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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 mapsBelow 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.
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 migrationThe 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.