Tanzania's Great Migration
Did you know that Tanzania's great migration of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and other migratory animals is a year round event in the Serengeti? Constant movement of nearly 2 million animals – following the rain and fresh green pastures in a clockwise direction.
Serengeti National Park is a vast ecosystem covering over 5700 square miles. Where the herds are depends on the time of year. And because the animals are unpredictable, one never knows the exact time of arrival in a particular region, but they do eventually arrive.
December to March
Herds begin moving to their breeding grounds in the south and central savannah from the eastern plains in December and January. This time of year is a bit unpredictable as movement is based on when the rains begin in the southern plains.
February however is more predictable as it is calving season, the time when wildebeest, zebras and other migratory animals are giving birth to their offspring. By this time the herds have moved to the lush southern plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
With plenty of food and vulnerable young, herds don’t move much during this time. It’s an excellent time to observe large numbers of animals, spread out as far as the eye can see. Witnessing predator activity (i.e. lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas) is high given the large number of easy prey.
Note: December and March can be wet, keeping the grasslands green and providing needed sustenance to the large herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles. December will see shorter rains, March longer coming into the rainy season.
April to June
In April the herds slowly start moving to the western plains; by May they are on the move. The calves have grown strong enough to manage the distances. The herds break up and spread out, which means longer game drives and times between sightings.
Crossing the Grumeti River normally takes place in June and July, dependent on the river’s water levels. The Grumeti crossings are not as dramatic as the Mara River, but are still dangerous.
April through June is the rainy season, with May being the wettest. Expect long rains. Still a great time to go, just be aware that roads can be slippery and tricky to navigate.
A good sense of humor is required!
July to September
July marks the beginning of the dry season as well as the mating season. Warm and arid, herds push into the northern part of the Serengeti and into the Masai Mara in search of water and greener grass.
By August and September, heat and humidity are at its peak. To find greener pastures, herds must cross the dangerous, crocodile infested Mara River. This is the scene often seen on wildlife programs – stampedes of animals scrambling down the banks of the river and crossing over, trying to avoid the snapping jaws of the crocodiles or getting crushed by the sheer number of animals. Most make the crossing successfully, some are not so lucky.
October to December
Cooler weather arrives in October and November along with the possibility of early rains. Herds cross back over the Masa River to the eastern area of the Serengeti where water is abundant, before heading south again to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Full circle – ready to start the cycle again.
January-February is optimal to see the young being born; the dry season (June to October) offers the best overall wildlife viewing. For the dramatic river crossings, June to September.
July to March is peak season – June to October offers the best weather and accompanying crowds. April and May is low season and may bring lower pricing.
The Serengeti is truly a year round destination, with each season offering unique weather and abundant wildlife experiences.
The best time to go? It all depends on what you want to see and do.
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