How to See the Great Wildebeest Migration

Wildebeest, Great Migration, Tanzania, Africa
Photo: Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images

Often hailed as one of the wonders of the natural world, Africa's great wildebeest migration is an incredible event to witness. Every year, between 1.5 and two million or more wildebeest — along with gazelles and zebra — stampede Lion King-style across the veldt of southern Africa. When dry, cool August descends upon the Serengeti in Tanzania, the wildebeest begin their astounding journey north, following the rains to the Masai Mara in Kenya. In a single year, these massive herds can migrate nearly 1,000 miles during one of the largest mammal migrations on Earth.

If witnessing this incredible journey is on your bucket list, here's everything you need to know about seeing the "great migration."

Wildebeest Herd, Great Migration, Mara River, Tanzania, Africa
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Following the Migration Path

Rather than a singular occurrence, it helps to think of the great migration as an ongoing, circuitous event that is governed by the seasons and the availability of food. From December until May, the wildebeest are largely concentrated in the southern Serengeti. Here, they birth their young before slowly working their way northwest across the grassy plains. In April and May, the herds will follow the Grumeti River that snakes its way across Serengeti National Park.

By June, when the rainy season starts to wind down and the prairie grasses are exhausted, the herds will continue their migration to Kenya's Masai Mara. Mid-July through mid-September is the best time to see the great migration — and your chances of witnessing a river crossing are generally much higher. Come early October, the rainy season in Tanzania will commence, and the herds will embark on their return journey back to the Serengeti.

But because the herds are always on the move, it's possible to see the wildebeest any time of year — as long as you're strategic about your location. Travel agent Lisa Lindblad recommends positioning yourself in the Masai Mara as early as July.

Zebra and Wildebeest, Great Migration, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa
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How to See the Herds

Guarantee you'll see the great wildebeest migration by hiring a professional guide or safari operator. Experts in the area can make sure you have a perfect vantage point to watch the animals thundering across the plains.

Natural Habitat Adventures is best known for its focus on conservation and as the first carbon-neutral travel company. It is also a partner of the World Wildlife Fund, the world's leading conservation organization. Safari itineraries focus on small groups and lodges in less-traveled settings.

For something more luxurious, consider Abercrombie & Kent. This company arranges high-end trips with tented camps and elegant safari lodges. Travelers can also go all-out with a 15-day Grand Safari by Micato. This two-week adventure includes a hot-air balloon tour and stays at properties like the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti or the and Beyond Bateleur Camp (complete with private butlers and commanding views of the Mara plains).

In addition to seeing the migration, a trip to Africa for a safari will give travelers the opportunity to meet local Masai naturalists, for example, or members of the Hadza tribe. Be sure to speak with your guide not just about wildlife but also about the varied cultures of southern Africa.

If you can't make your way to Africa to see the wildebeest migration in person, there's another option: The web app HerdTracker makes it possible to follow the live migration virtually.

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