The Great Migration is a tale of life and survival, great journeys, resolve and rebirth. It happens every year which might make it a mundane event but not in this case. Every single year, millions and millions of animals travel huge distances in search for food, to make the most of abundant rain that covers the world in shades of green. The Great Migration takes place over a staggeringly large landscape, between game reserves in a rhythm played out for times immemorial. By the time the journey is completed, the animals would have travelled over 800 kilometres from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Masai Mara, and other reserves in between.
If you’re planning your holiday from August to October you should be in Kenya for this. Tanzania works for all the other months of the migration. In fact, since most of the migration takes place in Tanzania, you’ll have a far better chance of an immersive experience here. You can get to Serengeti from Arusha, flying with Flightlink.
While the pattern of the migration depends on the rainfall of the year, the general pattern is something like this. After the dry months from January to March, a period of rest and births, the magnificent Wildebeest, the main protagonist in this epic journey takes its first steps in the long road ahead. This happens in April and the animals are now moving through Seronera. Mating season and gestation takes place at this time. With the rains in May come heavy grass coverage and the animals make their way to the West, to Ikorongo and Grumeti. All through May and June, the animals find shelter here and rest up for what lies ahead.
Now, the animals go North, towards Kenya and in July they prepare themselves for the toughest part of their journey; the treacherous river crossings. Most people line up at the Mara River to watch this struggle between animals, the predators that feast on them and the raging river that wants victims of her own. This space and time is by far the most popular part of the journey and attracts huge numbers of visitors. While this may seem like a cruel spectator sport, it’s important to understand the significance of the deaths. There are millions of animals and many die in the migration. But without this culling, the numbers of wildebeest would explode and put huge pressure on the ecosystem that needs a strong sense of balance. The rivers through the journey offer the most drama for sure, but the sight of animals in vast numbers, especially seen from an aerial safari will also stay with you for a lifetime.
In August, the animals have reached Masai Mara and spend many months feeding, grazing and getting healthy. October end sees the first of the short rainy season, the emaciated grassy plains of the Serengeti are blessed with abundance, waterholes and pools fill up and the wildebeest start to move again. They now go back South, into Ngorongoro, through the woodlands in the East, waiting for a few months to do this all over again.