When is the best month to get your front-row seat for an epic Great Migration safari in 2023?
Our travel advisors at GILTEDGE have put their heads together to share everything you need to know to make the most of the experience and when to go.
Think heart-stopping events, like predators diving into the herd for a kill and crocodiles snapping up a meal as herds cross the rivers.
Did you know that the gargantuan herds of wildebeest and zebra trek a total of 1,200 miles/1,931 kilometres each year to complete their circuit?
What is the Great Migration?
Rather than a once-off annual event as many believe it to be, the Great Migration in Africa is more like a continuous flow of hundreds upon hundreds of herds of wildebeest and zebra across the expansive grasslands, from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
The animals are lured towards their destination by the distant yet dizzying petrichor (the unmistakable barky aroma of the rain when it falls on dry earth), ever in search of greener pastures.
The Great Migration Timeline
DECEMBER – MARCH: The wildebeest herds remain in southern Tanzania’s Serengeti, preparing to birth and welcome over half a million calves over three weeks in February.
The Serengeti makes for a safe and sustainable birthplace due to its shorter, nutritious grass. The grass provides essential minerals, including potassium and phosphorous, bulking up the lactating mothers’ milk, and its shorter length at the beginning of the year means it’s more difficult for predators to lurk unseen.
APRIL – MAY: As the young wildebeest grow stronger and sturdier, it’s time for the animals to start the great trek northward, using the Grumeti River as their guide. Unfortunately, their food source quickly diminishes due to a lack of rain, encouraging the herds to move faster.
JUNE: The grass is more abundant once the trekking animals reach the Western Corridor of the Serengeti and continue north. However, the once plentiful waters of the river have all but completely disappeared by now, forcing wildebeests to risk death to quench their thirst. They must attempt to meet their required daily 11 litre/three-gallon water intake by drinking from standalone – and often crocodile-infested – pools.
JULY: By this time, the herds have crossed the Grumeti River and are usually nearing Kenya’s border, exhausted, hungry and thirsty. The smell of the nearby rainfall is what gives them that “second wind”, spurring them on to their final destination.
AUGUST: The trek is still ongoing as the herds tumble into the Masai Mara, and crowding makes it difficult to push forward. This is when the now frenzied animals must cross the Mara and Talek rivers, full of crocodiles that have waited months for their arrival.
SEPTEMBER: September is a month of rest for the determined animals who managed to reach their destination, spending their days grazing and replenishing their reserves. Sadly, as many as 250,000 wildebeest and 30,000 zebra will have perished along the journey.
OCTOBER – NOVEMBER: The trek begins again from October through November as the animals return south – after all, as the rainy season edges ever closer, the grass will soon be greener on the other side.
Crafting the ultimate Great Migration safari
Planning a mid-year Great Migration luxury safari in East Africa? Then you’ll need to get set up with front-row seats in the Serengeti’s Western Corridor. Team GILTEDGE is here to help, and we have some recommendations for camps and lodges to consider as your base – all promising an unforgettable Great Migration Serengeti safari experience:
andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp
- Location: andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp is situated in a remote portion of the Serengeti National Park, on the banks of an oxbow lake formed by the Grumeti River.
- Accommodation: 10 spacious tents (including a family tent). Each tent has a thatched palm-frond roof, an outdoor shower and a secluded shaded deck with views of the river.
- Why we love it: The herds of the Great Migration pass through the area from May to July, and this camp puts you front and centre at one of the most dramatic crossing points: the Grumeti River, which is crawling with crocodiles.
- Other experiences: Game drives, refreshing dips in the rim-flow pool, gourmet meals and sundowners on the deck and dinners at the boma under the stars.
Legendary Serengeti Camp
- Location: Legendary Serengeti Camp is unique in that it’s a mobile tented camp that moves its location throughout the year depending on where the Great Migration is expected to be. You’ll find it in the Serengeti’s Western Corridor, close to the banks of the Grumeti River, from May through to the beginning of July.
