The great migration is an epic struggle for survival; millions of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles move across the great plains in search of the rains which provide water and new grazing. It is a monumental feat of strength and determination; the animals cross rivers and plains braving enormous Nile crocodiles, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards.
Guided by survival instinct, the wildebeests travel up to 1000 km along ancient migration routes. Africa’s finest predators wait patiently for this great feast; it brings a time of plenty for them and they make sure that only the strongest of the migrating herds survive. The great migration is the largest movement of animals in the world; over 1 million wildebeest make this epic journey and are accompanied by about 400,000 zebras and 200,000 antelopes. The numbers are so huge that the spectacle can be seen from space.
This epic journey takes animals from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area into the Serengeti and the up through the plains of the Serengeti into the Maasai Mara in Kenya. After crossing into the Maasai Mara, the herds remain there during the dry season and then migrate back south to the Serengeti ready for the calving season when water and pastures become abundant again.
The Migration Pattern
January to March (Calving Season – Ndutu Region)
As the rains end, the herds begin migrating from Ndutu to Southern Serengeti; they are accompanied by their young calves.
This is a great season for those who wish to see the great herds in motion as predators lurk behind looking for easy meals. You can add a balloon safari to this spectacle; you will have an opportunity to see the herds and predators from a vantage point and take great photographs as well.
May is also the mating season for wildebeests; the males engage in fierce battles for mates.
May to July (Grumeti River Crossing – Grumeti River)
When the plains begin to dry, the herds head west into the Western corridor all the way to the Grumeti River; here, the migration is often slowed down by the river channel. The herds congregate on the southern side of the river before deciding to cross to the northern side. At this time of the year, the Grumeti River is usually low but the sheer number of wildebeest and zebras congregating on the southern banks waiting to cross and the unbelievably huge Nile crocodiles waiting for the herds is an unforgettable experience.
Inevitably, the herds have to cross the river and the bloodthirsty crocodiles make sure the crossing is as bloody as possible; while the majority of the zebras and wildebeest will make it, the weak, inexperienced or purely unlucky ones will not make it.
August to October (Mara River Crossing – Mara River)
During this period the herds continue moving north until reaching their last and greatest obstacle, the Mara River. Once on the southern side of the river, the herds can almost smell the fresh lush green pastures on the other side but they are not there yet; they must brave the river and all the dangers that come with this crossing.
It is at the Mara River, where the most spectacular aspects of the great migration can be witnessed; the herds must brave the swollen river, the big cats constantly harass them from the rear and the Nile crocodiles residing in the river wait to feast on them. This river crossing is a spectacular event; it is accompanied by scenes of great panic, confusion, and opportunities for excellent wildlife photography. The Mara River is both a source of life-giving waters and a dangerous death trap.
During this season, daily river crossings can be seen at the Mara River.
November & December (Migration back to the Serengeti)
By now the herds will have spent some time in the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara and they will begin returning south to their calving grounds in the Ndutu Area and Southern Serengeti. The Mara River Must be crossed again, lives will be lost but the majority of the herds will make it. By late December or early January, the herds will have arrived in the Ndutu area and the whole process will begin again.
Great Migration Itineraries