Great Migration, Serengeti, Tanzania


Overview

Great Migration travel guide, including map of Kenya and Tanzania, top Great Migration experiences, tips for Great Migration travel, when to see the Great Migra

They call it ‘great’ for a reason: some two million ungulates – over a million wildebeest, plus zebra, gazelles and eland – rumble across the sweeping savannah of Tanzania’s Serengeti.

A wonder in itself, the Great Migration in Tanzania and Kenya is also a moveable feast – dinner for countless hungry predators, notably lions, leopard, cheetah, hyena and crocodiles, all of whom gather to pick off unfortunate prey from the massed herbivores.

What happens is this: the wildebeest are dispersed around the southern Serengeti plains during the rains at the end of the year, giving birth to their calves in January and February – some 8,000 are born each day.

Come April-May, the southern Serengeti becomes drier and the animals gather in huge herds, ready to move north-west towards greener grazing areas – the Great Migration. Arguably the most dramatic part of this mass movement is the crossing of the Grumeti River in the west of the Serengeti, usually in June or July – huge crocs lie in wait to pick off unwary ungulates as they paddle across.

From July, large numbers of moving munchers have crossed the northern border from Tanzania into Kenya’s Masai Mara, though many others disperse around the northern Serengeti.

Come October or November, they’re heading south again to enjoy the green shoots of post-rain grass – the Great Migration is a cyclical process.

There isn’t just one Great Migration experience; depending on where you are at any given time, you might see massed herds in the south, the action-packed river crossings, or the rumbling exodus to the north.

A range of camps and lodges – from public park campsites to $1,000-per-night all-inclusive affairs – offers accommodation in various spots around the Serengeti; some are mobile, following the migration as it tracks around the park.

But whenever and wherever you stay, there’s always plenty to gawp at in the Serengeti.

Further Reading

Great Migration Top 5

  1. Take a dawn balloon ride over the plains – followed by a champagne breakfast. Floating above the action doesn't come cheap but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Many upmarket lodges can arrange flights for you, though they are dependent on the weather and prone to cancellation.
  2. Walk with Maasai guides – one of the best ways to explore the plains of the Serengeti is to follow in the footsteps of the local people. Walking safaris are not allowed in the majority of the national park itself, but head to a neighbouring concession, such as Loliondo, and you can stride out with the red-cloaked Maasai and some seriously big game.
  3. Stake out a spot at the Grumeti River from May to July to watch tens of thousands of wildebeest running the gauntlet of hungry crocs in a splashing frenzy. River crossings are the high drama events of the Migration; be prepared for tense – and heart-breaking – moments.
  4. Avoid the Migration – it is a wonderful wildlife spectacle, but consequently prices rise and visitor numbers soar. Visit the Serengeti in April or May and you'll discover lower prices and smaller crowds – but still great game viewing.
  5. Add on an extra in Tanzania – there's a lot more to the country than the Migration. Consider climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (doable in five/six days), relaxing on Zanzibar’s beaches (easily accessible via an internal flight or ferry) or heading to one of the country's lesser-known, but no less impressive, parks such as Saadani or Selous.