The Great Migration

The classic safari and the classic wildlife spectacle is the Great Migration of wildebeest in the Rift Valley of Kenya and Tanzania. The Migration is a complicated circuit around the fertile savanna of East Africa, possibly one of the most fecund areas of the planet. As the rains move with the seasons so too does the fresh grass and the animals that depend on it. Over one million wildebeest take part in the migration from their breeding grounds in the Serengeti northwards to the Massai Mara in Kenya and back again. Alongside are a quarter of a million zebra and numerous other ungulates totaling over two million herbivores. The Zebra and Wildebeest eat two different parts of the grass and so coexist peacefully. The most impressive part of the migration is when the animals have to cross the mighty Grumati and Mara rivers. As this occurs tens of thousand wildebeest line up on the banks until one brave (or foolhardy) member of the herd takes the plunge. Waiting in the river are the vicious nile crocodiles who take advantage of the crossing for a feast. Despite the numbers who drown or are eaten the vast majority make it across to the more fertile grass on the other side. The chaos of a wildebeest crossing is famous and its continuous portrayal by the BBC or National Geographic has been one of the major inspirations for this site. Today there are many safari companies specialising in tours to the Rift Valley.

Zebras are also part of the Great Migration in the Serengeti. Calving season is in February

Best Time to Go

  • Calving Season: February/March in the Southern Serengeti
  • River Crossing: August to October in the Northern Serengeti and Masai Mara

Great Migration Facts

  • About two million herbivores make the migration each year
  • Over a thousand wildebeest can drown in a day while crossing the rivers
  • The migration is over 800 km (500 miles) in total
  • Roughly 400,000 wildebeest calves are born each year in the southern Serengeti
Elephants are commonly seen while on a safari in Africa

Parts of the Great Migration

Young Zebras are normally born in the Southern Serengeti between January and March, depending on the year.

Young Zebras are normally born in the Southern Serengeti between January and March, depending on the year.

The short grass plains of the Southern Serengeti are full of lush grass at the start of the year. From January onwards the herds of wildebeest and other herbivores congregate here to give birth. The grass is lush and suitable for nursing mothers and the young. For three months this area is a fantastic place to see cheetahs and lions. Due to the masses of food available for predators lions and cheetahs can coexist here. Normally they are competitors but for three months they do their best to bring up their young peacefully side by side while they prey on the weak new born wildebeest and zebras.

The Masai Mara in Kenya is the home of mass market safaris. The cost here is not as outragous as it can be elsewhere. However the service given and quality of guides and their vehicles isn’t the same either. However there is plenty of quality and suitably priced operators in Kenya as well. The Migration generally arrives here around August, though of course the time varies every year depending on the rains. As Mara River flows through the National Reserve their is a good chance of seeing wildebeest crossing here.

The Mara rive also passes through the area of the Northern Serengeti and it is away from the mass market tourism of the Masai Mara and so generally has a more relaxed feel. There is also good chances of seeing major wildebeest crossings here.
Wildebeest in the Serengeti, just a few of the million strong herd

How to Experience the Great Migration