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The Great Migration
What is the Great Migration?
The Great Migration is a period of the year which sees a number of Serengeti's animals travel across the Mara plains in search of land for grazing. For many millennia wildebeest have followed the rains and used the Serengeti ecosystem with its mosaic of grasslands and savannas to their advantage. The wildebeest spend the rainy season from December to June, in the volcanic open plains below the Ngorongoro Crater where the grass growth is most productive and nutrient contents high. It is here that the calves are born. Calving season is short and the predators cannot make a dent in the new-borns with such a sudden surge of food. When the monsoon rains stop in June the plains dry out and the wildebeest move west towards Lake Victoria in search of pasture and rains. The plains become a harsh and dry semi-desert in which no wildebeest could survive. Only through migration can the wildebeest and zebra use the widespread resources of the ecosystem and build up such large numbers. Following further rainfalls the migration moves on to the north, into the Masai Mara, where the rift wall catches the last rains even in the middle of the dry season. With the onset of the monsoon rains in December the wildebeest move back into the lush Serengeti plains.
Why should I go?
There are few more stunning natural sights than the Great Migration. Everyone who has a chance to see nearly two million animals on the move has been touched by the magic of this place. Even if the wildebeest does look a bit like a clown and, according to an African legend, has been put together by God using left over spare parts, the animal is superbly fit for its migratory lifestyle. Few will ever be able to forget the stunning African sunsets or the sight of the wild cats running playfully through the vast grassy plains.
When should I go?
The timing of the Great Migration is not an exact science and can vary year to year, although it usually takes place in late May and June. The beasts usually reach the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, by late September and stay here until November. They then make their way down into the Eastern woodlands of the Serengeti in late May. By July the migration has reached the western grasslands and has in effect completed one giant circle around the Serengeti. For the animals, it is a treacherous trip, involving the crossing of crocodile-filled rivers and long wanders across barren lands. However, for animal lovers, it forms part of a once-in-a-lifetime safari holiday filled with unforgettable sights and sounds.
What will I see?
Many Great Migration safari holidays begin in the Serengeti National Park, which offers the chance to view wild cats such as lions, cheetahs and leopards. The main spectacle is witnessing wildebeest, zebras and gazelles move majestically across the national parks of Tanzania kicking up the red dust. In the Olduvai Gorge look out for fossilised bone fragments thought to attest to the existence of early man, before you descend into the Ngorongoro Crater, an extinct volcano teeming with wildlife. Many Great Migration holidays also include the opportunity to visit northern Tanzania's 127 sq mile Lake Manyara National Park, which contains a compact game-viewing circuit. Tree-climbing lions and elephants are the main attraction in this region, which contains lush forest and rolling plains. Regardless of the exact itinerary sights of giraffe, zebra, big cats and elephants are nearly always a certainty.
How will I see it?
Most of our safari adventures take you on game drives in 4WD through the National Parks or we take you on foot with a guide. You can now also book a hot air balloon ride to view this incredible spectacle from the sky – just ask your Travel Consultant and book early.
Whether you decide to take your safari holiday during the Great Migration or another time of the year, the trip is sure to be a life-changing experience filled with amazing spectacles and unforgettable experiences.