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03 November 2021

Animal Migration in Africa

One of the most awe-inspiring sights in nature is large numbers of animals moving together with a collective purpose.

From the famous wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania, to the lesser-known but equally impressive migrations in Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa, we list below a few of these incredible movements that you might like to witness on your next safari.

If you’d like to discuss planning a holiday to see an animal migration in Africa, please give us a call on ​+44 (0) 208 547 2305 or send our experts a message here.

The Great Wildebeest Migration, Tanzania & Kenya

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wildebeest, songo migrational camp, serengeti, tanzania
the great migration, serengeti, ubuntu camp, tanzania

Africa witnesses several great migrations each year, the most famous of these being the Great Wildebeest Migration across the open plains of the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara, an annual journey of 800 km undertaken by over 1.5 million wildebeest and around 200,000 zebra. The herds of the Great Wildebeest Migration follow a similar route every year, through the Serengeti and up into the Maasai Mara. The herds cross the Mara river between July and October, creating one of the most-filmed wildlife spectacles in the natural world. Some river crossings can last for over three hours, with over 10,000 animals attempting to cross. It is difficult to describe how invested onlookers can become while watching such a perilous journey. Another equally rewarding time to see the herds is between January and March in the southern Serengeti, as this is calving season. The wildebeest all give birth in a short period of 3 to 4 weeks – this is the arrival of new life into the world on a massive scale!

The tracking of the Great Wildebeest Migration actually inspired the Yellow Zebra name: the first researchers to track the movements of the wildebeest and zebra chose to paint several zebras yellow so they could be tracked from the air, enabling researchers to follow the individual animals on their journey within the massive herds. There are several mobile camps in the Serengeti that follow the migrations. These are set up in the best locations and it is not uncommon to see wildebeest wandering through. Serian's mobile camps and Serengeti Safari Camp are two of our favourites at YZ.

Zebra Migration, Botswana

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San Camp   Luxury Safaris Botswana (25)
shadows, zebra migration, jacks camp, botswana

Another impressive zebra migration takes place in Botswana. This sees the herds moving from the Chobe river and the Okavango Delta in the dry season to the salt pans of the Kalahari Desert during the rains. Now recognised as the longest land wildlife migration in Africa, it involves the zebras travelling around 1000 km each year to find fresh grazing and avoid the floods. Our top tips for accommodation are Kings Pool in the Linyanti, for the dry season from June to October, and Jack's Camp in the Makgadikgadi pans, from January to March.

 

Bat Migration, Zambia

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bat migration, robin pope walking safaris, zambia
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All the zebra numbers are dwarfed, however, by the figure of 10 million, which is the number of fruit bats that make the annual bat migration in Kasanka National Park in Northern Zambia, between October and December every year. This aerial migration is made all the more spectacular not only by the number of animals but also by the fact that they all congregate in just a few hectares of forest – the intensity of activity is incredible. Yellow Zebra’s safari specialists can certainly design an itinerary that includes a visit to Kasanka.

 

Flamingo Migration, Kenya

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flamingo migration, lake elementaita, kenya
pair of flamingos, lake nakuru, kenya

Perhaps the prettiest of the migrations in Africa is the lesser flamingo migration; from April to June they congregate in Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru in Kenya. These warm shallow lakes are the perfect breeding ground for these unique birds. Watching the vast flocks of flamingos take flight from the water and fly in huge ‘V’ formations is breathtaking, especially when seen from above. And spending a few days at Loldia House or Deloraine House will allow you to include a trip to the lakes in your safari.

Wildebeest Migration, Zambia

the great wildebeest migration, liuwa plain, zambia safaris

Following the rains and breeding are often the motivating factors in this mass animal movement. On the Liuwa Plains in western Zambia, the rains and fresh grazing inspire the movement of one of the lesser-known migrations. Approximately 45,000 wildebeest migrate into the park between September and November, joining the park’s resident populations of red lechwe, roan antelope, lion, leopard, wild dog, and others to create a hive of activity. As there are far fewer visitors here than in the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara, you can often get to witness this impressive movement without another vehicle in sight, a perfect wilderness experience. King Lewanika Camp is hidden away in the Liuwa Plains, a safari enthusiast’s dream of a park, where you can enjoy a wealth of activities.

Southern Right Whale Migration, South Africa

whale safaris, marine hotel, hermanus, south africa
whale migration, marine hotel, hermanus, south africa
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For the final migration, we’re leaving land and taking to the sea. From June to November each year, Hermanus in South Africa sees the migration of Southern Right whales. They come to the area from their summer feeding ground in the Antarctic to mate and give birth. The sheltered bays around the town offer the young claves a greater level of protection. The Marine Hotel Hermanus or Ocean’s Eleven Guest House are perfectly located for whale watching trips.

For many travellers, seeing a unique event like a migration is the initial inspiration for choosing a destination. Finding a specialist to advise and organise the perfect trip is where Yellow Zebra can step in and do the hard work for you. Our specialists have visited many of the areas mentioned in this article and would love to share their personal experiences and knowledge to help you plan your migration safari.

 

FAQs

Why do wildebeest migrate?

Vast herds of wildebeest migrate from the southern Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya's Maasai Mara in their constant search for fresh grasses. In essence, the wildebeest are following the rains. They spend the wet season on the southern plains and the dry season in the northern woodlands of the Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem.

How long is the wildebeest migration?

The Great Migration is a cyclical event that takes place all year. Travelling to the right area of the Serengeti in any month guarantees sightings of the herds.

Where do wildebeest migrate from and to?

The wet season (from December through to May) sees the herds in the southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is calving season. May and June is a transitional period as the herds move north to their dry season grazing grounds of the Maasai Mara and northern Serengeti. Finally comes the dry season (from July though to October) when the herds are located in the far north of the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara. This is river crossing season. The herds then enter a transitional period again (November and early December) as they move south to the wet season grazing grounds in the south of the park.

Why do zebra and wildebeest migrate together?

Though the Great Migration is made up of 1.5 million wildebeest, it also contains around 300,000 zebra. Zebra and wildebeest have a harmonious relationship because they each eat different parts of the same type of grass.

Wildebeest have a good sense of hearing and smell, while zebra have great eye sight, so the combination of the two migrating together means they are great in looking out for any threat.

Our specialists have visited many of the areas mentioned in this article and would love to share their personal experiences and knowledge to help you plan your migration safari. Contact our expert team to find out more.

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