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East Africa Wildebeest Migration


Our guide to the Great Migration in Tanzania

Written by
Jonny Humphreys & Emily Hunter

Throughout the year, the wildebeest herds travel around Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

From when to travel to where to stay, we answer all your questions about how best to witness the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’.

This is our ultimate guide to the perfect Great Migration safari.

Peak Season
July - October
Birthing Season
December - April
Rainy Season
April - May
The Great Migration, Wildebeest and Flamingo, Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa

"A once-in-a-lifetime safari"

The Great Migration is undoubtedly one of the world’s most incredible natural occurrences. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime safari that you need to get right first time – and that’s where Jacada Travel come in.

great-wildebeest-migration-kenya-maasai-mara
The Great Wildebeest Migration in action.

Around 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra and 200,000 gazelle embark on a relentless migration that sees them following the rain throughout the year, travelling in a clockwise direction around Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

wildebeest serengeti

The herds spend the first part of the year in the south east Serengeti where they feed and give birth. As the land dries up, they are forced to move on and embark on the most dangerous part of their journey, thundering through the plains, crashing across rivers and escaping the jaws of hungry crocodiles to reach the fertile pastures of the Maasai Mara in Kenya. No wonder the migration is often referred to as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’.

zabras-wildebeest-flamingo-ngorongoro-crater-tanzania

A migration safari should be on everyone’s bucket list, but make sure you do it properly. Let us give you the best advice for witnessing this phenomenal spectacle. Read through this guide for an overview and then get in touch with us to go through the details of this trip of a lifetime with one of our safari experts.

Family in Serengeti Camp, Tanzania safari

The Mara River crossing was almost a private viewing.

Our guide, Robert, knew everything. Certainly about the wildlife but he also enriched our experience through his knowledge of his country, the culture, history, traditions, the Maasai and politics. Our tented camp was beautiful and had a wonderful charm. Of course it was luxury camping, but we still felt like we were staying out in the Serengeti in the wild. The whole experience was magical, from the noises at night and the fresh air to the fact that beyond the undefined borders of the camp there was nothing but wildlife. Unforgettable!

L & A Smetherham
Great Migration safari, Tanzania, Africa
A safari jeep is surrounded by wildebeest during The Great Migration.
Balloon over Africa's Serengeti and Wildebeest Herd

When to see the Great Migration

In Tanzania, you can see the migration throughout most of the year; exactly when you travel will depend on what you want to see. The only time we advise people not to travel is April and May, when both Tanzania and Kenya experience a long rainy season.

DEC-APR

Wildebeest give birth

Wildebeest give birth in the grasslands of the Serengeti, Tanzania, around the month of February. Around 300,000 calves are born each year, as the herds move around the south east Serengeti, munching the nutrient-rich grass. The short grass also means they are safer from predators.

APR-JUN

Travel begins

The Serengeti begins to dry up. The wildebeest start to travel north, up through the Grumeti Private Reserve towards the Maasai Mara, where it is starting to rain.

JUL-OCT

Peak Season

From August until October is when most river crossings take place and is the peak season for migration safaris. The herd have to traverse the Mara River, as they cross the border from Tanzania and into Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park. During August and September, the herds will mainly be in Kenya.

OCT-DEC

Return southwards

The herd starts to move south and curve back into Tanzania, once again following the rain. Although we know roughly the route of the migration, it cannot be predicted: the wildebeest follow the rain and the weather is an unreliable force of nature. Exactly when they will reach a certain point is not an accurate science and there are also several ‘splinter herds’ that take off from the main group.

Two hot air balloons over a plains landscape at dusk, Serengeti, Tanzania

What are the benefits to seeing the migration in Tanzania?

1. Tanzania’s Serengeti is much, much quieter than the Maasai Mara. Here, you could have a river crossing or migration sighting all to yourself, perhaps shared with one other vehicle.

wildebeest serengeti

2. The wildebeest spend the majority of their year in Tanzania, so there is much more flexibility when planning your safari; the wildebeest are only in Kenya’s Maasai Mara during August and September.

Woman photographing zebra, Serengeti, Tanzania

3. The lodges and camps in Tanzania are some of the finest and most exclusive in eastern Africa. We can find the best ones to suit your tastes and to give you the greatest opportunity for spotting the migration.

Singita Serengeti, Grumeti, Tanzania

4. There’s so much to do in Tanzania besides witnessing the migration. We always recommend you pair a migration safari with a different part of the country, whether it’s the Ngorongoro Crater or a Zanzibar beach break.

Ngorongoro rhino elephant
The Ngorongoro Crater is rife with wildlife.
Singita Serengeti, Grumeti, Tanzania

Where to stay to see the Great Migration

Mobile Camps

Due to the unpredictable nature of the migration, a mobile camp is by far the best accommodation option for at least part of your trip. Mobile camps are the ultimate in detox safaris: with no WIFI and electricity, you’re forced to switch off your phone and get some one-on-one time with nature.

