The Serengeti – North or South?

by Sandy Salle on April 9, 2019

The Serengeti National Park is 12,000 square miles in northern Tanzania and extends to southwestern Kenya. Its name, which is derived from the Maasai language means “endless plains.” Most famous for it’s wildebeest and zebra migrations, here is an explanation of which area to go to and when and what else you will see.

Southern Region – December through March

The wildebeest migrate around the Serengeti, and into the Masai Mara for the sole purpose of following the rainfall. For their calving from December – March they always begin their cycle in the Southern Serengeti and follow wherever the grass is greener. While we have a good idea of where the wildebeest should be at any given time of year, it really does depend on where the rain falls. The wildebeest are notoriously unreliable, as although they generally all head from south to north Serengeti and back around again, they often zig-zag along the way, making it sometimes impossible to predict where the big herds will be at any given time.

But from December to March the wildebeest are in the southern area of the Serengeti, more specifically in Ndutu which is in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and it is calving season. Along with the river crossings, this is a real highlight of the wildebeest’s journey and a fabulous time to see the herds congregate on the dramatic sweeping plains of the south. February is the only time of year when you are almost guaranteed to see the big herds all together as they always come south for calving season. 

Mega herds of herbivores gather on the plains to build up their strength as lush grass follows the short rains. When they move on, the area is still rich with wildlife, especially faunas depending on the protective micro climates of kopjes, where water collects in basin-like rocks and predators, including lions and jackals, keep vigil from above to see what prey will come to drink. Bizarre aardvark and pangolin feed from towering termite mounds. African hedgehogs, hares and voles dart around the rocks, whilst gaudy lizards scurry over them.

Northern Serengeti – July to October

From July to October each year is when the wildebeest are in the northern Serengeti plains, and you have a chance of seeing up to thousands crossing the great Mara River. As the sight of the wildebeest crossing the so dramatic, it is considered by many the most desirable time to see the migration.

An untouched wilderness region, the northern Serengeti’s Mara River area is relatively inaccessible and devoid of tourists. Comprising a vast pristine area of wooded rolling hills interspersed with open grassy patches and large granite outcrops, the Northern Serengeti boasts stunning landscapes and optimal wildlife viewing for seeing the wildebeest and zebras.

During the dry season, the Mara River famously transforms to a wild stampede with massive herds of wildebeest and zebra thundering across the river, while enormous Nile crocodiles lurk just below the murky surface.

Patience is key in the Northern Serengeti – the wildebeest like to have fun and play games with you. Often they will decide, OK it’s time to cross, and then they get spooked; something’s not quite right, so they change their minds. So enjoy the greatest miracle on earth, this is nature at it’s finest.

To see the best of the migration, there are mobile tented camps that we recommend to our clients such as Lemala Mara Tented Camp.

Sound like a place you want to go? Email us at hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com or call 1-800-940-9344.

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