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Serengeti wildebeest migration

Serengeti wildebeest migration

The greatest show on earth

The great Serengeti wildebeest migration is the movement of vast numbers of the Serengeti's wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant's gazelle, Thomson's gazelle, eland and impala. These move in an annual pattern which is fairly predictable. They migrate throughout the year, constantly seeking fresh grazing and, it's now thought, better quality water.

The precise timing of the Serengeti wildebeest migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns each year – here we explain how the broad pattern works.

This migration, month by month, is shown on the map below – the moving red represents the main herds.

For more information on the Serengeti migration area and the wildebeest migration, read on - see the month-by-month descriptions below, and the video below that.

Moving migration maps

Below are twelve detailed maps plotting, month-by month, the typical migration pattern of the Serengeti’s great wildebeest migration.

This migration always varies from year to year, in response mainly to variations in the weather, the available grazing and available water. But these are the best general guide that we have to its location.
<b>January:</b> herds spread to graze across the southern Serengeti's lush short-grass plains
<b>February:</b> they spread out across the short-grass plains; most calf in a 2-3 week window
<b>March:</b> still spread over the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti, Loliondo and NCA
<b>April:</b> the herds start migrating north, through Moru Kopjes and Seronera areas
<b>May:</b> the migration heads north through Seronera towards the Western Corridor
<b>June:</b> herds mass in the western corridor, bunching before crossing the Grumeti River
<b>July:</b> some cross the Grumeti & head through Grumeti Reserve; others head north in the park
<b>August:</b> herds pass through Ikorongo and into the far north-west of the national park
<b>September:</b> herds in the north of Serengeti National Park & in Kenya's Maasai Mara
<b>October:</b> grazing in the far north of the Serengeti - and across in the Mara
<b>November:</b> moving south through Loliondo, on the east side of the Serengeti National Park
<b>December:</b> arriving on the east side of the short-grass plains, in time for the rains

January: herds spread to graze across the southern Serengeti's lush short-grass plains

February: they spread out across the short-grass plains; most calf in a 2-3 week window

March: still spread over the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti, Loliondo and NCA

April: the herds start migrating north, through Moru Kopjes and Seronera areas

May: the migration heads north through Seronera towards the Western Corridor

June: herds mass in the western corridor, bunching before crossing the Grumeti River

July: some cross the Grumeti & head through Grumeti Reserve; others head north in the park

August: herds pass through Ikorongo and into the far north-west of the national park

September: herds in the north of Serengeti National Park & in Kenya's Maasai Mara

October: grazing in the far north of the Serengeti - and across in the Mara

November: moving south through Loliondo, on the east side of the Serengeti National Park

December: arriving on the east side of the short-grass plains, in time for the rains

Month by month: the Serengeti wildebeest migration

The short rains begin around early November. A little after this, in late November and December, the herds of the wildebeest migration arrive on the short-grass plains of the Serengeti. These are south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu and include the north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Dispersed across these plains, wildebeest and zebra are everywhere – feeding on the fresh, nutritious grasses. They stay here through January, February and March, with most wildebeest calves born in a short window around February. Gradually they spread west across these plains, then around April they start their great migration north.

By May the Serengeti's wildebeest all seem to be moving north, migrating to seek fresh grazing and water. The area around Moru Kopjes and west of Seronera is then hectic with a series of moving columns, often containing hundreds of thousands of animals – joined by many zebra, and a scattering of Thomson's and Grant's gazelles.

Some of the migration then head due north of Seronera, but most are usually further west. Around June the wildebeest migration is often halted on the south side of the Grumeti River, which has some channels which block or slow their migration north. The wildebeest then congregate there, in the Western Corridor, often building up to a high density before crossing the river. The river here is normally a series of pools and channels, but it's not continuous – and so whilst they always represent an annual feast for the Grumeti River's large crocodiles, these aren't usually quite as spectacular as the crossings of the Mara River, further north.

The wildebeest migration continues moving northwards during July and August, often spreading out across a broad front: some heading through Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo, others north through the heart of the Serengeti National Park.

September sees the herds spread out across the northern Serengeti, where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. This river gushes through the northern Serengeti from Kenya's adjacent Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Watching the frantic herds of the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River can be very spectacular; there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. It's common to see herds cross the Mara River north on one day, and then back south a few days later.

By October the wildebeest herds are migrating again with more accord: all are heading south, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park's Lobo area, returning to the green shoots which follow the rains on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti in November.

Then the whole Serengeti Wildebeest migration starts again …

Great wildebeest migration: a video tutorial

We've made this video, with moving maps and real footage, to help you to understand the great wildebeest migration.


More information on this wildebeest migration

For more information on the Serengeti migration area and the Serengeti's wildebeest migration, see also:


Interactive Google map of the Serengeti, showing safari camps and lodges.


Detailed map of the Serengeti like the one above, but with camps & lodges located.


Our written area-by-area guide to the Serengeti, including the camps and lodges.


Other great African migrations

The zebra migration in Botswana


The maps of the Tanzanian migration on this page are originals. They have been commissioned by and drawn up for Expert Africa. They are protected under our copyright. They must not be copied or reproduced without our written permission. If you wish to use them, please contact us. We generally look favourably on requests for educational or charity use, provided that clear acknowledgements and credits are given.
To deter unauthorised use, these maps have been digitally watermarked and can be traced.

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