River Crossings Vs. Calving Season

River Crossings Vs. Calving Season : What’s The Best Great Migration Event To See On Safari? Tanzania is known for its vast savannah, stunning landscapes, and diversified animals. Tanzania welcomes people from all over the world year-round thanks to its 22 national parks, each of which offers a distinct safari experience. Serengeti National Park is one of the most well-known and popular safari locations for visitors. Aside from the stunning scenery and plentiful wildlife, one prominent characteristic is at the top of every visitor’s wish list. The chance to watch the magnificent spectacle of The Great Migration, in which over two million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of other species, including zebras and gazelles, move in an endless cycle in search of fresh grass and water.

Have you always wished to see the marvel of the calving season in the immensity of the southern plains, where millions of wildebeest give birth practically simultaneously? Or have you always wanted to witness life and death at its most primal level: the terrifying, adrenaline-fueled, and deadly river crossings where prey and predator inevitably collide? The Serengeti provides incredible diversity, so the optimum time to come will be determined totally by what you’re searching for.


The Great Migration is considered a natural wonder of the globe. Approximately two million wildebeests (also known as gnu) move across Tanzania’s Serengeti habitat, following seasonal rainfall patterns. The world’s largest mammal migration includes hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles.

 The new year begins with the calving season in the south. The herd then migrates north, approaching and even crossing the Kenyan border before returning to the south. The Serengeti-Mara environment has supported this cyclical migration event for millions of years. The calving season in the south and the river crossings in the north pique the interest of all visitors to the region.


After a 250-day gestation on the move, practically all female wildebeest give birth between January and March each year, when millions congregate in the south for the calving season, particularly in the Ndutu and Ngorongoro Conservation areas. The volcanic ash deposited by eruptions enriches the soil in this location. The grass that grows here is perfect for newborn wildebeests to gain strength in their early weeks of development. Every day during the calving season, thousands of wildebeests are born, providing a much-needed boost to the herd population.

The sheer volume, peaking at about 8,000 births every day, makes this a spectacular sight to witness. Calving normally takes place between dawn and lunchtime, giving calves more time to build muscle and coordination before the first night, when predation is high. Tourists enjoy watching the newborn gnus wobble to their feet in just a few minutes, remaining near their moms for suckling and safety. However, the herd will undoubtedly migrate forward in search of additional food and water, posing a significant risk.

River Crossings Vs. Calving Season
Calving Season

More easy prey equals more predators. Lions and other large cats, including lions, leopards, and cheetahs, as well as spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals, and, on occasion, African wild dogs, are drawn to the allure of easy food. Spectators see nature’s harsh reality play out. Big cats band together to chase vulnerable calves, while their moms attempt to defend their young. The calves’ hunt, chase, and lucky escapes ensure a suspenseful, horrifying, and thrilling emotional roller coaster as you witness one of nature’s most epic battles unfold across the enormous countryside.


During the shoulder season (November and December), brief rains fall in the southern Serengeti. The rains cause plants to flourish, resulting in lush meadows. The area around the Ngorongoro crater has nutrient-rich flora for the young calves, making it an excellent feeding source for the herd.

 Because of the southern Serengeti’s optimum calving environment, wildebeest herds begin congregating in the Ndutu plains in late December. The greatest time to see the calving in its entirety is between late January and early March, before the wildebeest begin to move away.

The rains come in April and May, providing plenty of fodder for the herd as they continue their journey northward. By this point, the calves have become robust enough to move on, and when the grasses dry out, the wildebeest herd must begin their migration northward, following the rain through the huge Serengeti plains.

 The majority of the herd will travel west to the Grumeti area before heading north, where they will face another life-or-death struggle: crossing the powerful Mara River.


Wildebeests have no natural leader and separate into tiny groups as they travel, some to the west and others to the north, finally meeting at either the Grumeti or Mara Rivers.

The herd going towards the western corridor of the Serengeti will cross the Grumeti River, while the wildebeests moving north will cross the Mara River. Many of them encounter both hurdles on their trip.

As the wildebeest arrive at the riverbanks, they congregate along the edge. Tension fluctuates as their numbers increase. They are surrounded by hazardous predators, hesitant to move forward, unable to retreat, and feeling an increasing urgency to act. The real crossing occurs when a lone wildebeest jumps into the river, setting off the frenzy. At this time, the rest of the herd follows blindly in an adrenaline-fueled river crossing.

 Observers will feel the force of the stampede and hear the frenzied braying as hundreds of thousands of wildebeests try to cross the river in a desperate bid to reach the other beach.

This chaotic activity provides an ideal hunting ground for a diverse spectrum of predators. With big cats investigating the river banks, crocodiles lurking in the water, and vultures and marabou storks anxiously waiting to scavenge the corpses, the wildebeest face a life-or-death struggle at the river crossing.

 While both river crossings are hazardous, the Mara River crossing is the more risky of the two. In addition to the predators, asphyxia, thirst, and the rapid water make crossing the river challenging.

Many wildebeest die crossing the Mara River, but those that do make it to Tanzania’s border and into Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park, where they are rewarded with an Eden of lush green flora,


The Mara River crossings are one of Tanzania’s most attractive attractions. The ideal time to watch the Mara River crossings is at the Kogatende area in northern Tanzania, close to the Kenyan border, during the dry season, from July through October, with the largest concentration of animals crossing in August. Keep in mind that this is also the peak season for tourism. The Grumeti River crossings occur in the Serengeti’s Western Corridor during late May and June. These smaller river crossings are less popular, providing a less congested view of the spectacle.


Every year, thousands of people visit the Serengeti to witness the natural beauty of the Great Migration, which features breathtakingly dramatic displays of upheaval and rebirth. The Great Migration demonstrates that nature is both beautiful and brutal, ever striving for equilibrium. The calving season significantly boosts the herd, only to have its numbers reduced during river crossings. These two historic events combine to create Tanzania’s Great Migration, one of the most awe-inspiring and one-of-a-kind spectacles on the planet, and it deserves to be on your bucket list.

Focus East Africa Tours will assist you in designing your own safari itinerary based solely on your preferences. Whether you choose to go on a family safari or a single tour, you are in for an unforgettable adventure. Take a look at our sample itineraries to get a better idea, and please contact us if you want to learn more about Tanzania and how we can help you build the finest possible safari experience.