What Is The Great Migration?

It is the largest animal migration in the world. It is a long animal trek from Serengeti, Tanzania to Maasai Mara, Kenya that covers a distance of over 800 km (500 miles). It is one of the most spectacular and epic things to watch.

The wildebeest’s march is almost 40km long but the animals group themselves into smaller herds. The animals usually move in search of green pastures and water then settle on a specific mating and calving ground which has a relatively small number of predators.

It happens in a cycle every single year, with the animals following a specific route. Although not all animals follow this route, most of them use that way. This trek has its dangers such as attacks from predators like lions, hyenas, and leopards among others. They also fight crocodiles and heavy waves and currents as they cross the rivers. It is also known as one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”.

Which Animals Migrate During The Great Migration?

The migration includes millions of wildebeests, Burchell’s zebras, antelopes, Grant’s gazelles, eland, impala, Thomson’s gazelles and other plain animals.

The animals march in bunches forming a very long trek of 40km. They usually migrate at different times and seasons depending on the weather patterns. These may be either dry or wet seasons. When the dry seasons approach these wild animals need to migrate mainly in search of pastures and water.

Why Do The Wildebeest Migrate?

There is a great number of wildebeests that migrate. They normally move from one place to another for various kinds of reasons. Some of these reasons are: they move to look for green grazing areas, mating grounds, calving grounds and drinking water. The animals move from one place to another after grazing a certain area until the pasture is low and the water is scarce. They then move to a new area that will provide these necessities.

They also move to find a safe place for mating, calving, and protecting the calves. The calving area near the Ngorongoro crater provides grounds with lots of nutrients for the growth of the calves. The weather patterns in this part of the East African region dictate the great migration journey. When it rains, the grass gets greener and subsequently the wildebeests along with the other animals populate this area.

When Does The Great Migration Start?

The Great Migration begins in December when the gnu mate and give birth to a new generation of wildebeests. During this time till April, the calves are nurtured and protected by the adult as they get stronger and bigger for the journey.

They move from the South to the Central part of Serengeti between April and June which is when the long rains come to an end. They then move to the West as they feed on the grown grass on their way.

In June and July, they cross the Grumeti River where some of the animals are killed by the crocodiles in the river.

In August, September and early October, they cross the Mara River in Kenya. After crossing the river, they then start to make their way back south to begin the cycle. This journey back happens between October, November and December when they get to the Ngorongoro crater Conservation Area. 

When they get back to the area, the grass is normally grown and water pools are easily accessible. So they begin the mating and calving and repeat the migration again in the next year.

How Long Does Wildebeest Migration Last?

This event is a whole year cycle following rain patterns in the Serengeti area. This pattern depends on how long it takes for one season to come to an end and the beginning of the next season. This pattern might differ from one year to the other. This is brought by the climate change caused by the effects on the atmosphere. The longer it takes for the rain to fall, the late the migration since the rain dictates where and when the animals will be.

Where Do The Wildebeest Migrate To And From?

Generally, the animals move from Tanzania to Kenya. The animals go from Ngorongoro crater to the south side of Serengeti National Park and they normally move as a large group of animals in unison with each other.

They then pass through Moru kopjes and Seronera valley to the Serengeti Western corridor. From here, they cross the Grumeti River as they move past the Grumeti game reserve. They continue to move towards the Northern border of the park and cross the Mara River into the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. They then make their way south, back to Ngorongoro Conservation Area via Loliondo.

How Far Do Wildebeest Migrate?

Comprising millions of animals, the great migration goes for almost 800km (500 miles). This is the distance it takes for the herd to move from Tanzania to Kenya and back, for them to complete the migration cycle. They go from the South side of the Serengeti to the West, the North, Central, to the east, and back to the south again. Some of the wildebeests don’t make it so far because they are attacked by predators. Their movement begins slow and lazy but picks up when they reach the river crossing.

Wildebeest Migration Map

Since the migration is done in a cycle, it begins and ends in the same place every year. In January, February and March, the wildebeests are in Ngorongoro Conservation Area for calving then starts moving towards Olduvai Gorge in the southern side of the Serengeti. They pass through Maswa Game Reserve and Moru Kopjes.

In April and May, the gnu move to the central and western side of Serengeti towards Lake Ndutu area and Simiyu.

In June and July, they move North again towards the Grumeti River, Grumeti Controlled Area and the Mbalageti River in the Eastern woodlands.

In August, September and October, the herd moves towards the Kenya and Tanzania border. Here, they cross the Mara River then enter the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

After crossing to Kenya, they then make their way back to Tanzania in November. They go through the Seronera Valley, Simba Kopjes and Loliondo.

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