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Guide on How to See the Wildebeest Great Migration

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Wildebeests during the great migration in Tanzania

Wildebeests in Serengeti, Tanzania

Ask anyone about to embark on an East African adventure what they most hope to experience, and to witness the Great Migration is likely high on the list. These two words spark excitement, and stories of encounters come to mind way before the actual event takes place. A truly magnificent sight, a privilege to witness, it is a highlight on any safari itinerary that falls within the prime migration time. With smart planning, you can ensure a front-row seat.

What is the Great Migration?

Zebras and wildebeest Great Migration

Tanzania and Kenya are two of the most captivating safari destinations in Africa, and part of the excitement and dream is that you may just be fortunate enough to witness the spectacle known as “The Great Migration.” Wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle travel miles across and between these two countries searching for food and water. Following their migration patterns is simply fascinating.

Constantly on the move, these herds start their journey northwards in May and circle back down to the southern Serengeti by the start of summer. They make the incredible journey en-masse, a sight that can perhaps be described as a never-ending wave of brown and black swirls moving at an astonishing pace. At first one, then two, then all, jump into the water in what can only be defined as their bravest feat. The sheer volume of animals following their migratory instincts is what makes it ‘great.’

The Greatest Show on Earth

Great migration of wildebeests and zebras

Picture the scene as hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, side by side, move through the dry grass with hooves hitting the earth so hard the sound makes you look up as you think perhaps a storm cloud is brewing. The dust cloud is thick and adds a dramatic effect to the movie playing out in front of you. Browns, greys, a splash of white, the odd leaf being shaken from a tree, falling to the ground in respect of the marvel it is witnessing.

Once in the river, pure chaos unfolds, forcing the occasional gasp from onlookers as a crocodile lunges from below, thrilled at the buffet presented before them. Heartbreak gives way to joy as thousands more cross the river successfully and keep on running to the place they will now call home for a few more months. The drama dies down for a bit as the rains leave the grounds lush and water a-plenty and the game parks burst with new life. Then, the great trek and migration cycle begins again.

Where and When Does the Migration Take Place?

Wildebeest river crossing during the great migration

Each May and June bring herds of wildebeest, also known as gnu, make their way through the western corridor of the famous Serengeti National Park on their journey north. The first crossing through the Grumeti River is a treacherous one and full of drama. By July, the animals are crossing the Mara River and making their way into Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park. Zebras and gazelles join the wildebeest in this quest as they head into the lush lands of Kenya, which they will call their home for the next few months.

The return to the majestic Serengeti usually takes place between October and December, where a kind of organized chaos returns to Tanzania as thousands of animals migrate south during the short rainy season. Spilling out into the Ngorongoro Crater and southern Serengeti in time for the birthing season. By the end of April, they are ready to once again embark on this incredible journey. This year-round, circular event is a true marvel of nature.

How to Ensure a Front-Row Seat

Jeep safari witnessing the wildebeest great migration

Planning your safari in either Kenya or Tanzania to coincide with the peak migration months will allow you to be front and center to witness this great event. This is a highlight on the east African safari calendar, and any guide in either country will do their best to help you capture the dream. It unfolds at nature’s pace, but being in the ‘right place at the right time’ helps to ensure you are upfront and center for the viewing.

Ensuring you travel at the optimal time is just one part of it. Making sure you have enough time to spend in the hotspots of the migration circle is another. Speaking up about your dream to witness a crossing and staying at a myriad of luxury lodges that work with the best guides in the business will go a long way in making this dream come true. The show is year-round and even witnessing a mini-migration is a thrilling experience.

How to Get Your Safari Plans Started

Wildebeests jumping in to the river during the great migration

An East African safari offers boundless opportunities to experience wildlife in abundance and in a variety of ways, whether by game drive, on foot, or from up above in a hot air balloon. Adding the chance to witness one of nature’s true wonders is a bonus within your reach with smart planning. Our African Safari Guide can help you with information and tips, or you can also speak with a Tanzania and Kenya travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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