Best Places to see the Big 5 and the Great Migration
The annual Great Migration of the wildebeest which takes place every year on the Serengeti and the Masai Mara is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles and is, unsurprisingly, a major draw for visitors to these world-renowned nature reserves. If you are planning the safari trip of a lifetime and want to discover the best places to see the big 5 – then read on!
When and where
Where you can observe the migration depends very much on when you are going, as the migration spans two countries – Kenya and Tanzania – and is very much driven by the rainy season, which usually runs from October to May and is at its height in April. What normally happens each year is that, as soon as the rainy season draws to a close in May, the wildebeest set off for the lush grasslands of the Masai Mara. However this year things are a little different, and diminished rainfall has led to the wildebeest beginning their odyssey two months earlier than normal so it will be trickier than usual to pinpoint the best locations in which to stay along the migration route.
Here is the general yearly migration pattern – but bear in mind that due to the rainfall it may not be an accurate predictor of just where the herds are to be found this year. To stay absolutely up to date why not check out www.discoverafrica.com/herdtracker/.
Generally speaking, during the month of April, the herds will begin filtering west and north, travelling through the Seronera Valley and across the Seronera Valley, into the Western Serengeti, so this is the recommended place in which to book your accommodation. Why not choose to stay at Mbalageti Tented Lodge, which offers spectacular views over the plains and the Mbalageti River? Another great option is Kirawira Tented Lodge, the perfect place to stay during the months of May – June as the wildebeest head along the Western Corridor and through the South-Western Masai Mara to reach the daunting obstacle of the Grumeti River with its infamous crocodiles.
Speaking of which – if you want to observe this river crossing try to book into a camp situated along the shores to witness the courageous crossings of the wildebeest as they seek pastures new. Accommodation options include the privately owned Singita Grumeti, with its lavish lodges, Serengeti Simba Lodge or the Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp which occupies a fine vantage point near several crucial crossing points.
After fording the river the herds of wildebeest will head on toward the Lamai Wedge in Kenya and the Mara triangle, reaching the northern Serengeti in August, and they will have to deal with another crocodile-filled obstacle – the Mara River. To witness this nail-biting crossing book a luxuriously appointed room at Mara Serena Safari Lodge or perhaps Mara Intrepids, which is just a short drive from the Mara River and features newly renovated tents with plush four-poster beds.
During the months of September and October, the Mara plains should be a sea of wildebeest, hounded by predators eager to take advantage of this sudden influx of prey. During this period you may want to stay at the exquisite Mara Bushtops camp where staff keep track of the movements of the herds on a daily basis.
Finally, as the brief southern rains begin in late October or November, the herds will make a volte-face and begin the long journey back to Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains to begin the cycle all over again.
Wherever you are staying, whether in the Serengeti or the Masai Mara, you have a fantastic chance of glimpsing all members of the famous ‘Big 5’ as both reserves are teeming with wildlife and afford you some of the best game viewing on the continent. Lodges usually offer between 2 and 3 guided game drives a day to maximise your chances of getting up close to the abundant wildlife, and depending on where you are staying you may also be able to indulge in other amazing safari experiences such as bush walks or hot air balloon rides.