The Serengeti Migration is the largest land migration in the world. Over 1 million wildebeest are accompanied by hundreds of thousands of zebra, impala, gazelle and other wildlife as the herd moves throughout the year. This African wonder of nature is a shared wonder between the countries of Tanzania and Kenya.
The Serengeti Migration is always moving with a circular pattern that changes constantly. The majority of the migration occurs within the country of Tanzania. However one of the most soft after migration experiences occurs as the wildebeest cross the Mara River from Tanzania into Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.
Tanzania and Kenya both seek to protect the migration and the rest of the African wildlife in the area with national park and conservation area status. As noted Kenya established Masai Mara National Park with Tanzania creating both the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Collectively, these areas protect the wildebeests and these amazing wilderness areas.
One of the most important contributing factors in recognizing the significance of the migration is understanding the Serengeti itself. Although many people associate the Serengeti with Tanzania and the Serengeti National Park, it actually extends into Kenya. The name, Serengeti, comes from the Maasai language meaning “endless plains.”
In addition to Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, there are a number of game reserves that contribute to protecting and supporting this vital ecosystem. Collectively, the Serengeti expands over 12,000 square miles (30,000 sq km) with around 80% of it protected by the parks and game reserves.
Many people think of flat Kansas when they envision endless plains. However, this would not be the case for the Serengeti which is comprised of varying habitats that include the expected grasslands along with woodlands, kopjes, swamps, and riverine forests. In addition to the migration herd, the Serengeti is home to over 70 different mammal species. It is also a bird watchers haven with over 500 species.
Where is the Serengeti Migration
There are a number of ways to describe where the Serengeti Migration takes place. One important fact that visitors should understand is that the migration is always occurring. The migration herd moves all year long in a clockwise rotation which includes the Serengeti National Park, Maasai Mara National Park and the immediate surrounding game reserve areas.
During the months of January and February the migration herd is in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the southern part of Serengeti National Park. During the month of March they will be in the southern part of the Serengeti and in the Maswa Game Reserve. They will even do a small circular migration within this region before migrating in and through the western part of the Serengeti during the months of May, June and July.
As July continues, the herd will move into the Grumeti Controlled Area and into the Ikorongo Controlled area. During the months of September and October the herd will cross over the Mara River and enter into the Masai Mara Game Reserve will they will be grazing before crossing back over into Tanzania through the Loliondo Controlled Area.
When is the best time to see the Serengeti Migration
The herd can be experienced at any time of the year, you just have to know where to go and see it. However, there are better times to experience the migration.
November and December make up the short rainy season which creates more challenges for enjoying the herd. However the next two months of January and February are ideal. During these two months the vegetation is green, the days are usually accompanied with blue skies, and this is the calving season for the wildebeests. Over a three week period the wildebeests will give birth to every baby. It is a fascinating time of new life. The predators know this too and increases your chances of experiencing a kill. The herd is in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and these months are ideal for visiting the crater as well.
A second season that is ideal for experiencing the migration is during the months of September and October. It is during these months that the wildebeests will cross the Mara River. This is an incredible photographic opportunity as wildebeests funnel into narrow channels and cross the river in large masses. The shear volume is spectacular. However a second reason for witnessing this crossing comes from the adventure provided by the waiting crocodiles.
These predators also know that this is prime hunting time and they lay in wait knowing that easy prey is moments away. The key challenge as a traveler or photographer is that the crossing of the river is only an estimate. It could happen over a week period at any time during the later part of September and into October. The wildebeests might sit and graze at the rivers edges for days and even weeks before deciding now is the time to cross.