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The Great Migration in Africa is a spectacle that die-hard safari lovers have at the top of their bucket lists. It's arguably Mother Nature's greatest wildlife show, with millions of wildebeest, followed by gazelle and zebra, traversing across the Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya.
Naturally, hungry predators follow suit, which makes for exhilarating wildlife sightings! There's only one way to go, and that’s forward, so it's survival of the fittest all the way.
Following this journey is a little bit more tricky than your standard safari, and knowing when to be where is important as the animals are constantly on the move. An African safari including the Great Migration is something that everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime. Here's what you can expect.
The Great Migration, also known as the Wildebeest Migration, is a journey rather than one single event. This migration has become the postcard picture of East Africa. Think vast open plains flooded with wildlife and flat-topped acacia trees on the horizon set against that signature red African sunset.
The migration comprises between 1.5 and 2 million animals, predominantly wildebeest and zebra, with some Topi antelope, Grant's gazelle, Thompson's gazelle, impala, eland and others following. They collectively travel across the plains following the rainfall and in search of greener pastures. Although it's not a set route, it follows roughly the same pattern every year.
This spectacular spectacle is known as the largest overland migration globally, and the Great Migration in Africa is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. In fact, it's so famous that an African safari including the Great Migration is one of the most frequently requested itineraries we receive.
The herds travel a total of around 800km during each cycle, and eager safari enthusiasts try their best to follow to get a front-row seat. Each month and location brings with it new obstacles and predators these animals have to get past. The Great Migration in Africa is the ultimate survival game!
Because this journey is not exactly mapped out and depends on the rainfall, knowing exactly where you need to be is vital to avoid disappointment. But you don't have to go about booking your dream Great Migration safari in Africa blindly! As the World's Best Safari Company, our Rhino Africa Travel Experts are well-travelled and in sync with Africa's rhythm. They know all her secret spots and the most luxurious places to rest your head after a full day of adventuring.
But just because there's an outline of their journey, it's not an exact science and not really a set route at all. Instead, it's general corridors. The Great Migration is a natural process that depends on the weather, environmental factors, and the animals themselves. However, it does follow roughly a similar schedule and route, although there will always be unpredictable changes.
A Great Migration Kenya safari is best in Maasai Mara when the herds move through the Mara River into the Maasai Mara National Reserve before making their way back into Tanzania. From here, they make their way toward the Serengeti National Park, the ideal location for your Great Migration Tanzania safari.
The Great Migration dates remain roughly the same each year. The first action happens when the animals set out across the Serengeti plains in April. Over the next couple of months, they will come across many obstacles, including predators waiting to strike. So, when is the Great Migration in Africa? Here's a rough breakdown of their movement schedule to help you plan your own.
December – March
During this time, the Great Migration in Africa takes place in Tanzania's Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater areas. The now-lush grasslands, thanks to the annual rains, lure the animals and this period also coincides with their calving season. Visitors can look forward to seeing cute newborns entering the world, as well as plenty of big cat sightings (and kills).
April – May
Next, the herds make their way toward the grassier plains of the Serengeti Western Corridor. The seasonal rains during this time mean that it's tricky to follow their movements, with many roads impassable and some smaller safari camps closing down for a while.
In June, the rainfall stops and the animals continue north, individual groups now coming together to form much larger herds. This is also mating season. The best place to see the animals during this time is in the Western Serengeti.
Drama unfolds as the animals have to cross their first big obstacle, namely the Grumeti River. Teeming with hungry crocodiles ready to pounce and deep sections the animals must struggle through, it's no small feat, and many don't make it through.
The Serengeti plains are now turning yellow, so the herds start to move north. They continue to Kenya's Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle. But before they can feast on the Mara plains, they must first cross another obstacle, the Mara River, also filled with crocodiles ready to strike.
September – November
Those animals that made it through the Mara River now flood the Mara plains, a feast for predators lurking nearby. During this time, the best place to stay is at Governors' Camp.
November – December
Rain starts to fall again in the south, and the animals start their long trek back to Tanzania, where they will give birth to the next generation of migrators. During the short rains of November, the wildebeest migration is best viewed from Klein's Camp.
Although the Great Migration is not entirely predictable, it is known that their route is fueled by their need for food and water sources.
As rainfall patterns change and the food and water get depleted where they are, the animals embark on the next destination for new sources. So essentially, when the rain stops in one area, this dry season prompts them to move on. These herbivores rely on quality grass for food, so they continue to hunt down the perfect grasslands for their next meal, and this long journey has become known as Africa's Great Migration.
Luckily, there’s no real competition between the species for their meals, so they can migrate together in peace. The migrators also have different grazing habits, one species feasting on the tallest grass, with others going for medium-height grasses. This way, they all get a bite as they make their way through the grasslands. Furthermore, there’s also strength in numbers, keeping them safe(r) from predators.
This constant meandering also ensures that the grasslands they leave behind have a chance to rejuvenate, ready for the wildlife's next return.
As you can see, a Great Migration safari is not the easiest to plan. There are so many factors to consider, and choosing when and where to go can either leave you breathless from excitement or deeply disappointed when you miss all the action.
Therefore, it's so important to only book a once-in-a-lifetime safari experience like the Great Migration with the very best safari tour operator. And since we've been voted World's Best Safari Company, we can safely say that this is us!
We've been to East Africa many, many times. We've seen the Great Migration in action at different times of the year. We know the lodge owners, managers and other staff by name. We've slept in the beds, gone on the game drives, and drifted above the plains in a hot air balloon. We've even had such a good front-row seat that we did not even have to leave the comfort of our beds to spot wildlife!
We'd love to share our tips, tricks, and expert advice with you to ensure your Great Migration experience is nothing short of spectacular. We also know which destinations pair well with others and can recommend the ultimate tour.
So, what are you waiting for? Contact our Travel Experts today. They're itching to start planning your dream Great Migration safari in Africa!
Our favourite tours showcasing the best of The Great Migration in Africa
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A selection of our favourite places for The Great Migration in Africa
Accommodations for every kind of traveller
Safari Lodge | Ngorongoro Crater
Tented safari camp | Serengeti National Park
Tented safari camp | Mara Conservancies
Tented safari camp | Maasai Mara National Reserve
Safari Lodge | Grumeti Game Reserve
Safari Lodge | Chyulu Hills National Park
At Rhino Africa, we have wonderful relationships and connections, which enable us to give you the best prices - guaranteed.
Our overwhelming love and passion for Africa makes us want to share our first-hand knowledge with you, so join us for tailor-made itineraries and magical moments.