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The Great Migration, also known as the "Wildebeest Migration," has been listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. This is the stage on which the 'greatest wildlife show on earth' plays out, as more than 2 000,000 wildebeest along with gazelle and zebra stragglers charge towards better grazing areas – making it the most unique safari experience in Africa.
The Migration route is sometimes thought of as a circuit that occurs between Tanzania's Serengeti plains in the south and Kenya's Maasai Mara in the north between May and December each year. But don’t let orderly maps that predict their pathways fool you. The Migration is a natural process that depends on weather, environmental factors, and the animals themselves, the timing and route that’s well-known – from the southern Serengeti through the Western Corridor up to the Maasai Mara then back to the start through the Loliondo and Lobo area – is more of an estimation than a reliable roadmap.
Great Migration dates tend to remain the same throughout the years. The first animals usually start to set out across the Serengeti in search of greener grass and dependable water supplies in April. Over the following months, they’ll encounter countless obstacles – from predators to river crossings – on their enormous trek. Here's a breakdown of their provisional travel schedule, so you can plan your own.
At this time of year, the herds congregate in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro areas of northern Tanzania, which are made lush by the annual rains. This is calving season, and an excellent time for viewing newborn babies; while big cat sightings (and kills) are common. The southern Ndutu and Salei plains are best for spotting large herds during this time of year.
The herds start to migrate west and north to the grassier plains of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor. Seasonal rains make it difficult to follow the herds during this stage of their migration. In fact, many of Tanzania's smaller camps shut down due to impassable roads.
As the rains stop, wildebeest and zebra gradually move north and individual groups begin to form much larger herds. This is also mating season for the migrating wildebeest. The Western Serengeti is the best place to watch this stage of the migration unfold.
The herds reach their first big obstacle, the Grumeti River. The Grumeti can get deep in places, especially if the rains have been good. The depth of the river makes drowning a distinct possibility for many wildebeest and there are plenty of crocodiles to take advantage of their distress.
The grasses of the western Serengeti are turning yellow and the herds continue north. After crossing the Grumeti River in Tanzania, the wildebeest and zebra head to Kenya's Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle. Before they get to the lush plains of the Mara, they have to make another river crossing. This time it's the Mara River, and that too is filled with hungry crocodiles.
The Mara plains are filled to the brim with large herds, naturally followed by predators. The best place to stay while the migration is in the Mara is Governors' Camp.
The rains start in the south again and the herds begin their long trek back down to Tanzania to give birth to their young. During the short rains of November, the wildebeest migration is best viewed from Klein’s Camp.
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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
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