No matter how often you visit East Africa, its magic never wanes. The Great Migration, an epic event that sees over a million mammals thundering across the plains of the Serengeti, is a spectacular sight to behold. The Great Migration takes place annually in East Africa between Tanzania and Kenya and the exact timing and route of the migration changes from year to year.
Over a million wildebeest lead the charge, joined by an estimated 300,000 zebra (along with other antelope) who all gather up their young and start their long trek north from Tanzania’s dry Serengeti plains. In search of food and water, they head to Kenya’s eco-rich Masai Mara National Reserve. Their journey runs in a clockwise circle, and the animals cover a distance of almost 2000 miles. It’s a tough journey, and every year an estimated 250,000 wildebeest don’t make it. The animals are motivated by the rhythm of survival, and only the strongest survive.
During the migration, hundreds of animals standing on the plains is a sight to behold, and it attracts many of Africa’s impressive predators. Lions, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs follow the herds and give those on an African safari tour during this time a great chance of seeing a kill in action. One of the most spectacular sights of the migration is when the herds gather to cross the Grumeti River (Tanzania) and the Mara River (Kenya) from July through September. As the herds cross the river, crocodiles lie in wait for the weakest animals that get separated from the pack.
Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing areas. In the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve alone there have been some 95 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and over 400 bird species recorded. Here there is an excellent chance of seeing the Big 5, cheetah, serval, hyena, bat-eared foxes, black-backed and side-striped jackals, hippo, crocodile, baboons, warthog, eland, Thompson’s gazelle, impala, oribi, zebra, and more. In addition to catching the thundering commotion of nature’s most majestic event from the ground, during the Great Migration, those on Africa tours in Masai Mara can also enjoy game viewing, camping, night game drives, visits to Masai cultural villages, hot air ballooning, and bush dinners.
Serengeti National Park
The vast plains of the Serengeti are one of the greatest wildlife-watching destinations on earth. Teeming with life year-round, the Serengeti National Park is truly the stuff of African legends. On an African safari here, you’ll see the iconic African landscape you’ve dreamed of, along with lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, buffaloes and more.
While in Tanzania, a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater is a must. Here is where sightings of many of the major game species is virtually guaranteed, including lion, elephant, hippo and rhino, as well as exotic birds and flamingos on the central soda lake.
Next July, the very first Great Migration crossings of the Mara River begin, with the front runners of the mega herd pushing through. These river crossings are fantastic to watch. River crossings at Kogatende start to occur every day in August as a large herd settles into the area. For August, September, and October, game viewing here is fantastic with river crossings happening every day. There is no distinct movement as the herds tend to cross back and forth over the river, following the rains and subsequent fresh grasses. You may even see different herds crossing in different directions on the same day. It’s truly a spectacle to behold.
Whether you travel to Kenya and Tanzania together or separately, be sure to bring your binoculars and camera – you’re about to witness the most unforgettable wildlife show on earth!