Witness the seventh wonder of the world — up to two million wildebeest, as well as zebra and gazelles, move in a continuous cycle to find fresh grazing and water.
A safari is an expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat, most especially in Africa. The most anticipated safari is the one that lets you view the huge migration of animals in East Africa.
Wildebeest migration is a fluid, dynamic affair that is subject to the timing of the year’s rains. Depending on where you are and at what time, it is an event of different experiences — you may see the wildebeest herds giving birth and courting, moving in great dusty columns, or funnelling across muddy rivers.
If witnessing the largest mammal migration on Earth is on your bucketlist, here’s a quick all-you-need-to-know about seeing the Great Migration.
What is the Great Migration
It is a natural phenomenon — a time when animals move clockwise around the ecosystem in search of water and fresh nutritious grasses. It occurs between two countries, Kenya and Tanzania, all through the year. When dry, cool August descends upon the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the wildebeest begin their astounding journey north, following the rains to the more conservative Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Over 250 animals lose their lives over the event of the migration.
Where to see Migration
From December until May, the wildebeest are largely concentrated in the southern Serengeti. Here, they birth their young, before slowly working their way northwest across the grassy plains. It is also an opportune time for predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, and even hyenas to pick off weak and confused calves.
In April and May, the herds will follow the Grumeti River that snakes its way across Serengeti National Park. By June, when the rainy season starts to wind down and the prairie grasses are exhausted, the herds will continue their migration to Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Best time to see Migration
The migration takes a full year to complete a single cycle. That means you can see it throughout the year but because the animals cross huge distances, certain highlights only happen in specific months. For instance, the mass birthing of calves takes place between January and March in the southern Serengeti, while the dramatic river crossings occur between July and August in the far west.
The most dramatic months according to historical data are:
This month features river crossings. Book early because it is the big event. By this time, the herds have reached the western Serengeti and Grumeti Reserves in Tanzania and are peering closely at the brown waters of the rivers they have to cross. This crossing is dangerous because of the huge Nile crocodiles.
The survivors of the crossing celebrate by feasting in the northern Serengeti and begin crossing back into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. You need a passport to cross though.
The herds break up into smaller groups – about half of the animals remain in the northern Serengeti, the rest are swapping stories in the Masai Mara (‘Did you hear that Nigel didn’t make it across the Grumeti?’).
Your best bet is the Masai Mara but bear in mind it is a far smaller reserve than the Serengeti and there may be a lot of other visitors. The conservancies in the Mara are much less crowded but you will still be able to witness the Migration.
It is important to note that a particularly heavy or light rainfall might completely alter the movement of the massive herd. Time your visit for when you know they should be already in the Mara (late July or early August). If you are lucky the rains may be late and you may see them arrive but at the very least you will see the vast herds on the plains. However if you arrive early, you may be too early and not see the migration at all!
It is advisable to plan your trip with an expert safari group.