The greatest wildlife spectacle on earth happens every year in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Referred to as a “migration” we prefer to call it a rotation or a cycle, in which large herds of wildebeest, zebra, tsessebe and other grazers are continuously moving in search of fresh, nutritious grass following the rains. This “cycle” continues throughout the year.
December-March – Calving Season
By now the grazing in Tanzania’s northern Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara is running out and the smell of approaching rains in the south lure large herds to the Southern Serengeti through the Eastern Plains. By now many of the females will be preparing to give birth after an 8.5 month gestation period, making the prospect of the fresh, sweet grass even more appealing. February sees the onset of the birthing season and the open plains are dotted with millions of young. While this is an incredible scene, this also opens up opportunities for a lot of predator action and is often not for the faint hearted.
April-June – Mating Season
As the rains move north and the grazing is drying out in the southern Serengeti the large herds move towards the central Serengeti and the Western corridor. At this point the herds often break into smaller groups, each opting for a different route as the move north. This is also a time for the males to jostle for dominance as the mating season is beginning. As May approaches many of the herds would have reached the Grumeti plains, and the first of the threatening river crossings over the Grumeti River are imminent as they brave the crocodile infested waters on trek northwards following the more nutritious grass.
July-November – River Crossings
As July begins large herds will be grazing the Northern Serengeti plains and as the month progresses and grazing becomes in shorter supply, the herds will now be reaching the banks of the Mara River. This period it what is often documented on National Geographic and is the image many have in their minds of an East African Safari – this is the “Great Migration”. Approximately 250,000 wildebeest die each year as they jump from river banks and stampede through the rivers often into the jaws of hungry crocodiles and other predators prowling the river banks. These river crossings continue through September and provide a short break for grazing the much smaller area in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park. After a short period here, the herds have the daunting task of crossing the Mara river once again. Those that make it safely across will be lured south to start the cycle all over again.