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wildebeest river migration

The Great Animal Migration in Africa

The Great Migration is an unforgettable natural event in Africa, in which millions of animals, mostly wildebeest and zebras, migrate north from Tanzania to Kenya. This event covers 2,900 kilometres (1,800 miles) in a large circle, and is known as a dangerous journey for the animals: an estimated 250,000 wildebeest die crossing rivers and from predator attacks along the way. For travellers looking to experience something truly unique, the Great Migration is a magical experience that can only be found on this scale in Kenya and Tanzania. 

The migration on a map


The Great Migration is actually a fairly constant event: travellers will be able to see the animals year-round, but should choose their destination wisely, as, by nature, the migration is constantly moving.

One option some travellers choose is to go on an overland tour which visits both Kenya and Tanzania, hugely increasing their chances of seeing the Great Migration in person.

Pictured above: wildebeest migration map
Pictured above: wildebeest migration map

Did you know?

2 million animals migrate each year
Over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Kenyan grasslands in the Masai Mara.
February is calving season
In February up to 8,000 calves are born a day. Calves (babies) are able to walk as soon as they are born. Few days after birth, babies can run with the rest of the herd.
Wildebeest can swim
They are relentless in their advance and will swim rivers and lakes in such huge masses that many are injured, lost (especially in the case of calves) or killed. The wildebeest must cross a river. But to do so, they must outrun a gauntlet of crocodiles.

What animals can be seen on the Great Migration?

The animals that migrate in Africa are all herd animals - which is why the sheer number of animals involved in the migration is so staggering! Travellers will be able to see wildebeest, zebra, and many different species of antelope.

  • wildebeest migration

    Blue Wildebeest

    The blue wildebeest, also known as the common wildebeest or the brindled gnu, is one of the most commonly seen animals in the Great Migration. Called "blue" because of their bright silvery-blue coats, the Khoikhoi people (a group of native pastoralists who live in southwestern Africa) gave them the name "gnu."

    Weight: 250 kg
    Lifespan: 20 years
    Diet: Grass
  • zebra migration

    Zebra

    One of Africa's most iconic animals, zebras are always easy to spot, thanks to their vibrant black and white striped bodies. But did you know that those stripes actually act as camouflage? As each zebra has a unique stripe pattern, a herd of zebras standing close together creates a mesmerizing pattern that predators can find difficult to breach. 

    Weight: 350 kg
    Lifespan: 20 to 30 years
    Diet: Grass
  • antelope migration

    Antelope

    Travellers will find many species of antelope on their Great Migration safari, including gazelles, impalas, and elands. These horned creatures resemble deer, and range in size from 40 centimetres (15 inches) in height to 1.6 metres tall (6ft), depending on the species.

    Weight: 40 to 80 kg
    Lifespan: 13 to 15 years
    Diet: Grass

What you need to know

  • Why does the Great Migration occur?

    The Great Migration happens because of the change in seasons. When the dry season arrives in a region and water and food supplies dwindle, animals such as wildebeest migrate to wetter plains in search of grass to graze on and water to drink. 
  • Can I see a black wildebeest in Kenya or Tanzania?

    Blue wildebeests are native to Southern and Eastern Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania. 
    Black wildebeests, on the other hand, can only be found in Southern Africa. Unlike blue wildebeests, black wildebeests do not migrate; instead, this species tends to occupy particular territories.
  • Where is the Great Migration in September?

    By September, the herds have usually migrated to northern Serengeti, which is where one of the most frightening elements of their migration occurs: crossing the perilous Mara River. 
  • Where is the Great Migration in January?

    In January, the herds are typically starting to settle into the plains around Lake Ndutu, and the best game viewing during this month stretches across much of the southern Serengeti and the northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is a particularly exciting time in the Great Migration as it's often when calving begins.
  • What should I pack for my safari tour?

    To make your safari trip a success you'll need light layers, comfortable shoes, bug spray and binoculars among other things! See our comprehensive packing list for more details.
  • Why should I go on a Great Migration safari?

    Finding the Big Five in the wild is one of the most appealing aspects of an African safari, but the Great Migration is all about witnessing one of the most impressive wildlife events on the planet. Nothing quite compares to seeing the power of the migration up close — it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
  • How can I book a safari to see the Great Migration?

    The easiest way to book a safari to see the Great Migration is to look for deals on TourRadar. While it can be hard to guarantee a sighting of the Great Migration, if you position yourself in the right region at the right time and have a knowledgable tour guide on your side, you have a great chance of experiencing this spectacle!
  • How to choose the right safari?

    To make the decision-making process a bit easier, ask yourself the following questions: What time of year can I travel? What animals do I most want to see? What safari activities do I want to do? Once you’ve determined the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to better narrow down your options and choose the perfect safari for you.

Where to see the Great Migration

While the Great Migration only travels between two countries, travellers should never underestimate the distance between destinations in Africa! To avoid disappointment, carefully research where the migration will be at the time of your visit and plan accordingly. 

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