Migration Update – East Africa
February/March are the Easiest Month to Predict Where the Migration Will Be in the Serengeti
February/March is calving season – a period when wildebeest, zebra, and other migratory animals give birth to their offspring.
Once the calves are born, the herds don’t move much. The chance of witnessing a wildebeest birth is high. Predator interaction is also very likely, as lion and leopard move into the region to prey on young and vulnerable calves.
Where to stay in February/March
The migration has been in and around Lakes Ndutu and Masek for the last 10 or 12 years. It might have varied by 10 miles, but without fail the wildebeest herds gather between Matiti Hill, Ndutu, Naabi Hill, the Gol kopjes to the east and Olduvai Gorge.
During the calving season, these areas in southern plains are teaming with wildebeest as hundreds of thousands of pregnant females converge to give birth allowing you to see live wildebeest and zebra calving.
Bobby-Jo Photography captured an intense cheetah hunt on the Ndutu Plains. The young male caught a newborn wildebeest calf – it was quite confronting as the young calf struggled for its life. Very emotional morning, but nature as it is!
Be prepared for some heart-ache as the predators move quickly onto the newborn calves for their annual feast. Mother Nature is revealing what the circle of life means in full gore and vigour. With the promise of short rains, the young wildebeest and zebras are almost guaranteed fresh and constant grass all the way into the central parts of the Serengeti. With thousands of these baby wildebeest running around it is much easier for a mother lion, cheetah or leopard to find a meal for their hungry cubs as well as give them the opportunity to learn how to hunt for themselves by practicing on young calves before they have to go out and fend for themselves! Young cubs learn valuable lessons during this time which is crucial to their success.
At the Maswa Game Reserve, the Maswa plains were packed with lots of wildebeest heading towards the southern part of Makao.
The New Year heralds spectacular storms, a time of new life on the plains, adorable offspring, ample and dynamic with its own distinct rhythm. The wondrous sensation of the wildebeest-birthing season, young cubs, curious playful moments, grand skies lofty and lording, reign over all.
Emotional and potent, January to February tends to be the focal point for the calving. Travel in March or April, and you’ll have the best of the secret season, carpeted with flowers, chock full of vigorous predators, overflowing with teeming herds and it’s all yours – no one else about. (Thank you to Serian Camps)
Safari guide Elia Edward captured a huge crossing of the wildebeest at point number 6 in the Mara River, Northern Serengeti.
A recent report in from ranger Karim Saadun capturing a five-hour crossing in the Makutano crossing point on the Northern Serengeti plains.
The legendary lion, Bob, of the coalition Bob & Ziggy who spent part of his life in the “Namiri Plains” died a few days ago. This is heart-breaking news. This lion (assumed 15 years of age) was not only famous among our guides and guests but was legendary.
We will all truly miss him 🐾
The green grasses of Ndutu are enticing a few herds to turn around and head back plains of the Southern Serengeti.
Meanwhile a large herd is moving slowly into the Central Serengeti through the Simba Kopjes and Gol Kopjes on their way to the northern Serengeti.
The Grass is Greener…
It has been a super green season in Ndutu with the green grass drawing the migrating wildebeest back for grazing. The nutritious grassy plains are perfect for their calves, providing a plentiful supply of essential minerals needed for growing calves and lactating mothers. The wildebeest migration is now back in the plains of the Ndutu area. The herds are scattered all across the north-west of the Ndutu plains and the southern part of the Naabi Hill Gate.
Others may picture the seemingly never-ending line of millions of wildebeest on their great trek, however, the amazingness of the calving season is something that many people may overlook.
Calving usually takes place between January and February of each year. In January the herds begin making their way to the south of the Serengeti after the rains start falling. The question of how the herds know when it is raining or not is something many people have questioned and the answer is that we actually do not know! Many people say that they can smell the rain, others believe they can sense when the pressure in the air changes. The only thing we know for sure is that where it rains, the herds follow. Within a two to three week time period, over half a million wildebeest are born with as many as 8000 wildebeest being born on the same day!
The herds spend the majority of these three months in the Ndutu and Ngorongoro Conservation areas, although not within the crater itself. Many years ago, volcanoes in the area would erupt and the volcanic ashes that are left behind have led to the soil being rich in nutrients meaning that the grass that grows here is perfect for young wildebeest to munch on and build up their strength in the first few weeks of their lives.
