Great Wildebeest Migration
See the Wildebeest Migration is the largest overland migration in the world with herds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope in a seemingly chaotic frenzy of movement as they collectively explore and overcome obstacles while travelling clockwise, 1000km across the Serengeti.
Many of us grew up watching Disney’s animated movie of The Lion King, over and over again. While the whole movie experience was as heart-breaking as it was heart-warming, one of the most powerful moments has got to be the Wildebeest Migration scene. All that flying dust and the sound of the millions of hooves stampeding through the rugged, rocky earth will be forever etched in my childhood memory. Fast forward some 20 years and that image has ensured that a quest to see the Great Wildebeest Migration, in the Serengeti, should definitely be one of the top experiences on your to-do list.
Best Time To Go
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See the Great Migration is the largest overland migration in the world with herds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope in a seemingly chaotic frenzy of movement as they collectively explore and overcome obstacles while travelling clockwise, 1000km across the Serengeti.
Great Wildebeest Migration at a Glance
The Great Migration is the largest overland migration in the world with herds of Wildebeest, zebra and antelope in a seemingly chaotic frenzy of movement as they collectively explore and overcome obstacles while travelling clockwise, 1,000km across the Serengeti.
The migration takes place between Tanzania in the Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Masai Mara, where the animals are driven by their ongoing search for lush grazing. The migration is also known to attract a wide range of opportunistic predators, (lion, hyena, cheetah and leopard) possibly the largest concentration of large predators in Africa.
More than 1.3 million wildebeest migrate in their search for greener grasslands and thus the precise timing of the migration is dependent on the unpredictable patterns of rainfall each year, but the reality of the Great Migration is more complex.
Between the months of December through to March, herds are in the North-Eastern part of the Serengeti, slowly making their way South. It’s calving season, and 90% of births will take place during this time. This strategy, allowing for large numbers of births to take place, enables protection for the wildebeest against the many predators that the herd will face along their journey. Wildebeest calves learn to stand faster than any other mammal; within a day a calf is as fast as an adult in speed as well as agility.Now in April, the rain has stopped and the herds start to make their way from the southern Serengeti plains towards the centre and western parts of the Serengeti and continue to do so over the next 3 months.
June is seen in a sense, as a transitional month where the dry season starts to set in. Herds start to become more concentrated in the Western Corridor, building up their density before crossing the rivers. The first few rivers that are crossed are not continuous, more an arrangement of pools and channels, nothing compared to the Mara river that the herds later have to cross.
The most dangerous part of the herd’s journey is arguable the river crossings. Thousands of animals line the water edge in the months of July and August as they have reached the Western Serengeti and crossings into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve commence. Using the same direct route every year, this dramatic, tragic, and yet spectacular sighting offers a uinique experience of The Great Migration. Up to 10 000 animals may die due to exhastion, drowning, or coming face-to-face with a Nile crocodile (these can grow to about 6 metres long).
As September approaches the herds begin to break into smaller groups, with grazing herds in the Northern Serengi as well as Masai Mara. November brings rainfall in the Serengeti, setting the wildebeest back in motion to the refreshed grass plains of the Southern Serengeti.
The rainfall allows for the Wildebeest cycle of life to continue and begin the Great Migration once again.
Taking a trip anywhere requires extensive planning and research, especially when wanting to plan a trip to an exquisite natural occurrence such as The Great Migration. There are many ways to experience the migration.
Places to stay are in the form of a number of safari camps located at various points along the migration route. Some of these camps are permanent but the best way to increase your chances of catching the herds in action, is to stay in one of the Serengeti’s famous mobile camps which move with the herds each day, to name a few; Nomad Tanzania’s Serengeti Safari Camp and &Beyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas. These camps are an intricate way to experience one of the most powerful wonders of the animal world.
However, the unpredictability of The Great Wildebeest Migration must always be considered as there is no guarantee when it comes to experiencing what nature has to offer and it is difficult to predict with confidence where and when the herds will be exactly.
Be sure to take a look at one of the Migration map indicators to see where the herbs are “supposed” to be during that time.
Deciding when to travel is as important as where. Arguably, the best time to plan a trip to experience the Migration is in February, as this is the month where the most births take place. If travelling with young children, this time of year may be of utmost interest and an incredible learning opportunity.
If the natural cycle of life is more of what you are looking for then the best time of year to experience the Great Migration would have to be during the months of July to September, where animals are faced with the most traitorous part of their journey.
Best Time To Go
When booking a safari to see the Great Migration, most people fail to comprehend about The Great Migration is that it is a year long natural event and can be witnessed at anytime of the year. The different months bring about different experiences; in months of December to April one can expect to see the many births in the wildebeest herds. There is nothing quite like having the opportunity to watch as a wildebeest calf comes to life and how it quickly learns to find it’s footing. During the months of May to December is when the movement of the herds takes place, with exciting river crossings along the way. However, you will need to do your homework and some careful research in order to not be staring out over the Serengeti wondering where all the animals have gone.
