The Best Time to See the Great Wildebeest Migration


River crossing is no doubt one of the major highlights of the great migration. It is considered the climax of migration and is a bucket list for most people. For this reason, most people assume that this is the only time you can witness the Wildebeest Migration. But, while the crossing is a breathtaking event, it is just a small fraction of the migration cycle. Migration is not a onetime event but an all year – round movement, which happens at different locations at different times of the year.

So, what is the best time to see the wildebeest migration? Overall, there are three best times to see the Wildebeest Migration. One is during river crossings between June and October when the migratory animals are dramatically crossing the Grumeti river in the western Serengeti and the Mara River in the northern Serengeti from Tanzania into Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Secondly, it is the phase of the migration between the southern Serengeti and the above prominent rivers. During this time, the Great Migration will be either on the plains or in the wooded – grasslands of the Serengeti – Mara Ecosystem, and it will be in larger herds on the move.

Thirdly, if your goal is to see the breeding season and massive herds grazing together, then the best time is between January and April.

It is always good to know that the migrating wildebeests are constantly on the move and can be seen all year round in different stages of the cycle as shown on our map above. All the stages are different, with each one of them offering a unique aspect of the migration.

Below is a map showing both spatial and temporal distribution of the Great Migration, all year round in the Serengeti – Maasai Mara Ecosystem:

Wildebeest Migration Map

The Great Wildebeest Migration Map

The exact timing of where the migration will be at a time is unpredictable and may vary from one year to another depending on the availability of rains, ground water and greener pasture.

Having seen the map above, let us now take you through month by month on this great migration journey across the larger Serengeti – Maasai Mara Ecosystem.


During this time, Wildebeests have just returned from Maasai Mara in

Kenya and are spread all over the Ndutu region in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and other parts of southern Serengeti in Tanzania. The first 10% of the Wildebeest calves are born in this month and in some years, with earlier rains, this could have started from the second half of December. The southern plains of the Serengeti are expected to have grown an abundance of green grass as a result of the short – and – heavy rains between mid – October and mid- November, nourished more by the long and heavy rains between January and April. These rains are generally more localized in terms of space and time, all the way to April.


Wildebeests are still spreading out on the southern plains of the Serengeti, inclusive of Ndutu area. During this time, the calving season is at its peak. As many as 16,000 calves are being born daily within a time – length of three to four weeks in February.

February is the critical time for most births as there is enough grass to sustain the massive number of newborns and the rest of the herds. If you are interested in witnessing the breeding season and the young calves taking their first steps in the world, February is the perfect time. It is a great season to spot the big cats too stirred up by the calving season. Predators such as Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Wild dogs, hyenas and Jackals become even more active during the calving season as they prey on vulnerable baby Wildebeests.


In March, the rainy season slows down a bit and herds of the Wildebeests and Zebras spread further to the more southerly dispersal areas of Maswa Game Reserve. More calves are still being born beyond February and March and this accounts for at least the remaining 10% of the calves born in general.

The young calves are putting their running skills into test as they have to go at the same speed with the rest of the herds in order to evade the predators. On average, it takes them 5minutes to stand up after they are born and 15minutes to run as fast as their mothers – quite an extraordinary adaptation in the animal kingdom!


April is the season for the long rains in Serengeti. Wildebeests and Zebras are still grazing in the southern Serengeti while a few herds start their movement towards the Central Serengeti via Moru and Gol Kopjes. In the previous years, April used to be considered the time with the heaviest and continuous rains but of late, this has been a photographers’ paradise as the rains are not as much as in the past and most tourists still cling to the past information without considering the significant global climate change over many areas of the world.


Some years, the rainy season may extend to the first two weeks of May, though the last half of the month receives less rainfall to no rain. At this point, the Wildebeests and Zebras enter the Central parts of the Serengeti and enjoy the still existing green pastures and the waters of the Seronera Valley. May is also the beginning of the rutting season in Wildebeests and males will be so busy fighting for mating opportunities. It is another fantastic time to experience the Great Migration as the Wildebeest males constantly portray impressive behaviors of territoriality to outwit each other and seize mating rights to the most dominant bulls!


June marks the beginning of the long dry season in Serengeti and the herds are moving towards the western Serengeti, taking an advantage of the waters of Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers. June is a great time to see the Grumeti River crossing as Wildebeests and Zebras cross over another crocodile-infested river. Herds that succeed in the crossing continue grazing towards the northern Serengeti. Meanwhile, the herds that veered to other directions are also approaching Northern Serengeti.


By July, the migratory Wildebeests and Zebras are making the final stretch of their trekking on their northward movement. This is the time some herds cross from the boundaries of the administrative Serengeti National Park into the buffering zones of Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves.

In the last half of July, the wildebeests start crossing the Mara River, which is the great wildebeest’s peak migration season. Oftentimes the river crossing is characterized with drama as the herds plunge into the river while at the same time trying to evade the crocodiles which are preying on them.


By mid – August, most herds have already arrived in the northern Serengeti and are now grazing along the Mara river and the adjacent grassland plains, which marks the natural boundary between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

It is mainly in the second half of August when the migratory beasts start crossing the Mara River on to the further northerly parts of the Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara in Kenya. The Wildebeest river crossing continues for two months and the animals involved do it back and forth across the same river. During this time, some Wildebeest and Zebra herds that have crossed on to the other side of the Mara River spread across into the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya.


In September, the migratory herds are still in the northern parts of the Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara. River crossings happens almost every day from either side of these two prominent protected areas in East Africa and so your visit to experience this spectacular event can be viewed from any of the two countries.


October is the last month of the long dry season and grass in the Maasai Mara is getting depleted. It is the time the herds start trekking southwards towards Serengeti. By late October, the herbivores are crossing the Mara River again, back into Serengeti National Park.


In early November, there may be some Wildebeests still crossing the Mara River, the herds that lagged behind – most of the herds will be approaching the Central Serengeti via Lobo/Mbuzi Mawe and Kirawira areas of the Serengeti National Park.

The migratory animals that crossed earlier are now spread in the eastern and southern Serengeti. The short rainy season has started and grass and water are in plenty.


During this period, massive herds are back in the plains of the Southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Wildebeests and Zebras continue to graze as they spread out to more southern plains of the Serengeti, ready for a baby – boom season in the south.


Migration of the Wildebeests and Zebras can be seen in different places at different times of the year. However, regardless of the time of the year you choose to do a migration safari, great migration of the wildebeests is quite an unforgettable and exciting experience one should not miss!
For further recommendation on planning to experience this once in a lifetime spectacular even in the animal kingdom and one of the natural wonders of Africa, you are welcome to contact our experts for your memorable safari experience.

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