Tanzania’s Great Migration – experience the trek of 1.5 million wildebeests
The Great Migration is one of the most supreme natural wonders of the world. Giant herds of grazers move in a regular pattern through Northern Tanzania and Kenya. Roughly 1.5 million wildebeests, 500.000 zebras and 200.000 gazelles take the trek of their life through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem – always following the rain in search of fresh grasses, water and mating partners.
Many associate the Great Migration with endless herds of wildebeest risking their lives in a spectacular river crossing where they face strong streams and have to fight off crocodiles. It is one of the most striking images in wildlife documentaries and inspires many travelers to visit Tanzania. However, these dramatic crossings are only one part of their annual cycle.
You want to witness Tanzania’s Great Migration up close and be right in the heart of the action? Depending on your travel time, you will be able to experience different stages of the Great Migration within Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. The below guide will give you an idea of their annual movement pattern and what to expect at which time of the year.
Travel Time: January to March - Calving Season
During the month of January, the Great Wildebeest Migration will arrive on the short-grass plains of southern Serengeti and settle around Lake Ndutu. Ndutu, actually located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, is in many aspects considered as the extension of the seemingly endless Serengeti plains. This is the perfect travel time if you wish to encounter the big wildebeest herds in one spot – wildebeests spread as far as the eye can see across the endless savanna!
The month of February is the highlight for many safari goers – it is Calving Season! At no other time of the year decides the rainfall their movement as much as now! Within a short time period more than 500,000 calves are born as the wildebeest cows simultaneously give birth. The combination of volcanic soil and rainfall stimulates the seasonal growth of nutritious grasses which are valuable for the lactating mothers. A spectacular event that of course also attracts a large variety of predators including cheetahs, hyenas, leopards and lions, which target the very young and weak animals.
The short-grass plains of Ndutu are still the best place to be in March. In some years the calving season can continue well into the month of March – all depending on the rains and the availability of nutritious grasses.
Travel Time: April and May – on the move
With the beginning of the long rainy season that runs until May, the Great Wildebeest Migration will start to move on. April usually marks the last month that you can encounter the wildebeest herds on the southern Serengeti plains. It is however impossible to predict the exact time when the herds will continue their move further north.
May is definitely a major moving month as the wildebeest herds proceed to the northern grazing grounds. Some herds will head directly north but the majority will move into Serengeti’s western corridor. As it is very difficult to allocate the exact position, it is best to focus on staying in Central Serengeti as you are able to move easily in whichever direction the herds will be!
Travel Time: June – Grumeti River Crossing
The wildebeest herds will now be mainly in Serengeti’s Western Corridor. Here they will face their first obstacle on the way – the Grumeti river! Encountering the Great Wildebeest Migration in June is bizarrely noisy as the males fight for dominance and mating partners.
During the entire month of June, the wildebeest herds are widely spread – some will cross Grumeti river and proceed north through the private game reserve of Grumeti; others will cross via Central Serengeti and head further through Lobo – the connection between Central and Northern Serengeti.
If you are travelling in June, we suggest splitting your time between the Western Corridor and Central Serengeti to maximize your chances of seeing the herds. The first front-runners are expected to arrive in Northern Serengeti by early July.
Travel Time: July to October – Mara River Crossing
From July to October, the Great Wildebeest Migration is now expected to concentrate in Northern Serengeti around Kogatende area as well as partially in Kenya’s Masai Mara. Kogatende is simply remarkable and the famous river crossings that you may be familiar with from wildlife documentaries take place here at the legendary Mara river. The Mara river, with its dangerous Nile crocodiles and strong current, is a major obstacle that the herds must overcome to reach green pastures!
July and August are considered as the prime river-crossing months and Kogatende is definitely the place to be. You can witness some of the largest river crossings. It is also peak travel season so it is recommended to arrange your visit well in advance. The month of September is much quitter in terms of travelers and the wildebeest herds will still be crossing. The Mara river region with its lush landscape is a wonderful area – truly outstanding in its natural beauty!
Many travelers assume that the Great Migration heads North from June onwards, proceeds to Kenya in July and stays in Masai Mara until October before returning to Tanzania in November. This sounds like a nice theory but the reality is quite different. The Great Migration spectacularly crosses back and forth over the dangerous Mara river. Rather than one big mass crossing of this dramatic obstacle, there are many small and hectic crossings based on spontaneous decisions.
Travel Time: November – on the move
With the beginning of the short rainy season in November, the Great Migration will start to move again. November is considered a major moving month and it is an incredible encounter to see the mega-herds. They will spread between Serengeti’s Lobo area and the Seronera Valley.
November is also a good travel month that offers great value due to low-season rates at the camps and lodges. We recommend to focus on Central Serengeti as it gives you the largest flexibility for game drives in search for the wildebeest herds.
Although the rain is unpredictable, it does help to reduce the dust and by far there are less travelers on the road.
Travel Time: December – on the move
December is definitely a challenging month to predict the exact location of the wildebeest herds as their movement is reliant on the rains. They are still moving south to the wet grazing grounds of southern Serengeti and Lake Ndutu within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Predators are already waiting for the herds to arrive!
Finding the main herd during this time is notoriously difficult as they cover great distances daily and spread across the southern Serengeti ecosystem. If you are travelling at the beginning of the month it is best to focus on a stay in Central Serengeti, while towards the end of December it is best to split your stay between Central Serengeti and Lake Ndutu.
Interested? Talk to an expert!
As an adventurous European travel is in my blood! Tanzania is a fascinating country with so much to explore! It’s a pleasure to share my insider knowledge and offer first-hand advise. I take the time to listen to your ideas and create a unique safari adventure out of these – tailored to your individual requirements and designed just for you!
The Great Migration is definitely an event not to be missed. You have any questions where to encounter the herds? Don’t worry we are here to assist!
Not sure – Talk to an expert
Let me show you my stunning home country and discover the true Tanzania – authentic and first-hand with a native at your side! As a Tanzanian myself, I am intimately familiar with the local conditions. With my experience in the bush and my passion for wildlife, I will happily design an itinerary based on your travel interests.
You have any questions in regards to your Great Migration Safari Adventure? Get in touch for a first chat to discuss your requirements!
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Great Wildebeest Migration – Our favorite Safari Packages
Tanzania’s Great Wildebeest Migration lets your witness nature’s true colors. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed! Check out our favorite tours below.
Tour Duration: 7 days, 6 nights
Travel Time: January to March
Safari Highlight: Ndutu Area & Southern Serengeti
Grumeti River Crossing
Tour Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
Travel Time: June
Safari Highlight: Western Serengeti
Mara River Crossing
Tour Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
Travel Time: July to October
Safari Highlight: Northern Serengeti
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