The Serengeti is one of the world’s last great wildlife refuges. The name comes from the Masai ‘Siringet’, meaning ‘endless plains’.
Equal in size to Northern Ireland, the seasonal migration across the park attracts lions, cheetahs, leopards and other predators, which attend to the constantly moving mass. Vegetation in the Serengeti ranges from the short and long grass plains in the south, to the acacia savannah in the centre and the wooded grassland concentrated around tributaries of the Grumeti and Mara Rivers in the north.
The Seronera Valley in the central Serengeti is famous for the abundance of lion and leopard that can usually be seen quite easily.
During the annual migration space in the lodges and tented camps is at a premium, often being booked up over a year in advance. However, it should be remembered that the Serengeti makes a superb wildlife and safari destination at any time of year with many animals not choosing to follow the migration and outside the peak times you will have vast areas of wilderness to yourself.
Serengeti Migration – November to June. This breath-taking annual migration of more than two million blue wildebeest, together with a quarter of a million Burchell’s zebra and half a million Thompson’s gazelles is triggered by the rains. The wet season starts in November and lasts (with a short pause around January/February) until about May, and the rain provides the tremendous attraction for the massing herds, as the first downpour will rejuvenate the parched grasses overnight. Their movement is a continual search for grass and water – the animals requiring over 4,000 tons of grass each day! The cycle of migration movement begins with the herds moving down the eastern corridor of the Serengeti after leaving the Masai Mara sometime around late October, early November. The animals head for the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti, below the Ngorongoro Highlands which come alive in December not only with gazing mammals, but with a carpet of fresh green grass shoots and colourful wildflowers.
Believing that there is safety in numbers, the blue wildebeest all calve within a three-week period during the course of February. In fact young are born all over the plains – cheetah cubs, bat-eared fox pups, and tiny Thompson’s gazelles all appear at around this time. With the onset of the dry season, the grazing herds all begin to move northwest in June until – come July and early August – they are in the western Kirawira reaches of the Serengeti. From here they continue northwards over the artificial man-made border from Tanzania into Kenya and into the Serengeti’s extension there, better known as the Masai Mara. The migration instinct is so strong that many animals die in the rivers as they dive from the banks into the raging waters, to be taken by the jaws of waiting Nile crocodiles. The survivors will spend September and October in Kenya’s Masai Mara until the grazing there is exhausted before the relentless cycle begins again and they head south once more.
Please note that the wildebeest migration occurs approximately the same time every year, but there are unpredictable natural factors that may alter the pattern by a few weeks each way.
Ideal for viewing: Burchell’s zebra, cheetah, leopard, lion, white-bearded wildebeest
Where: Northern Tanzania, Tanzania
is featured in the following itineraries:
Witness the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra and other game around the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem - truly one of the world’s greatest wildlife wonders. Accompanied by wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt, daily game drives will take you close to the action.
When to go: Mar
Duration inc. flights: 19 days
Price inc. flights: From £9,395 pp
Trip type: Group tour
Experience the major wildlife highlights and contrasting locations of northern Tanzania on this excellent value, classic safari. Combining the wide open plains of the Serengeti, the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire’s outstanding birdlife, this is a perfect introduction to Tanzania.
When to go: Jan-Dec
Duration inc. flights: 10 days
Price inc. flights: From £4,795 pp
Tailor-made trip idea
On this 12-day classic safari led by accomplished naturalist guide Peter Lindstrom, visit Lake Manyara National Park, the fabled Ngorongoro Crater, and the spectacular short-grass plains of Serengeti National Park, which are inhabited by immense herds of wildebeest that travel there to calve.
When to go: Feb
Duration inc. flights: 12 days
Price inc. flights: From £7,795 pp
Trip type: Group tour
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Grumeti River Camp is a luxury tented camp in a remote valley in the western corridor of the Serengeti, with ten spacious tents looking out into the bush beyond. Wildlife is particularly active during the migration when thousands of blue wildebeest plunge into the waters to run the gauntlet of gigantic crocodiles.
Kirurumu Serengeti is a luxury and intimate mobile camp consisting of just seven well-appointed safari tents, a dining tent and a relaxing campfire area. The camp moves on a seasonal basis, taking advantage of wildlife movements in the vast Serengeti, particularly the great migration.
Situated in the south-eastern part of the Serengeti ecosystem, this lodge is shaded by majestic acacia trees, and surrounded by plants that attract a host of birds and mammals. Each of the 34 cottages, built of stone and other local materials, has a private verandah facing Lake Ndutu.
This classic mobile safari camp consists of eight spacious and comfortable tents, each with a king size bed, en-suite bathroom and private verandah with a stunning view over the Serengeti. To ensure superb wildlife at all times, it tracks the migration and changes location twice a year: