Planning Your Safari: Advice for Seeing the Migration in the Serengeti

You are probably very familiar with the common superlatives about the Serengeti migration: The Great Migration is the most massive overland migration in the worldThe Serengeti ecosystem is the oldest on Earth; Nearly 1 and a half-million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra plus hundreds of thousands of antelopes make the annual round-trip journey. What may be less familiar are the best times to go, to see what. Now is a good time to begin planning a Serengeti migration safari for 2019 and we hope this post will help with some solid starting points. We help travelers organize private custom safaris >>, that feature the Serengeti, that are as short as three days, plus group safaris >>.

With climate change, the Serengeti migration clock has appeared to move up a little. For example, not long ago, it was common to plan a February or March safari to see massed calving.  Now, you can argue January may be better. What’s especially riveting about the massed calving is simply the sheer numbers of baby animals: upwards of 8,000 wildebeest calves are born each day in the peak calving time, with the overall numbers ending up around 500,000 wildebeest babies born during the Great Migration. Along with the wildebeest, we see multitudes of baby zebra and baby antelope as well. The biological impulse for massed calving is a simple one: predators can only take down a certain number of babies at a time. By birthing en masse, grazing herds beat the predators with numbers and secure the future health of the species. While there are never any guarantees with Nature, to give yourself a good shot at seeing the calving, you’d want to plan your Serengeti experience ideally between mid-January and mid-February.

Calving is not the only super exciting event during the migration. Many travelers feel absolutely elated just seeing the massed animals and the big cats that are close by.  No matter when you visit the scenic Serengeti, it is easily a top-5 wildlife reserve in Africa.

While November is the “short rainy” season, November is typically when we see the masses of animals move from Kenya down through the park and gradually concentrate in the southern section of the ecosystem, in Ndutu.

Kati Kati Tented Camp

December is excellent for huge herds and cat viewing as it is the typical start of the dry season, which runs from December through mid-March. This is the prime time for the Ndutu area. Some mobile mid-range luxury camps, like the comfortable Kati Kati Serengeti Camp, migrate with the herds and set up shop nearby. A slightly simpler bush camp, Serengeti Halisi Camp, is part of our excellent value 5-day Group safari >>, and is another nice mid-range mobile camp option that moves with the herds.   Ndutu Safari Lodge is a popular mid-range permanent lodge option in the area. Elite 5-star luxury mobile camps like Olakira (South) offer premier options for higher-end travelers. Other lodges and camps, like the elite Dunia Camp, 4-star luxury Serengeti Serena Lodge , the 4-star luxury Kubu Kubu Camp, and the mid-range Serengeti Tortilis Camp, are all situated in prime central locations which are within striking distance of a vast area, from northern Ndutu to the central plains of the Seronera area. That makes them a reasonably good base year-round for the big cats as well as for the calving period.

From mid-March through May, we’d advise travelers to reconsider safari dates as the rains begin in earnest, many mobile camps close, and roads can be affected, diminishing the total area accessible to even the toughest 4×4 Land Cruisers.

In June, the region around the Grumeti River makes an excellent base to witness the passing migration. Herds form up along the river and brave the rivers on dramatic crossing, a prelude of what’s to come further north in the months ahead. Grumeti Migration Camp makes an ideal mid-range lodge here. Not too far away, the aforementioned elite Dunia semi-permanent tented camp is recognized as one of Tanzania’s finest properties. Western corridor properties are also excellent, places like the elite permanent Kirawira Tented Camp and the elite Serengeti Migration Camp, which is a key piece to the 8-day Luxury Fly-In safari >>.

As June grows into July, The Grumeti area remains top-shelf, however by the middle part of July, herds are again on the hoof to the northern Serengeti. Many herds that are separate move into the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya >>. From July through October, Masai Mara National Park teems with wildebeest and zebra. The only drawback is that it’s a relatively small park – compared to the Serengeti – and easily has one of the highest tourist migrations anywhere in Africa as well, so it’s not just teeming with animals, it’s also considerably more crowded with tourists.

From August through October, travelers often have the opportunity to witness the famous river crossings on the Serengeti National Park side of the Mara River.  Plan for at least 3 nights stays in this area to maximize the migration experience.  Here in the far north, tourist numbers are low, due to the isolated environs and the costs of running the mobile tented camps as a result. Good mobile tented camps (usually priced at the upper 4-star luxury or elite levels) in the northern realm include Kirurumu North, Chaka Serengeti Camp, and Olakira (North) among other intimate options. Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge is an excellent elite permanent tented lodge option close to the Mara River.

Most safari travelers would not want to miss northern Tanzania’s other magnificent wildlife reserves and natural areas like

But with few exceptions, the Serengeti typically steals the show and with good reason. The Serengeti is a park without parallel in Africa, and indeed the world, and it awaits your visit. Come see what is simply one of the greatest shows on Earth even to this day!

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