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Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Adventure Safari Tour or Wildebeest Migration is a dramatic story. Wildebeest Migration Wildlife Safaris takes place within Kenya and Tanzania and is the greatest wildlife show on earth. Between the open plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, thousands of wildebeest and zebras migrate to greener pastures as the seasons change and the circle of life and death continues. Predators follow the Wildebeest Migration closely, waiting for an opportunity to strike weak prey as they make their way into different territories.
Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Safari the Great Migration Story
Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Adventure Safari Tour in Masai Mara January to March
Each year around the same time the ‘Great Wildebeest Migration’ begins in the Ngorongoro area of the southern Serengeti of Tanzania. A natural phenomenon determined by the availability of grazing. It is January to March when the calving season begins. A time when there is plenty of rain ripened grass available for the 500,000 zebra that precede 1.8 million wildebeest and the following 100,000 plains game
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February marks the start of this great migration, proceeding the long rainy season when wildebeest spend their time grazing and giving birth to approximately 500,000 calves within a 2/3-week period, which starts abruptly and is remarkably synchronized. Few calves are born ahead of time; the few that are as much as 6 months out of phase, hardly any will survive. (Estes 1992) The main reason for this being that very young calves are more noticeable to predators when mixed with older calves from earlier in the previous year, and so are easier prey
The calving grounds of the eastern Serengeti happen to be outside the hunting territories of most of the predators, such as hyena, cheetah, hunting dogs and lions although some losses to these predators can occur. Wildebeest cows do not seek isolation during calving or afterwards.
In migratory populations the cows will congregate in there hundreds on the calving grounds. Wildebeest society is much more structured at this time. Groupings of pregnant cows, cows that have calved, groups of yearlings recently separated from their mothers and bachelor herds, which are usually excluded by the territorial bulls from the calving grounds. Expectant cows gather and drop their calves before midday (very few are born after midday). Labor will last 30 minutes to one hour and may be interrupted at any time, should the cow be disturbed.
Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Adventure Safari Tour in March, April & May
March, April and May is when the herds begin to sweep west and north towards the long grass plains and woodlands of the Serengeti’s western corridor. Here the herd divides when some swing further west than others who head northwest. They will meet up again in the Masai Mara of Kenya. The long rains have started and the southern grass plains they leave behind are depleted of all food, so the herds must press on.
By the end of May the rains peter out and the rutting season begins. A time when males are in their prime condition, Wildebeest bulls become territorial at 4/5 years (Estes 1969), when during the rut they will undergo dramatic behavioral changes, becoming the noisiest and most active of all African antelopes.
Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Adventure Safari Tour in June & July
June to July is a transitional period between the rains and the dry season. As they concentrate on the few remaining green patches of Savannah, these huge herds’ reform and push further north towards the Masai Mara. This final push north results in a massing along the banks of the swollen Mara River producing one of the world’s truly most spectacular sights
After four long months trekking, these animals are in desperate need of water to drink and grass to graze. Many of the young find it exceptionally difficult to come this far, sometimes going for days without water. Many die from exhaustion and thirst before they reach the Mara River, but also many survive, just, only to find one last huge obstacle in their way.
Depending on the recent rainfall sometimes the chosen crossing place is shallow, which allows the majority of the herds to cross safely. But often the river is deep and fast flowing, with steep banks either side. Many of the weaker animals are not able to cope with the strong river currents or the buffeting from other wildebeest as they swim. Hundreds of animals can die during the crossing, littering the water’s edge with corpses.
Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Adventure Safari Tour in July to October
Between July and October the wildebeest reside in the Masai Mara, grazing the lush green grasses that the earlier rains encouraged. The mass of over 2 million animals cover the Savannah and grasslands as far as the eye can see. Predication by leopard, lion and hyena at this time is great simply due to numbers. There are just so many prey animals around that the predators have to take advantage to feed their own young, a time of plenty for all.
Wildebeest Migration Wildlife Safaris in Masai Mara October & January
October to November is when the short rains begin to fall in the south and east Serengeti, so the herds start to leave the Masai Mara, crossing the Mara River yet again, bringing all the same perils as before.
They head slowly back to the Serengeti’s eastern plains. By the time they arrive it will be February and the cycle is complete. Arrival at the calving grounds marks the end of this, and the start of the next year’s migration. In all 250,000 wildebeest die during this 1,800-mile journey, the sick, the lame, old and very young, but the next calving will produce around 500,000 new calves who must take their chances along with the adults on the following ‘Great Migration’. (Being a natural event the timings of this migration may vary from year to year).
Why the Wildebeest Migration Wildlife Safaris in Masai Mara Occurs
The entirety of the migration is dependent upon the coming of the rains. In Africa’s hot and dry climate, such huge numbers of animal life cannot be sustained by one place. They have such a dramatic effect on the grazing pastures, taking no time at all to completely exhaust the available food supply.
As the rains come at different times in the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, so the animals are driven to Search for the rain-ripened grasses and water to drink. Wildebeest need to drink every day or at least every other day. So, this clockwise constant search for favorable conditions pushes the herds on wards, month by month in order to feed themselves and their young.
Open plains away from the majority of predators. The rains herald the birth of many animals’ young in Africa; such is their dependence on water. If the majority of young are born around the same time and are able within a few minutes to keep up with their mothers and the constantly moving herds, they are more likely to avoid predication.