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The Serengeti - Mara Migration Explained

This is one of Africa's most amazing wildlife spectacles and probably one of the most recognizable wildlife events on earth. The migration follows a generally clockwise circuit around this vast area that straddles the border of Kenya and Tanzania following the rainfall patterns. But as we are dealing with weather and wild animals, nothing is absolutely certain, but this guide will give you a good starting point to work when are thinking of travelling.



The Rains are starting in the southern Serengeti plains and the herds are heading South for this. The Ndutu, Naabi Hill and Lobo areas are a good place to be to try and catch the herds. The priority for the herd is to get to the new green grasses in these very open areas which are ideal for the calving coming soon.



This is the peak of the calving period for the wildebeest with thousands being born on a daily basis. This primarily happens in the areas around Lake Maek and Lake Ndutu. The wildebeest herds stay here for awhile as the youngsters get strong enough to start their journey as a wildebeest. With all these youngsters about this means the predators are here in number focusing on this abundant new food supply so a good place to look for Cheetah, Lions and Hyenas.


With the babies now a bit stronger the herds are not moving at any great speed but starting to drift to the South West of the area into the Maswa and Ndutu areas and the rains are starting to become more regular.



By April the plains are beautifully green and rains quite regular but typically in the afternoons and evenings. The herds are now heading North on the Western side of the Serengeti going towards Moru and the famous Simba Kopjes, more in large groups at this time rather than one huge herd.



The herds are now moving greater distances on a daily basis as the push North continues towards Lake Magadi, and so a good time to get some action pictures of the herds on the move as the calves are now much stronger and able to keep up. It is still a wet month so be prepared for the rain.


The rains are now mostly finished by June and the herds are now quite strung out in long lines as they continue their journey North. The front of the migration is usually towards the Mbalegti River and the laggards still back towards Lake Magadi and Nyamuma Hills


This is when the Wildebeest start mating so there can be some impressive fights between the bulls as the herds move through into the Grumeti Reserve in the West of the Serengeti. The Grumeti River is one of the famous rivers they have to cross but dependant on the previous rain season there is not usually as much water in this river as the Mara River but if you get it right these crossings can be worth looking out for but harder to find in this vast and remote area, as the herds continue their way Northwards to the Mara in Kenya.


This is a big challenge now for the wildebeest and one of the most sort after spectacles for safari goers to see the herds crossing the Mara River, probably one of the most dramatic wildlife events on earth. Thousands of wildebeest die while trying to cross this river and I am sure you have seen some of the many wildlife documentaries that show the animals plunging over the steep banks into the River and the lions, hyenas and crocodiles enjoying the chaos.



The crossings continue in this month but not as regular and the herds are quite spread out now across the vast plains of the Masaai Mara. The reserve itself is only a small part of the whole ecosystem so much of the herd is actually outside of the reserve in the various conservancies that surround the Reserve.


The herds are now enjoying the feeding opportunities around here as they gather their strength as the push to move South will be starting soon.



The "Short Rains" usually start at this time of year and the herds are now mostly in smaller family units as they leave Kenya and travel South into the Western Loliondo and the Lobo area of the Serengeti National Park



By December the herds are back in the south of Serengeti, and the cycle begins all over again

Image by Jorge Tung
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