- What is the Great Migration?
- When and where is it best to witness the Great Migration?
- Why is the Great Migration so important?
Image credit: Daniel Rosengren/Wikipedia
The Great Migration refers to the annual migration of wildebeest, zebras, and other herbivores across east Africa, taking place in both Tanzania and Kenya. This natural phenomenon is considered one of the most spectacular wildlife events on Earth.
Rather than viewing the Great Migration as a singular event, it helps to think about it as a continuous and fluid journey that is determined by the changing seasons and availability of food across the region. The typical path from the southern Serengeti, through the Western Corridor and up to the Maasai Mara covers a distance of around 2,000 kilometres and is piloted by the search of abundant grazing grounds and reliable water sources.
Image credit: Kenn Ortzen-Bario
Image credit: Dennis Bunnik
With nature being the host of this incredible event, the local conditions, environmental factors and changing animal behaviours all play a role in determining the time and route of the Great Migration. It should be noted that the below is more so an estimated guide, rather than a concrete itinerary.
December to March: Calving Season
The migration begins in the southern part of Tanzania’s Serengeti, and it’s here that the animals will find short, grassy plains where the low vegetation offers better visibility to spot predators. In the short span of time – approximately four to six weeks – several hundred thousand wildebeest and zebra calves will be born; however, this also increases the hunt from predators like lions.
If spotting newborn calves or witnessing dramatic predator scenes is a must-see for you, then aim to be in the southern Serengeti between February and March. These months are typically less busy with tourists too!
April to June: Southern Migration
Once the rainy season is over, the vast plains of the southern Serengeti begin to dry out, kickstarting the iconic Great Migration. The herds will start to move northwest, making their way cross the central and western Serengeti regions. Interestingly enough, not all wildebeest and zebras will follow the same route and remain in a cohesive group. This Great Migration phase is characterised by long journeys in attempt to discover greener plains.
July to November: River Crossings
This period of the Great Migration is perhaps one of the cycle’s most iconic phases. It’s marked by large numbers of wildebeest and zebras moving into Kenya’s Maasai Mara, crossing expansive and dangerous rivers. The herds face immense obstacles during this time, having to make their way across crocodile infested waters in order to reach Kenya.
July through to November is generally considered the best time to view the Great Migration, as it’s when visitors will see those iconic river crossing scenes. It is good to note though that these months draw in the largest number of tourists eager to tick a river crossing off their bucket list.
October and November: Returning South
As the Great Migration is a fluid event, in around October or November the herds begin to make their way back down to Tanzania, through the southern regions of the Maasai Mara. It’s typical for herds to go back and forth between both countries, as they are in a constant search of adequate grazing plains during the drier seasons.
Image credit: Dennis Bunnik
Not only is the Great Migration an incredible display of wildlife, but it is also an integral part of the ecosystem of eastern Africa. With millions of wildebeest, zebras and other herbivore mammals commencing on a year long cycle around Kenya and Tanzania, it promotes nutrient cycling helping with the growth of plants, as well as keeping the balance between predators and prey. This phenomenon showcases the interconnectedness of the nature and species found in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
The Great Migration is also important as it supports the local communities and economies through sustainable tourism, enhancing conservation initiatives in the national parks and reserves the migration takes place.
What’s the best way to experience the Great Migration?
Eager to experience the Great Migration for yourself? Your perfect opportunity awaits on our 20-day Kenya & Tanzania small group tour. With a variety of dates on offer throughout the year, this tour allows you to choose the month that perhaps aligns with a specific phase of the Great Migration, giving you the best chance to have an extraordinary experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is travelling to Africa during the Great Migration worth it?
The Great Migration is a unique and awe-inspiring natural event, offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness millions of wildebeest and other wildlife in motion. The sheer spectacle, combined with the rich biodiversity and cultural experiences, makes it a highly rewarding and memorable holiday.
Is travelling during the Great Migration expensive?
The cost of traveling during the Great Migration can vary depending on factors such as accommodation, tour packages, and the chosen time of the year. While it may be considered a premium experience, the unparalleled wildlife encounters, and the chance to witness this extraordinary event justify the investment for many travellers.
With Bunnik Tours, you can experience the Great Migration on our 20-day Kenya & Tanzania small group tour. This tour includes all transport, accommodation, tipping, most meals, all entrance fees to national parks and reserves, and special, local experiences. Plus, our Africa small group tours have a maximum of 12 travellers per group!
Why is Africa’s Great Migration so famous?
Africa's Great Migration is renowned for being one of the most spectacular wildlife events globally. The sheer scale of millions of animals on the move, facing challenges like river crossings and predator encounters, captures the imagination of nature enthusiasts. The Great Migration is the largest herd movement of animals on the planet, and with up to 1,000 animals per km², the huge groups of wildebeest can be seen from space!