The Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
No need to introduce the Serengeti wildebeest migration. This funny beast (wildebeest) looks like a big, awkward antelope: a body and horns of cattle, and a grubby sheep’s head. Its silhouette evokes something suspicious and obstinate, like the buffalo. The wildebeest does not look very smart, it must be said. But he is an intrepid traveller, a daring nomad. Backpacker, Yes. Individualist, No. He will never migrate alone. Moving in a huge group, this is the favourite hobby of the wildebeest, its millennial habit. Imagine steppes and savannahs stretching to infinity. And a nebula of animal columns, sometimes 40 km long, galloping in the middle of nowhere, towards an invisible goal.
The Serengeti wildebeest migration is one of the most surprising shows in Africa. By tens, by the hundreds, by the thousands, hordes of wildebeest ride to no end, performing over several months, an incredible hike loop of more than 800 km. The disorder of this migratory movement is only apparent. The animals know exactly where they are going. They go instinctively towards the water, towards the new pastures, towards life. From this indescribable melee emanates a strange and disturbing background noise, the muffled pounding of the ground by millions of hooves thrown at a gallop. In their frantic journey, the wildebeest announce themselves by moaning: “Guenou, Guenou …” (hence their name it seems). They jostle each other, bump into each other, even trample on each other, always driven by an ancestral instinct that no scientist will ever fully elucidate. Because they have this particular, they migrate in synchronization with the rains. Below is the Serengeti wildebeest migration months season.
February to March:
It begins each year around February after the birth of the young, and just after the fertilization of the females by the males. The great rainy season is just over in the plains of southeastern Serengeti as the bustle is felt. Responding to a mysterious call, this huge flock suddenly sets out. Wildebeests are divided into two groups. With about 40 to 50,000 heads, the first group heads south, climbing the slopes of Ngorongoro, to spend the dry season near the lake, at the bottom of the crater. The second group, much larger (more than a million heads, the largest herd in the world), heads north of Serengeti Park and this is during March.
Migration is well underway. Endless moaning and grumbling packs are now heading towards the centre and the Western Corridor of Serengeti, an area northwest of the park.
May to June:
In an indescribable crush, wildebeest cross the Grumeti River where huge crocodiles are waiting for them. The weaker, the less cautious are devoured all raw in passing. Others are drowning, Get bogged down, perish smothered or trampled. Then part of the herd will migrate in the parks for a few days in the Western Corridor, where animals find enough grass and water to survive. But already other wildebeest are heading north-east. Endless columns are now heading to the Maasai-Mara Reserve in Kenya.
In July to August then to September:
It’s winter, it’s a bit cold in the morning. In August, wildebeest hordes reach the Ikorongo Controlled Area, north of the Serengeti park. In September, more and more wildebeest migration gather in Kenya, where water is plentiful.
In October to November:
October is the driest month in Serengeti Park. The wildebeest are no longer there. They still live in Massa Mara, Kenya, where they find forage rich in nitrogen, copper, sodium and zinc. In November, the big rainy season (masika in swahili) begins. Life returns to the plains. The herbs grow back. The pools fill up. The wildebeest then begin to descend from Maasai Mara to their starting point, the southeast of Serengeti Park. They will find good pastures, rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, all necessary chemical elements for females ready to give birth. Their transhumance towards the south follows the line of Loliondo.
In December to January:
The huge herd now stands in the plains to the south and southeast of Serengeti Park, where the grass is short grass. After 8 ½ months of gestation, the females give birth to their young. Dozens and dozens of wild deliveries take place every day in nature. In a few minutes, wildebeest babies stand on their feet. After two days, they can even dodge the attacks of their predators, the dreadful hyenas, who will stop at nothing. A jaw of hyena can exert a pressure of three tons per square centimetre, fifteen times more than a crocodile. A baby wildebeest for a hyena, this is a vulgar morsel of bread. During calving periods, hyenas attack mothers and try to snatch from their entrails the little ones being born. If the matrix of the wildebeest turns around, the hyenas excited by the blood are able to attack the animal by the uterus and to devour the bowels. Without mercy. Poor wildebeest.
Little Facts about Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
Like salmon, enigmatic migrants, wildebeest always find their way, nobody knows why, nor how. Another strangeness is they always cross rivers in the same place. Wildebeest are not the only ones to migrate. Hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles follow the caravan. Zebras because they feel safer, gazelles because they need to eat herbs cut short by wildebeest.
A great show for the eye, yes. But he has his share of tragedy. During this incredible transhumance, some animals are struck by strange disorders. Like this disease of Vertigo that makes them spin on themselves for hours. Predators then take advantage of them to throw themselves on them and devour them. For a wildebeest, to migrate is to suffer, and often to die. Death cuts every year 5% of the wildebeest and zebra. Crocodiles in the Grumeti and Mara rivers, hyenas, wild dogs, lions, are the first predators of wildebeest during the great migration.
Serengeti Migration is all about timing. Feel free to contact us for any Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari. We would be happy to assist you in arranging the best and well planned African Safari.