One of nature’s greatest wonders in the world, the great wildebeest migration, is one of the most sought Tanzania Kenya safari wildlife safari experiences for travelers all over the globe. Are you planning a Kenya safari, the great wildebeest migration should be on your itinerary.
The annual Great Wildebeest Migration refers to the massive annual movement of vast numbers of wildebeest searching for food and water between Tanzania and Kenya. The Great Migration is the largest overland migration in the world. The animals travel a total of about 800km or even more during each cycle.
Every year, over one million wildebeests, zebras and antelopes move through Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park in a continuous cycle of life and death, as they search for better water and grass resources.
During the annual migration, the herds will cross the Mara River, crossing an international border between Kenya and Tanzania. The herds will enter the Masai Mara from the Serengeti side of the Mara River, passing through Nile crocodile-infested waters and avoiding predators such as lion, cheetah and leopard lying in wait.
The migrations occur in a rotation between Tanzania and Kenya, however most of the movement takes place in Tanzania in Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Loliondo Game Controlled Area, and Grumeti Reserve. In Kenya, the migration stretches to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve that borders Serengeti National Park in the north.
Around late November to mid March, the wildebeest and other animals settle in the southern Serengeti and Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, mainly moving between the transitional borders of the two reserves.
Between January and March, half a million wildebeests are born each year in the Serengeti. In February, the month with the highest calving rate, around 8,000 wildebeest are born each day.
The migration may seem like a chaotic movement, but study about these wildebeests has revealed a herd of wildebeests possess ‘swarm intelligence’ because wildebeests systematically explore and overcome an obstacle as one.
Because wildebeests have no natural leader, the migrating herd often splits up into smaller herds that circle the main, mega-herd, going in different directions. When considering these smaller, split herds the whole migration can cover over half of the whole Serengeti.
During the migration, around 250,000 wildebeest and around 30,000 zebra are killed off every year as a result of predation by carnivores, but also from thirst, hunger, and exhaustion. The reason why zebras and wildebeest graze in harmony together is because they each eat different parts of the same type of grass.
The crocodiles awaiting the herds in the Mara River drown their prey by clutching them in their strong jaws and pulling them below the water, twisting them to break off bite size pieces. A crocodile can lunge more than half of its body length out of the water to grab a potential victim and can also use its tail as a secondary weapon.