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Blog / Conservation

The Magnificent Serengeti Migration: African Wildlife

Commonly referred to as one of the great wonders of the world, the migration of African wildlife over the Serengeti is one of the most beautiful things to see in Africa.

The Serengeti wildebeest migration is a movement of vast numbers. The wildebeest are accompanied by large numbers of zebra, gazelle, eland and impala along their journey. The groups of animals move in a similar pattern throughout the year, making it a continual process as they are constantly looking for fresh land to graze and high quality water sources. 

Zebras are African equids, related to the horse family. Their distinctive black and white coats come in different patterns unique to each individual zebra. Zebras are a social herd animal but, unlike their close relatives - horses and donkeys - have never been domesticated.

 Wildlife is frequently the subject of African artwork and crafts, as in these lovely African Zebra Masks....The actual time of the phases of the migration vary based on the rainfall patterns in Africa for a given year; however, there is a general timeline and pattern that is followed. The good news is you can actually observe the migration. Because of the somewhat predictive nature of the various animals and their migration patterns, thousands of people from around the world visit Maasai Mara National Reserve each year to get a glimpse of the famous Serengeti migration. Check out Expert Africa's interactive map showing the migration month by month.

The Wildebeest Migration: An Animation

We think you'll enjoy this great animated representation of the migration patterns of the Wildebeest by Go2Africa Safaris. If you have an interest in Africa (and safaris!) subscribe to the Go2Africa YouTube channel. Lots of great videos and top notch information.

The Wildebeest Migration by the Numbers

  • 1.4 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 350,000 gazelle migrate in a clockwise fashion. 
  • The migrating wildlife travel 1,800 miles each year in search of rain-ripened grass.
  • Wildebeest calving occurs late January through mid-March when over 80% of the female wildebeest give birth over a period of a few weeks. An estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during this period.

Migration Is Dynamic and Different Each Year

One of the common assumptions about the migration patterns of the Serengeti is they follow a circular route and are always moving forward. This is not the case. Migration patterns are not always a continuously forward motion in the same direction. Directions and patterns change frequently, something that makes seeing the migration in person somewhat of a challenge. According to Ultimate Africa Safaris, “They go forward, backwards, and to the sides; they mill around, they split up, they join forces again, they walk in a line, they spread out, or they hang around together. You can never predict with certainty where they will be; the best you can do is suggest likely timing based on past experience. You can never guarantee the Migration one hundred percent.”

This adds to the allure of the migration. It’s a dynamic process, and no two years are ever the same. National Geographic has produced a wonderful video which explains The Serengeti Migration beautifully. “In reality, there is no such single entity as ‘the migration.’ The wildebeest are the migration – there is neither start nor finish to their endless search for food and water, as they circle the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in a relentless sequence of life and death. The only beginning is the moment of birth” says acclaimed East African author and photographer, Jonathan Scott.

Predatory Threats

The migratory animals do not go unchallenged during the migration. There is no shortage of African carnivores that eagerly anticipate the presence of wildebeest. Predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and many others eagerly await the migration each year.

Phases of the Wildebeest Serengeti Migration

There are four main phases of the wildebeest Serengeti migration:
  • Phase 1 (February – March) This is the birthing period, with all pregnant mothers giving birth over a few weeks’ period.
  • Phase 2 (April – June) The wildebeest head west toward the bush land of Grumeti Reserve.
  • Phase 3 (July – September) The wildebeest head north toward Maasai Mara in Kenya to open plains.
  • Phase 4 (October – January) The wildebeest head back south slowly toward the birthing area to start the cycle over again.
   Please remember that Zawadee donates 2% of all sales of our African Wildlife products (carvings, sculptures, masks, etc.) to the World Wildlife Fund and The Jane Goodall Institute to help them protect species at risk.
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Get To Know Africa Series: Wildlife Abounds In the Kenyan Lake System of the Great Rift Valley

Imagine seeing upwards of a million and a half vibrant-colored flamingos congregated on the shores of a single lake.

Well, it’s not an uncommon occurrence in the Kenyan Lake System of the Great Rift Valley. The Kenyan landscape is dotted with 64 lakes. And nestled near the equator are three special lakes - Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Elementatia.  These lakes aren’t particularly large, and they’re relatively shallow, but together these interlinked lakes comprise one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. A grateful thank you to Michael Douroux for this lovely little video of flamingos on Lake Nakuru.



These highly alkaline lakes have an abundant growth of green algae, which feeds an amazing number of birds. People come from all over the world to watch the flamingos’ majestic feeding frenzy take place.

The Landscape - In 2011, the Kenyan Lake system was designated a World Heritage Site. The protected property covers a relatively small area of 32,000 hectares, but is an essential feeding ground for hundreds of different species of birds.



Major tectonic and volcanic events helped shape the diverse landscape. The lakes are surrounded by hot springs, geysers, volcanic outcrops, forests, and open grasslands. The lakes are located at an altitude of around 1500 meters, so they have a high rate of evaporation. This can cause marked fluctuations in water levels. While the flamingos may be the premier event, the protected area also boasts a number of other impressive animals. Black and white rhinos, Rothschild’s giraffes, greater kudus, lions, cheetahs and wild dogs also roam the area.

Rothschild's Giraffe

A Bird Paradise - The diversity of birdlife in the region is amazing. There are as many as 480 bird species at Lake Nakuru, 450 species at Lake Elementaita and 370 at Lake Bogoria. The area is home to 13 globally threatened bird species. The lake system is the most important foraging site in the world for the lesser flamingo. Lesser flamingos are the smallest species of flamingos, with a standing height around 80-90cm (31-35in). They’re classified as near-threatened, so if you want to see them in large numbers, the lakes are a prime spot. Much of the year up to four million lesser flamingos move between the three lakes taking advantage of the plentiful green algae, which are an important food source for them. Although, the algae are blue-green in color, they contain photosynthetic pigments that give the birds their distinct pink color. Greater Flamingos are also found in large numbers in the area. They’re bigger than their cousins at 110-150cm tall (43-60in), and they have a distinctive black spot on the tip of their bills.

 Greater Flamingo

Lake Elementaita supports the region’s main breeding colony of Great White Pelicans with around 8,000 pairs. Great White Pelicans are among the largest birds on earth with an awe-inspiring wingspan of 226 to 369cm (7- nearly 12 ft.).

Great White Pelican
The lakes are also home to over 100 species of migratory birds including:
  • Black-Necked Grebes,
  • African Spoonbills,
  • Pied Avocets,
  • Little Grebes,
  • Yellow Billed Storks, and
  • Black Winged Stilts.

The Black Winged Stilt

The lakes are part of the West Asian-East African Flyway, which is a migratory corridor for 500 million birds. 350 different species pass through the area, on their way from summer breeding grounds in Asia, to enjoy the warmer temps of southern Africa for the winter.


The Usual Threats - Even though the lakes enjoy protection as a World Heritage Site, there are still some dangers. As with many places of natural beauty, the region is surrounded by an area of rapidly growing population and the many ill-effects that come with that. Soil erosion, increased abstraction of water from the catchments, deforestation, growth in human settlements, overgrazing, tourism and pollution are all potential problems that must be watched to ensure this majestic place remains welcoming to the birds and other rare wildlife.

The Kisii - How about a little piece of the Great Rift Valley for your home? Not far from the Kenyan Lake System, live the Kisii people, who are known for their soapstones. Kisii soapstone is a metamorphic rock that’s soft and easy to work with. For generations, the Kisii people have handcrafted carvings out of this soapstone—making both functional items and beautiful works of art. You can check out our extensive to see just how these talented carvers apply their craft.

Kisii Soapstone


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