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A guide to the Great Migration in Africa

Written by  Julie Graham

Grand Africa Safaris > Blogs > A guide to the Great Migration in Africa

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One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Migration in Africa is one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife events to behold. Each year, 1.5 million untamed wildebeest, antelope and zebra migrate clockwise across the Serengeti and Masai Mara plains in search of green pastures and fresh drinking water. The migratory route is quite predictable, and follows a similar pattern each year, depending on the seasons and the availability of fresh drinking water and verdant pastures.. It is the largest herd movement in the world and is visible from space making it a top pick for every adventurer’s bucket list.

Summary for a migration safari:

February/March

Calving season

Southern Serengeti

April/May

Breeding season

Western & Central Serengeti

May/June

Grumeti River Crossings

Central Serengeti

July/August

Mara River Crossings

Northern Serengeti & Masai Mara

November/Dec/January

On the Move

Masai Mara, North to South Seregenti

The calving season in East Africa

January

January marks the start of the calving season and the mega herds of wildebeest are generally concentrated in the southern plains of the Serengeti, spilling over into the Ndutu region and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Towards the end of the month, the females are ready to give birth to their young and over 8000 calves are born each day, ensuring epic wildlife sightings with predators and their cubs following closely behind.

February

In February, the herds continue to give birth to their offspring and can be found around the Ndutu region and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is estimated that 500,000 calves are born within a 2 to 3 week period – making for a spectacular and unique safari experience.

March

The last of the calving season takes place until mid-March. After several weeks of intensive grazing, the southern plains in the Naabi and Kusini area begin to show strain and dry out. March marks the start of the long rains in the Serengeti and sees the herds slowly prepare to move north with their young who are now strong enough to follow.

April

In search of fresh grazing and water, the herds slowly migrate north as the long rains set in. Herds can be seen streaming in through the Moru Kopjes in central Serengeti, making their way to the Western Corridor.

a few wildebeest lying or walking on the dusty plains heading north
In search of fresh grazing and water, the herds slowly migrate northward

May

May marks the beginning of the dry season and the bulk of the herd can be seen in massive columns as they make their way across the Western Corridor, following the Mbalageti river to the banks of the Grumeti. This is usually where you can view the first of the river crossings.

June

By June, the herds slow down and gather on the southern banks of the Grumeti River waiting to cross the series of pools and channels. Although crossing can be seen in the beginning of the month, they tend to intensify around the middle of June.

July

In July, the herds continue their journey to the northern Serengeti towards the Ikorongo Game Controlled Area and Lobo. Depending on rains, the river crossings will begin and the front leaders of the herd are ready to cross over the Mara, Talek and Sand Rivers.

The famous Mara River crossing
The famous Mara River crossing

August

August marks the best month to see the famous Mara river crossing – a crazed spectacle where hordes of animals make the dangerous crossing through croc infested water to the Lamai Wedge. For clients looking to visit East Africa in August, we recommend booking as early as possible as camps and lodges in the area fill up quickly.

September

Most of the herds have crossed over to Kenya’s Masai Mara ti feed on lush green grass after an exhausting journey. This is the best time to stay in the Masai Mara Game Reserve and predators like cheetah, lion and hyena are abundant.

October

After some time in the Mara, the herds slowly make their way back into the Serengeti towards the Lobo Valley region and Grumeti Reserve.

2 zebra and a few wildebeest crossing the river
The last herds will be seen crossing the river from Kenya into Tanzania

November

By November, the herds have largely left the Mara and move with more urgency to the eastern and central Serengeti for fresh grazing. They can be seen stretching from Lobo to the central Seronera region and eastern side of the Serengeti.

December

In December, the herds reach the southern Serengeti. The southern plains are lush and fertile after the recent rains and there is plenty of grass for the animals to graze on, before the start of the calving season in January.

Get in touch with our team to learn more about the Great Migration in Africa.