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When the Wildebeests Wander: The Great Migration

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Let us paint you a picture: the lush rippling grass of the Serengeti, the puffs of dirt rising as hooves race over the earth, rippling manes blowing in the breeze. These are just small slices of what you’ll see when the Great Wildebeest Migration occurs this year – and even then, you won’t be able to comprehend one of nature’s most astounding phenomena in its entirety.

Walking Safaris Plains

The annual migration of wildebeest begins in the Southern area of Tanzania, looping in a clockwork direction through Serengeti National Park and then north towards the Maasai Mara reserve in Kenya. But what is truly miraculous about this circular migration is the sheer size of it. Near 1.7 million wildebeest, 260,000 zebras, 460,000 gazelles and other plains game make the journey across these natural reserves, based on the availability of food, water and grazing space. The migration stretches over months and obeys some of our most instinctive instincts – the search for food and water and the comfort of a wider community.

Given that this is a natural phenomenon, it makes this great journey unpredictable and hard to track sometimes. However, there is a broader pattern that you can follow, and given the length of this occurrence, you can take your time to decide where and when you’ll witness this moment. Below are your options – you can book a tour with Thomas Cook and witness the migration from different locations (as well as getting a wider tour of Africa). However, one of the best places to view the Migration from is Kenya, which is why we’ve designed packages that explore this region extensively.

So, sit back, relax and take a journey to the African plains with us.

The Great Migration Timeline

As we’ve mentioned before – nature is unpredictable. It is simultaneously enchanting and frustrating to track its behaviour. Luckily for you, the Great Migration takes place annually and follows a broad path – so if you choose wisely, you’ll get to be a part of it this year.

We begin in November – before the migration starts. As this migration is powered by the need for food and water, rainfall is essential. November is usually witness to short rains, which continue till December. This is when herds arrive on the short-grass plains of the Serengeti, around the area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. February is also the time when you’ll see plenty of wobbly new-born calves – all of whom will undertake this great journey with their parents and the wider community.

The month of April is when the herds start to move north. By May, the journey is fully underway. You’ll see thundering masses of game streaking across the areas of Moru Kopjes and Seronera (both in Tanzania).

In June, you’ll see them massing near the south side of the Grumeti River. Although the river isn’t perilous, it is filled with swirling pools and channels, where the crocodiles lie waiting. The herd often gathers here before crossing, taking on the river together.

In July and August, the herds continue north to the heart of the Serengeti reserves, while smaller groups may break off heading towards Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo.

September is when the migration meets its biggest obstacle – the mighty Mara river. The river powers its path through northern Serengeti from Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve. This is one of the most exciting spectacles to watch, as hundreds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles charge their way through the river’s currents.

By October, the herds are migrating towards the south, going through Western Loliondo and the Lobo area of Serengeti, heading back to the green grass of the Serengeti as the November rains approach. And thus, the cycle of life for the wildebeest continues…

The good news is that the migration has plenty to offer for the curious or the nature lover. Although the migration starts in the Serengeti, the most popular place to see these breath-taking visuals is in Kenya. We, at Thomas Cook, have designed our holiday packages keeping that in mind. We’ve chosen some of the best locations to view the Great Migration, and other wildlife wonders.

Maasai Mara

This park is all about multitudes – multiples species of animals and birds, multiple landscapes and is even called by multiple names – Masai Mara, Maasai Mara and even The Mara.

The park, named Mara, which is the Masai word for “spotted”, is spotted with circles of trees, shrubs and even cloud shadows that are cast across the plains. If you’re looking for a rich assortment of wildlife and ecosystems, Masai Mara is the park for you. It is famous, across the world, for its lion, cheetah and leopard population. The Natural Reserve is only one part of the greater Mara Ecosystem, which includes multiple reserves that can be explored.

Ribboning their way across this reserve are the beautiful Mara, Talek (a tributary of Mara) and the Sand rivers, which are home to the mighty hippopotami.

Lake Naivasha

This freshwater lake in Kenya sits at the highest elevation of the Kenyan Rift Valley and is fed through two perennial rivers, ensuring a steady supply of water. It is home to 400 different varieties of birds, hippos and other wildlife. Its name is derived from a local Maasai name Nai’posha, meaning rough water.

Amboseli National Park

Formerly known as Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, the Amboseli National Park in Kenya is one of the best places in the world to view free-ranging elephants. Furthermore, the park is home to native Maasai people. You can also catch stunning glimpses of the magnificent Kilimanjaro – a dormant volcano in Tanzania.

Tsavo National Park

Named after the Tsavo River that flows west to east in this region, the Tsavo National Park is one of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya. Here you’ll be able to visit iconic landmarks like the Yatta Plateau – the longest lava flow, the Lugard falls, the Mudanda Rock and (it goes without saying) diverse wildlife.

Discover the Great Wildebeest Migration with Thomas Cook

As we’ve noted earlier, catching the migration is all about timing and which parts you’d like to see. Luckily, the migration isn’t the only thing you need to look forward to when you travel with Thomas Cook. Check out our holiday packages, where you’ll discover what this country has to offer!

Kenyan Discovery – 6 days / 7 nights

If you’re all about the safari, this package is for you. Enjoy visits to Amboseli Park, Masai Mara and Tsavo National Park, where you’ll see the landscapes and wildlife that you’ve only dreamed of. A serene visit to Lake Naivasha will balance out the wild and incredible experience of these safaris. All you need to do is keep your eyes wide open to catch these incredible sights, we’ll handle the rest.

Check out the package details, here.

Kenyan Safari – 6 days / 7 nights

Just say the word and we’ll whisk you away to the land of safaris. You’ll start with a tour of Nairobi, followed by visits to Aberdare National Park, Sweetwaters Game Sanctuary, Lake Naivasha and Maasai Mara. You’ll see the Big Five of Africa – Lions, Leopards, Buffalo, Rhinos and Elephants, you’ll visit grasslands, watering holes and lakes. This is your chance to fully immerse yourself in the Kenyan Safari experience!

Check out the package details, here.

Grand Bargain South Africa with 3 Nights in Kenya

Got a little extra time to spare? Or have you saved your leaves for a longer holiday? Whatever the case, we’ve designed a holiday package that will take you on a tour of this beautiful country – giving you a taste of city life and safari excitement. You’ll sail on a lovely cruise and visit African penguins on Boulders Beach, you’ll visit gorgeous Cape Town, Johannesburg, Knysna and soak in all it that they have to offer, you’ll drive through Masai Mara for the quintessential safari – and we’ve just barely scratched the surface of this holiday. The Grand Bargain South Africa package is all that you’ve dreamed of – and more. You’ll only wish that you could have stayed longer.

Check out the African tour package details here. So, have you chosen where you’ll be during the grand migration? Which package will you choose? And once you’re in South Africa, what will you see? The answers to these questions could turn into one the greatest experiences of your life! Don’t miss it.

Recommended read: Discover South Africa – Beyond traditional Safari Route

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