Guide to a Wildebeest Migration Safari
One of the most popular holidays in east Africa is a Wildebeest Migration Safari. This incredible natural event happens every year between July and October when thousands of wildebeest – and quite a few antelopes and zebra, cross vast expanses of terrain and rivers to reach new pastures.
The wildebeests follow a similar pattern every year, attuned to the seasons of nature, covering landscapes in a sea of black whilst crossing borders from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara and back again.
On route, they graze, mate and even give birth, adding more wildebeests to the herd for their journey. The expedition is fraught with obstacles, as Nile crocodiles punctuate rivers and big cat predators wait patiently in shrub land by the water’s edge. Nature’s circle of life comes into play and wildebeest have to stay alert to survive.
This is one of the most incredible and unique natural spectacles in the world, and one you can become part of, when you read our Guide to a Wildebeest Migration Safari!
Best Time to See the Migration: July to October
Wildebeest move around Serengeti National Park in Tanzania year-round, making their way from the south between January to April and arriving near picturesque Seronera Valley in May and June.
However, the best time to see the wildebeest migration is when huge herds reach Grumeti River around June/July and cross the Mara River into Kenya between August and September. In October, they return to the Serengeti, heading south once more, arriving at eastern plains in November and December, before beginning the clockwise loop cycle all over again.
It’s worth considering that the wildebeest, unlike humans, don’t work to set calendar dates. Rainy season and climate change can alter movement by several days or more, so its wise to plan accordingly.
Our month to month guide to the migration below will give you an indication of what to see, where and when, so you can arrange your safari well in advance or extend your trip!
Depending on what you want to see during your safari, will dictate the best month to travel to the wildebeest migration.
- During July, wildebeest herds reach Grumeti River of the western Serengeti, hesitating by the water’s edge, building up courage to make the crossing whilst looking out for predators.
- In August, they travel through the northern Serengeti towards Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, navigating their way across the Mara River.
- When we reach September, wildebeest herds have dispersed into smaller groups, with some remaining in the Serengeti and some having made it to the Masai Mara. They divide naturally into groups, breaking up the herd so everyone has access to food and water.
- In October, you can still see wildebeest in both reserves as herds begin their return journey across the river from the Masai Mara back to verdant savannahs of the Serengeti.
Top Tips for Travellers
The wildebeest migration is a loop journey which takes a year to complete and with the exception of August to October each year, the majority of movement takes place in Tanzania’s Serengeti.
If you really want to see a migration river crossing during your stay, choose accommodation near Grumeti River in Tanzania if travelling between May and July, or near the Mara River on the Kenyan border for August to October safari’s.
The wildebeest are spread across vast expanses of land, therefore, you’re likely to see some of the herd wherever you decide to stay.
During a game drive safari, you may spend all day in one location to see a large herd crossing the river, so don’t forget to bring your camera – and lots of patience!
If you wish to document, film or photograph the migration in different locations, opt to stay in a luxury mobile camp which moves with the herd!
There are abundant accommodations from which to enjoy a wildebeest migration safari, but how do you choose the right one for you?
With luxury tented camps in the Masai Mara, stylish lodges in the Serengeti and mobile camps which move with the herd, the selection can be overwhelming.
Below are a few tips to assist you in choosing the right accommodation so you don’t miss a thing during the migration.
- Accommodations in the Serengeti and Masai Mara have limited rooms and tend to book up quickly. Consider reserving early if you have a specific place or itinerary in mind.
- Acacia Migration Camp and Serengeti Serena near Grumeti and Mara Rivers in Tanzania are superb choices if staying between May and July, as you will see wildebeest herds preparing themselves to cross the water.
- A stay at Entim Mara or Ashnil Mara in Kenya between August and October affords you a scenic ring-side view of the migration near the Mara River.
- If you don’t wish to be tied down to one location, we can organise transport and domestic flights so you can move around with ease. Alternatively, stay in a mobile camp. Ubuntu Migration Camp moves with the herd to three different locations in the Serengeti, allowing unrivalled perspectives of the migration.
- If you like to be in the heart of the action during the day but prefer peace and tranquillity at night, choose camps and lodges away from main migration areas. You’ll still be able to reach hotspots on game drives, but your camp will provide a haven of relaxation. Basecamp Mara is perfect for this!
