The Great Migration

The Great Migration

The Great Migration – the largest animal migration in the world. So large that it can be seen from outer space. When people hear “great migration”, they imagine the wildebeests crossing the Mara River, when in fact the migration spans several months, during which 1.5 million wildebeests and half a million zebras migrate clockwise from southern Serengeti up north and then back down again. The route they take involves crossing the Tanzania/Kenya border twice, as well as dangerous crossings of the Grumeti and Mara Rivers – all in search for greener pastures.

Unlike southern Tanzania, the Serengeti is surprisingly green and lush this time of year.

Wildebeests and zebras travel together as they are mutually beneficial for each other. Wildebeests, with their keen sense of smell, can lead the herd to fresh grass, while zebras’ superior eyesight can better detect predators. When it comes to eating, wildebeests prefer the bottom layer of the grass while zebras prefer the top, so there is no competition.

During the months of August and September, animals will cross the Mara River back and forth. By October-November, they will make the final crossing southward and continue until they reach Ngorongoro in preparation for birthing in February.

Watching wildebeests cross the Mara River requires a lot of patience. Sometimes, it takes waiting hours.

Herds of wildebeests on the northern bank of the Mara River waiting to cross.
Talk about herd mentality. These animals move in unison. If one starts running, the rest will follow.
And when one finally decides to take the plunge into the river, you get to witness a spectacularly frenzied show.
The process is chaotic and mesmerizing at the same time.
Some awkwardly jumping into the water
While others throwing themselves down cliffs.
Most emerging safely out of the river.
Wildebeests are not naturally good swimmers. Some will succumb to drowning.
While others will fill crocodiles’ bellies.
Even those who made it safely across are not guaranteed survival. Those who tossed themselves down the banks may end up with fractured bones, rendering them easy prey to hyenas and lions.
The energy of the herd is matched by the excitement of onlookers.
And it’s just as interesting to watch the crowds of jeeps and human gawkers.
These survived to see another day.

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