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The Great Migration refers to the continuous movement of vast numbers of wildebeest accompanied by large numbers of zebras and gazelles searching for food and water between Tanzania and Kenya.

Great Wildebeest Migration Kenya Tanzania with Africa Geographic
Densely-packed wildebeest cross the Mara River – which separates Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti ©Frank Gabriel

Although the migrations occur in a clockwise cycle between Tanzania and Kenya, most of the movement takes place in Tanzania – Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Loliondo Game Controlled Area, and Grumeti Reserve. In Kenya the migration stretches to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, bordering Serengeti National Park in the north.

Great Wildebeest Migration Kenya Tanzania with Africa Geographic
A pride of lions make their way across the burnt plains of Serengeti, just weeks before the first rains, when the migrating wildebeest herds will arrive  ©Simon Espley
Here are 10 fascinating Great Migration facts you might not know:

1. The Great Migration sees over 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,00 zebra and a host of other antelope travelling cross country.

2. Between January and March, half a million wildebeest are born each year in the Serengeti. In February, the month with the highest calving rate, around 8,000 wildebeest are born each day.

Great Wildebeest Migration Kenya Tanzania with Africa Geographic
A dramatic Mara River crossing, where many thousands of wildebeest and zebra may cross over a short period ©Frank Gabriel

3. The Great Migration is the largest overland migration in the world. The animals travel a total of 800km or more during each cycle.

4. While the migration may seem like a chaotic frenzy of movement, research has shown a herd of wildebeest possess what is known as ‘swarm intelligence’, where the wildebeest systematically explore and overcome an obstacle as one.

5. The reason why zebra and wildebeest graze in harmony together is because they each eat different parts of the same type of grass.

6. Because wildebeest have no natural leader, the migrating herd often splits up into smaller herds that circle the main, mega-herd, going in different directions. When considering these smaller, split herds the whole migration can cover over half of the whole Serengeti.

7. The Serengeti National Park eco-system is the oldest on the planet. It boasts a diversity of plants and animals that is unavailable anywhere else on the globe.

8. During the migration around 250,000 wildebeest and 30,000 zebra are killed off every year as a result of predation by carnivores, but also from thirst, hunger, and exhaustion.

Great Wildebeest Migration Kenya Tanzania with Africa Geographic
A rocky kopje rises above the endless plains of northern Serengeti ©Simon Espley

9. The crocodiles awaiting the herds in the Mara River drown their prey by clutching them in their strong jaws and pulling them below the water, twisting them to break off bite-size pieces. A crocodile can lunge more than half of its body length out of the water to grab a potential victim and can also use its tail as a secondary weapon.

10. There are more than 3,000 lions currently living in the Serengeti ecosystem that follow the migratory herds across the reserve.

For a more detailed description of the great wildebeest migration, including a detailed month-by-month diary, read The Great Migration Explained.

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