The Great Migration
The Great Migration
The Serengeti is home to the Great Migration in which 2.5 million wildebeest, zebra and other animals follow the water and rainfall cycle over their 1,800mile treacherous annual journey, which mysteriously and instinctually moves in mass in a circular clockwise motion in the Serengeti throughout the year.
The Serengeti’s natural wildlife includes the Big Five (rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard), hippopotamus, wildebeest, gazelle, zebra, hyena, jackal, hare, dik-dik, mongoose, warthog, hedgehog, cheetah, waterbuck, hartebeest, impala, giraffe, marabou stork, hornbill, bustard, crowned crane, vulture, flamingo, ostrich and crocodiles.
What is the Great Migration?
The Great Migration is one of the natural wonders of the world in which 2.5 million wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, gazelles and other animals rotate in a circular clockwise movement in mass from month-to-month from one area in the Serengeti to another over 600 miles annually. Great Migration tours are the greatest animal show on earth and one of its most uniquely distinctive patterns of animal migrations to be found. This is the result of the confluence of a wide open plain of fertile volcanic soil that produces highly concentrated phosphorus low grasses the wildebeest need to eat to survive and a water pattern animals migrate to at different seasons of the year. To watch the Great Migration Safari, you will travel to locations where the herd is located in the Serengeti when you visit.
The Zebra and the Great Migration
Different animals within the Great Migration play distinct roles. Though wildebeest constitute the majority of the animals, the zebra leads the way as they have a superior memory of where they passed the previous year. Their natural instincts and memory are the survival mechanism for the entire herd.
The Wildebeest and the Great Migration
The migration herd is seeking green pastures. The Serengeti’s wide-open plain’s, rich fertile volcanic soils, produces highly concentrated phosphorus low grasses the wildebeest need to eat to survive. The wildebeest use their instincts to locate the short green grasses they can digest that meet their nutritional needs growing in the volcanic soil.
Peculiar Aspects of the Great Migration
2.5 million wild animals grazing and suddenly making the “wildness trumpet” in a chorus of sound signaling it is time for the herd to move on. When they do, they walk or run in single file line. When they reach the Grumeti River in the western Serengeti in June-July, they begin panicking as they prepare to cross the turbulent water swollen river causing them to drown, filled with huge and hungry crocodiles. At this crossing, up to 250,000 animals die. The survivors of the herd migrate northwards into the Maasai Mara in August-September where they must attempt crossing the Mara River, which is also filled with hungry crocodiles.
Why They Migrate
The Great Migration occurs as the herd seeks green pastures?
The wildebeest use their instincts to locate the short green grasses they can digest that meet their nutritional needs growing in the volcanic soil. The region of the Great Migration is very hot, as it is just south of the equator. The animals are all in search of water that exists in different locations within the Serengeti and Maasai Mara at different times of the year, as they would be unable to survive on the dry land and woody grasses if they just stayed in one place. Insects like tsetse flies drive them out of the woody areas. They also cannot stay too long in some of the waterlogged areas they migrate to that can cause diseases in their hooves.
What is Peculiar and Surprising About This Migration?
Imagine 2.5 million wild animals grazing and suddenly making the “wildness trumpet” in a chorus of sound signaling it is time for the herd to move on. When they do, they walk or run in single file line for over 600 miles. En route they are in a panic as they prepare to cross the Grumeti River that is swollen with turbulent crocodile filled rushing waters in the western Serengeti region during June-July. Up to 250,000 animals become meals for the crocodiles at this time. The survivors of the herd migrate northwards into the Maasai Mara in August-September where they must attempt crossing the Mara River, which is also filled with hungry crocodiles.
The Wildebeest Calving Season and the Great Migration
As the herd that survived the migration return to the southeastern Serengeti region at the end of February, the wildebeest give birth to approximately 250,000 babies over the course of 3 weeks after a gestation period of 8.5 months. This fascinating period is called the “calving season.” For some unknown reason, 65% of the babies born are female. This area of the Serengeti Plain grows the short grasses that provide the specific nutrients (phosphorous) the wildebeest need to produce milk for their baby calves.
