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Serengeti Wildebeests Migration in Tanzania

The great Serengeti wildebeest migration is the movement numerous numbers of the Serengeti's wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant's gazelle, Thompson's gazelle, eland and impala. These move in an annual pattern which is fairly predictable. They migrate throughout the year, constantly seeking fresh grazing and better quality water. This movement is largely occurs between Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve Park. The precise timing of the Serengeti wildebeest migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns each year – here we explain how the broad pattern works.

Natural phenomena occur all over the world but few can compete with the annual Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara wildebeest migration. The numbers alone are hard to believe: up to two million animals - wildebeest as well as zebra and gazelles - move clockwise around this enormous ecosystem, driven by ancient instincts to find fresh grazing and water.

It's drama on a truly epic scale: The migrating herds undergo all manner of challenges and hardships as they move from region to region, and are constantly under attack from predators, none more so than from Africa's big cats and the notoriously huge crocodiles that lie in wait at various river crossing points.

You'll need to plan your visit carefully: The wildebeest migration is a fluid, dynamic affair taking place between two countries - Tanzania and Kenya - and subject to the timing of that year's rains. It's also an event of different experiences: depending on where you are and at what time, you may see the wildebeest herds giving birth and courting, moving in great dusty columns, or funneling across muddy rivers.

8 Days / 7 Nights Tanzania Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Safari - Itinerary Highlights

Day 1: Arusha, Tanzania
Days 2-4:
East Central Serengeti—Namiri Plains
Days 5-7: Southern Serengeti—Natural Habitat's Migration Base Camp, Serengeti 
Day 8:
Arusha or Ngorongoro Extension / Depart

Month by month: the Serengeti wildebeest migration

The short rains begin around early November. A little after this, in late November and December, the herds of the wildebeest migration arrive on the short-grass plains of the Serengeti. These are south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu and include the north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Dispersed across these plains, wildebeest and zebra are everywhere – feeding on the fresh, nutritious grasses. They stay here through January, February and March, with most wildebeest calves born in a short window around February. Gradually they spread west across these plains, then around April they start their great migration north.

By May the Serengeti's wildebeest all seem to be moving north, migrating to seek fresh grazing and water. The area around Moru Kopjes and west of Seronera is then hectic with a series of moving columns, often containing hundreds of thousands of animals – joined by many zebra, and a scattering of Thompson's and Grant's gazelles.

Some of the migration then head due north of Seronera, but most are usually further west. Around June the wildebeest migration is often halted on the south side of the Grumeti River, which has some channels which block or slow their migration north. The wildebeest then congregate there, in the Western Corridor, often building up to a high density before crossing the river. The river here is normally a series of pools and channels, but it's not continuous – and so whilst they always represent an annual feast for the Grumeti River's large crocodiles, these aren't usually quite as spectacular as the crossings of the Mara River, further north.

The wildebeest migration continues moving northwards during July and August, often spreading out across a broad front: some heading through Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo, others north through the heart of the Serengeti National Park.

September sees the herds spread out across the northern Serengeti, where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. This river gushes through the northern Serengeti from Kenya's adjacent Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Watching the frantic herds of the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River can be very spectacular; there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. It's common to see herds cross the Mara River north on one day, and then back south a few days later.

By October the wildebeest herds are migrating again with more accord: all are heading south, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park's Lobo area, returning to the green shoots which follow the rains on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti in November.

Then the whole Serengeti Wildebeest migration starts again …

The Great Tanzania Migration Safari

The gateway to Tanzania

Day 1: Arusha, Tanzania
Arusha is known as the gateway to Tanzania’s incredible safari areas. The bustling town, which is the centre point of the country’s high-quality coffee-growing industry, is serviced by a busy airport and is home to vibrant Maasai markets.

After jetting in, you will be collected at the airport for the short drive to a designated luxury hotel or lodge in Arusha. Enjoy the terraced gardens that offer a relaxing respite after your long travels, take a dip in the pool, or relax with a drink and admire the panoramic vistas. This evening, we gather for a welcome dinner.

Days 2-4: East Central Serengeti—Namiri Plains
The legendary Serengeti derives its name from a Maasai word meaning “endless plains.” We fly to Serengeti National Park, where vistas of yellow savanna stretching to the horizon beneath a bowl of deep blue sky provide iconic images of Africa. Meeting our safari vehicles and drivers, we set out on our first wildlife drive. Our destination is Namiri Plains, a newly accessible area located in a remote sector of the Serengeti that has previously been off-limits to visitors for two decades. Surveying open grasslands and kopje outcrops, the camp offers fabulous wildlife viewing in diverse habitats, particularly of the abundant feline predators that live and hunt in this area. In fact, Namiri means "big cat" in Swahili.

Namiri Plains Camp provides exceptional seclusion: guests are alone on the vast private concession, and the next camp is a 45-minute drive. The isolated location ensures that we experience our natural setting, rather than tourist crowds. Evoking the classic safari atmosphere of an earlier age, just eight spacious canvas tents offer surprising comfort in a very remote setting. Set in the shade of giant acacia trees, the camp offers 360-degree views of wildlife traversing savanna and the river with its perennial vegetation and dense green reed beds that attract birds and smaller animal species. Enjoy thrilling animal encounters on wildlife drives and discover a more intimate view of our environs on a walking safari with one of the resident specialist guides. We also have the exclusive opportunity to get out into the bush with zoologists and cheetah researchers working on site.

Days 5-7: Southern Serengeti—Natural Habitat's Migration Base Camp, Serengeti
Depart this morning for the southern Serengeti with a wildlife drive en route. The days of heavy canvas hunting camps set for the likes of Roosevelt and Hemingway were nearly over until photo safaris gained popularity. Natural Habitat's Migration Base Camp exudes the ambience of old, with silver-service dinners presented on white linen by candlelight. While home to a profusion of wildlife year-round, there is nothing like the Serengeti during the phenomenon of the Great Migration. We spend three full days among the sea of mammals, following them in open-topped 4-wheel-drive vehicles that offer superb photography access.

The vast herds of wildebeest trek annually from Kenya’s Maasai Mara to the southern Serengeti in search of new grass during the short rains, then back again. The wildebeest migrate with thousands of zebra, whose superior vision and hearing serve as an early warning system for predators. We are in the region just as the 3-week birthing season is typically beginning, when the herds are mostly stationary. We'll hope to see infants (though timing on the calf drop is weather-dependent), as well as prey interactions. Predators seek out the most vulnerable members of the herds, and we may behold a lion taking down a sick wildebeest or a cheetah overtaking a newborn. Leopard, hyena and jackal also prey on the migrating herds, as do less-frequently seen mongoose, serval and wild dog. Vultures hang in the air, waiting to feast on carrion. While the spectacle is at times grim, its primal drama is a wonder to behold.

Day 8: Arusha or Ngorongoro Extension / Depart
Today our safari concludes, leaving us with a slate of memories to treasure forever. We enjoy breakfast in camp before transferring to the nearest airport. In Arusha, a day room awaits before a transfer to Kilimanjaro Airport for evening international departures. Guests continuing on our Ngorongoro Crater extension will bid farewell to fellow travelers, where they will remain in pursuit of more remarkable wildlife encounters.

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