10 Days Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari
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The Seronera Plains, which lie in the southeast of the National park and extend into the western Ngorongoro Conservation Area, form the main ungulate calving grounds of the Serengeti. In January, the massive herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle are to be found on the plains of the southern Serengeti. In February the wildebeest begin foaling and they do this at roughly the same time with all the predators in close attendance. The period between March-April, Heavy rains are approaching and the grazing is starting to get worse. The herd begins to move northwards along the western corridor of the Serengeti.
The actual migration might start any time from late April to early June, with a herd of more than a million migrating animals marching in a braying column of up to 40Km long, one of the most impressive spectacles in the world. The herd moves towards the Grumeti controlled area where there is still good grazing and they begin to cross the Grumeti river where crocodiles lie in wait for their annual feast and you find the scenes occurring that has made the wildebeest migration famous in so many wildlife documentaries.
From July to October, the ungulates disperse again, with about half of them crossing the Mara River into Kenya’s Masai Mara Game reserve, and the reminder spreading out through the northern and western Serengeti.
Day 1: arrival in Arusha
Arrive Kilimanjaro and transfer to Arusha at Ilboru Safari Lodge. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from your flight, laze by the pool or explore the town.
Day 2: Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park
After your breakfast, start your safari by driving to lush and beautiful Manyara National Park for game viewing. At 1300 hrs take your lunch in the park picnic area, evening drive to Lake Manyara at NsiyaTented Lodge for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Lake Manyara to Serengeti National Park
Morning breakfast at NsiyaTented Lodge. Game drive enroute to the great Serengeti Plains via Ngorongoro Conservation Area. After a picnic lunch proceed with your game drive in the central Serengeti national park around Seronera or trace the direction of the migration.
Dinner and Overnight Ikoma Bush Tented Camp.
Day 4: A full day game drive in Serengeti National Park: Depending on the time of the year and the migration of the herds you can expect to see wildebeest, lions, elephants, giraffe, zebras, Monkey, baboons, hippos, rhinos, antelopes as well as a multitude of birds. Evening drive to Ikoma Bush Tented Camp.
Day 5: another full day game drive in the Southern of Serengeti
After breakfast we will take the packed lunch with us and proceed with the game drive in the Serengeti National Park. The migration can be seen on a long chain approximately 40 Km heading to the south western direction. Around 1230 and 1300 break for your lunch. After having our lunch we will proceed with our game viewing following the move of the migrants on the southwest of the park. Approximately 1.3 million wildebeest, 250,000 gazelles and 200,000 Zebras have been recorded sharing the short grass.
Dinner and overnight at Ikoma Bush Tented Camp.
Day 6: Serengeti to Ngorongoro
An early morning game drive in the Serengeti followed by picnic lunch on the way to Ngorongoro crater. We will stop at Olduvai Gorge, the site of Louis and Mary Leakey’s renowned archaeological discoveries. Their findings include some of man’s earliest known ancestral remains.
Dinner and overnight at Rhino Lodge.
Day 7: Ngorongoro Crater
Today we will descend 2000 feet (over 600 meters) to the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater for your crater tour. Here you we will explore the forest areas inhabited by monkeys and elephants, the lake area, where we may see flamingos. We will also visit the open savannah where the lions hunt. Picnic lunch will be served in the crater. Dinner and overnight at Rhino Lodge.
Day 7: Ngorongoro Crater to Tarangire National Park
Today we drive to Tarangire National Park, for excellent game viewing. Tarangire is a small park which offers some excellent sights. Generally in the dry seasons Tarangire comes alive as wildlife and birdlife congregate on the Tarangire River, which is a permanent source of water. We spend the night in our lodge beautifully set inside the park with stunning views and a unique atmosphere. In the late afternoon we drive to Tanzania Safari Lodge.
Day 9: Tarangire Cultural Tour
Morning breakfast at Tanzania Safari Lodge the rest of the day is free to relax and or explore the maasai cultural experience, you will go on a walk to visit datoga tribes. The Maasai live in the areas as well as the Datoga. Learning about their history is as fascinating as the views are breathtaking from several hilltop peaks in the area.
Dinner and overnight at Tanzania Safari Lodge.
Day 10: Tarangire to Arusha
After breakfast, leave Tarangire with your packed lunch to Arusha town. Transfer to Kilimanjaro International Airport for you flight back home.
How to get to Tanzania?
Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is situated 50km/31mi east of Arusha, the gateway of Tanzania’s popular Northern safari circuit. The drive from the airport to Arusha takes about 1½ hours*.
