wildebeests to hurry form the plains and follow.
 
The animals seem overtaken by the moment; soon the river turns black with confusion of thousands of grunting, bellowing wildebeest and the water heaves with the bodies.
 
Many calves become separated from their mothers during the pandemonium of the more difficult crossing. As the bulk of the herd heads off into the distance scores of the cows and calves gallop to and fro, grunting and bleating, mingling with those still trying to cross, sometimes even reentering the river in their efforts to relocate each other.
Some years are worse than others; the height of the river; the place they choose and the number of animals crossing at any one time will determine how many animals die. In a bad year, the Mara claims thousands of victims and the course of the river is made visible from kilometers away by constant swirl of vultures overhead.

September.

September is your last chance to see the epic Mara River crossings in the Serengeti or Masai Mara.
It offers more hot and dry weather, as the dry season continues in the Serengeti and Masai Mara.
Most of the wildebeest have crossed the Mara River, and the majority of the herds will be in the Greater Masai Mara area, eating the lush green grass resources before venturing north towards the private conservancies.
 

October.

October is a good time to see the wildebeest herds move back into the Serengeti.
October will be milder, as the dry season approaches its climax. You might even experience early rain in the Masai Mara and the Serengeti.
By October the wildebeest herds are migrating again with more accord: all are heading south, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park’s Lobo area, returning to the green shoots which follow the rains on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti in November.

 

7 DAYS SAFARI TO SERENGETI NP FOLLOWING THE GREAT MIGRATION

Predators Encountering

Groups of lions and leopards look down on the passing herds from their hiding places among the rocks or trees.  For as long as the animals continued to poor over the horizon, the predators would have no difficulty in finding food.
Leopard hunting prey, Serengeti National Park
Hyenas dogged the rutted pathways cut by the wildebeest. Many of these shambling hunters would soon abandon the barren eastern plains and move North West to establish dens at the edge of the woodlands, commuting for days at a time between western corridor and their den sites to prey on the migratory herds during dry season.
The prodigious appetite and protein-rich diets of the predators enable them to endure both feasts and famine. If need be, lions and hyenas can survive for days without food. Not so the wildebeest. They must forever wonder in search for green grass and water. By tomorrow they could be far away, forced to graze for sixteen hours a day to obtain sufficient food – the same amount of time that the predator spends resting.

 
Lions and leopards are unable to exploit to the full the abundance of the food represented by the migratory herds. With highly dependent young, the cats cannot afford to travel too far afield in their search for prey. They can go off and hunt and then return with a belly full of meat to regurgitate for their young, like the wild dogs. Instead lions and the leopards live as residents within permanent home range.
Crocodiles Confronting wildebeests during the crossing
Though some lions venture out n the plains during the wet seasons, most do not follow the herds on the journey north. Those who do are nomadic lions who no longer belong to a pride.
During the dry seasons, the plains are inhospitable place for the larger carnivores – no water, shade, and very few prey animals – just wind and dust. For this reason most lions pride occupy territories in the woodlands, towards which the migration was now headed.
Hyenas confronting a Lion in Serengeti Plains
But in recently years, the Serengeti lion population has increased – particularly out on the plains. It is thought that a rise in rainfall during the dry season, leading to an increase in the numbers of resident prey species such as warthog and topi, has enabled this to happen.
Hyenas are still more flexible. Though they occupy a particular range which will defend them against other hyena clans, these areas shift markedly in time and space reflecting seasonal changes of their food supply.
During dry season the hyenas female are forced to leave their young cubs to go and search for food. This journey invariably takes them to the western corridor where large herds of migratory wildebeests and zebra linger during the early part of the dry season.
The Scavengers of the Serengeti
Having made a kill or while scavenging, hyenas bolt their food, rapidly consuming as many meat as possible. These are the most effective way of competing with other hyenas, and lions that may already be running across the plains to steal the kill.
By the time a females arrives back at her den she may have travelled nearly eight kilometers. By now her udders are bursting with milk. Though they eat meat whenever they can get it, hyena cubs must suck throughout their first year- sometimes until they are nearly 18 months year old, by which time they are virtually full grown. it is only then that they are large enough, and strong enough, to kill for themselves, and to compete among the meal of bodies that quickly accumulates around the fresh carcass.
But even the adaptable hyenas are able to raise cubs and follow the herds later in the dry season. Once the animals moved into the northern extension and on into the mara, the hyenas must rely on resident prey. On the vultures can keep pace with the wildebeests and zebras, can travel 160 km in a day and still return with sufficient food for their young.
September sees the herds spread out across the northern Serengeti, where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. This river gushes through the northern Serengeti from Kenya’s adjacent Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
 
Watching the frantic herds of the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River can be very spectacular; there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. It’s common to see herds cross the Mara River north on one day, and then back south a few days later.
 

November.

November might bring rain, but it’s still a good time to see the wildebeest in the Serengeti.
November brings cooler weather, as the early rains start to fall in the Serengeti.
The wildebeest herds are now in the Serengeti, stationed in the Lobo, Mbuze Mawe and Seronera Valley areas where water is abundant.
 

December.

December is a busy and wet month, but you can still track the herds in the Serengeti.
Expect wet weather in December, as the short rains begin to fall in the Central Serengeti.
The wildebeest herds will move quicker now, as far south as possible, towards the Southern Plains which they usually reach within a couple of days.
Large herd movement of wildebeests
Defining the great migration of the Serengeti is a bit tricky. But whatever definition on applies to the word ‘the migration’  a change of abode, a seasonal movement – it is misleading to refer only to this one part of journey as ‘the migration’ as a general term to describe the migratory population of wildebeest – not to pin point a particular
phase of their year-round journey.
Balloon Safaris in Serengeti during the Migration
The trek from the plains to woodlands is only more spectacular because this is the time when the herds must further and most rapidly to where water and grazing are found. The animals are distancing themselves from the famine of the dry season plains and moving quickly to areas in the north and west where food and water are readily available.
Wildebeest are dependent on water. They must either drink regularly or find grazing with high moisture content.
Wildebeest are dependent on water. They must either drink regularly or find grazing with high moisture content. So it’s not surprising to see herds hurrying to the nearest areas, where they can find water as the plains dry out.
Nature has designed the wildebeest to be able to move rapidly and economically over vast distances in search for food- despite their strange looks, they are right size and shape.
It takes no more energy for a wildebeest to run a particular distance that it does to walk it.
It takes no more energy for a wildebeest to run a particular distance that it does to walk it. No wonder wildebeests seem in such a hurry – this way they can take advantage.
 
They were of the scattered distribution on the green grass, yet still remain within range of water. During the dry season it is race against time. They run to survive.
Nearly every facet of the wildebeest’s behavior seems to have being designed to save time – compressed and abbreviated through necessity. But how else could they accomplish so much so quickly!? They even rut while migrating. And calves gain their feet within minutes of birth so that they may survive in the open and keep up with the ever moving herd.

 
The great Migration of the Serengeti and game drive during the Calving season and the crossing season offers the most authentic and profesional safari in Africa
 

See Also

Tanzania National Parks(TANAPA)
Ngorongoro Conservation Area(NCAA)
Tanzania Tourist Board(TTB)
Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority(TAWA)
Zanzibar Tourism Board(ZTB)
Tanzania Association of Tour Operators(TATO)
Travelling in the Deserts of Namibia
Gorilla Tracking and Wildlife Safari in Uganda
Top reasons on why to go for a Wildlife Safari in Kenya
Day Trips in Zanzibar
Preparing for a Short Safari in Tanzania
Safari in Tanzania; The best safari in Africa

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