The Great Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania and Kenya is an amazing occurrence that appears on numerous lists as one of the new wonders of the world, but planning a luxury safari to see it can be a little tricky at times. While the migration happens yearly, the wildebeest don’t follow an exact calendar. For example, while wildebeest from the Serengeti usually reach Kenya in late July or early August, the 2010 migration appeared in Kenya in mid-June.
The large-scale migration is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back only to the early 1970s. The migration occurs with the rain seasons of the region. Wildebeest follow the rains in order to benefit from the superior nutrition that shorter, newer grass has to offer. Their acute sense of smell helps them track and follow the phosphorus in the grass, causing the main migration to move in a yearly clockwise circle through the Mara and Serengeti regions of Kenya and Tanzania.
While wildebeest make up the largest percentage of animals in the migration, they aren’t the only participants in the journey. Over 1.9 million animals are estimated to take part in the migration, including 1.3 million wildebeest, 400,000 gazelles, 200,000 zebras and 18,000 elands. Predators like lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs must follow the wildebeest migration or lose their food sources. The short video below gives a great overview of the African migration and includes footage of a cheetah attempting to hunt wildebeest.
During the migration, the wildebeest must cross both the Grumeti and Mara rivers. The animals congregate in large groups on land before crossing the rivers to lessen the threat of crocodiles. In 2007, approximately 10,000 wildebeest drowned while trying to cross the Mara River due to unusually strong currents. Because of the sheer number of wildebeest and the drama of the crossings, rivers are the most popular spots for luxury safari camp guests, camera crews and photographers.
The wildebeest migration is fascinating to experience first-hand through a luxury safari. As Kenya and Tanzania become more popular African safari travel destinations, the buzz around the migration is growing. Let us know if you’re interested in seeing the wildebeest migration yourself. We’d love to show you luxury safari camps in Tanzania and Kenya that will get you close to the action.
Have you seen the migration? Are you planning to go? Leave a comment below to share your experiences or travel plans.
More Great Wildebeest Migration Facts:
Another name for wildebeest is gnu.
Wildebeest can run at 40 mph.
Wildebeest are surprisingly strong and can inflict great injuries to even lions.
At night wildebeest take turns sleeping and standing guard to watch for predators.
It’s midnight, February 2nd, Mount Kilimanjaro, Kibo Hut, elevation 15,520 feet, excited yes, cold and exhausted as well. Look around at twelve other faces, each with thoughts, dreams today are real. Lead guide Kamili brings tea and coffee, we sit up, ahead is a great physical and mental challenge like never before, slightly giddy, breathing slow and heavy, snowing hard – amazing giant flakes. We’re thirteen in a row with guides spread throughout, short steps slower than thought possible crunching over fresh snow, headlamp like a laser focused on the feet in front of me.
We start to switchback, see flickering lights from headlamps far up in the distance, we rest under a rock ledge in the cold snow and darkness, the den of a hostile environment. We continue, shouts of encouragement, altitude creating madness and expulsions, we carry on, focused on the task, Kamili shouts “four more hours!”, we shutter and sag but continue in silence, just footsteps on snow and heavy breathing, a guide starts singing the most beautiful melody I’ve ever heard; climbing Kilimanjaro, almost to the top, this musical inspiration I will never forget.
All these months of planning a full moon summit, instead of the moon illuminating our path we have complete darkness and snow coming down hard now, it’s four in the morning, the summit is just halfway, we still have to make it down, stay focused. Sky clears a bit and daylight begins to emerge, sunrise, brilliant colors, take a picture, extreme exhaustion but all continue, summit in sight, hear people joyously yelling from the top, we reach the boulders, navigate through, one at a time we summit, we embrace on the ‘roof of Africa’.
I am hosting A Mount Kilimanjaro climb on the Machame Route followed by a Tanzania safari February, 2011. Space is still available. The itinerary is included below the photo slideshow.
