Braving perils including crocodiles, lions, leopards, drowning and more, some one and a half million wildebeest – as well as hundreds of thousands of zebra, gazelles and the predators that feed on them – thunder across the plains of East Africa each year following the seasonal rainfall and new growth of grasses. The raw beauty and scale of the annual wildlife spectacle known as the Great Migration tops many travelers’ wish lists. While the good news is that the migration is a year-round activity offering plenty of travel opportunities as the wildebeest follow their ongoing cycle of feeding, calving and river crossings in a giant clockwise oval, we have some suggestions for getting the most out of your Great Migration safari.
The big herds are generally in Tanzania from November to June and in Kenya from July to October or early November, with some overlap with herds in both countries and variance based on weather patterns. While the migration is perpetual, the specific routing and timing varies based on local conditions, so it’s important to plan with the help of an experienced safari consultant to optimize your experience and your opportunities to see the migration.
Baby pictures: Wildebeest calves, like all wildlife babies, are appealing, and the fact that females give birth to some 250,000 calves within a few weeks early in the year during the ‘green season‘ on the Serengeti’s short grass plains allows for particularly compelling game viewing and wonderful photography opportunities. The newborns offer great entertainment for travelers as well as providing an important food source for predators such as lion, cheetah and hyena.
A river runs through it: Midsummer to late fall are the best times to witness the concentrated drama of river crossings in both Tanzania and Kenya, with animals crossing the Grumeti and Mara rivers. Feast-or-famine crocodiles wait a good portion of the year living off fish and the fat in their tails for the few optimal months of wildebeest dining.
Glamping: We recommend small tented camps for their high quality and convenient access to migration viewing. Camps range from basic to ultra-luxurious; we will work with you to select the camp that is right for your trip. For an example, see Sayari Camp on our list of ‘10 Safari Camps to Visit Before you Die.’
Patience is a virtue: You might have to sit under a tree along the riverbank all day long to witness a river crossing. It’s worth it to pay extra for a private vehicle – and then take a zen-like approach. We’ll ensure you have an expert guide to determine most likely location for the migration’s movements and best opportunities for catching some exciting action.
Plan ahead: Prime, well located camps book up very early. We recommend booking your migration safari at least a year in advance to ensure we can book the camps you want on the dates you want them.
Photos courtesy Kent Redding, AAC traveler Michelle Coleman and Sayari Camp