Singita Serengeti, Grumeti, Tanzania

Whilst the camps are far from basic – with Persian rugs and four-poster beds – they won’t be the luxurious accommodation you’d usually expect. However, the value of mobile camps is that they base themselves wherever the herds happen to be, so you’re almost guaranteed a migration viewing.

Tent interior, Singita Explore Tented Camp, Tanzania

Many of the tented camps are available on a private-use basis, too. Which mobile camp you book will depend on what time of year you’re travelling and what you hope to see. Get in touch with us for our recommendations.

Grasslands in the sun, car parked with guides and travellers inside
Safari-goers enjoy the views from their vehicle in the Singita Grumeti Reserve.

Pick two bases

We suggest you pick two bases and split your time across the two locations, thus increasing your chances of seeing the migration and river crossings. Our favourite combination is a mobile camp followed by a luxurious lodge.

Singita Serengeti, Grumeti, Tanzania

This way, you can track the migration in camp, during which time you’ll have the best chance of seeing the herds, and then spend the next couple of days relaxing at your lodge, with some game drives to visit the wildebeest at a different stage of their journey.

Singita Serengeti, Grumeti, Tanzania

Seeing a wildebeest river crossing during the migration is a once in a lifetime experience for most of us, and you want to get it right. You want to be in the right place at the right time, staying at the right camp. The Serengeti is mercifully free of most of the chaos seen at crossings in Kenya’s Masai Mara where vehicles jockey for position. The northern Serengeti hosts only a fraction of the camps and lodges found across the border in Kenya and offers a much better chance for you to witness this awesome phenomenon in relative exclusivity.

Jonny Humphreys
Travel Designer
masai-mara-wildebeest-crossing

Will I be able to see a river crossing?

River crossings are the most popular part of the migration, due to the high drama made famous by various National Geographic documentaries. The wildebeest must cross the Mara River on their journey from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

wildebeest-great-migration-serengeti-tanzania

It’s a perilous passage that sees many of the herd lost to the crocodiles that lurk in wait. For that reason, do bear in mind that whilst a river crossing will always be a dramatic and exciting affair, it might not be particularly pretty.

Wildebeest river crossing, the Great Migration, Serengeti, Tanzania

You can see a river crossing if you’re travelling around the Tanzania-Kenya border from August to October. However, even if you arrive at a river exactly as the herds gather on the bank, they might simply stand there for a couple of days, nervously waiting for the first wildebeest to make the jump.

Wildebeest river crossing, the Great Migration, Serengeti, Tanzania

The animals know that predators lurk in and around the river and they’re instinctively scared of water, so they are always reluctant to cross; sometimes the wildebeest may gather on a bank in their thousands before deciding to walk away and find a different crossing point.

Wildebeest river crossing, the Great Migration, Serengeti, Tanzania

However, travelling around the correct time of year, booking with our experts, and staying in mobile camps will hugely optimise your chances of seeing the huge herds of wildebeest crash across the river.

Wildebeest river crossing, the Great Migration, Serengeti, Tanzania
zanzibar-dhow

What else can I see and do in Tanzania?

Tanzania is a vast country with much to offer its guests. We always advise our clients to combine their migration safari with other Tanzania destinations. The Ngorongoro Crater – a huge volcanic crater, about 20km across and an important conservation area – is a must-see in Tanzania and is very close to the Serengeti, making it an easy addition to your itinerary.

ngorongoro-elephants

You can visit the flamingo haven Lake Manyara, spot elephants on a walking safari in Tarangire National Park or – if you’re feeling up to the challenge – attempt to take on the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. Zanzibar‘s beaches are undoubtedly amongst the best in Africa and a stop on these beautiful shores is the perfect way to round off a safari holiday.

ol-donyo-lodge-giraffe-and-kilimanjaro
private-family-safari-pels-post

How can I plan my migration safari?

Our Africa Safari Designers were all brought up in Africa and have been on more safaris than they can count.  We create bespoke luxury safaris crafted for your individual needs and using our own first-hand experience to recommend locations, lodges and camps that we know you’ll love.

These are some of the ways our experts will make sure your Great Migration safari is a trip of a lifetime:

– We’ll make sure you avoid the crowds.

– Find the best camps and lodges for your requirements, time restraints and budget.

– Great advice on when to travel.

– Have the best guides accompany you.

– We have on-the-ground information about where the herds are throughout the year.

– Get first-hand advice on following the migration and what to expect from Jacada’s experts who have experienced it themselves.

Talk to one of our expert travel designers and start creating your once-in-a-lifetime adventure to see the Great Migration.

Call 866 862 3031 or