Many travelers to Africa are interested in seeing the Great Migration in East Africa. An ongoing, perpetual movement of wildebeest and zebra through the Serengeti ecosystem is a popular choice for safari, and we find that there are a lot of questions around this natural spectacle. We’ll address some of the more common inquiries here, but if you find we haven’t answered what you’d like to know, you can contact a Journey Specialist.
What exactly IS the Great Migration?
The Great Migration refers to the movement of approximately 1.5 million wildebeest, 250,000 zebra and various antelope species across the plains of East Africa. The migration travels through the Serengeti ecosystem of Serengeti National Park, the Masai Mara, Ngorongoro Conservation area, among other areas in Tanzania and Kenya. In an annual cycle, the animals cover over 1,700 miles on their endless journey. Their movement is largely driven by the availability of good grazing.
What are the most common misconceptions about the migration?
Common misconceptions include imagining it is one large herd of wildebeest/zebras that move all at the same time across the plains. They often split into groups, so there could be times when someone is seeing one huge group crossing the river up in northern Serengeti, while someone else could be watching herds down in western Serengeti, who are moving a bit slower and haven’t made their way up north yet. The distribution of the animals that are migrating is more widespread than is typically thought.
The image of millions of animals stampeding across the plains is another misconception. While it’s true that large groups of animals may stampede from time to time (especially during river crossings), it’s not a constant and it is not predictable.
Another misbelief about the Great Migration is that it is the world’s largest. That honor belongs to the straw-colored fruit bat migration that takes place in Zambia – another incredible spectacle of nature!
When can I see the migration?
The migration is happening all of the time, every day of the year. Its given location at any one time is somewhat confined to a pattern (though weather patterns can cause it to vary), making it important to work with an expert on planning your safari to ensure you have the best chance to see it during your visit.
Will I still see lots of wildlife if I visit parts of the Serengeti/Masai Mara outside of migration season?
Yes! While the migration is always moving, lots of game are resident to each area, especially predators. This means that they do not move with the migration; they stay within a certain territory.
What is the best time of year to experience the calving season?
To have the best chance of seeing a wildebeest calf being born (a truly magical experience), we recommend traveling to southern Serengeti in February. This time of year is incredible not only for the calving, but also for the predator activity around the births. Cheetah and hyena in particular are active hunters doing their best to take advantage of vulnerable newborns. Be sure to plan your calving season safari well in advance to be able to get into your preferred camp.
When and where can visitors see the migration while avoiding crowds?
When is the best time to see a river crossing?
While there are no guarantees, July to October are the best months to see a river crossing. We can work with you to ensure you’re at a camp that is proximate to the migration’s location to position you for the best chance to see an awe-inspiring crossing!
A common misconception about river crossings is that when the herds cross the river up in northern Serengeti, that they are crossing from Serengeti over into Masai Mara. However, the river crossings up in northern Serengeti all happen within the Serengeti and the crossings that happen in the Masai Mara, are also within the Masai Mara.
Finally, if you have your heart set on seeing a river crossing remember that there are no guarantees with nature. You will also need to be patient – some of the amazing photos you see of river crossings are made by photographers that spend 2 weeks sitting in a vehicle waiting for it to happen!
Our passion for Africa began with a dream of living on the continent – a dream realized. We explored parks, rivers, mountains and villages, learned about the flora and fauna, fell in love with everything, and came away wanting to share our passion for a remarkable continent. Africa Adventure Consultants was born of the desire to give more people the chance to experience Africa’s wonders. Let us guide you into the wilderness.
Africa is enormous. There are endless things to see and do, and it can’t all be done in one trip. That said, we realize that many people believe that a trip to Africa is ‘once in a lifetime’ (though many more end up realizing once is not enough!). What do you most want to see? What experiences have you been dreaming of? Visit our destination pages to narrow your choices down, browse our safari types to get a sense of the activities and styles available, or talk with a Journey Specialist to hone in on the areas that will deliver the journey of your imagination.
We know it can be hard to narrow down what to do on vacation, especially with the wealth of choices that are available on the African continent. That’s why we have created an array of sample itineraries to inspire your travel. Browse through them – you’ll find everything from family safaris to honeymoons to Kilimanjaro climbs – and find the places and activities that excite you. From there, you can contact a Journey Specialist to start the process of crafting a customized safari just for you!