The Great Migration in Africa: Where & When You Should See It

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One of the world’s most quintessential wildlife experiences, the annual Great Migration in Africa is an event like no other.

Millions of Zebras, Wildebeest, and other antelope species make this incredible journey across Tanzania and Kenya every year, facing Crocodile- infested waters and terrestrial predators (Lions, Leopards, etc) along the way. 

To witness such an event in the birthplace of humanity is an emotional experience that could never be fully captured by mere photos or words.

Africa’s Great Migration takes place in some of the most wildlife-rich natural areas in the world, making the experience all that more rewarding.

This is one of those world travel bucket list items that we all dream of experiencing during our lifetime.

Here’s a brief guide on where, when, and why every nature lover should see the Great Migration in Africa!

READ MORE: The 25 Best National Parks in Africa for Wildlife Safaris

Masai Giraffe Closeup in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Masai Giraffe in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Why Africa’s Great Migration is Special

Consisting of millions of animals, East Africa’s Great Migration is the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world.

Its stage encompasses some of the most breathtaking ecosystems on Earth, including the most well-known reserve on the continent (Serengeti National Park).

The migration is an endless circuit in which the circle of life is showcased in its purest form.

Like the hands on a clock, a seemingly never- ending stream of fauna make their way across Africa’s landscape in search of food and water, never knowing how much time they may have left. 

The Great Migration is a famously treacherous journey in which the animals must not only find food to sustain themselves, but also give birth to the future generations that will keep the annual migration alive.

It’s a classic game of survival of the fittest, and its contenders are some of the most majestic and resilient creatures Africa has to offer.

READ MORE: Animals in Kenya: A Guide to 40 Species of Kenyan Wildlife

Leopard in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy
Male Leopard in Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Kenya by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Where to See the Great Migration in Africa

The Great Migration is unlike other natural events you might find elsewhere in the world.

The unpredictable journey’s timing and exact locations are constantly changing, evolving based on current conditions. 

Rain (and the lack thereof) is the main ingredient that dictates where and when the herds will be during a specific period of the year.

The only thing you can rest assured of is the fact that the event will take place across Tanzania and Kenya. 

But let’s explore some of the many East African National Parks and reserves that offer the best chance to see this natural spectacle:

READ MORE: Top 10 Tanzania National Parks & Reserves (The Ultimate Tanzania Safari)

Warthogs & Hyena at a Ngorongoro Conservation Area Watering Hole
Ngorongoro Conservation Area- Watering Hole by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Great Migration in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Tanzania)

Located in Tanzania’s north, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the place to see newborn Wildebeest and Zebras during calving season.

The abundance of young prey also means you might have a greater chance of experiencing Lion, Leopard, and other predator attacks during your visit.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for African Safari Tours

Baby Zebra in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Zebras in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Great Migration in Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)

This is definitely one of the best places to witness the Great Migration, as large herds of Wildebeest and Zebra begin to congregate.

The Grumeti River makes for an imposing barrier which the animals need to gather up the courage to cross.

It’s also here where the Wildebeest will begin to mate, hopefully offsetting their population losses during the migration.

READ MORE: The 20 Safest Countries in Africa to Visit

wildebeest migration masai mara

Great Migration in Mara River (Tanzania & Kenya)

Animals that survive the Grumeti River crossing now face an even more daunting task.

Crossing the turbulent Mara River will give them access to the fertile grasslands of the Maasai Mara.

But the threat of crocodile attacks here increases considerably, often causing great panic among the herds.

This makes the Mara River a great place to witness dramatic attacks, as well as the triumphant herds that manage to make it safely to the other side.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Wildlife Parks & Wildlife Tours in the World

Topis in the Olare-Motorogi Conservancy, Kenya
Topis in the Olare-Motorogi Conservancy, Kenya photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Great Migration in Maasai Mara National Reserve (Kenya)

The animals that make it to these feeding grounds can now fatten up before returning to the Ngorongoro to give birth again.

But they also face one of East Africa’s greatest densities of lions.

The survivors will make their way south in a few months, leaving behind the big cats that preyed upon them to defend their home territories.

The Maasai Mara also offers excellent sightings of Elephants and Giraffes, as well as rarer species such as the Topi.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Safari Parks & Game Reserves in Kenya

When To Go: The Great Migration Timeline

Zebra & Impala in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Zebra & Impala in Maasai Mara National Reserve by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


At this time of year the great herds of Wildebeest and Zebra are spread out across the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The majority of females will give birth during a 2-3 week window.


The herds will now move on to the Moru Kopjes and Seronera areas, en route to the Serengeti’s Western Corridor.

This is not a great time or place to witness the Great Migration, as heavy rains and flooded roads make reaching the herds very difficult.

READ MORE: Embracing the Culture of the Maasai People in Tanzania

A family of cheetahs in the Maasai Mara of Kenya
A family of cheetahs in the Maasai Mara of Kenya photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


The herds will now begin to congregate and attempt to safely cross the Grumeti River. Mating also occurs during this time.

Easily accessible camps along the river offer incredible safari options to witness the migration in progress.


The herds will cross over from the northern border of Serengeti National Park into the Maasai Mara Reserve during this period.

They will face their hardest challenge, crossing the Mara River, which offers incredible wildlife viewing.

Safaris on the Maasai Mara are wonderful for viewing not only the migration, but also a wide variety of local wildlife. 

READ MORE: 20 Endangered African Animals You Can See on a Safari

Facts about Elephants: Endangered Elephant with reflection in Serengeti National Park
Elephant reflection in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


Now the herds will begin to make their way south through Loliondo. They attempt to time their arrival on the southern Serengeti plains as the much-needed rains finally begin to fall. The lucky ones will once again give birth to the next generation of East Africa’s migratory wanderers.  –by Megan Jerrard courtesy of Green Travel Media


BIO: Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe. 



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