Itinerary: Mount Kilimanjaro Climb & Tanzania Safari
February 10 – 28, 2011
All meals and drinks are included on the Kilimanjaro climb
Day 1(Feb 10)Depart USA
Today we will depart the USA for Tanzania; overnight flight to Kilimanjaro Airport, Tanzania
Day 2 (Feb 11) Arrive Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Upon arrival at the Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania we will be met by a Travel Beyond representative and transferred by road to the Marangu Hotel located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro where we will be staying for two nights. The Marangu Hotel has been setting up Kilimanjaro climbs since 1932 and sends an average of 1500 climbers up the mountain every year.
The beautifully situated Marangu Hotel, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, stands in twelve acres of mature, well laid out gardens. The central hotel building was once a farm house, built in the early 1900s, and is of a charming, old world style. This is a family-run business, with the consequent attention to detail one expects. Guest accommodation is provided in cottages around the grounds. The cottages are of varied style, and each has its own character. Several cottages have integral central sitting rooms, which are popular with small groups travelling together. All rooms have private bathrooms with bath or shower.
Day 3 (Feb 12) Day at leisure at the Marangu Hotel
Today we have an optional walk to town to stretch our legs guided by a local who will take us to his home, a school, and some interesting sights around the town of Moshi. This afternoon a representative from the Marangu Hotel will inspect our climbing equipment to make sure we have everything we need and take out what we don’t. Excess baggage will be put in bags and stored in the locked storage facility at the Marangu Hotel until after the climb. This evening we will have a climb briefing and orientation from a staff member of the Marangu Hotel. After dinner we will rest up for the challenge ahead. Accommodations: Marangu Hotel
Kilimanjaro Climb – The Machame Route x 7 days
Day 4 (Feb 13) Climb day 1 Machame Gate to Machame Camp
This morning after breakfast Land Rovers will take us to the Machame Gate located at the entrance to the forest at 5900 feet elevation. From here, a 5 to 6 hour walk, gradually ascending through the forest to a ridge between two streams and then onwards to the camp which is just clear of the forest at 9800 feet.
Day 5 (Feb 14) Climb day 2 Machame Camp to Shira Camp
Walk up a steep ridge from Machame Camp through moorland to about 11,800 feet, heading straight towards the peak. Then, after about 4 hours, the path turns left, flattening out into a gorge and ascending more gradually to Shira Camp (12,600 feet) on the Shira plateau to the west of Kibo. Total hiking time is about 5-6 hours.
Day 6 (Feb 15) Climb day 3 Shira Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
The path continues directly up the ridge towards Kibo to Barranco Camp at 15,000 feet. Total hiking time is about 4-5 hours. Shortly before reaching Lava Tower, a path leads off to the right which goes along the Kibo South Circuit to Barranco Camp.
Day 7 (Feb 16) Climb day 4 Barranco Camp to Karanga Valley Camp
A short but steep climb up the start of the Western Breach of Kibo emerges onto a small plateau after about one and a half hours. Camp is made here, and the rest of the day is spent relaxing or exploring the Big Breach glacier to the south of the camp. Altitude here is 16,000 feet.
Day 8 (Feb 17) Climb day 5 Karanga Valley Camp to Barafu Camp
Today is a relatively short hike to Barafu Camp. From Karanga we head up a ridge taking our time and going slowly. The views here can be spectacular on the southern glaciers of the glacial valleys that snake their way down the mountain. The final stage to Barafu Camp is quite steep, and as always we take it very slowly. As with the day before, we reach camp by around lunch time leaving lots of time to relax. In the evening our guide will brief us on the final ascent.
Day 9 (Feb 18, full moon) Climb day 6 Barafu Camp to the Summit and down to Mweka Camp
Leaving very early in the morning, climb the slope behind the hut, continuing up through cliffs of rock. Eventually reach a ridge like a staircase and scramble up onto the crater floor. From the camp, this part will take about 6 hours, and the crater floor is about 18,700 feet at this point. It is then about 1.5 hours to Uhuru Peak (19,340 feet). After spending a bit of time on the Summit, we descend via Barafu Camp (1-2 hours from Stella Point) and then continue for another 3 or 4 hours to Mweka Camp.
