Great Migration

Great Migration Q&A

The Great Migration is a true spectacle to witness and a wildlife viewing experience that is understandably on many people’s travel bucket lists. In this article, we are going to answer some of the most-asked questions about the Great Migration. 

Zebra in_the_Serengeti_Wildebeest_Migration

What is the Great Migration in Africa?

The Great Migration: the name says it all. This truly is the world’s most spectacular wildlife migration where millions of animals roam across East Africa.  

The Great Migration is a continuous, year-long journey of over a million animals between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya. The animals migrate in a constant cycle in search of fresh grazing lands, water, and safe places to give birth to their calves.

After calving in the southern part of the Serengeti in Tanzania, near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the animals move north and around in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti National Park and towards the Masai Mara in Kenya. Near the end of the year they return to the Serengeti. The journey can be treacherous and dramatic. Thousands of animals die on the trek, but thousands of calves are also born to complete the circle of life.  

Where does the Great Migration take place?

The Great Migration sees animals trekking along a circular route across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, from Tanzania to Kenya, and back round to Tanzania. This is a completely natural phenomenon, so the exact route depends on environmental factors such as the weather, and the animals themselves, but with millions of animals on the march, it is hard to miss. 

What month does the Great Migration happen in Tanzania?

Some of the best times to view the Great Migration in Tanzania are January and February, and June and July. 

At the start of January the migrating herds will be finishing a southward trek, moving along the eastern edge of the Serengeti and into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Throughout January and February, the herds occupy the short-grass plains that spread over the lower northern slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater highlands and around Olduvai Gorge. These plains are rich in nutritious grass, which is ideal for the animals to raise their newborn calves. Around 400,000 calves are born here within two to three weeks, this is nearly 8,000 every day!

In June and July, the herds are grazing their way through the Serengeti and pushing northwards towards the Masai Mara, prompted by the end of the rainy season. This is traditionally thought of as the best season to view the migration.

What causes the Great Migration in Africa?

The primary driver behind the Great Migration is that the animals are looking for food and water. Due to this, rain patterns have the ultimate say in the herds’ movements. The Great Migration is a complex chain of events including mating, calving and feeding, all of which are influenced by the subtle changes in rainfall that occur year over year. After the animals have given birth to their calves in Tanzania, once the rainy season is over, the south and east plains of the Serengeti dry out, prompting the beginning of the migration northwards.

What type of wildlife can I see during the Great Migration in Tanzania?

All the iconic African species can be encountered during the Great Migration. It is hard to miss the enormous herds of migrating wildebeest, zebra, antelope. The African Big Five includes lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo, all of which you may spot while in Tanzania. You may also see iconic African birds like vultures, hornbills, and bee-eaters on your safari.

Where can I see the Great Migration on an African safari?

The circuit of the Great Migration takes the animals from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the south of the Serengeti in Tanzania, up through the Serengeti, across into the Masai Mara in Kenya, and back around again. You can witness the Great Migration in Kenya or in Tanzania. The border between the two countries is the area where some of the iconic river crossings happen. 

Where is the best place to see the Great Migration in Africa?

The Great Migration takes place in Tanzania and Kenya, and is a loop between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. In the North of Tanzania, some of the best places to see the Great Migration are Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara, and Serengeti National Park. This is where the huge herds are passing through, ready to enter the Masai plains of Kenya, north of the border. 

Is the Great Migration in Tanzania worth seeing?

The Great Migration is the largest herd movement of animals on the planet— and it is definitely worth seeing! With up to 1,000 animals per square kilometer, the great columns of animals can be seen from space. Witnessing the Great Migration in person is a unique opportunity to see the power of nature at work, and to see some of the most magnificent and iconic creatures on Earth.

What animals participate in the Great Migration?

Wildebeest are the best known species for taking part in the Great Migration, and they are the most numerous participants. They are accompanied by Zebra, Topi, and other antelope.  

With so many herbivores moving through the landscape, it is no surprise that predators are spotted too. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs and crocodiles might be seen in the area, searching for a meal.

How many animals are in the Great Migration?

The claim that millions of animals are part of the Great Migration is no exaggeration. Up to 1.4 million wildebeest are known to take part, along with 300,000 zebras, as well as thousands of other species of iconic African animals.

Why does the Great Migration happen?

The Great Migration happens because the animals are moving with the seasons, searching for fresh new growth of grass to feed on. The calving season in Tanzania is often thought of as the start of the migration. As the rains slow down, the plains of the Serengeti dry out, and this prompts the animals to move north towards Kenya and the freshly grown grasslands. 

It is unclear how the migrating animals know which way to go, but it is thought that their direction is influenced by their response to the weather; they follow the rain and the growth of fresh grass.


A Gondwana Ecotours safari vehicle drives through the savannahs of Tanzania

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