On a trip to the Masai Mara I was watching a herd of Wildebeest grazing peacefully on the fresh shoots of a burned area. The migration had passed through some months back so I was interested to hear why the herd we were watching was still in the area. Our guide informed us that the particular herd had not migrated for two years. It was an eye opener at the time but I have since learnt that all is not what we deem it to be in the wilderness.
And that is the confusion that that is the great migration and I marvelled at how nature continually throws curve balls at our knowledge of things. In the past it was understood that the herds gathered and gave birth on the southern plains of the Serengeti before moving north through the western corridor, on into the Masai Mara before returning south again with the rains. But it is not so easy!
The one certainty of the Great Migration is that the females will give birth on the southern plains of the Serengeti before heading north towards the Masai Mara - but the exact time cannot be predicted as this is dictated by the seasons.
It is us that have set the seasons and we use terms such as 'delayed' and 'slow moving' or 'late' when the natural order of things does not go according to our rules. Rain is what controls where the herds will be at a particular time with the animals moving back and forth depending on where the rain has fallen. In fact the herds have even been known to turn back to water and food when conditions are not favourable.
Incredibly with a phenomenon such as the migration, despite continual studies been done over the years, much still has to be learnt.
For travellers looking for advice on when to travel with the best chance of seeing the migration then the general trend of the migration is that the herds will be on the Southern plains of the Serengeti from late November through to March or April - where they give birth - and then they move up the Serengeti's Western Corridor before crossing into the Masai Mara from late July. They will move across the Masai Mara for some months before heading south again in November.
As mentioned earlier these seasons have a variable of up to a month - making predictions impossible. Despite this it must be mentioned that the migration is not the only attraction of the Serengeti and Masai Mara for both parks are renowned for their wildlife aside from the great herds. In fact many people who live and work in these parks find the migration a distraction from enjoying the true attractions of each region.
By Leigh Kemp