The Migration Guide: Serengeti and Maasai Mara Seasons
January – March: you should be in southern Serengeti; all the way down to the southern park boundary, and even a bit beyond. This is the calving season when millions of young are born. Lots of new life and lots of predator action.
April- May: it rains, which makes this the low season, or “Emerald Season” because plants come to life, grass flourishes and everything is green. It’s not a popular time to go on safari, but should be! Avoid the heavy downpours and you will see a lot of animal action and the air is clear (so views are good for panorama photography). Safaris are really good value; ideally you should be South or Central Serengeti.
June and early July: The herds move through the Western Corridor of Serengeti, following the fresh grass growth and cross into Maasai Mara, Kenya. This is the most popular time for people to visit Serengeti, so lodges can fill.
Late July: The herds cross into Kenya and this is the classic time to watch the massed animilas crossing the Mara and Sand Rivers and playing “dodge the crocodile”.
August: The Mara is teeming with grazing herds and lots of preditor action.
Sept and Oct: Gradually the herds complete a “U-turn” and begin the trek back into the Serengeti. The short rains come in October but this is still a good time to safari. The herds move through eastern Serengeti, close to the Ngorongoro Crater area.
Note: the “Concession Land” adjoining the Mara is particularly good to visit between July and Sept. Concession land is in private (or community) ownership and adjoins a national park. In years gone by it was often used for low-density cattle grazing and maybe low-input agriculture, such as sisal plantations. Since the 1980’s there has been a gradual trend to discontinue all agricultural practices and return the land to nature. In effect, the NP is enlarged: there are no fences and game is free to move between the NP and adjoining concession land as it reverts to its natural state. The real advantage of Concession Land is the low level of human activity. Only 2 or 3 lodges are licensed to be built so safari traffic is low and the wilderness feeling remains in tact. Furthermore, guests staying on concession land can go into the NP but not vice versa.
There is often a strong responsible travel aspect to patronizing lodges on concession land, because a proportion of the fee you pay will filter down directly to the local community, making it more attractive to preserve the land for nature and wildlife than to farm it … or poach.
November and December, the herds return to southern Serengeti, reaching the calving grounds at the turn of the year .. and then it begins all over again! A continuous cycle of life and re-birth.