Predators are everywhere during the Migration, knowing that herds migrate through the Serengeti once a year results in the opportunity of an almost effortless kill. Lion and Cheetah often await the herds on the opposite water’s edge, making use of the element of surprise as the Wildebeest who have managed to make it across the river, stampede up the bank. Nile crocodiles commit to a feeding frenzy as herds cross the Mara river, consuming up to half their body weight in one sitting, the crocodiles target specific wildebeest, zebra, etc, found on the perimeter of the group.
During The Great Migration, herds are faced with many challenges and having the opportunity to experience the way the animals problem solve is one that isn’t to be missed.
This is why we put together a helpful Migration Calendar, so you can book the perfect safari and be in the right place at the right time!
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One-Week Tembo Escape
Our Deluxe One-Week Tembo Safari offers accommodations at deluxe tented camps and lodges and grants the opportunity to learn and discover Tanzania’s most popular northern parks, such as Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and the boundless Serengeti Plains.
11 Days Safari - Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Zanzibar
On this 100% private, combined 11 day Tanzania safari and Zanzibar Island stay, you will explore the 3 main parks of the Northern circuit. Accommodation will be in lodges / permanent tented camps for a closer encounter with nature and wildlife. Zanzibar is an idyllic beach holiday island with its pristine reefs, sandy white beaches and clear blue waters being among the best in the world.
5 Days Tarangire, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara National Park
The Northern Tanzania Adventurer Our five day camping safari captivates those who experience its enchanting beauty. The four parks are located in Tanzania, a region that has preserved its purity on the ancient African continent. We will discover Lake Manyara National Park which features the largest concentration of baboons. The alkaline waters of Lake Manyara are encrusted with rosy feathered flamingos. Tarangire is famous for having one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. The Serengeti conjures up images of exploration, dramatic landscapes and exhilarating wildlife. The Ngorongoro Crater has been denoted as ‘Africa’s garden of Eden’
7 Day - The Great Wildebeest Migration - Mid July to October
This tour will take you to top three Tanzania National Parks in the Northern circuit. This is our most popular safari itinerary in the Northern circuit. Majestic Tanzania is home to many of nature's most spectacular creations. Among them - The Ngorongoro Crater - the largest crater in the world, and a vast amphitheater teeming with game. The Serengeti Plains - home to an estimated 3 million animals covering an estimated 3 million animals covering an area of 12,950 square kilometers.
10 Days Tanzania Wildlife Safari Tour
This tour starts and ends in Arusha, Tanzania. It covers some of the most beautiful and interesting places in Africa. The tour will take you to Serengeti National Park, Ngororngoro Conservation Area, Tarangire, Lake Eyasi and the famous Lake Manyara National Park. These three national parks have got variety of animals, which can be spotted on any game drive.
Serengeti National Park is also connected to the Masai Mara in Kenya. It is also famous for the annual Great Wildebeest Migration. Lake Manyara National Park is famous for its variety of water birds like and hippos, while Ngorongoro Crater is known for the large caldera filled with many animal species.
The Highlights of Tanzania
Experience an exciting Northern Tanzanian safaris, Take in the wonders of the amazing Ngorongoro Crater, the world famous Serengeti National Park, Tarangire's gigantic Baobab trees and huge elephant populations and the tree climbing lions of Lake Manyara. You'll be living the high life in comfortable accommodation deep in the bush, staying in large rooms with private verandas and full en-suite facilities, as well as small lodges, such as the fabulous lodge located on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater. You'll be amazed by all that Tanzania has to offer!
Pros and Cons
- Perfect for wildlife and landscape photography
- Very popular
- Get up close and personal with the animal herds
- Experience untouched culture
- Create a once-in-a-lifetime memory
- Don’t drink tap water
- Maleria Risk
Getting There and Safety
Depending on where you are going to view the Great Migration, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you to Tanzania or Kenya and their various ticket prices.
If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Tanzania or Kenya.
If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Tanzania or Kenya.
Yellow Fever vaccinations can be a good idea when travelling to East Africa, as well as obtaining a form of malaria prophylactics. It is also recommended that a minimum of 4 weeks before travelling, travellers should visit a physician for the required prescriptions and vaccinations.
Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Tanzania and/or Kenya. Many African Safaris require travel insurance information when booking trips through their company.
Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.
Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.
Some essentials needed when travelling to experience The Great Wildebeest Migration include some basics; depending on the time of year the Serengeti can be scorching hot and sometimes cold in the evenings, therefore make sure to have covered all bases in terms of clothing. For footwear, you’ll want to have a good pair of walking shoes, but also just a good comfortable pair for around the camp. Binoculars are an incredible tool on a safari, it is also advisable to bring along a head torch. Season travelers may want to pack a bird book or two as it is fascinating to be able to identify your sightings.
For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.