The Great Migration is the largest mass movement of land mammals on Earth, when more than a million wildebeest—along with hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle circle through the Serengeti plains in Tanzania and Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. The path of the migration is dictated by the rains and food sources (mainly grasses); as the seasons change and rain-ripened grasses are depleted in one area, the herds move to the next. You’ll not only see wildebeest, zebra and other grazing animals, but also the predators that follow them, like lions, hyenas and crocodiles.
The Great Migration never really ends. It’s an ongoing, natural cycle where these massive herds can travel up to 1,800 miles on this centuries-old journey, notoriously fraught with peril.
Since the herds are basically moving all year round, there really is no bad time to see this awe-inspiring spectacle. It’s basically a matter of what you want to see, where you want to go and what time of year you can travel.
January, February & March. The herds congregate in northern Tanzania – typically on the Serengeti and in the Ngorongoro Conversation Area. This is calving season and an excellent time to see newborns. Big cats – looking for easy kills – are also easily spotted.
April – May. This is the rainy season and many roads become impassable. The herds begin to migrate west and north to the grassier plains of the Serengeti’s western corridor. Because of the rains and the roads, it can be difficult to follow to the herds.
June. The rains are dwindling, so the wildebeest and zebra gradually start moving north. Individual groups of animals join together to form the large herds seen spread out along the plains. The western Serengeti is the best place to see the migration unfold at this time of the year.
July. The herds have reached the Grumeti River which snakes through the Serengeti’s Western Corridor near the edge of Lake Victoria. The Grumeti can become deep and dangerous, especially if the rains have been heavy. This is a treacherous crossing for the wildebeest – there is a real possibility of drowning or being caught by one of the numerous crocodiles that make the river their home.
August. After crossing the Grumeti, the herds continue north into Kenya and the grassy plains of the Mara. They can now almost smell the fresh grass, but their biggest obstacle is yet to come – crossing the Mara River.
The Mara is the geographic boundary between the Serengeti of Tanzania and the Masai Mara of Kenya. Along its banks, tens of thousands of wildebeests line up gathering their courage to plunge into the often raging river where crocodiles lie in wait. The danger doesn’t end on the other side of the river’s banks – often there are lions waiting in ambush to greet the exhausted crossers.
September & October. The herds remain in the Mara and the northern Serengeti, where they cross and re-cross the Mara River constantly moving to find fresh grazing. The presence of resident wildlife such as lions, cheetahs and elephants make the Maasai Mara and northern Serengeti at this time of the year an exceptional wildlife viewing experience.
November – December. It’s time for the herds to move south once again to reach the short-grass plains; back to where it all began on the Serengeti in northern Tanzania. Here is where they give birth and the cycle begins anew.
Are you interested in a-once-in-a-lifetime Great Migration trip? Let AAA help you get there! To speak with one of our experienced travel agents, call 1-800-444-8691 or you can visit a nearby AAA Travel office for more information.