Where to see the Great Migration in Tanzania

There are many reasons to visit Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, beaches along the Indian Ocean, Stone Age sites. As wondrous as those places are, there is nothing more spectacular, memorable or soul stirring than the Great Migration: 2 million wildebeest, 400,000 gazelle, 300,000 zebra and 12,000 eland. The herds migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. And there is no better way to experience it than with Tanzania Odyssey.

The wildebeest migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns, so the exact route and where you should be on what day cannot be predicted with even a modicum of certainty. The only sure thing is that the herds will not migrate in the same way twice.

During February, wildebeest cows give birth to 8,000 calves a day for two to three weeks in the southern part of the Serengeti, the Ndutu region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the grass is rich in potassium, calcium and phosphorous for the cows to provide the most nutritious milk to their newborns. Also the grass is short and doesn’t provide cover for predators waiting for the calves. Once the grass plains are depleted, the herd moves to the west toward a trio of small alkes, Ndutu, Masek and Lagarja for the water and spread out in groups of tens or hundreds of thousands across the plains west of Ndutu.

During April and May, some herds head directly across the plains of the central Serengeti and some move on to the Western Corridor on their way to Maasai Mara. When July comes, they step up their pace and progress to the Masai Mara as the reserve receives rain from Lake Victoria, continuing north to the Mara River

The river crossings are magnificently dramatic. The herds cross at different points from year to year, choosing the most placid stretch of water without vegetation on the other side that could be concealing predators. Traditionally, August has been the best month to catch a crossing, and Kogatende is a great place to stay. Throughout August, September and October, herds cross the river daily, sometimes going back and forth across the river. You might see herds crossing in different directions on the same day. Once they have arrived on the grasslands of the Maasai Mara, the wildebeest spend a few months there, taking advantage of the scattered green pastures and intermittent rainstorms to feed and fatten up.

By late October, the first short rains begin to fill up the waterholes and spark new growth in the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti. The wildebeest, tightly grouped, start their trek south through the eastern woodlands of the Serengeti and spread out once again when they reach the open plains. From there, they make their way to the Ndutu region where they will give birth and continue the cycle that wildebeest have followed for more than a million years.

Tanzania Odyssey  offers packages to two mobile camps, Serengeti Safari Camp and Serengeti Under Canvas, that, in particular, surpass similar accommodations in keeping up with the herds, locating near or amongst them at any time of the year.

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