The Great Migration, at a Glance
Every year, a spectacular wildlife event takes place on the East Africa plains. Over two million wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles migrate across the Serengeti in Tanzania, heading north to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of better grazing lands.
The migration begins in the Tanzania on the Ndutu Plains and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
During the early months of the year, just after the short rains, it is calving season for the wildebeest. It is estimated that 500,000 calves are born during these six weeks.
As the plains start to dry up, the wildebeest and other grazing mammals head north from Ngorongoro towards the Serengeti, moving clockwise as they work their way up towards the Maasai Mara.
A perilous journey
The perilous 2,000-mile journey crescendos in August and September, when the wildebeest have to cross the Mara River.
Here, not only do they have to contend with the ever-present big cats, but also the crocs that lurk beneath the murky waters.
The Mara River crossing is one of the most extraordinary wildlife events to witness first-hand. A humbling reminder of the realities of life in the wild.
The entire Mara-Serengeti ecosystem revolves around this natural phenomenon – the raptors, vultures, lions, and cheetahs depend on this event for survival.
Breaking free, the wildebeest bolts across the last few metres of river, and up onto the safety of the bank. No matter, the croc turns back and picks another target, it's easy pickings when the numbers are this large.
Experiencing the Great Migration
The migration is a months-long event, so witnessing events like the Mara River crossing required a degree of luck. Rainfall patterns, grazing opportunities and water availability all determine when the wildebeest make their moves.
It's difficult to plan with a resolution greater than a few months. Usually, the wildebeest are found around the Ndutu plains from December through May. Following the rains in May, the calving season begins.
From late May to early July, greener pastures along the western corridor attract them northwards in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti.
From July to October, the herds are dispersed across both sides of the Tanzania-Kenya border, where the Mara River presents the biggest obstacle yet. This is your best window of opportunity to see the epic river crossings.
The herds often stay north in the Serengeti and Lobo area until November, before heading back down to the Ndutu plains, completing the migratory cycle.
When planning your trip to Tanzania and/or Kenya around the Great Migration, it's important to remember there are no guarantees.
That said, July to September, when the large herds have scattered either side of the Mara River, is your best chance of witnessing a river crossing.
These months coincide with the peak travel season in Tanzania and Kenya, so accommodation prices can be higher and parks busier.
If you prefer a more secluded experience, and cheaper rates on accommodation, consider visiting during the short rainy season from October to December when the herds are still in the north of the Serengeti.
February, during the calving season when the herds are on the Ndoto Plains near the Ngoronogoro Crater, is another good option.
Popular Trips to Kenya & Tanzania
The tours below showcase just some of what is possible. Use these itineraries as starting points, or to draw inspiration. Then get in touch, and let our expert team help craft the perfect itinerary for you.
The Great Wildebeest Migration
The annual wildebeest migration in northern Tanzania and Kenya is one of the most incredible wildlife events in the world. Head to the Serengeti and stay in mobile tented camps to follow the action.…
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Combine the northern safari circuit with a trip south to Ruaha National Park, finishing at Dar es Salaam. Along the way, discover the beautiful landscapes and incredible wildlife that make Tanzania so special.…
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Tanzania's Northern Safari Circuit
The northern circuit is the most popular safari route in Tanzania. Explore the national parks of Tarangire and Lake Manyara, before meandering northwest to the beautiful Ngorongoro Crater. Finally, you'll arrive in the world's most famous safari destination, the endless…
- 8 Days
Maasai Mara & Zanzibar
Combine two very different sides of East Africa. Head to the Maasai Mara for a few days of safari, before crossing the border and heading south-east to the island paradise of Zanzibar. …
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Stay in romantic lodges in the heart of the Serengeti before heading east to the Zanzibar archipelago for a few days at Matemwe Retreat. East Africa safari meets tropical island paradise.…
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Tanzania’s Northern Circuit & Zanzibar
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- 12 Days
Ol Pejeta & Maasai Mara
The quintessential Kenya safari. Combine the incredible Ol Pejeta Conservancy with the Maasai Mara. There's enough wildlife experiences here to last a lifetime.…
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Ngorongoro to Serengeti Walking Safari
9 days hiking through the savannah plains and grasslands of northern Tanzania, from the Ngorongoro Highlands to the Namiri Plains in the east of the Serengeti.…
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Southern Tanzania and Zanzibar
Combine the wilder side of Tanzania with the tropical beaches of Zanzibar. Journey through the southern safari circuit of Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve, before a short flight brings you to the border between Africa and the Indian…
- 10 Days
The Very Best of Kenya
A highlight reel of the very best that Kenya has to offer. A compact itinerary showcasing some of the best wildlife destinations, most beautiful landscapes, and most impressive lodges in the country.…
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Walking Safari in the Naboisho Conservancy
4 days exploring the Naboisho Conservancy, hiking between fly camps in the Greater Maasai Mara region. A hark back to the early days of East African safari, before the 4x4's and luxe lodges. …
- 4 Days
Walk Among the Great Migration
A unique way to experience the great migration on the plains of the Serengeti. Stand amongst giants, and experience the migration of 2 million wildebeest as you hike from central Serengeti to the southern plains. …
- 7 Days