The Best Locations for Witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration this Summer!
As the peak traveling months of summer are approaching and you’re starting to plan your dream African safari trip, you’re probably hoping to experience the epic natural phenomenon of the Great Migration – perhaps even witnessing a crossing, if you’re lucky! Thanks to our local knowledge of wildlife behaviors and movement in Tanzania’s parks and sanctuaries, we can save you many hours of dead-end online research, frustration and crushing disappointment.
In this post, I will exclusively reveal the best locations for a front row seat to one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth: the Great Wildebeest Migration crossings.
So what actually is the Great Wildebeest Migration? It’s an endless loop of hooves and horns, hope and heartbreak, encompassing Africa’s Serengeti and Masai Mara – countless creatures in search of the rains and new grass. Over a million and a half trudging, leaping wildebeest are involved each year, alongside roughly 400,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 300,000 zebra and 12,000 eland.
Growing up in the safari heartland and working in the industry for more than a decade, I’ve been lucky enough to witness this inexorable flow of life on several occasions, each time choosing different locations and months of the year to enjoy the best viewing. It’s a common misconception that the migration only happens within a certain, narrow window…
It is true that it’s hard to predict the exact timing of the crossing into the Mara – as we know, nature doesn’t always stick to the plan, and these migratory herds depend heavily on unpredictable rain patterns. Over the years I have seen many clients have their hopes dashed after arriving in Tanzania and asking to be taken to specific locations in the Serengeti at a certain time of the year, only to find that the wildebeest had decided to follow a whole different plan.
The animals are in fact continuously moving, plodding along more or less the same annual route through Kenya and Tanzania. Witnessing the migration is all a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and choosing between permanent camps and semi-mobile operations, which can follow the herds.
Based on my personal experience and historical data, from mid-June and July the migratory herds usually split into groups. One big herd heads to the Western Corridor and spreads across Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo. Many of them will then cross the crocodile infested Grumeti River, which is a very impressive sight to behold. However, if many of these gnus cross to the other side of the river by early July, they can easily finish the green grassland there within two to three weeks, at which point they will be forced to head further north for more food and water. The other large herd will go straight into the far north and attempt to make small crossings to Masai Mara. The mega-herd takes a bit longer and generally reaches northern Serengeti in August. During this time, you will be able to see crossings at least twice a day, in large numbers and at longer intervals. We can certainly arrange for you to stay in an amazing tented camp near the major crossing areas so that there’s no chance of missing out on the action. For example, andBeyond Under Canvas or Sanctuary Kichakani Serengeti Camp.
Your best possible chance of witnessing a crossing is our Kenya & Tanzania – The Big Five & The Great Migration, which takes you from remote airstrip to remote airstrip across different parts of this incomprehensibly vast landscape. Most importantly, you can quickly jump to different parts of the Mara River, depending on where the wildebeest are up to.
My key piece of advice for any traveler who is intent on seeing a crossing is that you have to be patient! There will be times when you are waiting quietly by the river all afternoon, watching herds of wildebeest clamouring at its edge. But the wildebeest might still decide not to cross that day! Soon you will learn the hard truth that, even with the best planning, there are no guarantees. An indecisive lot, the wildebeest tend to stall at the water’s edge, spooking easily at noises from the bush and ripples in the surface. A few might tease you enough to dip a tentative hoof into the murky brown water before making an abrupt and hasty retreat. For me, the constant anticipation of an imminent crossing is what makes the experience even more exhilarating and memorable in the end. To maximize your chances of seeing the crossings in the Serengeti, I highly suggest that you spend at least four nights here.
Apart from the crossing of the migratory wildlife, the areas of the northern Serengeti offer action-packed game drives with some of the best wildlife sightings and diversity than any other parks. You will observe tons of resident wildlife, including large prides of lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, and – if you’re lucky – you’ll get more up close and personal with rhinos here than anywhere else in Tanzania. Whether you catch a crossing or not, you will never be disappointed!
Have questions about the Great Wildebeest Migration? Contact us here or talk to your specialist today on +1.819.208.5355. We would love to hear from you!