Africa is full of amazing wildlife experiences but one of the most spectacular is to witness the Great Migration. Over a million wildebeests, zebras and antelopes traverse the plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara in a continuous search for fresh grass while braving predators and perilous river crossings. To see a plain covered with animals or to witness a river crossing in all its bellowing, thunderous intensity is something that is on many a safari-goers wish list.
The migration is a year round phenomenon and covers a huge area in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya. As the movement of the animals is determined by rainfall and grass growth and the herds split up and spread out it is hard to predict exactly where they might be at any one time. The following is a rough guide to how the migration progresses throughout the year.
July to November
By July the main herds of the migration, usually led by a vanguard of zebra, are making their way north through the Serengeti where they encounter an obstacle to the grazing grounds in Kenya – the Mara River. The herds mass on the bank before taking the plunge and contending with the current, crocodiles and the sheer mass of animals to reach the opposite side. The sight and sound of a bellowing mass of animals crossing the Mara River is quite an experience. The migration stays in the area of the northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara until October sometimes crossing and re-crossing the river a number of times. Permanent camps in the northern Serengeti from where the migration can be seen at this time include Lamai Serengeti and Lemala Kuria Hills. A number of mobile camps, such as Olakira, follow the herds changing location a number of times during the year to be close to the action. In the Masai Mara, Naibor Camp has a great central location and Governors Camp is situated right on the Mara River. The herds also extend into the conservancy areas adjoining the main Masai Mara Reserve and camps such as Elephant Pepper can also take guests into the main reserve to the river crossing points.
December to April
As the short rains begin in November the herds are moving south through the central Seronera region of the Serengeti on their long journey to the short grass plains in the south. They will spend the next few months grazing on the nutritious grass and giving birth to the next generation around mid February when thousands of young are born every day over a period of a few weeks. The seemingly endless plains are filled with an immense number of animals and the Serengeti’s predators such as lions and cheetahs take full advantage. One of the few permanent camps in the southern part of the Serengeti is Sanctuary Kusini and a number of mobile operators such as &Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas move their camps here in their own migration following the herds.
May and June
Around end of April it is time for the migration to start to move again. Some of the herds will head north through the central plains and Seronera valley while others will travel towards the Western corridor and the Grumeti River. Staying at Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp is a good option at this time. While there are some huge crocodiles to avoid, crossing the Grumeti does not provide the challenge and drama of the dangerous traverse of the Mara River that they will encounter further north. June sees the main herds continue their movement north with Singita Sasakwa and Singita Sabora Tented Camp providing luxury bases from which to view the migration as they continue their journey toward the northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara.
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