With the promise of rains in the near future between February to May, the young wildebeest are almost always guaranteed fresh and constant grass all the way up into the central parts of the Serengeti.
It should come as no surprise that, with all of these baby zebra, gazelle and wildebeest stumbling around on their wobbly legs, the number of predators in the area reaches an all time high during this time of the year. However, an easy meal is no guarantee!
These mothers have been following this route for thousands of years and know most of the tricks that predators pull. Wildebeest mothers instinctively know to give birth on the shorter grass plains where approaching predators are easier to spot. Other mothers join them here and actually form protective barricades around the younger and most vulnerable new additions to the herd in order to ensure they have the greatest chance of survival.
Predators also have to deal with extremely over-protective mothers who will do everything in their power to protect their young so if you are travelling to the Serengeti during this time you are guaranteed to see some action unfolding between mothers, their calves and the hungry predators prowling the surrounding areas.
It is not only the older, more-experienced predators you will have the chance to see though, they too have co-ordinated their birthing times to coincide with the birth of their prey so that their young have the highest chance of survival too. With thousands of baby wildebeest running around it is much easier for a mother lion, cheetah or leopard to find a meal for their hungry cubs as well as give them the opportunity to learn how to hunt for themselves by practising on young calves before they have to go out and fend for themselves, young cubs learn valuable lessons during this time which is crucial to their success.
All of these factors go to show that the timing and location of the calving season was purposefully selected in order to increase the chances of survival, both for prey and predator alike. The calving season is truly a remarkable time in East Africa and has so much to offer any safari-goer looking to see something other than the usual river crossing.
The Kimondo Camp is one of several seasonal camps which move locations twice a year for the best migration viewing. The camp is in the south from the beginning of December until the middle of March. From the beginning of July until the end of October, the camp is located in the northern Serengeti, nestled between the Mara River to the south and the Kenyan border to the north.
The Great Migration is the largest overland migration in the world. The animals travel a total of approximately 600 miles during each cycle. While the migration may seem like a chaotic frenzy of movement bcause wildebeest have no natural leader, the migrating herd often splits up into smaller herds that circle the main, mega-herd, going in different directions.
Currently the migration is very scattered, while Ndutu woodlands are relatively green and there are some smaller herds, a lot of them are on the plains towards Kusini and Maswa, some even reaching North towards Moru, but with a couple of more showers they should all move back towards Ndutu in the next couple of days.
Calving season might be going slower due to the lack of rain in the Serengeti, but in Kenya’s Olare Motorogi Conservancy, the rain over there has seen the Loita herds finally giving birth.
Ndutu has always been great for cheetah sightings, the wide open plains making good hunting ground. Rainy season at Ndutu, when the game is prolific, should be a time of plenty for the cheetah, a time for the mothers to ensure their young off-spring get a really good start in life. The problem is, rainy season is high season too, and for tourists the highlight of a safari is seeing a cheetah hunting.
Enthusiasm and often ignorance too, means that vehicles become a hindrance as they venture closer and closer or get between the cheetah and the prey – all for a better photo. The wildlife guidelines for the NCAA require that vehicles stay 25m away from wildlife, and sadly this is very rarely adhered to, and cars can often ruin the experience not only for other tourists, but also for the cheetah, who might only have that one chance that day to feed her family.
Ndutu continues to delight and intrigue with changes within lion prides. Lionesses in both the Masek and Twin Hill prides have GPS collars attached now, and the information of the whereabouts of the prides daily, gives important information to the KOPELION project, and has helped to keep these lions alive through a long and extended dry period. We have seen these prides change the boundaries of their territories as they seek safety and food away from the pastoralists and their livestock. The GPS data shows the territories of these two prides continually overlap, often in the cover of darkness, and we often wonder what goes on when they actually meet.
The cubs are all well grown into healthy sub-adults now, and it won’t be long until the males from these prides move off and venture out on their own. We already know that Nayomi of the Twin Hills pride has two new cubs which she expertly keeps hidden in low scrub. Katavi, the lone resident male of these two prides, continues to share himself between the two, making the most of having many lionesses to keep him well fed.
