Have you ever seen so many animals in one shot that it boggled your mind? Have you ever seen only wild animals filling your line of sight? Well, I was lucky to see such a spectacle during my recent wildlife holiday to Kenya.
This sight is seen during the ‘Great Migration’ or the ‘Great Wildebeest Migration’, when a large number of animals make an annual circular trip from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. This is undoubtedly the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet and one of the most breathtaking events in the animal kingdom.
Their sheer numbers can be overwhelming and sometimes very hard to visualize. Try to visualize this…1.5 million Wildebeest, 400,000 Thomson’s Gazelle, 250,000 Zebra and 15,000 Eland. Add to this the 250,000 resident herbivore numbers (Topi, Impala, Cape Buffalo, Grant’s Gazelle, Kongoni, Giraffe, Warthog, Waterbuck, Elephant and more) and we are talking about something that is unfathomable.
This natural phenomena starts around June/July in the Southern plains of Serengeti when the grass gets scarce and the water dries up. From here, the animals move in a clockwise direction through wooden grasslands and head north towards the Maasai Mara Game Reserve where green grass and water is in plenty as the rains have just finished in Kenya.
During this northward movement, these animals have to cross the crocodile infested Grumeti river and then the mighty Mara river. It is these river crossings that people watch so fondly on National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet. By around late July to early August, these mighty mass of animals are in Maasai Mara. Their sheer numbers ensure a lot of food for the lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas who try and follow their route.
Over the course of the next 3 to 4 months, these animals feast on the green pastures of the Maasai Mara and by the time they make their return, the Mara landscape looks barren and threadbare. In the meanwhile, you can constantly hear the grunting sounds of the Wildebeests and their rumbling hooves as they simply put their head down and dash. I am not sure if there is a method to their madness, but you can definitely see that they are built for speed.
While this migration stays in the Maasai Mara, it is feasting time for the predators and abundant food ensures that it is the ideal time to have offsprings..It is not just the predators who enjoy this time, but also the scavengers such as the jackals and the army of vultures who find a lot of half-eaten kills.
By around late October to November, the reverse migration begins and the ungulates move back to the Serengeti plains of Tanzania where they stay till May. It is during this stay at Serengeti that they give birth to offsprings and within a short time period, they begin the annual migration again.
This great migration, a relatively recent phenomenon from the 1960s and Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacle is one that sets the tone for life in Northern Tanzania and South-Western Kenya. A lot of lives depend on it. This is definitely one of the top things to see before you die, especially if you are a wildlife lover. It is simply my ‘8th Wonder of the World’ and may be for a countless more.