A new year means new life, and the stage for the spectacle this month is around the Ndutu Plains in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to the south of the Serengeti National Park.

Lions safari Ngorongoro Conservation Area tanzania

Lions on the prowl in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Where is the wildebeest migration in January?

The start of the year falls in the middle of ‘green season’, right between the ‘short’ and ‘long’ rains. The plains form a beautiful palette of green, the air is clear from dust, and the wildlife is relatively easy to spot. As the grass turns green, it also attracts the wildebeest moving in from the north into the southern Serengeti, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Salei Plains.

Some afternoon showers can be expected, but they only last for a short period and usually don’t affect your game drives.

Temperatures reach an average high of 28°C (82°F) and a low of 15°C (59°F). January is a warm month, and other wildlife is easier to spot since the vegetation is less lush. Animals tend to gather around rivers and water holes.

Is January a good time to see the great migration?

At this time of the year, the female wildebeest are in their final month of pregnancy. As soon as the rain starts to fall, the wildebeest’s top priority is to seek new-growth grasses as sustenance for their newborn youngsters.

Tourists abound over the Christmas and New Year holiday, especially in the Ngorongoro area. But with good planning, the big lodges and crowds around the crater’s rim can easily be avoided.

The subtle beauty of the 'green season'

The ‘green season’ is another name for the rainy season, which stretches from late October to May. It’s easy to see where the imagery comes from — the thirsty plains soak up the water and spring to life. Parched chalky brown land becomes a luscious green, and the migratory animals are drawn to the fresh grass.

The rainy season is actually divided into two. From October to December the ‘short rains’ fall, and the months March to May bring the ‘long rains’.

Where does the moisture come from? During the green season, the dominant winds are blowing from the warm ocean to land and bringing with them evaporated water from the Indian Ocean. As the air cools over the land, the water condenses as rain.

During this time of the year, it rarely rains all day. You're still likely to see plenty of sun and wildlife. Lots of baby animals are born at this time — hundreds of thousands of them on the Serengeti Plains alone. As with any off-season, the crowds are fewer, adding to the benefits of a safari at this time.

About the authors

Where Is The Wildebeest Migration In January?

Hans Cosmas Ngoteya

Hans Cosmas Ngoteya is a conservationist from Tanzania, a National Geographic Explorer, and co-founder of numerous conservation organisations including Ngoteya Wild, Landscape and Conservation Mentors Organization and Tanzania Wildlife Media Association.

Where Is The Wildebeest Migration In January?

Heather Richardson

Heather is an award-winning journalist and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She writes for the BBC, Sunday Times, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Departures Magazine, among others.

Where Is The Wildebeest Migration In January?

Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned travel journalist and guidebook author and is one of the world's leading authorities on Africa safari, wildlife and conservation. He has been travelling to Africa for more than two decades to research Africa safari guidebooks for Lonely Planet. He is widely published in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Monthly, Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), National Geographic Traveler, BBC Wildlife, Lonely Planet Traveller, Africa Geographic, The Independent, Travel Africa, among many others.

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