Say “African wildlife” and the first image that pops into many people’s heads is a river churning with wildebeests and the occasional croc. That river is the Mara River, and it is located in northern Tanzania, where it cuts across the uppermost part of Serengeti National Park. Here and in the central Serengeti and the Masai Mara, from June through November you can follow the annual migration of millions of wildebeests and zebras. So if you are thinking about seeing the Serengeti Migration in 2015, you’re about 8 to 9 months out from the expected beginning of the migration, which is a great time to start looking into camp availability.
I stress “expected” to our guests because no one can predict the migration’s timing with certainty. Everything is based on the weather, because the migration is driven by the wildebeests’ search for food and grasses. For this reason, we recommend mobile camps with experienced guides for our guests in the Serengeti. These camps – equipped with a comfortable bed and a hot shower and great food – can move to make sure that they are positioned for the best sightings, regardless of that year’s particular timing. That said, the camps change location about five times per year, so it won’t be moving during your stay. Of course, the Migration is the star attraction, but there’s great resident game-viewing in the northern Serengeti, especially the big cats, who don’t migrate south.
Cheetah at Kusini Camp, Serengeti, National Park, Tanzania
There’s so much attention on the June to November migration period that people are often surprised to learn that the Serengeti can be a wonderful place in January through March. At this time of year the wildebeests and zebras are calving in the southern Serengeti, and you can expect to see lots of babies. When I went in February a few years ago it was absolutely beautiful, with just one afternoon thunderstorm. In addition to a fabulous leopard sighting, we also spotted a newborn, wet wildebeest stand up and take his wobbly legs on the first run of his life. Once he had it figured out, we laughed watching mom chase him down.
Lamai Serengeti, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
When you’re in the southern Serengeti, you’re in great position to experience the most authentic cultural interactions with the Masaii that Tanzania has to offer with a visit to the villages outside Nduara Loliondo. And you’re within driving range of the Ngorongoro Crater. If you wanted to drive between the Serengeti and the Crater you’d watch as the landscape changes from plains and forested land to rolling hills as you approach the crater.
The Serengeti ecosystem is a wonderful place to explore any time of year. If your dream is to witness the migration, keep in mind that you will need to time your visit around the migration’s expected patterns. But if you are simply hoping to satisfy your dream of seeing some of Africa’s best wildlife – and cutest baby animals – you can plan a visit almost any time of year and not be disappointed.