From Arusha or Dar es Salaam, you can fly or drive between reserves. Some domestic flights out of Arusha will leave from Kilimanjaro International Airport, while others leave from the much smaller Arusha Airport (ARK) located 8km/5mi west of town. However you choose to travel, in most cases, your local tour operator will pick you up from the airport and arrange all further transportation as part of your safari package.
Tanzania National Parks Map
10 days serengeti Migration Safari FAQ
The 800 kilometer trek of the immense wildebeest herd is the largest mammal migration on earth. The timing of the migration coincides with greening of nutritious grasses on the short-grass plains during the wet season. These areas are safer because predators can be easily spotted making it an ideal place for calving. However, the plains dry and the wildebeest are forced to move in search of greener pastures in the western corridor. The northern extension of the ecosystem has the highest rainfall, but the grasses are least nutritious. This is the dry season retreat for the wildebeest, at least until the south becomes green again. The result is a clockwise movement from the south, west, north, and back to the south.
The Great Migration in short
A better representation of the circle of life probably cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The journey starts in Southern Serengeti when wildebeest calves are being born. Predators like lions and hyenas are constantly hunting for babies, and thousands and thousands of calves are born within a couple weeks of each other – a feast for the eyes of true wildlife enthusiasts.
When the drought comes in May, the herd moves north, towards the Masai Mara in Kenya, chomping down the high green grass, quickly followed by the gazelles and zebras. The migration is not without risk: crossing rivers means facing about 3,000 crocodiles, patiently waiting for a kill. Not to mention the famous Serengeti lion population: by far the largest in Africa. Despite the abundance of hoofed meat in this area, life is not easy for these big cats in this unforgiving landscape. But seeing a group of lions collaborating to hunt down a wildebeest is an unforgettable sight.
Then, with the beginning of the short rains in late October, the migration makes its way back into the Serengeti. By December, the herds trek past Seronera – a small settlement in central Serengeti where the official Serengeti Visitors’ Centre is located – to return to their calving grounds again, and the circle is complete.
The Great Migration in detail
When planning your Serengeti safari you probably want to include seeing the Great Migration. So how do you ensure to be there when it happens? The long and short of it is that you can’t. It is important to realize that the decision of when to visit the Serengeti always involves an element of risk. We have detailed the Great Migration below, and this is what usually happens, but keep in mind that there are no guarantees.
The annual migration of two million ungulates, wildebeest but also enormous groups of zebra and Thomson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle and eland, through Serengeti National Park is the greatest wildlife spectacle of its type in Africa, and perhaps the world. Although variations occur from year to year, the Serengeti migration follows a reasonably predictable annual cycle, dictated by local rainfall patterns. The Great Migration cycle breaks up into the following periods:
We can find the main calving grounds in the area southeast of Seronera: typical Serengeti plains stretch all the way to the Ndutu area near Ngorongoro. Triggering their move to this area are the short rains in November and December. The wildebeest stick around this area until the end of the long rains, end of April, early May. The delightful news is that this section of Serengeti National Park is easily accessible and that in this period the landscape becomes lush. February is usually calving season in the Ndutu area and the southeastern plains: the very best time to visit this area. As wildebeest, zebra and other ungulates are so many, and give birth to so many calves, the spectacle works as a magnet for predators. As early as March or April the herd may move again in search of greener pastures. Seeing the actual migration in this period is more difficult, but chances are that you will encounter very large herds on the move.
This is the period that the wildebeest, after having feasted on the short green grasses of the southeastern Serengeti and after having giving birth to their offspring, start getting ready for their 800 kilometer long trek. The actual starting date may be anytime between late April and early June. This is the time to you may have the privilege to see one of the greatest natural phenomena in the world: more than a million marching animals in a column up to 40 kilometers long. During the migration, the herd will move towards the Western Corridor, where they will face the first major obstacle: crossing the Grumeti River. Many animals don’t survive the crossing as they are being awaited by the area’s population of oversized crocodiles ready to feast. The herd may congregate on the southern bank of the river and stay there for up to two weeks before crossing the river.
When the Grumeti River obstacle has been taken, the herd moves further north and starts crossing the next big hurdle, the Mara River, in July or August. The Mara River crossing is where so many iconic Great Migration photos have been taken. After this crossing the herd flocks to the northwest plains and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The August – September period is considered being a bad time to visit Serengeti National Park and see the Great Migration as the herd moves into the Masai Mara in Kenya. However, migration patterns show that about half of the herd stays on the Tanzanian side, in the Mara Serengeti area. In this period, smaller herds of wildebeest (well consider small… herds may count up to between 500 and thousands of individuals) frequently cross the Mara River, back and forth, for no apparent reason. This is an excellent time to stay at one of the Serengeti Mara camps.
