There are many significant natural and man made shifts that happen on earth once a year: the change from winter into spring, the day the clocks go forward, the end of one year and the simultaneously beginning of the next. Yet perhaps one of the most impressive shifts that only one part of the world sees, is the Great Migration of Serengeti and Masai Mara.
These vast national parks; the Serengeti within the country of Tanzania and Masai Mara reaching into Kenya, play host to a huge array of wildlife, including rhinos, elephants, giraffes, lions, wildebeests, cheetahs, hippopotami and many different species of antelope. The great migration of many of these animals begins in July, when they move from the increasingly hot southern Serengeti, to the cooler, northern Masai Mara. Then when the seasons shift and the Masai Mara becomes too cool again in around October, they come all the way back, some 100 miles, to the southern Serengeti again.
The reason this great migration takes place is that the animals are constantly on the lookout for the greenest vegetation, and the largest bodies of water. As the Serengeti heats up, these dry out, or die out, and there’s nothing to eat or drink. This great migration is not done just for fun; it’s done for survival.
Due to the location of the Serengeti and Masai Mara to the equator, and in eastern Africa, the climate here is loved by tourists, and the fact that rare species of animals can be seen is a huge attraction. As a result, there are many different safari tours.
The animals of the Serengeti and Masai Mara have been migrating every year for millions of years previously. It’s a natural instinct that they should move either away from the hotter weather during summer, or further towards it during winter, in order to get enough food and drink.
The Great Migration is not always a happy story, however. Predators who rely on the meat of other animals rather than fresh vegetation will follow the great herds of antelope, zebra and wildebeests, in order to kill and feed. Some animals, such as the lame or mothers with very young offspring, will find themselves lagging behind the bigger groups and as a result much more vulnerable to attack.
The future for the Great Migration is shaky, depending on how global warming pans out. Since the Serengeti is so close to the equator, we may find that as Earth heats up, the animals cannot live there at any time of year. As a result, the boundaries of the Masai Mara national park may need to be extended towards the north in order to allow the animals access to water that hasn’t dried up, and vegetation that hasn’t died.
How to Get There:
There are several airports in Tanzania, so you will need to choose wisely to fly to the one that’s nearest the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Parks. The name of this airport is Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is situated near Arusha. KLM airlines fly regularly to and from this airport, and once you land there are rental vehicles available from the airport itself.
We do highly recommend you fly to this, the nearest airport, however, as the roads around the Serengeti and Masai Mara are not always safe. Long car journeys should be avoided, if possible, unless you are taking a guided tour driven by an experience driver in an off road vehicle.
Where to Stay:
We have compiled a list of three possible hotels in Arusha, near Serengeti National Park, since this is the area nearest to Kilimanjaro International airport when you land.
Those on a tight budget could stay at La Jacaranda hotel for approximately $50 per night, including a restaurant and good quality rooms. For a slightly higher budget, try Kibo Palace hotel (rooms cost around $193 per night with swimming pool, gym, restaurant, room service and business center), and for those on a high budget, we recommend the luxurious African Tulip, for around $210 per night.