- Accommodation: There are various luxury tents, each with ensuite facilities. The tents are equipped with bucket-style showers and a veranda area with comfortable lounge furniture to enjoy the sunrise and sunset. Stays at the camp are sold on an exclusive basis for six or more guests (ideal for multigenerational trips) and a semi-exclusive basis for fewer guests.
- Why we love it: Since the camp is mobile, getting close to the action is easy.
- Other experiences: Gorilla trekking, walking safaris, night drives, hot air balloon safaris.
- Location: You’ll find Legendary Lolodge on a working coffee plantation in the shadow of volcanic Mount Meru and on the outskirts of Arusha.
- Accommodation: Legendary Lodge offers 10 private cottages and two spacious family cottages. There’s an onsite spa, restaurant, library and safari boutique. Active visitors will also enjoy easy access to cycling and running trails.
- Why we love it: It’s a multi-faceted lodge ideal for couples and families.
- Other experiences: Guided coffee tours, garden lunches and sundowners, shopping excursions, day trips to national parks.
Chem Chem Lodge
- Location: The aptly-nicknamed “sunset lodge” is unfenced and can be found inside a large wildlife management area sandwiched between Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara.
- Accommodation: At Chem Chem Lodge, you can choose from 8 tented suites (including a family suite), equipped with Wi-Fi, indoor and outdoor showers, fans and mosquito nets. The lodge features a swimming pool and gym facilities, and there’s also the opportunity for guests to indulge in spa treatments.
- Why we love it: It embraces the Slow Safari trend, allowing guests to take part in activities at their own pace and linger a little longer.
- Other experiences: Guided wildlife tracking, run alongside a Maasai warrior, explore tribal culture, hiking at sunrise, helicopter excursions, hot air ballooning.
- Location: Visit Gibb’s Farm in Northern Tanzania, resting on the outer slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater.
- Accommodation: There are seventeen recently refurbished farm cottages, and guests can choose between twin queen or king-sized bedrooms. There are two farm houses for larger travel parties, each with two ensuite bedrooms and a private living area.
- Why we love it: Every aspect of Gibb’s Farm celebrates local Tanzanian culture, providing guests with both unforgettable wildlife experiences and authentic cultural encounters.
- Other experiences: Take part in traditional farming activities, elephant caves walk, half-day safaris, spa treatments, farm-to-table dining.
One Nature Nyaruswiga
- Location: The Serengeti National Park is home to One Nature Nyaruswiga, with views of the Nyaruswiga Hills.
- Accommodation: Guests can settle in one of 14 tented suites (2 of which are family tents), where they’ll enjoy views of the surrounding savannah.
- Why we love it: The lodge caters for all sorts of safari experiences, from family safaris (there’s the ONEder Kids programme for children) to photo safaris.
- Other experiences: Private bush dining, astral observation and stargazing, wellness therapy treatments, hot air ballooning, guided walking safaris.
A tip from an expert
Our Africa Expert, Sherilyn McCulloch, weighs in on what to expect – and what to pack – on your Great Migration safari:
“Migration game drives and crossings can often take hours to commence, from the moment the animals reach the end of the riverbanks to the time that the first brave Wildebeest takes the plunge. It only takes a single wildebeest to set in motion what one can only describe as an “avalanche of animals” diving into the river teeming with massive crocs and hippos.
Before this, the animals will often remain on the banks grazing and contemplating and often being spooked which then send the herd back again. I have personally sat close to the riverbanks for 4 hours before the chaotic crossing ensued and what then felt like only a couple minutes of them being in the water.
That said, be sure that you have an additional, full charged battery pack in your camera bag (most vehicles do have charging stations, however, you don’t want this moment to take place while you are charging) to ensure you don’t miss a thing!
During most of the year the Serengeti is a predominantly dry region. Most of your game viewing takes place on long dusty roads, so be sure to pack a bandana, scarf or “buff” to put over your nose and mouth so that you don’t take half of the Serengeti back with you in your sinuses.”
Be our guest and let us tailor a Great Migration safari to suit your – or your client’s – needs, preferences and budget. No detail should be overlooked when prepping to watch the “Greatest Show on Earth”! Contact us to get started.