In Swahili, the word ‘safari’ means ‘journey.’ It has come to be known as a trek to parts of Africa to observe and follow wildlife in their natural environment. Taking a safari trip during certain months means you are most likely to witness the wildebeest migration, a ‘safari’ of their own.
The annual wildebeest migration is perhaps the best-known thing about the Serengeti region and the country of Tanzania. It is a spectacular show of how animals and nature work harmoniously with each other after millions of years of co-existence.
It is estimated that over a million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras make the 600-mile trek each year. The migration from the northern hills to the southern plains and back again is in direct correlation with the short and long rains, which lead to greener grass and better grazing. November marks the beginning of the short rains in the Serengeti. The wildebeest arrive in late November and December, just in time for the rains to have replenished the grasses and water sources. They stay through March, with most wildebeest calve born in February. They start migrating north in April, having depleted most of the land’s fresh grasses.
Around June, they often find themselves crossing the Grumeti River, a journey that not all will finish. It is littered with large crocodiles and some wildebeest fall victim to nature’s epic battle of predator vs. prey.
However, things become even more intense in September, when the herds are crossing the Mara River. It is a very unforgiving river, often proving too much for the weaker wildebeest. The strong currents make it the greatest obstacle for the herds throughout the migration.
By October, the wildebeest are migrating again, heading south and returning to the Serengeti. They will return to the Southern Plains just in time for the grass to be green again and the flowers to be in full bloom.
While it may seem treacherous to us, this migration is so deeply instilled in the instincts of the wildebeest that they are willing to risk coming face to face with a crocodile in order to make the journey. It is a perfect example of how animals and nature have come to an understanding of each other; the rain will provide everything the wildebeest need, and the wildebeest know that in order to find the best food and water sources, they must follow the rains.
If you would like to witness something truly spectacular, a safari during the wildebeest migrations is your best option. There are many packages and accommodations available that will allow you to choose what suits your expectations.