The Serengeti Migration is a massive circular migration of wildebeests, zebra and other antelopes with the majority occurring in Tanzania and the rest in Kenya. The majority of the migration is housed in Serengeti Migration apart from late September through mid November when the migration crosses the Mara River into Maasai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya.
The Serengeti ecosystem is comprised of grasslands and plains that extend 12,000 square miles (30,000 sq km). This ecosystem makes up Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and much of Maasai Mara in Kenya. These plains are home to the wildebeest and zebra migration more affectionately known as the Serengeti Migration.
During the declaration ceremony on February 11, 2013 in Arusha, Tanzania, Dr. Phillip Imler, President of Seven Wonders stated, “The Serengeti Migration is the wonder that garnered the most votes and most first place votes making it the number one wonder of Africa.” Learn more about what makes the Serengeti Migration one of the Seven Wonders of Africa.
What makes the Serengeti Migration a natural wonder?
Statistically speaking, the Serengeti Migration is the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world. Technically the herd of wildebeest and zebras are always migrating or moving, but the most notable part of the migration occurs during the months of September and October when the migration herd moves north across the Mara River into Kenya.
Crossing the Mara River is one of the most exciting natural encounters to witness firsthand. The Mara River is home to crocodiles who know the migration all to well. The herd crosses the river by the thousands, which is a sight in and of its own. Crossing the river is a challenge as crocodiles look for their next victim.
Another exciting time for the migration occurs during the months of January and February. It is during these months, almost always within the same 2 to 3 week period, thousands of wildebeest give birth at the same time.
The abundance of wildebeest, zebra and other antelopes make the migration a favorite place for predators. The birthing season is an open invitation for predators who know that prey is easier to catch during this time of year.
The combination of the statistical significance combined with the exciting encounters with wildlife and nature account for the distinction of being Africa’s number one wonder.
What are the best ways to see the Serengeti Migration?
The best way to see the migration and grasp the true expanse of the herd is to take a balloon ride over the Serengeti and the Serengeti Migration. This birds eye view provides visitors with a true scope of the size of the herd.
Another great site occurs from the Kenyan side of the Mara River as you sit and watch the herd cross the river. The challenge with this is that you never know what day the herd is going to cross. It takes patience unless you happen to be fortunate enough to time it just right.
What are the best ways to experience the Serengeti Migration?
The best way to experience the Serengeti and the Serengeti Migration is through safari expeditions. This allows you to engage the herd up close watching them run across the fields or jump ditches as they cross the road. If you are in a safari vehicle you have the option of moving to new locations or move to a new lion kill that you couldn’t do in a balloon.
A safari expedition allows you to experience the other wildlife found in the Serengeti including elephant, giraffe, rhino and hippo. You can experience different natural aspects of the Serengeti all while exploring the vastness of the migrating herd.
Following the herd during the months of January and February will allow you to witness births and thousands of new baby wildebeest and zebras.
What is the Serengeti Migration weather like?
Although the Serengeti name comes from the Maasai word meaning “endless plains,” the actual elevation of the Serengeti changes from 3,020 to 6,070 feet (920 to 1,850 m). This means the temperatures will vary from 59 to 77oF (15 to 25oC). Overall, the temperatures of the Serengeti are usually moderate and pleasant. Collectively, the days are usually comfortable and rarely hot, while the evening are frequently cool often requiring a jacket.
The dry season runs from June through October and usually most of January and February. There are two rainy seasons. The months of November and December bring the “short rains,” which are usually short afternoon showers that quickly come and go. The heavier rainy season occurs during the months between March and May. This time frame is called the “long rains.”
When is the best time to visit the Serengeti Migration?
There are two seasons that provide the best Serengeti Migration experiences. The first occurs during the months of January and February when the calving of the wildebeest happens. This is also following the short rains, which tends to bring new green life to the Serengeti. It also ushers in the migratory birds, which makes it a great time for bird watchers.
The second most exciting time occurs sometime around September or October. Unfortunately you never know exactly when the wildebeest are going to cross over into Kenya. However, when they do, it is an incredible scene watching them navigate their way across the river by the thousands. The excitement is enhanced when crocodiles enter into the picture and take down one of the wildebeest.
The weather is fairly consistent temperature wise with most people finding it comfortable. The evening can be rather chilly any time of the year, but usually a light jacket is all that is needed.
Photography Tips for the capturing the Serengeti Migration
Photographers will want two lenses. The primary lens will be some type of telephoto in order to bring the wildlife closer. A balloon ride will welcome the use of a wide angle taking in the entire scope of the migrating herd.
The morning hours offer the best lighting. The good news is that safari expedition often launch at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning before the sun is even up. Hopefully, you will find the subjects you want to photograph before the sun light gets to hot and bright.
Don’t forget to plan for sunsets in the afternoon. The Serengeti provides some of the most amazing sunsets.