The Great African Migration: Where and When to Go on a Migration Safari
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If you’re planning to go on just one safari in your lifetime, it would have to be the Wildebeest Migration safari! Often dubbed as “The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth”, it is a definite must-see for lovers of nature and wildlife.
Known as the “Seven New Wonders of the World”, it is also regarded as the “world cup” of wildlife. Spanning an impressive circular and scenic trek, it is the most spectacular and largest movement of animals. Every year, over a million wildebeest and thousands of gazelles and zebras make their way to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya from one of the most well-known national parks on Earth, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, and back.
Since this particular wildlife migration is renowned for being dynamic and unpredictable, on this post, we are sharing some useful information on when and where you ought to go so you can make the most of your wildlife adventure of a lifetime!
The Wildebeest Migration: An Animation. Video credit: Go2Africa Safari YouTube Account
Before planning a migration safari, it’s important to understand that the exact timing of the animals’ movement is difficult to predict. As it’s a dynamic and ever-changing event, many travelers that have observed this migration more than once would agree that no two years unravel the same way.
That said, it has been established that the weather or more specifically, the amount of rainfall in the Serengeti region is an influential element of the migration. For example, if rainfall is scarce and sources of food and water are depleted more rapidly than usual this year, the animals may make their move earlier than expected.
As the migration cycle takes a full year to complete, you can technically catch a glimpse of it throughout the year. However, since the animals migrate across a huge distance, some things that you may be hoping to see such as the mass birthing of calves or the river crossing occur only during specific months and regions. Here’s a general guideline, which we have grouped into two sections, that you may find useful:
The Migration in Tanzania (Serengeti)
- December – March: If you’d like to observe large populations of wildebeest, look no further than their home, the Serengeti plains. Here, you will also be able to spot other grazing animals such as zebras and gazelles that are often found migrating alongside the wildebeest. The January – March period is usually when the mass birthing of wildebeest calves takes place. As calves make easy victims for predators, you will also likely to find an abundance of lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs lurking nearby.
- April – May: Depending on the amount of rainfall the region receives, groups of animals may already be making their moves to migrate west and north of the Serengeti to seek for greener plains and woodland. Heavy rainfall often makes it difficult to follow the movement of the animals as the roads become very muddy and tricky to navigate. Hence, these months may not the ideal time to go.
- Late May – Early July: This period is usually when the Great Migration begins and the western Serengeti makes the best location to observe the movement. As rainfall stops, the animals start moving to the north and join other herds, forming a much larger herd. It is also considered the wildebeest’ usual mating season.
- July: At some point during this month, the herd is likely to have reached one of the migration’s biggest obstacles – The Grumeti River, which the animals would have to cross to continue their journey to Kenya. Crossing this river can be dramatic and presents a huge challenge thanks to its depth as well as the abundance of crocodiles. As it is a highly risky crossing, some may fall prey to the river and/or predators and would not make it to the other side.
Image credit: MaraSidaiCamp.com
The Migration in Kenya (Maasai Mara)
Image credit: AfricanGeographic.com
- July – August: Once they’ve successfully crossed the river, the animals would continue their journey to the north towards Kenya’s Lamai Wedge and The Mara Triangle. Before reaching their final destination, they would need to make another dangerous river crossing at The Mara river where more crocodiles and other predators await them.
- September – November: By this time, the herds would have reached the lush Maasai Mara plains. Here, you’ll find a plethora of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles happily grazing, under the watchful eyes of their predators. If you’re looking to spot lots of wildlife species during one trip, we highly advise for you to go during this period.
- November – December: As the rain starts to fall in Tanzania, the herds will begin to make their long journey back home to the Serengeti.
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