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. 

The Great Migration

The Great Migration, a perilous journey.

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. 

The Great Migration

Race against the crocs, Serengeti National Park

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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. 

Great Migration Maasai Mara National Park

In the middle of the action in the Maasai Mara

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. 

Dunia Camp in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Wildebeest all the way down, Serengeti

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