I have had the honour of seeing this fantastic spectacle... The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”. Not surprisingly, this impressive roaming phenomenon is determined by the availability of grazing, which in turn is dependent upon rainfall. Essentially the wildebeest are taking advantage of the seasonal conditions, spending the wet season on the plains in the south-east, and the dry season in the woodlands of the north-west. However, the sheer weight of their numbers also plays an important role in shaping the environment to their needs. In total, it is said that 500,000 zebra, 1.8 million wildebeest and various 100,000 plains game animals make this cyclical journey.
Members of the vast wildebeest herd give birth more or less simultaneously, usually over a period of three weeks sometime between January and March, when optimum grazing is available on the short grass plains at the base of the Gol Mountains.
The Migration is rarely ever the same in terms of precise timing and direction, as local conditions influence grass growth. This means that the wildebeest may move off the open plains earlier in some years and remain in the northern woodlands for longer in others.
The timing of the wildebeest calving is probably linked to the timing of the rut at the end of the rains in May and June. The wildebeest move off the plains at this time to a smaller area which is necessary to synchronize the rut. Interestingly, the rut itself appears to coincide with the full moon suggesting that the mating peak is triggered by the lunar cycle during the month of June.
Typically, the wildebeest head north-west from the short grass plains to the Western Corridor of the Serengeti and its Grumeti River. This watercourse is their first real obstacle and gigantic crocodiles are waiting for the hesitant wildebeest to stumble at the crossing. From Grumeti, the herds move north to cross over the Kenyan border into the Masai Mara. Here again, they must cross a river, this time the Mara with its flotillas of hungry crocodiles and waiting lions.
It is this spectacle that I want to see… the scene so many of us have viewed on a National Geographic program or read about in magazines… Currently I am doing a lot of due diligence, talking to African guides, reading satellite imagery, looking at historical data, researching possible camps to stay at and talking to my tour company to build a trip with a focus on photography.
Please join us in 2015 when we head back to photograph the wildebeest migration on its annual path... see the details here... http://northof49photography.com/tanzania-photo-safari