Calving season is a dangerous period as predatory animals such as lions try to break into the herd, trying to snatch a meal of the newborn calves. While the mother wildebeest tries to protect her nursling, she often becomes prey to the predator. Nevertheless, nature has a way of protecting this from happening, as there is “safety in numbers,” which helps to mitigate this danger. Oddly, the wildebeest do not protect themselves or their calves using their horns but rather just run away to escape from their predator. The wildebeest and other animals stay in this area during the rainy season until the wildebeest calves are strong enough to join the rest of the herd on their yearly migration circuit.
Why the Great Migration is called the 8th Wonder of the World?
A Great Migrations safari is an opportunity to witness this spectacle of life unfolds which is one of the greatest animal life phenomena on earth. This scene is unique, natural, and occurs nowhere else in the world. It occurs repeatedly year after year following the same sequence.
Great Migration Cycle
Occurring on the Serengeti plain, it includes 2.5 million wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, gazelles and other animals rotating in a circular clockwise movement in mass at predictable times of the year from one area in the Serengeti to another traveling over 600 miles annually. The Great Migration is the result of the confluence multiple factors. The region of the Great Migration is very hot, as it is just south of the equator. The animals are following water sources that exists in different locations within the Serengeti (Tanzania side) and Maasai Mara (Kenya side) at different times of the year, as they would be unable to survive on the dry land and woody grasses if they just stayed in one place. Insects like tsetse flies drive them out of the woody areas. They also cannot stay too long in some of the waterlogged areas they migrate to that can cause diseases in their hooves.
Great Migration packages provide the opportunity to visit various locations within the Serengeti National Park ecosystem depending where the Great Migration is located.
- Western Serengeti (May – June) towards Lake Victoria along the great Grumeti River.
- Northern Serengeti (July- October) along the Bologonja and Mara rivers.
- Central Serengeti (April, November)
- Southern Serengeti (December – March) for calving season
During this period, the Great Migration is located in the southern Serengeti region. This is “calving season” when wildebeest give birth to a half million newborns during a 3 week period. It’s a time to see the drama of the hunt as predatory animals seek their babies. During this season, the southern Serengeti has specific areas that provide exceptional views of the Great Migration such as the Moru Kopjes where the rare black rhino migrate to at this time of year and where you can see Maasai rock paintings. Lake Ndutu, one of the Rift Valley’s soda lakes, has stunning acacia woodlands that attract a variety of animals to its eco-system. Kusini Camp is also on the wildebeest migration path where they congregate on Kusini’s grassy plains during calving season. It is also an exceptional location for viewing cheetahs, as is Gol Kopjes where fresh green grasses attract cheetahs.
During this period of heavy rains many camps are closed in the southern Serengeti. The Great Migration of wildebeestshas relocated to the central Serengeti (heading west), which is also the location of large prides of lions, leopards, and cheetahs.
June- Early July
During this period, around 800,000 zebras along with antelopes in the western Serengeti region join the Great Migration of about 1.8 million wildebeests. This is one of the most exciting and breathtaking times to view the Great Migration, as the massive herds of animals attempt to cross the Grumeti River. As the baby wildebeest and zebras are still young, they make easy prey for the crocodiles that are waiting in the Grumeti River’s turbulent rushing waters. Many animals drown as they cross the Grumeti, as they can be pulled downstream as its rushing waters head westward towards Lake Victoria.
July – October
During these months, the migration has made its way to the northwestern region of the Serengeti located in southwestern Kenya called the Maasai Mara. It is an amazingly beautiful sight at this time to see the migration cross the famous Mara River.
November – Early December
The migration is making its way from the Maasai Mara to the central Serengeti along its eastern border formed by the Great Rift Valley escarpment to begin its calving season again.