Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater

At 14,763 square kilometres in size, the Serengeti is arguably the finest national park in Africa and offers a wealth of wildlife viewing opportunities. Pretty much every large animal in East Africa can be regularly seen in the national park or wider ecosystem. When you include all the contiguous protected areas, of which Ngorongoro is one of the most noteworthy, the total size of the entire Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is a staggering 30,000 square kilometres packed choc-full of truly extraordinary wildlife sightings. Renowned for its predators – especially lions, leopards and cheetahs – and with plenty of elephants favouring the western woodlands of Grumeti, the Serengeti dazzles even the most hardened safari critics. There is even a recovering black rhino population concentrated around Moru Kopjes giving visitors a realistic chance to sighting all of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo), although the critically endangered black rhinos will undoubtedly prove the greatest challenge. The Serengeti ecosystem is also a renowned bird-watching destination, with over 500 species recorded to date.

Walking safari in the Serengeti NP

Exploring the unique Ngorongoro Crater – surrounded by the towering volcanic walls on every side and blessed with prolific and extremely well-habituated wildlife – almost feels like you’re driving through a zoo; only the surrounding crater scenery is jaw-droppingly impressive. With the greater Serengeti ecosystem so blessed with wildlife and scenic beauty, it is hard to imagine it could have anything more to offer, but the great East African migration steals the show.

Ngorongoro Crater Predators abound in the Serengeti

Moru Kopjes

Highlights

When it comes to Serengeti highlights there are so many (as alluded to previously), but there is quite simply nothing to match the migration with its sheer numbers, noise, majesty and splendour. Importantly, there is no beginning or end to the migration, so you can witness the great herds during any month of the year so long as you plan your safari to visit the right region within the ecosystem to coincide with where the animals are concentrated at that particular time of the cycle. The rainfall drives the movement patterns of the great herds of wildebeest and other plains game, so it must be emphasized that the description below refers to a typical year of normal rainfall in the usual seasons. It is not uncommon for the wildebeest movements to be delayed or sped up if unseasonal rain falls in another part of the ecosystem, attracting the animals to the green flush that follows. Typically the wildebeest and zebra herds, along with decent numbers of eland and gazelles, will shift as follows:

  • In January and February the great herds are ensconced on the nutritious short-grass plains in the south and southeast of the ecosystem with their newly born calves. The zebra and gazelle do not have a pronounced birth spike like the wildebeest and their birthing period is more spread out between the months of December and April.

    Calving season is in full swing in Jan and Feb

  • In March and April, at the height of the green or emerald season, the great herds typically start to come together with their young calves usually in the vicinity of Naabi Hills on the southern plains where they reach their highest densities.

Naabi Hills

  • In April or May, the northward migration begins (this is called the Moru Crush when the migration exits the plains through a narrow valley at Moru Kopjes) with the wildebeest rut then taking place around May in the Seronera region of the central Serengeti.

The Moru Crush

  • May or June sees the first of the iconic river crossings when the herds make their way across the Grumeti River in the western Serengeti.

  • July to October sees the herds enter the far north of the ecosystem as they cross the Mara River in the northern Serengeti in what many safari stalwarts consider to be the holy grail of safari sightings. It certainly is a sight to behold: thousands of wildebeest plunging into crocodile-infested waters driven forward by instinct and an irresistible urge to access fresh grazing on the other side.

Crocodiles have a feast during a river crossing

  • From October to November, the herds turn and move southward and into the central Serengeti once more. This is probably the most unpredictable time with huge columns of wildebeest veering off – often back into the western corridor – depending on wherever the first showers have fallen and fresh green grass is emerging.

The western corridor

Practical advice

The migration is quite unique in that it is a perpetual phenomenon without beginning or end. It is universally regarded as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth. The sound alone is deafeningly impressive. It is, however, often very difficult to appreciate the scope and sheer size of the migration because, without a bird’s eye view of proceedings, it is difficult to comprehend the sprawling scale of the wildebeest numbers. A sunrise hot air balloon ride is the ideal way to appreciate the huge herds and long columns of plodding animals. Standing atop a rocky kopje is another recommended way to gain some perspective to better appreciate the sheer number of animals involved.

While most safari goers target the June-July period for the western corridor and Grumeti River crossings, as well as the July-October period for Lamai and the Mara River crossings, there is a strong argument for waiting for the less popular rainy season months to view the wildebeest in the southern plains when they give birth to half a million calves over a three week period – usually in February.


Popular Tanzania Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Experience the best of Africa, from the Okavango Delta – one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – to the endangered mountain gorillas and East Africa's Great Migration...

 | HerdTracker July/October Great Wildebeest Migration safari

HerdTracker July/October Great Wildebeest Migration safari

The movement takes place in Tanzania, which covers Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Arusha and Tarangire National Park...

 | Great Migration Safari in the Serengeti (9 days)

Great Migration Safari in the Serengeti (9 days)

Join HerdTracker on a Tanzania migration safari in the Serengeti National Park....

 | Tanzania July to October Great Migration Safari with HerdTracker (9 days)

Tanzania July to October Great Migration Safari with HerdTracker (9 days)

The wildebeest migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonder of the World” and also known as The World Cup of Wildlife. If there is a safari you should go on, this has to be it!...

 | Gorilla trekking and the Great Migration Combined (11 days)

Gorilla trekking and the Great Migration Combined (11 days)

Unforgettable experience in the jungles of Rwanda to track the last Mountain gorillas on earth and view the awesome Great Migration river crossings...

Close up view of Wildebeest | Medium Budget, Maximum Game Viewing in Tanzania’s North (11 days)

Medium Budget, Maximum Game Viewing in Tanzania’s North (11 days)

Visit Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorogoro Crater and Serengeti for a four-in-one safari you'll remember forever...

 | February Calving Season Safari in Tanzania (9 days)

February Calving Season Safari in Tanzania (9 days)

Visit Tanzania during the calving season to see wildebeest calves join the massive herds making their way through the Serengeti for the great migration....

 | Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania (8 days)

Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania (8 days)

See the beauty of nature's greatest wildlife spectacle in two countries...

 | Honeymoon Safari in the Serengeti National Park (6 days)

Honeymoon Safari in the Serengeti National Park (6 days)

Enjoy a romantic honeymoon at the Ngorongoro Crater where you can spot the Big Five and experience the wildlife-rich Serengeti National Park...

 | Wildebeest Migration, Ngorongoro & Zanzibar Journey (12 days)

Wildebeest Migration, Ngorongoro & Zanzibar Journey (12 days)

This blockbuster Tanzania safari will show you the best of the country's outstanding wildlife and the beach paradise of Zanzibar...

You might also like

Have some ideas?
Contact us and get a customised no-obligation itinerary

+27 (0)21 422 3498
   discover.africa
    info@discoverafrica.com
    Mon - Fri: 8AM - 9PM GMT+2