The Marsh Pride at Ndutu, which has been a solid family unit is adjusting to life without three of their main lionesses. A new era for the Marsh Pride is beginning.; Spot who was killed by two invading males, probably defending her cubs, and Notch and No Name, the eldest two lionesses of the pride, having reached a wonderful age of around 17. This has left the pride quite depleted and a little lost, as only Aphrodite is left to raise 5 cubs on her own. Cassandra with her band of 9 subadults is still very much elusive and although they come and go from the marsh, haven’t teemed up with Aphrodite again.
Times change and life goes on. A new era for the Marsh Pride is beginning.
We got quite a surprise to come across Laura of the elusive Thin Pride, with her daughters Willow and Winnie, right in big Marsh last week; new territory for them too. Although they had bellies dragging on the ground they determinedly stalked and chased zebra that came down to drink, but low slung undercarriages ensured the attempt was unsuccessful.
And the Greek God equivalents of the lion world, Remus and Romulus continue to reign supreme in the Marsh Areas. Remus, often staying close to the Marsh Pride, but Romulus who has a bit of a reputation of a “ne’er do well” often strays further afield.
We’ve just received reports from our partners in the central Serengeti that the herds are scattered all way from Togoro Plains down to southern Seronera. There are small herds are around Moru Kopjes too.
If you’re planning on seeing the migration in December with a last-minute safari, then it’s best to stay southof Lobo, especially if there’s been a decent amount of rain in the northern Serengeti.
30,000 wildebeest crossed the Mara River at crossing point four from the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, back towards the Kenyan side on 3 November 2016.
They are all over the place these days. Scattered herds are seen in the North near Kogatende and Lamai and some herds as far south as Seronera and west as the Grumeti.
The herds were moving from the Reserve to the Mara Triangle Conservancy, meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of the migrating herd are still stuck at Mara Triangle enjoying the short grass plains.
On the Serengeti side, the herds are gathering at crossing point number six, with the majority of the herds situated around the Wogakuria area.
The Migration Movement updated – August 29, 2016
The last of the herds are crossing the Mara River but most of the wildebeest can be found in the Greater Masai Mara area. The wildebeest will eat all the lush green grass and start moving north again.
Meanwhile, late last week reports from Rekero Camp were that the wildebeest herds were crossing the Mara River at the Lookout Hill crossing point.
The Migration Movement updated – April 11, 2016
We have reports that a couple of thousand wildebeest arrived between the centre of the Serengeti and Moru Kopjes.
The Migration Movement updated – February 29, 2016
The migration is around Kakesio and the Makao plains right now. Lots of of newborns witnessed.
There are huge herds of wildebeest still around Kimuma Hill and across to Ubuntu and Ndutu. North of there on the plains towards It’s still sunny and dry here and plenty of green grass so hopefully they will be around here for a bit longer!
The Migration Movement updated – February 01, 2016
Rain on the plains: The New Year started for our grunting gnu’s with a rather prolonged dry spell which persisted through most of January, and that meant that the bulk of the migration herds moved towards Kusini and Maswa. However, reports from our guides in the Serengeti is that it has now started raining again, and the southern plains are full of wildebeest. The herds are spreading from Piyaya, Barafu, Golini and over the triangle between Naabi and Ndutu, through to the Ndutu marsh, Matiti and all the way out towards Kusini. It really is an incredible scene out there, check out these pics taken by our guide Ian Kiwelu.
It is raining almost daily at the moment, which does make game drives in some areas a little interesting, but it has brought the wildebeest back to where they should be – happy days.
I am with clients between Lobo and Bologonja and we bumped into the eastern herds, they should be heading across the Sand River soon into the Mara, they are moving slowly because of all the grass and water which is great for the lion in the area.
Emmanual Mkenda, Ranger Safaris Guide
Guests came back reporting that they had enjoyed huge numbers of wildebeest not too far from Four Seasons on the way to Lobo – I assume near Mbuzi Mawe. They said the had also see quite alot of males preparing for the rut and butting heads.
Oli, Four Seasons Lodge
Drivers coming in today report huge zebra numbers out on the plains around Naabi hill, and large (several hundred at a time) groups dotted around Triangle between Naabi and here, and out on Caracal Plateau, Olduvai and Twin Hills plains so still many around.
Ndutu Safari Lodge
We have an update this week from in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti. The guides took a drive to the central Serengeti to see the migration which was a remarkable sighting for our clients.
Asilia Ubuntu Camp