The Great Migration. Hordes of wildebeest and zebra thundering through the Serengeti desert towards the fertile grasslands of the Masai Mara, driven on by the scent of rain. What could be a more potent symbol of nature's majesty and wonder? It's a sight (and sound) that will turn you into a wildlife lover, and very likely, change you for life.
Known as 'The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth', The Great Migration is one of those rare travel experiences that is said to exceed even the highest expectations. The spectacular backdrop of Tanzania's Serengeti desert sets the stage for this mass exodus of zebra and wildebeest, as they ford rivers and pound the dusty land, risking an untimely death in the jaws of a crocodile or big cat en route to wetter pastures. They'll travel more than 1800 miles in total - but an estimated 250,000 of their number won't make it.
There is certainly no zoo on the planet that will recreate such high drama, and nature shows could never do it justice. This is one to witness at least once in your lifetime if you enjoy being awestruck by seeing nature at its most raw; preferably with the help of an experienced guide. It goes without saying that the photos you'll come back with will be incredible, but like most of the world's greatest sights, you'll want to ensure you don't spend too much of it looking through a lens.
While all natural phenomena are subject to a little unpredictability, you can more or less guarantee a sighting of the migrating beasts between the months of July and October, when showtime is usually well under way. Take a look at this useful guide to the Great Migration from Expert Africa, which maps out an approximate route. Having raised their young in the wetter months of December to March, animals have already begun to move West and North by this point, and will be gearing up to attempt their first big river crossings.
Check out the Google Map below which shows the approximate route of the annual migration, and what animals you can expect to see depending on when you visit.
Key points in the animals' epic 1,200 mile journey are the the Grumeti River (Tanzania) and the Mara River (Kenya), both of which have become popular spots for watching the Great Migration. You'll be in good company here, as they attract an influx of nature-loving tourists year after year, and there are lodges at both locations that will serve as excellent viewing locations for your experience. Campsites are also available as a more affordable option for those on a budget.
If you want to experience the migration in true style, take a look at some of the luxury lodgings available at the Mara River Safari Lodge, where you can enjoy a spa session before the stampede! But it's worth acknowledging that however basic or sophisticated your accommodation, the sheer thrill of watching this natural spectacle is the main event and is an experience you cannot put a price on. We would, however, recommend that you leave some flex in your budget for at least one guided expedition, as the local know-how and insight of the guides is unrivalled. Expect to pay around £130+ for a day's excursion.
Remember, you'll be going on safari, and you'll want to ensure you bring everything you need to enjoy the experience to its fullest. At very least you'll need a pair of good quality walking boots that don't hurt your feet, a wide-brimmed hat to ward off the sun (and to look the part, of course), plenty of mosquito-repellent to deter nature's less-appealing creatures and a pair of binoculars to get the best possible view of the wildlife.
The Great Migration is one of nature's most extraordinary events, and is arguably the ultimate safari experience. Nature novice or wildlife whizz, add this one to your bucket list and count yourself among those lucky enough to be there when it happens.