Africa’s Animal Migrations in 2024
Catch the masses on the move
You have most likely heard of the Great Migration. But did you know there are several animal migrations across the continent that are just as impressive and remarkable? From land to sea and even up in the air – here’s our guide to Africa’s animal migrations in 2024 you’ll want to add to your safari list.
White butterfly migration
Collective noun: A kaleidoscope of butterflies
Where? South Africa
During the mid-summer month of January, clusters of migrating Brown-veined white butterflies (Belenois aurota) flitter through South Africa’s Gauteng Province on their path to Mozambique. From their origin points in the Kalahari and Karoo, their migration is relatively quick, taking little over a week. Timing this migration can be difficult, as it’s dependent on the climate – during summers with warmer conditions, and less rainfall, they tend to arrive much earlier.
Did you know? Some data predict the volume being between 80,000 and 155,000 Brown-veined white butterflies per hour, despite taking frequent pauses to lay their eggs.
The Sardine Run
Collective noun: A school of fish
Where? South Africa
Dubbed ‘The Greatest Shoal on Earth’, South Africa’s annual sardine run sees billions of spawning sardines (Sardinops ocellatus) ducking and diving up the coast towards Mozambique. Following a narrow band of cool water in the Agulhas Current, they make their grand arrival along the country’s south coast region at the start of winter. When that happens, it’s a feeding frenzy, with bird, shark, and whale action reaching its pinnacle. Locals also flock to the shores ready to net and braai (barbecue) these tasty little sards.
Did you know? Their traveling shoals called ‘bait balls’ can reach up to a whopping 65 feet in diameter.
Collective noun: A flamboyance of flamingos
Each year during the dry season between June to March, millions of pretty pink Greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) swoop into Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes to feast on algae and small invertebrates. Blanketing the surface of Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria, this is one of Africa’s animal migrations that twitchers won’t want to miss. Witnessing them wade through the water in unison is utterly awe-inspiring, but their synchronized ‘V’ shape flight pattern is also a sight to behold.
Did you know? Flamingos get their pink coloring from eating shrimp and algae containing carotenoid pigments.
Collective noun: A pod, school, or gam of whales
Where? Africa’s southern coastline
Africa may be known for its terrestrial wildlife, but game viewing extends to the high seas from June to November. During this time, migratory Southern right, Bryde’s, and Humpback whales maneuver along its southern coastline to mate and calve. If you want in on all the action, best head to the coastlines of Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya, and South Africa. Along this migration highway, you’ll spy the most dazzling displays of fluking, breaching, and spy hopping.
Did you know? The whales are back! Due to the whaling bans throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, Humpbacks in the western Indian Ocean have grown from around six hundred to around 36,000.
The Great Migration
Collective noun: A confusion of wildebeests
Where? Tanzania and Kenya
As the largest mass movement of land mammals in the world, The Great Migration needs little introduction. During this phenomenon, over a million wildebeest (and zebra) move across Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, following their taste for the sweet grasslands of Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Although The Great Migration continues throughout the year, the frantic Mara River crossings in July and August remain the most sought-after events on the safari calendar. To help plan ahead, here’s a general play-by-play of all the animal action:
- Calving season – February to March, Southern Serengeti
- Rutting (breeding) season – April to May, Western & Central Serengeti
- Grumeti River crossings – May to June, Central Serengeti
- Mara River crossings – July to August, Northern Serengeti & Masai Mara
- On the move – November to January, Masai Mara & Northern to Southern Serengeti
Did you know? Roughly 400,000 wildebeest calves are born every year between January and early March in the southeastern plains of the Serengeti.
Kasanka bat migration
Collective noun: A cloud of bats
How’s this for a new wildlife secret: The Kasanka bat migration consists of around 8 to 10 million fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) that descend into Zambia’s Kasanka National Park to feast on fragrant Masuku fruit. With a movement of animals that of size, it beats the Serengeti’s Great Migration as the largest mammal migration in Africa and on Earth! They arrive in October but are generally gone by December, with custom-built bat hides available in the park for your viewing pleasure. A great place to kick off Halloween, no?
Did you know? The bats assist with pollination and up to 60% of forest seed dispersal, making this event not only spectacular but ecologically crucial.
Turtle nesting migration
Collective noun: A bale of turtles
Where? South Africa
Each year between November and January, leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles migrate to Sodwana Bay in South Africa to lay their eggs. During this annual pilgrimage, back to the beaches where they were born, mothers shuffle ashore, not once, but several times throughout the nesting season.
Did you know? Each turtle lays between 80-100 eggs. Thereafter, it takes up to 70 days for the hatchlings to emerge and make the treacherous journey back into the sea. This anticipated event typically occurs between January to February.
Collective noun: A dazzle of zebras
Where? Namibia and Botswana
Chances are you’ve heard about the Great Migration, but did you know about Africa’s zebra migration? During this annual event, around 40,000 of these striped little steads cover an impressive stretch of more than 300 miles across Namibia and Botswana. Their mission? To feast on the nutrient-rich grass in the Makgadikgadi Pans following the summer rains. The distance these courageous zebbies travel is farther than any other known African mammal migration, with predators, villages, farms, and fences to overcome along the way.
Did you know? Researchers believe the zebras migrate because the grasses in the Makgadikgadi region have a higher protein content than those of the Okavango Delta and Chobe floodplains.
Want to time some of Africa’s animal migrations with your 2024 safari? The great news is that many of our lodges, and camps are located close to these dramatic shows. If you have any questions on where to go and when, get in touch with our team here.