Day 10 (Feb 19) Climb day 7 Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
This morning after breakfast, we will descend to the Mweka Park Gate where we will meet our vehicles for the drive back to the Marangu Hotel. Immediately after returning to the Marangu Hotel we will enjoy a celebration with our guides and porters. Tips will be ceremoniously given, beers will be consumed and songs will be sung. After the celebration the evening is at leisure with dinner served in the dining room of the Marangu Hotel. Accommodations: Marangu Hotel
Day 11 (Feb 20) Begin safari Marangu Hotel to Ngorongoro Crater
This morning after an early breakfast we will be met by our safari guides and vehicles and driven the scenic 5 hour route to the Ngorongoro Crater. Accommodations: Lemala Ngorongoro L/D
Lemala Ngorongoro is a deluxe intimate camp set in a delightful ancient acacia forest on the rim of the crater next to the quiet Lemala access route. The camp offers secluded accommodation under canvas in 8 luxury tents and 1 family tent (accommodates 4 to 5 guests). Website: http://www.lemalacamp.com/ngorongoro.htm
Day 12 (Feb 21) Full day game viewing in the Ngorongoro Crater
This morning, after breakfast in camp, we descend into the Ngorongoro Crater with picnic lunch for a full day of game viewing in what is often referred to as the true “Garden of Eden”. Accommodations: Lemala Ngorongoro B/L/D
Day 13 (Feb 22) Ngorongoro Crater to the Ndutu area of the Serengeti
This morning after a leisurely breakfast we will transfer by road to the Ndutu area of the Serengeti where we will be spending three nights in the heart of the Great Wildebeest Migration. We will arrive in time for an afternoon game drive followed by dinner and campfire drinks. Accommodations: Lemala Ndutu B/L/D
Perched on the edge of a permanent marsh, Lemala Ndutu is the ultimate amphitheater for the wildebeest migration between December and March. 8 luxury tents and 1 family tent of a very high specification are relocated from the Mara area of Northern Serengeti to this stunning Ndutu site between Dec and March purely to capture the boundless drama that accompanies the migration. Website: http://www.lemalacamp.com/ndutu.htm
Day 14 (Feb 23) On safari in the Serengeti
Accommodations:Lemala Ndutu B/L/D
Day 15 (Feb 24) On safari in the Serengeti
Accommodations: Lemala Ndutu B/L/D
Day 16 (Feb 25) Serengeti to Lake Manyara National Park
After a leisurely breakfast we will depart by road to Lake Manyara where we will be staying two nights at Lemala Manyara Camp. Accommodations: Lemala Manyara Camp B/L/D
Lemala Manyara is a new seasonal camp located inside the magnificent Manyara National Park between Dec – March to take advantage of the seasonal game movement from surrounding areas into the park. The camp relocates to Tarangire between Jun and Oct. Lemala Manyara offers an authentic safari experience in traditional style reminiscent of the golden safari era from a spectacular secluded location surrounded by Fig and Acacia trees overlooking the towering Rift Valley Escarpment.Website: http://www.lemalacamp.com/manyara.htm
Day 17 (Feb 26) On safari in Lake Manyara National Park
Accommodations: Lemala Manyara Camp B/L/D
Day 18 (Feb 27) Lake Manyara to Kilimanjaro Airport for flight home
This morning after a leisurely breakfast we will be driven to Kilimanjaro Airport for our flight home.
Day 19 (Feb 28) Arrive USA
Cost = $7615 per person all inclusive
Includes: all accommodations, guides, porters, fully equipped Kilimanjaro climb, airport transfers, private safari vehicles, all meals, drinks, tips
Excludes: International flights, items of a personal nature, travel insurance