The Great Serengeti Migration

One of the most sought-after experiences for wildlife and nature enthusiasts, the Great Migration is the ever-moving circular migration of over a million animals across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.

The Great Serengeti wildebeest migration

The Great Migration is the largest herd movement of animals on the planet. In fact, with up to 1,000 animals per km², the great columns of wildebeest can be seen from space.

The numbers are astonishing: over 1.2 million wildebeest and 300,000 zebra along with topi and other gazelle move in a constant cycle through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in search of nutritious grass and water. Guided by survival instinct, each wildebeest will cover 800 to 1,000km on its individual journey along age-old migration routes. Hungry predators including lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and crocs make sure only the strongest survive in this natural spectacle also known as ‘the greatest show on Earth.’

The circuit takes the animals from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (although not into the Crater itself) in the south of the Serengeti in Tanzania, up through the Serengeti and across into the Masai Mara in Kenya and back again. The journey is beset with danger: young calves are snatched by predators, the slow are brought down by prides of lion, brave beasts break legs on steep river slopes, crocodiles take their share of the stragglers, and the weak and exhausted drown.

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The Great Migration in detail

When planning your Serengeti safari you probably want to include seeing the Great Migration. So how do you ensure to be there when it happens? The long and short of it is that you can’t. It is important to realize that the decision of when to visit the Serengeti always involves an element of risk. We have detailed the Great Migration below, and this is what usually happens, but keep in mind that there are no guarantees.

The annual migration of two million ungulates, wildebeest but also enormous groups of zebra and Thomson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle and eland, through Serengeti National Park is the greatest wildlife spectacle of its type in Africa, and perhaps the world. Although variations occur from year to year, the Serengeti migration follows a reasonably predictable annual cycle, dictated by local rainfall patterns.

BEST TIME FOR WILDEBEEST MIGRATION SAFARI

We can find the main calving grounds in the area southeast of Seronera: typical Serengeti plains stretch all the way to the Ndutu area near Ngorongoro. Triggering their move to this area are the short rains in November and December. The wildebeest stick around this area until the end of the long rains, end of April, early May. The delightful news is that this section of Serengeti National Park is easily accessible and that in this period the landscape becomes lush.

February is usually calving season in the Ndutu area and the southeastern plains: the very best time to visit this area. As wildebeest, zebra and other ungulates are so many, and give birth to so many calves, the spectacle works as a magnet for predators. As early as March or April the herd may move again in search of greener pastures. Seeing the actual migration in this period is more difficult, but chances are that you will encounter very large herds on the move.

This is the period that the wildebeest, after having feasted on the short green grasses of the southeastern Serengeti and after having giving birth to their offspring, start getting ready for their 800 kilometer long trek. The actual starting date may be anytime between late April and early June. This is the time to you may have the privilege to see one of the greatest natural phenomena in the world: more than a million marching animals in a column up to 40 kilometers long. During the migration, the herd will move towards the Western Corridor, where they will face the first major obstacle: crossing the Grumeti River. Many animals don’t survive the crossing as they are being awaited by the area’s population of oversized crocodiles ready to feast. The herd may congregate on the southern bank of the river and stay there for up to two weeks before crossing the river.

When the Grumeti River obstacle has been taken, the herd moves further north and starts crossing the next big hurdle, the Mara River, in July or August. The Mara River crossing is where so many iconic Great Migration photos have been taken. After this crossing the herd flocks to the northwest plains and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The August – September period is considered being a bad time to visit Serengeti National Park and see the Great Migration as the herd moves into the Masai Mara in Kenya. However, migration patterns show that about half of the herd stays on the Tanzanian side, in the Mara Serengeti area. In this period, smaller herds of wildebeest (well consider small… herds may count up to between 500 and thousands of individuals) frequently cross the Mara River, back and forth, for no apparent reason. This is an excellent time to stay at one of the Serengeti Mara camps.

Crossing the Mara River northbound means that, at one point, the herd needs to cross the river one more time before commencing the trek back in a southerly direction. This usually happens in October, but sometimes earlier. In this period the herd will cross the northern plains and Lobo area. This section of Serengeti National Park is little-visited, so if you are looking to see the migration in relative quietness, this would be the time. The wildebeest return to the short- grass plains and calving ground around Ndutu in late November. And from here, the Great Migration starts all over again.

Serengeti Migration Map
the great serengeti migration

Frequently asked questions about the Great Migration

What is the Great Wildebeest Migration?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest animal migration in the world. Every year, more than 2 million animals (wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle) migrate in a clockwise direction across the ecosystems of the Serengeti (Tanzania) and the Masai Mara (Kenya). On the way, they have to cross crocodile-infested rivers, are hunted by predators, and face natural disasters such as droughts and flooding in a daily struggle for survival.

What is the best time to see the Great Wildebeest Migration?

The Great Migration can be enjoyed year round. The first few months of the year offer exceptional predator encounters in Tanzania's Serengeti as this is the calving season for the wildebeest and newborns make for easier targets. By July, the herds are heading north into the central Serengeti where the wildebeest make their first river crossing, and take their chances against the waiting crocodiles. In August, the herds cross over into Kenya’s Masai Mara and towards the end of the year the herds move southwards back into the Serengeti where the animals brace themselves for the next calving season and predator attacks.

How Much Has To Be Paid For A Great Migration Safari?

The new & fresh migration safari packages are now available and are organised according to budget and travel dates. They range from between $1650 and $2900. Just remember that you can create your own safari package based on the budget by subtracting a few days and choosing less expensive accommodations. Consider going out of season to keep the price of your package down. But remember that the fall & rise in rates depends on the increase and decrease in demand & thus, it is advised to plan and book your trips and packages wisely to avoid any last minute changes. Certainly, nobody will like to overlook Africa’s Great Serengeti Wildebeest Migration that is one of the top attractions for any safari trip or tour.

Does It Get Congested Around The Migration Time?

It depends on the time of year people visit it. Some people prefer to go during the calving season starting from February till the end of March & others visit the Serengeti Park during the river-crossing season at the Grumeti River from June to mid-July and the Mara River from August till the last day of October. For instance, if there are more accommodations than more people will come to watch the migration and in a similar manner, fewer accommodations means less number of people will come. Where day-trippers are going in the Maasai Mara is extremely essential. Just speaking with the booking agent will help you in getting the best possible lodgings options in the Mara that would have discoverers to stay in the right quiet little corner.

Is It Feasible To Get Close Accommodation To The Migration?

Yes, it is possible. There are certain key & tactical areas where the herds will pass because of usual migration routes and also because these giant herds need access to drinking water. It means that the tour guides can predict quite exactly where the herds will be situated particularly when they are not mobile during the calving season. Each of these areas has diverse levels of housing & lodgings and the more customers speak with our travel experts, the more options you will get.

Are There Any Scenic Flights That Operates Over The Migration?

Absolutely yes, you can take a scenic flight by hot-air balloon to see migratory herds from above. It is always advised to book in advance, which we will be great for you and once you have your travel dates, you can fly into the air to make your dream come true. There are times of the year where the hot air balloons will be closer to where the migration is. It is also recommended to go for balloon safari in the Mara from August to the end of September, the central Serengeti in June and again during December and January. The western Serengeti corridor can be enjoyed from a hot air balloon during late June and July when spotting and tracking the herds from above will be very easy.

How Time-Consuming Before A Migration Safari Is It Best To Book?

It is suggested to book at least 8 to 12 months in advance. There are a limited number of lodges, so as soon as you start planning the more packages & housing options will be available for the customer at an affordable cost. Thus, making the right moves at right time will help each and every safari enthusiast to witness the greatest wildlife event of all times.