The Great Migration: Tanzania's Natural Spectacle

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What is the great migration, when and where to see it

The Great Migration is rightfully one of Tanzania's most celebrated natural phenomena. It is an event of gargantuan proportions, an annual journey comprising almost two million wildebeest, zebras, and other mammals from Tanzania's Serengeti to the greener pastures of Kenya's Maasai Mara. This astounding event is a magnificent testament to the wonders of the natural world.

What is the Great Migration?

To answer, "What is the Great Migration?", you first have to envision the following: around 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, and a host of other herbivorous animals traversing approximately 800 kilometers across vast plains, rocky terrains, and mighty rivers, all in pursuit of fertile grazing lands. The migration, composed predominantly of wildebeest, is a cyclical event dictated by the seasonal availability of grazing pastures.

Although termed the "Great Migration", this remarkable journey is less about moving and more about survival. A fascinating aspect of this event is that it doesn’t follow a linear route. Instead, the herds move in a circular pattern, tracking the rainfall and hence the growth of nutritious grass they need for their survival.

The herds' constant search for food and water forces them to journey through different ecosystems, ranging from the grassy plains of the south to the river-laden landscapes of the north. This captivating cycle has been ongoing for centuries and remains a vital part of the Tanzanian and Kenyan ecosystems.

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When Does the Great Migration Happen?

One might ask, "When does the Great Migration occur?" Contrary to popular belief, the Great Migration happens year-round. However, there are certain significant phases that are often grouped into events or spectacles within the migration:

  • Calving season – January to March: The southernmost plains of the Serengeti become the stage for the wildebeest calving season, where nearly half a million newborn wildebeest find their footing in the world.
  • Grumeti River crossing – May to June: As the dry season begins, the herds move towards fresher grazing areas. The biggest hurdle here is the crossing of the Grumeti River, renowned for its large Nile crocodiles.
  • Mara River crossing – July to September: The migrating herds move northwards, leading to the legendary crossing of the Mara River, a spectacle that's highly sought after by wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Return journey – October to December: With the onset of the rainy season, the herds begin their journey southwards, marking the return part of their circular migration.

Where Does the Great Migration Happen?

Starting from Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the south, the herds move north through the Serengeti towards Kenya's Maasai Mara reserve.

Throughout the year, the Great Migration can be observed in different locations across Tanzania. These locations are dependent on rainfall patterns and the availability of fresh grazing lands. Some of the best places to experience the migration across different months include:

  • Southern Serengeti (January - March): The calving season takes place in the southern part of Tanzania's Serengeti, near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Thousands of newborn wildebeest calves join the herds during this time.
  • Western Serengeti (April - May): The herds begin to migrate west and north to the grassier plains and woodlands of the Serengeti's Western Corridor. Numerous lodges and tented camps in the area offer prime viewing opportunities.
  • Central Serengeti (May - July): As the herds move further north towards the Mara River, they pass through the central regions of the Serengeti. This area is known for its abundant wildlife and spectacular sightings.
  • Northern Serengeti (July - October): The Great Migration's most iconic spectacle, the Mara River crossing, takes place in the northern part of the Serengeti. This perilous crossing is an unforgettable experience for wildlife enthusiasts.


The Great Migration in Tanzania is a breathtaking spectacle, a testament to the raw, unforgiving, yet deeply compelling aspects of nature. The grounds of the Serengeti and Maasai Mara are indeed arenas of survival, theatres of life in its most primal form.

Witnessing this timeless journey is like watching a live natural documentary, except there are no voice-overs, only the dominant soundtrack of pounding hooves against the earth. The allure of the Great Migration spans across ages and continents, beckoning wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers from all around the globe, truly making it Tanzania's greatest spectacle.

To sum up, the Great Migration serves as a gentle reminder of our intrinsic duties as custodians of this planet. In an increasingly industrialized world, events such as these should inspire us to safeguard these invaluable experiences for future generations to admire and learn from.

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