Crossing the Mara River northbound means that, at one point, the herd needs to cross the river one more time before commencing the trek back in a southerly direction. This usually happens in October, but sometimes earlier. In this period the herd will cross the northern plains and Lobo area. This section of Serengeti National Park is little-visited, so if you are looking to see the migration in relative quietness, this would be the time. The wildebeest return to the short- grass plains and calving ground around Ndutu in late November. And from here, the Great Migration starts all over again.
As mentioned earlier, the timings outlined on this page concern guidelines as exceptions occur frequently. In November 2013, the wildebeest already started trekking back to the southern Serengeti short-grass plains when suddenly it started raining north of the Mara River. Nature is as nature does and the herd turned around, back into the Masai Mara in Kenya. The herd stayed there for about three weeks before resuming their southbound journey. A year later, in 2014, freak rains in the southern Serengeti caused much of the herd to remain behind and not make the northbound journey towards the Western Corridor up to July.
It is a matter of choice whether you would like to plan your Serengeti safari around the Great Migration. We have mentioned earlier that the Serengeti is a year-round destination as it covers a vast area and offers unparalleled wildlife viewing. Chances that you will be at the exact spot of the Great Migration herd crossing a river (either at the Grumeti or Mara River) are very slim. Also, the timing of herd movements cannot be guaranteed. However, if you choose the right part of the Serengeti: the southeast and Ndutu from December through to May, the Western Corridor from May to July, the Serengeti Mara area from July trough to October, and the northern Serengeti and Lobo area in October and November, large herds of wildebeest and their entourage should be easily located.
No, not even the wildebeest know when they’re going to cross! Some arrive at the water and swim over immediately; some arrive and spend days hanging around grazing; some arrive and turn back to where they came from. We wish we could predict the crossings, but no-one can. This is why it is best to have as much time on safari as possible if you hope to see a river crossing.
Now that you know how the Great Wildebeest Migration in Africa works, you can easily see that the best time to go depends entirely on which events you’re personally interested in seeing. Remember, the Serengeti and Masai Mara’s abundance of wildlife and wide open landscapes make them fantastic year-round safari destinations.
|Calving (Birthing) Season||February to March||Southern Serengeti|
|Rutting (Breeding) Season||April to May||Western & Central Serengeti|
|Grumeti River Crossings||May to June||Central Serengeti|
|Mara River Crossings||July to August||Northern Serengeti & Masai Mara|
|On the Move||November to January||Masai Mara & Northern Serengeti to Southern Serengeti|
Note: the above are approximate dates only. The Wildebeest Migration is a year-round, circular journey and the river crossings cannot be predicted. Sometimes the herds stay put for two weeks, other times they could cross four times in one day!
Key Facts to Remember
- The bulk of the Migration takes place in the Serengeti.
- It’s a year-round, circular journey.
- River crossings cannot be predicted, but generally occur between May and August.
- The animals are strung out across a large area – there are always fore-runners and stragglers.
- Your best chance of seeing river crossing may involve spending all day at a site where the wildebeest have massed. If you are a keen photographer, your best opportunities may occur around midday when the sun and glare are at their harshest, so make preparations to accommodate this.
Because the Great Migration is a fluid, year-round movement of about two million animals across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, there are no defined start or end points. The Gnu Migration is triggered by East Africa’s rains and the animals follow an age-old route in search of fresh grazing and water. This epic journey takes the wildebeest across the Masai Mara plains in Kenya, all the way south into Tanzania’s Serengeti and the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, before circling up and around in a clockwise direction.
The recurring migration of wildebeest within the Serengeti and Maasai Mara/Kenya is exclusive to this area. The Wildebeest are constantly in search of the finest grazing areas and fresh water. Experts make inferences on the route that the herd follows but migration is largely determined by the rainfall. The journey begins in April when the heard starts to migrate to the North. In September they must face the most hazardous part of their journey – crossing the Mara River. In October they move towards the south and return in time for the light rain season from November to December. They settle in the south from the beginning of the year until March. This is the period when calves are born.
Both Kenya and Tanzania are good safari destinations for wildlife viewing in Africa. But there’s no place like Tanzania – the sheer abundance of wildlife is unparalleled. Besides, Tanzania is home to the Serengeti National Park’s wildebeest migration, the fascinating topographical wonder of the Ngorongoro Crater and Zanzibar’s tropical beaches.