It’s one of the most dramatic, made-for-nature-video moments in the animal kingdom: the sight of thousands upon thousands of wildebeest hurling themselves into a river, desperately trying to outrace the crocodiles snapping at their hooves as they race to reach the other side.
But there’s more to the so-called “great migration” than the well-known river crossing. The migration is actually a continuous movement of some two million grazing animals—primarily wildebeest (which make up between 2/3 – 3/4 of the herds) and zebras—in an ongoing search for sources of food and water.
Though the exact timing of the migration changes year to year based on environmental factors, the herds constantly cycle from the southern Serengeti, where calves are born around the beginning of the year, up towards the northern borders of Tanzania and into Kenya around August and September, then back down towards the calving grounds over the last few months of the year. Overall, 85% or more of the cycle occurs in the Tanzanian Serengeti.
At different times of year, travelers can expect to see different unique and captivating moments in the migration, from wobbling calves trying (and often failing) to stay on their feet in the green season, to increasingly dense concentrations of animals—both predator and prey—converging on the few permanent water sources that remain through the dry season.
In a way, the migration is more than just a movement of animals; it’s a chance to watch the circle of life in action.
Want to know where the migration will be during your safari? Check out this handy graphic to get a sense of how and when the herds are on the move: