The Great Migration Guide: Searching for Wildebeest
Featured destinations: Africa
Published 31 August 2016
Wildebeest are constantly on the move in Africa – no matter what time of year it is. But most wildlife experts would agree that the best time to see the migration at its most thrilling is between June and October. Here’s our guide on what to do, when to do it and why it’s so worth seeing…
The ultimate safari
Picture this: 1.5 million wildebeest as they hurtle across the Serengeti, spurred on by the thunderous sound of innumerable clattering hooves. Close behind are 400,000 zebra, 200,000 Thomson’s gazelle and a carnivorous horde of predators, all stalking the tasty prey ahead. With rain as the driving force, the wildebeest and their entourage battle through water, across vast savannahs and past abundant bush camps in search of fresh food and water, birthing, courting and mating as they go. It’s a mind-blowing spectacle, one that must be seen to be fully appreciated.
What can I expect?
That all depends on when you visit. Tanzania and Kenya are best, but the migration happens all year round. January to March is calving season in the southern Serengeti (Tanzania), so you can expect to see lots of awkward-footed, tiny wildebeest struggling to survive. They’ll be plenty of cuteness and an abundance of gore as the little ones fight for the lives while being doggedly pursued by big cats and other deadly slayers.
Between April and June, the herds really start to move – on a northerly course for the central and western Serengeti. To see huge streams of wildebeest and a haze of kicked-up dust that stretches for miles, this is the time to visit.
July is the most dramatic time to watch this wildlife display. This month is reserved for the really big event: those iconic river crossings. Ploughing through brown muddy waters, the herds have more to worry about than the current – there is an insatiable group of crocs hiding in the murky depths, just waiting to strike…
In August and September the wildebeest who have fought off the crocs – not to mention the other stalking predators – will make their way into Kenya’s Masai Mara, to the north of the Serengeti. Pick the right camp here and you can watch thousands grazing and taking a short-lived breather before getting on the move again.
When the end of October arrives, so does the rain, forcing the herds out of the soaking, quiet Masai Mara (perfect for quiet migration views in late September and early October) and back into the north-eastern parts of the Serengeti for November and December.
Rinse and repeat.
So when and where should I go?
Nature is unpredictable – particularly with constantly changing climate patterns to contend with. The biggest movements, however, almost always take place between June and October. While July and August are busy and typically more expensive, it’s also the best time to see the migration, not to mention get that classic shot of the herds splashing through the water. For the best camps from which to begin your Great Migration safari, check out our Africa itineraries.