Migration - Sign Up for Greatest Wildlife Show in Africa
The Masai Mara and Serengeti are the most famous national parks in Africa, and are best known for the annual great migration and are popular destinations for luxury safaris. The key wildlife in this 1,200-mile adventure are the wildebeest, about 1.5 million of them joined by 200,000 or so zebras. For them, it’s a never ending journey and following the rains is a matter of life and death.
The event takes place across 150,000 square miles, a wilderness that includes the Serengeti National Park and Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve and also areas beyond both.
The annual migration begins in the south of the Serengeti, where half a million wildebeest are born between January and March. But when the rains end in May the land dries out then the grazing animals must move on, heading for their dry season location of choice - the Masai Mara in bordering Kenya.
With the beginning of the short rains in late October the migration makes its way back into the Serengeti, so this a good time to be anywhere in the north of the park. By December, having emerged from the northern woodlands, the herds return to their calving grounds again and the circle is complete.
Best time to go
Rain is what motivates the migration and rules where the herds will be throughout the year. July to October is generally the time to catch it in Kenya, although unusually dry conditions in the southern Serengeti have encouraged the animals to head north far earlier than usual this year. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest began arriving in the central areas of the Serengeti in March.
The rainy season normally runs from October to May. It begins with the short rains - a period of gloriously hot sunny days that end with brief torrential thunderstorms. It peaks in the long rains of April - a month to avoid when most camps close and the plains become quagmires.
When the rains end in May the wildebeest normally head for the Masai Mara. The journey is plagued with danger - for a start there are the hungry Serengeti lions to which is added leopards and cheetahs, hyenas and hungry crocodiles.
Lying in wait are the notorious Grumeti River crocodiles. Now, at last, rain has come, the river is high and experts are predicting unparalleled scenes of high drama as the crocodiles take their toll.
Zebras are often the first to arrive in Kenya, grazing on the tall grass with the wildebeest hot on their heels. Here they stay from July to October - the main tourist season - when visitors flock to watch the dramatic river crossings.
But as soon as the rains return the wildebeest head back to the Serengeti, drawn towards their calving grounds in the south of the park. Between January and March when the calves are born there is nowhere in Africa so alive.
Where to go
Sanctuary Serengeti Migration Camp
This camp will move between three different locations, literally following the migration as it travels across the Serengeti, offering guests year round access to this incredible spectacle.
This is the only permanent camp in this unspoilt and remote part of the Serengeti and every year wildebeest congregate on the camp's "doorstep." This is an excellent base for Tanzania safaris.
Sanctuary Olonana is an award-winning tented safari camp on a private stretch of the Mara River in the heart of Kenya's most famous game reserve, the Masai Mara.