The Great Migration, East Africa
The earth vibrates with the thundering of millions of hooves as heaving herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles fill the plains to chase the rains in the epic annual struggle for survival known as the Great Migration. It is the greatest show on earth, a natural spectacle like no other and a life-changing experience. With a presence all along the migration route, Africa Sasa will take you to the best place to spot the show.
Few lifetime experiences can beat that of watching over a million wildebeest plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebra – followed by their predators – embark on a 1 000km-long circular trek through the unfenced Maasai Mara and Serengeti in search of seasonal pasture and water. This natural spectacle is both thrilling and profoundly moving.
What is the Great Migration
The annual wildebeest Migration is a drama in two acts: the arresting dash for freedom as the herds swarm across the Mara and other rivers in the north – braving enormous Nile crocodiles, lion, hyena, cheetah and leopard – in search of water and new grazing, followed by the remarkable months of calving in the lush grasslands of the south.
It is the largest herd movement of animals on the planet. In fact, with up to 1 000 animals per km2, it can be seen from space. The numbers are astonishing: over 1,2 million wildebeest and 300 000 zebra along with topi and other gazelle move in a constant cycle through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in search of nutritious grass and water. Guided by survival instinct, each wildebeest will cover 800 to 1 000km on its individual journey along age-old migration routes. Hungry predators – lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and crocs – make sure only the strongest survive.
It is thought that rainfall over 50km away can trigger the start of the mass movement – perhaps through smell or the recognition of thunder and lightening on the horizon. The circuit takes the animals from the Ngongorogoro Conservation Area in the south of the Serengeti in Tanzania, up through the Serengeti and across into the Maasai Mara, and back again. The journey is beset with danger: young calves are snatched by predators, the slow are brought down by prides of lion, brave beasts break legs on steep river slopes, crocodiles take their share of the stragglers, and the weak and exhausted drown.
There is something truly remarkable about the mass calving of wildebeest between late January and early March. Within a matter of weeks, most female wildebeest drop their calves in a synchronised birthing that sees the Serengeti’s southern plains filled with over 400 000 young. Estimates are that 8 000 wildebeest are born a day – that is 300 every hour!
While lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and wild dog certainly eat their fill of these gangly baby gnus, the synchronised calving is an effective survival mechanism for the species: there is simply too much food for the predators to consume.
Did You Know?
The Serengeti-Mara’s unique combination of soils and climate provide the perfect conditions for the wildebeest to live in such large migratory herds. Their ability to capitalise on the region’s changing grass conditions, their mobility to help them escape predation and their short, synchronized calving system all combine to make them the most successful large herbivore in the ecosystem.
Strictly speaking, there is no ‘migration season’ as the Great Migration is, in fact, an eternal annual cycle from place to place, year in and year out. So whether the great herds are calving in the south or on the move north in search of greener pastures – and then back again – there is a huge variety of astounding scenes unfolding before you.
Itineraries – Best of Kenya & Tanzania
Combine Kenya and Tanzania in a fly-in safari for excellent and rewarding game viewing in some of the continent’s best national parks.
Start your trip in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, a reserve that needs little introduction. From to July to November, watch as the herds of wildebeest plunge across the Mara River in the awe-inspiring Great Migration or traverse the plains in search of the Big Five. Fly to the Serengeti in Tanzania and explore the unspoilt Northern region on foot before moving to the central game-rich plains. Finally, explore the stunning crater highlands of the NCA and the jewel in the crown, the Ngorongoro Crater.
Sample Itinerary #1
Hemingways, Nairobi, Kenya
Recharge your batteries after your flight at Hemingways, a boutique retreat in the leafy suburb of Karen in Nairobi. Relax in the spacious and elegantly styled rooms, visit nearby Giraffe Manor for an infamous ‘giraffe kiss’ or spend time with the baby elephants at Daphne Sheldrick’s elephant orphanage.
DAYS 2 – 4
Rekero Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya
Begin your wildlife adventure at Rekero, a friendly and relaxed camp with a team of world-renowned guides that ensure an incomparable Maasai Mara safari. Watch as the wildebeest thunder across the Mara River straight from camp or traverse the rolling plains on a game drive to find the world-famous Marsh pride of lion
The Great Migration (July/August to November)
DAYS 5 & 6
Sayari Camp, Northern Serengeti, Tanzania
Your first taste of the Serengeti will be the beautiful and unspoilt Northern plains where extraordinary wilderness encounters are commonplace, both from a vehicle and on foot. And experience it in remarkable luxury from award-winning Sayari camp, a contemporary and elegant safari escape.
The Great Migration (July/August – November)
DAYS 7 & 8
Dunia Camp, Central Serengeti, Tanzania
Explore the heart of the Serengeti from Dunia, a tranquil tented camp with expansive views of the pristine wilderness. Enjoy superb sightings of resident game, migration viewing twice a year and round it all off by gliding serenely above the plains on a sunrise balloon safari
The Great Migration (May/June & November/December)
DAYS 9 & 10
The Highlands, Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Explore the magnificent crater highlands of the NCA, straight from the door of The Highlands Camp. Follow ancient Maasai trails to the top of the Olmoti Crater or descend to the sparkling soda lake on the floor of Empakaai. And of course explore the jewel in the crown, the Ngorongoro Crater itself, home to some of the richest game viewing on the continent.
Guided walks & hikes
Cultural & community visits
Your last day on the Highlands, Ngorongoro
Depending on your arrangements, spend a last morning deep in this beautiful wilderness before transferring to the airstrip for the next part of your journey.
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Itineraries – Best of Tanzania
In a nutshell, Tanzania is a dream safari destination. The ‘Best of Tanzania’ itinerary is designed to make the most of some of the best game-viewing areas the country has to offer.
Start your adventure in Tarangire and learn about the inner workings of the bush on a walking safari before moving to the Serengeti to marvel at the endless golden plains and the herds of wildebeest thundering across the landscape in the Great Migration. Stay at three of Asilia’s most exclusive camps and enjoy personalised service and friendly Tanzanian hospitality wherever you go.
Sample Itinerary #2
Arusha Coffee Lodge,
Nestled in the foothills of Mount Meru among the verdant coffee bushes of one of Tanzania’s largest coffee plantations is the idyllic Arusha Coffee Lodge. A short drive from Arusha airport, this is the perfect haven for relaxation before your African safari begins.
DAYS 2 – 4
Oliver’s Camp, Tarangire National Park
Discover Africa just as it should be from Oliver’s Camp in the remote southern reaches of Tarangire. Game drive through forests of enigmatic baobab, home to vast herds of buffalo and elephant, or discover the inner workings of the bush on foot on an exclusive walking safari.
Dunia Camp, Central Serengeti
Explore the heart of the Serengeti from Dunia, a tranquil tented camp with expansive views of the pristine wilderness. Enjoy superb sightings of resident game, migration viewing twice a year and round it all off by gliding serenely above the plains on a sunrise balloon safari.
The Great Migration (May/June and November/December)
DAYS 8 – 10
Sayari Camp, Northern Serengeti
Continue your exploration of the Serengeti on the beautiful and unspoilt Northern plains where extraordinary wilderness encounters are commonplace, both from a vehicle and on foot. And do it all in remarkable luxury from award-winning Sayari camp, a contemporary and elegant safari escape.
The Great Migration (July/August to November)
Your last day at Sayari Camp,
Depending on your arrangements, enjoy a final game drive deep in the wilderness before transferring to the airstrip for the next part of your journey.
Enquire about this itinerary