When to see the
Strictly speaking, there is no ‘migration season’ as the Great Migration is, in fact, an eternal annual cycle from place to place, year in and year out.
So whether the great herds are calving in the south or on the move north in search of greener pastures – and then back again – there is a huge variety of astounding scenes unfolding before you.
Dec – Mar: The Calving
The herds congregate on the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti and northernmost regions of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. An estimated 500 000 calves are born during a two- to three-week window in February. This mass calving draws a staggering number of predators eager to prey on the vulnerable newborns.
- Dec / Jan – The Southern Plains are lush with fresh, sweet grasses for the wildebeest to graze on. The areas around Ndutu and the northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area are where the herds will spend some time enjoying the abundant grazing in preparation for the birth of the new calves.
- February – Between late January and mid-March over 80% of fertile female wildebeest drop their calves within a few weeks of each other. Over 400,000 tiny wildebeest dot the plains and the predators swoop in to feast on the easy prey.
- March – At this time, the wildebeest are still occupying the southern area of the Park but preparing to move north as the plains dry out.
Migration activity in the South
Apr – Mid June: The Trek North
As the rains come to an end and the ground dries, the herds start making their way north into the central Serengeti where the grass is still fresh and they can graze and tend their young. Moving slowly, they graze as they go, making the most of the fresh grass.
May is the mating season for wildebeest and the males do fierce battle for a mate. Throughout the rut, the journey continues as some herds head west into the Western Corridor and cross the Grumeti River.
- April – The wildebeest begin their long trek north, through the central area of the park. The herds move at leisure, grazing as they go along.
- May – The impressive columns of wildebeest up to several kms long can be seen flooding the Moru Kopjes in the central area of the park.
- First Half of June – Large concentrations of wildebeest can be seen on the southern banks of the Grumeti River in the Western Serengeti, ready to face their first challenge of crossing the crocodile infested river.
The Trek North Gallery
The journey North
Mid Jun – Nov: River Crossings
The herds head towards the north of the Serengeti. The river crossings, considered by some the most exciting events of the Great Migration, usually start in July, but timing all depends on the rains.
The herds can be found in the Northern Serengeti as well as in Kenya’s Masai Mara. Daily river crossings can be seen at the Mara and Talek rivers. This is often the base of the most exciting crossings!
The herds usually cross back to the Serengeti from the Mara and head towards the now fertile southern Serengeti. The herds travel fast and cover long distances in a single day. By the beginning of December, Ndutu starts seeing the herds return to calve, and the whole process begins again.
- July – The migration gathers momentum and huge herds of wildebeest can be seen spread out across the Western corridor as they continue the journey north. The first herds will begin to arrive in the North in early July.
- August – As the dry season approaches, the wildebeest face the second challenge of their trek: the Great Mara River. Many will perish in the stampede but the thousands of calves that are born more than make up the numbers.
- September – The herds are mostly concentrated in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, the northernmost range of the trek, but many still remain in the Serengeti.
- October – The wildebeest face the swollen waters of the Mara River for the second time as they cross on their journey back south.
- November – The short rains arrive, propelling the wildebeest down south to the rejuvenated grasses of the Serengeti.