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Great Migration safaris

SERENGETI (Tanzania) + MAASAI MARA (Kenya)

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Join the Great Wildebeest Migration - Kenya & Tanzania

The Serengeti (Tanzania) and Maasai Mara (Kenya) ecosystem sees vast migrating herds of wildebeest and zebras continuously searching for the best food and water. There are dangerous rivers to cross and big cats lurking everywhere - this is the survival of the fittest!

When the rains beckon, the wildebeest go, and this never-ending circular journey makes for a compelling safari experience. This is the Greatest Show on Earth.

Scroll past the safari packages below to find out EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about the Great Migration

The safaris below feature the Great Wildebeest Migration

Everything you need to know about the Great Migration in Kenya & Tanzania

The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest overland migration in the world, with wildlife travelling 800 km or more during each cycle. Between 1.5 to 2 million wildebeest, zebras, and other species plod or canter across Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara in search of good grazing. 

The herds follow the rains and nutritious grazing - moving continuously in a clockwise direction as the seasons progress, up from the south of the Serengeti, through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Loliondo Game Controlled Area, and the Grumeti Reserve. They then leave Tanzania briefly to spend time in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, which borders Serengeti National Park to the north, before heading back south to start the journey again. Most of the Great Migration occurs in the far larger Serengeti than the Maasai Mara.

Although there are annual migration patterns, the exact timing varies based on rainfall. Following this journey is a bit more tricky than your standard safari, and knowing when to be where is important as the animals are constantly on the move. 

READ MORE about the Great Wildebeest Migration:  The Great Migration Explained

TRAVEL DIARY of a Great Migration safari: Epic Serengeti

READ MORE about the Maasai Mara

READ MORE about the Serengeti

Rainfall drives the Great Migration, so tracking the herds is not an exact science, but the same general pattern plays out each year:

December to March - the calving season (Serengeti)

The first rains in the southern Serengeti plains beckon the herds, which move gradually from southeast to southwest over this period - Ndutu, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Maswa Game Reserve.

Many females in the herd give birth in February - which is why nutritious grass is of top priority. Every year half a million wildebeest are born on the Serengeti plains, and February is the month with the highest birthing rate, sometimes seeing as many as 8,000 born each day. 

Calving season means adorable wobbly babies finding their legs – a bonus for predators, who enjoy a bounty of easily-caught food. Having the babies in tow means the herds move a bit slower. 

April to May - the ‘long rains’(Serengeti)

This is the ‘long rains’ season, and you will need your rain jacket. The herds start heading northwards from the Ndutu region toward central Serengeti. The herds have now split into large groups rather than the massive concentrations that stretch as far as the horizon. As the calves get bigger and stronger, the distances the herd covers get longer as they head towards Lake Magadi in central Serengeti.

June - heading north (Serengeti)

By June the rains have abated somewhat, and the herds have spread out. The front-runners reach Mbalageti River around this time. While those bringing up the rear could still be as far back as Lake Magadi or in the southernmost corner of the Simiti and Nyamuma Hills. The herds are now often in long lines as they head north.

July - Grumeti River crossings (Serengeti)

July is mating season in the Serengeti. You can find the herds in the Grumeti portion of western Serengeti. Crossings of the Grumeti River are worth hanging around for, but the Serengeti is vast and relatively under-developed with lodges, so river crossings are harder to find. 

August to October: Mara River crossing season (Serengeti & Maasai Mara)

By August the herds have made their way up to the northern Serengeti and face their biggest challenge yet: the Mara River. This fast-moving river flows through the Maasai Mara (Kenya) into the Serengeti (Tanzania). And while the gushing murky waters are captivating, they are also possibly responsible for the highest death toll en route, killing many thousands of wildebeest. Watch this dramatic video of a Mara River crossing.

Sometimes the herds plunge en masse off steep banks in their desperate attempts to get across the river or after being spooked by lions, and the fall alone will kill many individuals. Others drown as they are crushed by the sheer volume of panicking wildebeest trying to scramble up the equally steep banks on the other side. Every death means dinner for crocodiles, birds and fish – such is nature’s bounty.

During August to mid-October, The herds move back and forth over the Mara River - in both the Serengeti and Maasai Mara - tending in an easterly direction. By late October, most herds are packed into the eastern Maasai Mara. 

November - the ‘short rains’:

Early rains in November trigger another move as the herds leave Kenya and head south into western Loliondo and the Lobo area in Serengeti National Park. At this point, the herds organise themselves into smaller family groups. 

Great Migration safari map - Maasai Mara, Kenya and Serengeti, Tanzania

The unfortunate reality is that the Mara River crossings months of the Great Wildebeest Migration can be crowded in both Kenya and Tanzania. All of the river crossings occur in the public areas of the Maasai Mara and Serengeti - which means that they are accessible to anybody with a vehicle - including day-trippers and self-drive tourists.

Even if your chosen lodge is in a private concession bordering the parks, you will still have to join the throngs of vehicles at the river crossing points if you wish to witness the drama of this epic natural phenomenon.

To avoid the crowds during your Great Migration safari, you have three options:

  1. If want to see Mara River crossings (Serengeti and Maasai Mara) but are not keen on the crowds of the prime safari season (August and September), then October is your best bet - although leaving it beyond mid-October risks not seeing any river crossings.

  2. Grumeti River (Serengeti) crossings occur during July - but be aware that the Grumeti River is smaller than the Mara River and has many dry crossing points. This means that Grumeti River crossings are not as dramatic. Also, the Grumeti area is more remote, and crossings are more difficult to find.

  3. Enjoy the other aspects of the Great Migration - away from the Mara River crossings. The calving period in Tanzania's southern Serengeti is spectacular if you want to see massive herds, cute babies, and predators snacking on the bounty. Any month is a good month during the Great Migration, and you will find unique, epic experiences no matter when you come on safari.

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