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Best time to visit Tanzania for wildlife

Posted in: Tanzania


Wildebeest Migration Tanzania – An overview

The Wildebeest Migration through the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem is one of the largest mass movements on earth. Thousands of wildebeests, zebras and Thompson’s gazelles migrate throughout the year always seeking for fresh grass and water. They follow an annual pattern through both Ecosystems, with broadly predictable timing, however their movement does depend on rain.

Tanzania has two rainy seasons – the ‘long rains’ between March and May and the ‘short rains’ between November and December. After the short rainfalls, the wildebeest migration is expected to arrive from the north in late November / early December on the short-grass plains of the south. These grass plains include southern Serengeti, located in Serengeti National Park; and Ndutu Area, located inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Through January, February and March, the wildebeest migration is expected to stay on these southern plains as the grasses are very nutritious and most wildebeest calves will be born in a coordinated bound of calving. Many regular safari goers to Tanzania consider this the best time to visit Tanzania for wildlife. In April and May the southern plains will not provide enough food and the wildebeest migration will continue to move north with the majority of them crossing central Serengeti. They are usually accompanied by zebras and Thompson’s gazelles, but also Grant’s gazelles, impala and eland will join to search for food and water. By June the wildebeest migration is expected to arrive in western Serengeti – now facing Grumeti River which is blocking their way to the north. Grumeti River is home of large Nile crocodiles and the herds build to a high density before crossing the first river on their annual journey. The wildebeest migration will continue further north and depending on rain, the first herds are expected to arrive in Northern Serengeti (Kogatende Area with its Mara River) in July and August. By September and October the wildebeest migration will fully spread on the northern plains – now facing Mara River on their way. The crossings of the Mara River is often described as spectacular as it provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. There are scenes of panic and confusion on where, when and how to cross. At this time of year the wildebeest migration will be in the far north of Serengeti National Park and in the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. By November the circle will start again as the wildebeest migration starts to move south.

The Wildebeest Calving Season in January/February

Many visitors travel to Northern Tanzania in the dry season, to avoid the rains and hope for plenty of sunshine and  lower vegetation, so they can get some wonderful photos of the countries famous predators. However purely from a ‘concentration of big cats’ point of view (and other predators such as Hyena and Jackal) this is not the best time to visit northern Tanzania. For the spectacle of the ‘Wildebeest Calving’ where around 8000 new calves are born each day, thus attracting the attention of the great predators of the plains, then we must time our Tanzania safari in the January/February period and have front seats at one of the most spectacular wildlife shows on this planet. Which are the best Tanzania National Parks to observe the Wildebeest Calving? This is the time of year when two particular ecosystems and national parks in Tanzania come to the fore when you talk about seeing predators such as Lions, Cheetahs, and Spotted Hyena. The Wildebeest generally choose to give birth in South Serengeti and Lake Ndutu and with approximately 500,000 new young wildebeest born in around 6 weeks, the prey potential for these carnivores is immense. At this time nowhere in Africa can compete with the sheer density of game and predators and with the scenery lush and green after the short winter rains in November and December, you will have the chance to capture some wildlife magic on your memory card.

Big Cat Action during the Calving Season

Of course many predators rely on the Wildebeest calving to provide food for themselves and their offspring but two cats in particular are often the star of the show. There is a large concentration of Cheetahs in the Serengeti and although they must be wary of the territorial lion prides, this can be a very good time of year to observe cheetahs hunting. Lions and the size of some of the Lion prides in Tanzania are another area of keen interest for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts and you will keep a keen eye on the dynamics and the leadership of the prides and their tactics for maximising their hunting during this ‘season of plenty’. If you would like to experience a truely amazing Tanzania safari with plenty of big cat action then click on our wildebeest migration and calving small group tour. Or alternatively you can email us at [email protected] and we can design your own tailor-made Tanzania safari.

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