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The Great Migration in East Africa – African Budget Safaris

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Your First Step into Great Migration Safari Holidays

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What is the Great Migration

The Great Migration is the annual journey of wildebeest, also known as gnu, from the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in southern Kenya.

High rainfall from December to March creates lush grasslands, ideal for calving season for wildebeest and zebras. This period also attracts predators like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas, eager to hunt the vulnerable newborns.

When the rains end in late April or May, zebras begin their northward trek toward the Masai Mara, leading the way for the wildebeest.

In June and July, the massive herd crosses the Grumeti River, followed by the Mara River in August and November. These crossings are prime opportunities for capturing dramatic photos and videos, as the animals face the dual threats of drowning and crocodile attacks. Despite the danger and bloodshed, these river crossings draw many tourists to Tanzania and Kenya.

After the river crossings, the herds settle in the Masai Mara in Southern Kenya. As the dry season sets in, the wildebeest and zebras begin their return journey to Tanzania, arriving in time for the new year and the start of the calving season.

Where to See the Great Migration

Every year, around two million animals—including wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, impala, and kongoni—migrate in a clockwise pattern from the southern Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.

Though they typically follow an annual route, climate changes and seasonal shifts can throw off their schedule. This means the herds might arrive earlier or later than expected. But don’t worry! No matter when you visit Tanzania, you’ll catch some part of this epic migration. From start to finish, there’s always something incredible to see.

Best Country to Observe the Great Wildebeest Migration

The great migration 1 | The Great Migration in East Africa - African Budget Safaris

Each country has its own unique advantages. Witnessing the Great Migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park offers vast open plains and the chance to see the calving season up close. Plus, a visit to the Serengeti means you can also explore the incredible Ngorongoro Crater and other fantastic national parks and even climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Serengeti provides a diverse experience, while the Masai Mara in Kenya boasts a higher concentration of wildlife due to its smaller size. We highly recommend planning to experience migration in both countries. Remember, these two parks are part of a larger wildlife conservation area, divided only by human borders.

Insights on the Great Migration

Researchers say wildebeest successfully navigates obstacles thanks to “swarm intelligence.” Moving and deciding as a group helps protect them from predators and accurately predict the direction of the rains.

Zebras and other herbivores migrate with the wildebeest because they eat different parts of the same grass. This means no competition for food, and everyone gets enough to eat.

Predicting when animals will cross rivers or enter parks is tough. To increase your chances of seeing them, book a longer safari. Both the Serengeti and the Masai Mara are fantastic to visit year-round, with plenty of resident game even when the migrating herds are elsewhere. August and September are prime months to witness the migration in Kenya.

You can witness the Great Migration in two ways: staying in fixed camps and waiting for the herds to arrive or following them in semi-mobile tents.

Planning your migration safari is crucial, as camps and lodges get overbooked during peak migration periods. Arrange your safari based on what you want to experience and see.

The Best Times to Visit the Wildebeest Migration in Africa

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November to January

The migration cycle in the Serengeti kicks off during this time as animals move from Kenya’s Masai Mara to the southeastern Serengeti, near the Ngorongoro Crater. It’s the dry season in Tanzania, and about 1.7 million wildebeest, along with 260,000 zebras and 470,000 gazelles, head to the short grass plains. This period also sees a peak in zebra fertility.

February to March

By February, the migration continues through the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro parks. This period marks the peak of fertility for antelopes, with large herds moving across the savannah with their calves, closely followed by predators. Unfortunately, many young antelopes fall prey to these predators and scavengers.

As March begins, the grazing areas near Ngorongoro deplete, prompting the herds to migrate towards the western Serengeti and the Grumeti River area.

April

In April, large herds move into the central Serengeti, known as Seronera. This is the rainy season in Tanzania, and the plentiful rain provides vast expanses of fresh grass for the animals to graze on.

May to June

As the rainy season ends, the herds continue westward to the Western Corridor. Along the way, they cross the Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers. During this time, National Geographic and Discovery Channel often organize expeditions to capture the dramatic river crossings, where crocodiles lie in wait for the migrating antelopes.

July

July marks the start of the dry season in Tanzania. With no rain, the animals move north towards the Kenyan border along the Grumeti area. By late August, the herds reach the Ikorongo controlled area, home to the historic German fort of Ikoma, famously described in Bernard Grzimek’s book “Serengeti Shall Not Die.”

August to October

By late September, the migration reaches the Kenya border. In October, at the height of the dry season, most animals move into Masai Mara National Park, where fresh water and ample fodder await.

What’s the best way to experience the Great Migration?

The best way to witness the Great Migration is through a well-planned East Africa safari in Kenya, Tanzania, or both, where expert guides can take you to the prime viewing spots. Opt for a mobile camping safari to follow the herds closely and stay in the heart of the action. Hot air balloon rides offer a breathtaking aerial view of the vast herds moving across the plains. Choose a lodge with panoramic views and private game drives for an added luxury touch.

Ready to see it all? Book economy flights with WowFare and fly to any African country to witness the Great Migration. Let us take you there with unbeatable deals and top-notch service.

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