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When To See The Great Migration

Africa is full of amazing wildlife experiences but one of the most spectacular is to witness the great migration. Over a million wildebeests, zebras and antelopes traverse the plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara in a continuous search for fresh grass while braving predators and perilous river crossings. To see a plain covered with animals or to witness a river crossing in all its bellowing, thunderous intensity is something that is on many a safari-goers wish list. 

The migration is a year round phenomenon and covers a huge area in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya. As the movement of the animals is determined by rainfall and grass growth and the herds split up and spread out it is hard to predict exactly where they might be at any one time. The following is a rough guide to how the migration progresses throughout the year.

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July-October

By July the main herds of the migration, usually led by a vanguard of zebra, are making their way north through the Serengeti where they encounter an obstacle to the grazing grounds in Kenya – the Mara River. The herds mass on the bank before taking the plunge and contending with the current, crocodiles and the sheer mass of animals to reach the opposite side. The sight and sound of a bellowing mass of animals crossing the Mara River is quite an experience. The migration stays in the area of the northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara until October sometimes crossing and re-crossing the river a number of times. Permanent camps in the northern Serengeti from where the migration can be seen at this time include Lamai Serengeti and Lemala Kuria Hills. A number of mobile camps, such as Olakira, follow the herds changing location a number of times during the year to be close to the action. In the Masai Mara, Naibor Camp has a great central location and Governors Camp is situated right on the Mara River. The herds also extend into the conservancy areas adjoining the main Masai Mara Reserve and camps such as Elephant Pepper can also take guests into the main reserve to the river crossing points.

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November-March

As the short rains begin in November the herds are moving south through the central Seronera region of the Serengeti on their long journey to the short grass plains in the south. They will spend the next few months grazing on the nutritious grass and giving birth to the next generation around mid February when thousands of young are born every day over a period of a few weeks. The seemingly endless plains are filled with an immense number of animals and the Serengeti’s predators such as lions and cheetahs take full advantage. One of the few permanent camps in the southern part of the Serengeti is Sanctuary Kusini and a number of mobile operators such as &Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas move their camps here in their own migration following the herds.

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April-June

Around April it is time for the migration to start to move again. Some of the herds will head north through the central plains and Seronera valley while others will travel towards the Western corridor and the Grumeti River. Staying at Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp is a good option at this time. While there are some huge crocodiles to avoid, crossing the Grumeti does not provide the challenge and drama of the dangerous traverse of the Mara River that they will encounter further north. June sees the main herds continue their movement north with Singita Sasakwa and Singita Sabora Tented Campproviding luxury bases from which to view the migration as they continue their journey toward the northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara.

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Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park is located in Tanzania in the Simiyu and Mara regions. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife and is well known for its annual migration of almost 1.5 million wildebeest, a quarter of a million zebras and smaller groups of various other animals.

The park spans 5,700 square miles of grassland, forest and woodlands, savannah and riverine. The park is listed as a World Heritage Site and is a category 2 protected areas by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, protecting its ecosystem and ecological processes.

Amongst the wilderness the Four Seasons Safari Lodge offers a unique look across the park with extensive game trails and Hot Air Balloon safaris available.

Wild animals include Cheetahs, Lions, Elephants, Kongonis, Leopards, Wildebeest, Zebras, Buffalo, Thompson's and Grant's Gazelles, Topis, Impalas, Elands and over 500 species of bird recorded.

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Masai Mara

The migration begins to arrive in Masai Mara around late July early august time and will stay there for a few months until the dry season is over towards November. During this time Sanctuary Olonana provides front row seats to the migration as it happens along with visual access to so many other animal species in Masai Mara.

From year to year the Migration generally crosses through Masai Mara from July to November however it’s important to remember that the migration as a whole is still fairly unpredictable. Extraneous factors such as the weather often play a role on when the wildebeest will be in an area.

The silver lining if you go at a different time to the migration is the smaller herds and stragglers from the migration can often stay there year round, so you shouldn’t often miss out on this incredible animal.

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