A Guide to the Serengeti Great Migration in January

By Julian 01 June 2017

Tanzania's Serengeti Great Migration; a guide to January

The Serengeti is the ‘mother’ of all safari parks and the Great Migration one of the planets most impressive wildlife events; this is a park that epitomises the very essence of safari. Home to the largest herds on earth and with Africa’s Big Five on show, the Serengeti is one of those rare places that exceeds your expectations.

The 1.5 million strong 'Wildebeest Great Migration' is the parks major attraction and the majority of trips to the Serengeti should be designed around it. In this 12-part month by month blog series, I look at each month’s movements of the herds and all the other wildlife caught up in the action. I will also link you to my suggestions for the best places to stay throughout the year, to make sure you’re in the thick of the herds whenever you travel. And there are a few suggestions for how you might like to combine your Great Migration trip with other areas. Intrigued? Read on… 

A Guide to the Serengeti Migration in January

January sees the herds starting to settle into the short grass plains around Lake Ndutu, just south of the border with the national park itself. This immense region of short-grass plains is classic Serengeti, with vast open skies and endless savanna stretching as far as the eye can see. January is often the start of calving with the fertile soil and nutrient-rich grasses here providing the perfect start to new life… and in return draw in the predators! The best game viewing at this time of year stretches across much of the southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area – from Maswa to Gol, as far south as Kakesio, and as far north as the Moru Kopjes. Localised rainfall drives their movement. This is also the location of the highest concentrations of predators in Africa at any time of year!

Summary – Excellent cat viewing (especially cheetah!) and large herds of the Great Migration spread across the entirety of the southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. January is also a slightly quieter travel period than February or Christmas. A peak calving month.

VIDEO OVERVIEW - Below is a 60 second video overview of the movement of the Great Migration in January.

WHERE TO STAY? Follow this link to a blog and video on where best to stay for the herds in January.

WHAT IS THE BEST SAFARI IN JANUARY? Beneath the video below is more information on the parks I would combine with the Serengeti in January, and also my suggestion for the best safaris.

What parks are best to combine with the Serengeti in January?

  • The Ngorongoro Crater is virtually impossible to turn down. This spectacular game-drive area may be busy, but how often are you going to have the opportunity to drive on the floor of an extinct volcano… and with one of the highest densities of animals anywhere all around you?! The setting is nothing short of exceptional.
  • The Serengeti is vast. In January I’ve always believed the best trips involve two locations in the park so you either a) maximise your chance of seeing the ‘mega’ herds by spitting your time across two locations in the southern plains or b) explore a quiet part of the park (such as the far north or Singita and Grumeti in the west), where you will have luxury lodges at low prices and basically have a game drive area all to yourself!
  • Nearby Lake Manyara is always a nice ‘soft’ introduction to the region. Famous for its tree climbing lions it is a busy park in terms of tourists and a location that splits opinion amongst guides.
  • Only a few people visit Tarangire in January, preferring to wait until the herds arrive later in the year. It is an interesting addition if you are prepared to work for your sightings.
  • My secret spot in the north is Lake Natron, for the quality of walking, the sheer beauty of the scenery, and the fact you are off the tourist track – I think it’s well worth a visit. You have to want to be adventurous, though!
  • And finally, the beaches of the Zanzibar Archipelago or Tanzania's mainland coast…or further afield to the Seychelles or Mauritius? The beach options are endless, and picture perfect.

The best Serengeti safaris in january

I’ve always believed the best trips in January start with the Ngorongoro region (potentially with Lake Manyara) before heading into the Serengeti for a stay with the herds in the southern plains of the park. I’d then suggest splitting your location in the park and including another location in the far north. Lamai Serengeti’s reduced rates are very attractive. At this time of year, the Serengeti is wild, remote, and with very few tourists, so you can enjoy amazing lodges at reduced rates and a special part of the park all to yourself! Personally I’d always include Lake Natron for a couple of nights of adventure!

Are you looking to arrange a safari?

If so, then we would love to help you design it! With all the information on the net today we quite often find clients somewhat confused and flooded with information. The best thing you can do is to speak to someone in the YZ office about your plans. We have three members of staff who have worked in the Serengeti and can talk you through the best options for you, at the right time of year.

Wies ([email protected], pronounced Veece!) is a professional safari guide and camp manager, while Lauren ([email protected]) worked for Legendary Expeditions and Mwiba. They know the Serengeti backwards… and they love to chat about it!

Please feel free to get in touch with either them or myself on [email protected].