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5 Facts About The Wildebeest Migration That You Probably Didn't Know About


We’re knee deep in the wildebeest migration season at this point and the response has been phenomenal this year. I bet you’re wondering why thousands of people headed to the Mara Triangle to witness this marvel. Is it really that amazing? Is it worth my time? The answer is YES. We’ve looked into 5 amazing facts that will get you packing and heading towards Narok sooner than we can say 'What the Serengeti'.

  • The sheer enormity of the numbers

We’re looking at movement involving 500,000 Thompson Gazelles, 200,000 Zebras, 3,000 lions and most astoundingly slightly over a million wildebeest. Yes, you heard that right, a million. However an estimated 250,000 wildebeest die during the journey because carnivores, exhaustion and the elements aren’t a wildebeest’s friend. 

  • The distance

From January-March every year, up to 400,000 wildebeest calves are born in the Serengeti. Shortly after April, the dry season begins in the Serengeti National Park. This compels wildebeest to traverse the Serengeti to the Mara Triangle in search of pasture and water. The wildebeest therefore relocate 800 - 1000km at a speed of 64km/h (close to the speed of your daily PSV commute) from Tanzania to Kenya between the months of July-October.

  • The wildebeest’s migration is driven by their DNA.

This is yet to be substantiated by any scientific studies but some schools of thought have linked the sheer organization and clockwork of migration to years of evolution in genetics. Think about it, the exact same time of the year, in the exact same direction. How do they know where to go? How do they know there’s rain and pasture all the way in Kenya? It must be in their DNA. Some scientists, however, attribute this to the change in phosphorous and nitrogen levels in the pasture that happen during the rainy season. The wildebeests are inclined to higher levels of both these elements hence the migration.

  • Wildebeest move in an organized curved formation due to swarm intelligence.

Members of the herd move in unison and neither bump into each other nor stray from the path because the entire herd overcomes obstacles as one. This phenomenon is known as swarm intelligence. They all work towards the same goal – getting to the Mara Triangle in one piece. The gnu, as they are called, also instinctively split into smaller groups called “mega herds” to ensure adequate distribution of resources among the collective group. These “mega herds” follow slightly different routes but still head in the same direction.

  • Mutual benefits

There’s strength in numbers especially when facing ruthless predators in the savannah. For this reason, wildebeest always travel with fellow zebras. I guess I’d rather my friend felt the full wrath of a crocodile’s hunger than I did. This relationship thrives because the two species graze on different parts of the same grass. You can read more about the other species you can spot on your migration game drive here. This supply and demand leads to a symbiotic relationship where the carnivores, herbivores and scavengers all benefit from the migration.

Despite having started as recently as the 1960s, the wildebeest migration feels like an occurrence as old as time itself. Part of the seven natural wonders of the world, this is one annual fete you should never miss. Just last month a convoy of  300 Chinese tourists descended upon the Masai Mara to get a first hand experience of  the gnu moving in formation. Time for you to join the thousands of tourists and get a front row seat to the action. Lucky for you, we're heading in that direction soon. Want to join us? Get in touch with us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +254705804226/+254790494639 and we’ll definitely have a seat in the van with your name on it.

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