Many lodges and camps have their own unique atmosphere. Some offer an authentic ‘Out of Africa’ experience with bush dining, barbecues and picnics in the great outdoors. Others have spa and massage treatments, infinity swimming pools, cocktail lounge bars and restaurants where you can feast on African and international cuisine. We can help you make choices which suit your requirements.
Below we have curated the best camps and lodges in both the Masai Mara and the Serengeti to help you make informed decisions.
Entim Mara is designed to give you the friendliest, most intimate, luxury safari camp experience and the best wildlife safari in the Masai Mara. Its prime location along the Mara River is unrivaled for seeing and photographing animals all year around, but particularly to observe the greatest wildlife show on earth; over a million wildebeest, zebra and antelopes migrating from the Serengeti into the Masai Mara.
Zebra Plains Mara Camp offers luxury tented rooms are furnished with all the amenities that you will require for a comfortable stay whilst visiting the Maasai Mara. The rooms can be converted into doubles, singles or triples depending on the bookings. Our family tent is spacious, and it can accommodate a group of between 4 and 6 guests.
Ashnil Mara Camp is located in the Masai Mara National Reserve and close to the Mara River, famous for the wildebeest migration. Our luxury Masai Mara Camp is arguably in one of the very best positions in the Masai Mara for game viewing and also provides the perfect setting to sit and relax at the end of an exciting day of game drives. The Ashnil Mara Camp is a 4 – 5 hour drive from Nairobi or there are daily scheduled flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara which take just 45 mins. You may also fly from the Mombasa Coast to our luxury tented camp in just 2 hrs.
Best Migration Safari Tours
One question we are frequently asked is – “Which is the best wildebeest migration safari”?
There are so many to choose from. Fortunately, we can help you select which safari is best for you. Our hand-picked wildebeest migration safaris usually last 8 to 10 days, but if you have less time to spend in Africa or wish to extend your trip to other locations in Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda, we can help with that too.
We work with you to create bespoke tours. You choose the accommodation, how many nights you wish to stay in each place, and we can advise on where you can see the most wildlife during the wildebeest migration!
In addition, we can organise special dietary requirements in camps and lodges, book early morning hot air balloon rides over the savannah, arrange visits to Masai cultural centres and much more.
What Happens on a Wildebeest Migration Safari?
On top wildebeest migration safaris, you don’t just sit and wait for something to happen, our expert guides go in search of all the action!
On our 10 day wildebeest migration safari for example, you will have the opportunity to photograph the Big Five – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo. You can stay overnight near the volcanic caldera of Ngorongoro Conservation area – where 25,000 animals including the endangered black rhino live. Then the next day, visit Amboseli National Park, home to Africa’s largest population of elephants or venture to Lake Nakuru to spot flocks of pink flamingos and over 450 bird species!
On our 8 day migration safari, we take in spectacular parks and reserves of the Great Rift Valley and Masai Mara, exploring sprawling grassy plains where giraffes dine from Acacia trees and cheetahs bask in the midday sun. We venture to the Tanzanian border, known for its large number of big cats, before delving deep into archaeological finds at Olduvai Gorge.
In Serengeti National Park, where patchwork landscapes sit in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle cross Kotatende River during the migration, and with big cats and crocodiles lying in wait, there’s no telling what may happen.
This is the perfect time to capture iconic wildlife photographs, see nature in all its glory and as the sun sets on your safari, you’ll leave Africa, holding these precious memories with you forever.
Throughout this journey and on all of our Great Migration Safari’s, your knowledgeable expert guide provides insight and information into each park’s wildlife. You will learn what to look out for when a pride is primed for attack, see the circle of life occurring, observe herds as they make their way towards the river and discover more about key species and eco-systems of this fragile land.
A few examples of our best wildebeest migration safaris are listed below. You can also add extensions to your trip including gorilla-trekking in Uganda, a relaxing beach trip to Zanzibar, tours to Victoria Falls and more.
The Great Migration 2021 Safari
Price From $3765 USD
The biggest movement of land animals on the planet takes place across the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. One and a half million wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and other sweep through these vast landscapes
Down the Valley Safari
Price From $2350 USD
Starting and ending in Nairobi, this action-packed Kenya and Tanzania safari will take you
Two Nation Adventure Safari
Price From $2725 USD
Nature knows no borders, so take your African safari across nations and explore the natural wonders of both