Close to a million, Wildebeests, Antelopes and Zebras migrate annually athwart the East African Great Plains looking for better pastures and water. This movement has come to be known as the Great Migration that those who have come close to or have even witnessed it firsthand have got themselves a one-in-a-lifetime experience. Planning this migration is many a time tricky because these animals are very mobile in nature though the key thing is to know the right time and place when and where these animals will be.
Here is a peek into some of the best places to view this Great Migration and the season in Tanzania and Kenya.
The Great Migration
More than a million antelopes, wildebeests and zebras get together with their young and begin the long journey from the northern side of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in to the Maasai Mara National Reserve of Kenya. They travel as they look for greener grazing lands moving clockwise and covering close to 2900 kilometers. This journey though is infamously characterized and burdened with threats leaving an estimated 250,000 wildebeests dead annually.
The most dangerous part of this journey for these wildebeests is the river crossings at the Mara River in Kenya and Tanzania’s Grumeti River which harbors crocodiles which kill masses of frightened animals that try cross. These crossings are not for the timid animals but for those brave ones that take a risk and cross over to the other side thus leaving you with one of the most remarkable wildlife encounters in Africa.
When not at the river, these over a thousand animals in their masses spread out all over the plains and just getting a glimpse of them is a spectacular view alone. This is because iconic predators; like leopards, lions, hyenas and the wild dogs are all of a sudden attracted to the availability of this so much food for them which in the end leaves you with greater opportunities to see a killing happen.
Note: This great migration happens naturally and only has a few changes annually when it comes to the location and time. Here is some information that might act as a general guideline for you.
The Great Migration- Tanzania
- December to March
During this time of the year, the northern areas of Tanzania; the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park are filled with herds of wildebeests, gazelles and antelopes. In this season, newborn babies are brought forth and sightings of calving and the killings are quite common in this time.
Some of the best viewing areas that a good for watching huge herds during this time are the Salei Plains and Southern Ndutu while the accommodation options include ; the Lemala Ndutu Camp, the Ndutu Safari Lodge, the Kusini Safari Camp and some of the mobile tented camps within the area.
- April to May
In this season, the herds start to move to the western and northern plains that are much grassier, not forgetting the Serengeti Western Corridor woodland too. In this time the seasonal rains often pour which makes it difficult to travel with the herds during this stage of the migration. Many of the smaller camps within this area in Tanzania close because the roads are very impassable.
The zebras and wildebeests slowly begin to move north, gathering their small groups to come up with one big herd as the rains come to an end. This season for the wildebeests is the mating season which is better viewed from the Western Serengeti area.
The very first hindrance to the Great Migration; the Grumeti River is met in this season. This river at times tends to have deep ends in some places mostly if the rains were good thus the chances that most of these wildebeests will drown are very high. However drowning is just one of the few problems that hinder the wildebeest’s movement on this river. There is also an abundance of crocodiles waiting to kill the distressed animals as they cross the river.
Accommodations along the river are quite credible because they provide a stunning safari experience. Some of them include the Serengeti Serena Lodge, the Kirawira I Camp, the Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp and the Migration Camp.
The Great Migration- Kenya
Grass begins to turn yellow all over the Western Serengeti forcing the herds to continue north. The Zebra’s and Wildebeests travel to the Mara Triangle and the Lamai Wedge in Kenya after crossing the river Grumeti of Tanzania. Here another river, Mara awaits them before they can arrive at the green plains of Mara.
The Mara River, just like the Grumeti River is too filled with starving crocodiles which can’t wait to feed on these wildebeests as they cross. The accommodation options here perfect for viewing are the Bateleur Camp, the Kichwa Tembo Camp and the Sayari Mara Camp.
- September to November
The plains of Mara are filled to the top with big herds of wildebeests that are pursued by different kind of predators. The Mara Serena Lodge and the Governors Camp are a few great places to stay when seeing the Great Migration.
- November to December
The rains begin again in the south which triggers the herds to start trekking back into the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania. This time the wildebeests are also in the preparations of giving birth to their young ones. The Klein’s Camp is perfect for viewing the migration when the November short rains pour though the Lobo area too has good campsites.