The clouds gather quickly and black, heavy, cumulus clouds hang low in the Mara sky. Lightning cuts across the sky creating a dramatic backdrop. The rain starts quickly and pounds the earth in earnest. From the south, a huge black mass is seen moving through the lush, green grass into the Mara plains. The incredible wildebeest migration has made its way into the Mara from the Serengeti in Tanzania! In fact the head of the migration has already been spotted crossing Sand River found close to the Tanzania border. Before long, over one million wildebeest, zebra will spread out across the Mara plains in what is considered the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth.
What is the migration, you ask? The wildebeest migration comprises hundreds of thousands of wildebeest (gnus) and zebras that make their way across the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania into the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and back to the Serengeti in an ever-present quest for pasture. Ideally, the migration is found in the Mara from July to October before making its way back to Serengeti where it is found the rest of the year. However it is important to mention that the movement of the migration largely depends on rainfall. Fortunately this year, we have had extremely good rains, drawing the migration into the Mara sooner than expected.
What’s the big deal about the migration? Too many people hear or read about it but never understand why all the fuss. First the sheer numbers of the migration is spellbinding. It is absolutely incredible watching a million animals move over the Mara, especially from above. They literally fill the plains. It gives a fresh appreciation of nature. Secondly no one has ever understood this innate drive in the wildebeest to move from one area of the Serengeti to another and into the Mara in July and make their way back to the Serengeti in this yearly sojourn. What’s amazing is that the gnus are in a particular part of the Serengeti at specific times. It’s like they have an internal clock that tells them when to be where when. This is truly the 8th wonder of the world!
Third, the migration is usually accompanied by a huge host of predators. Prides of lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, vultures closely follow the migration making easy prey of the young and/or tired wildebeests. The trek from the Serengeti is long and arduous. Many animals fall to the wayside from exhaustion, becoming light pickings for the predators. Of course this is the best time to spot the big cats some of whom (namely leopards) can be very elusive.
The highlight of the migration are the dramatic river crossings as the wildebeest wade across crocodile-infested waters in their search for pasture. It is a terrifying, unnerving and frightening experience watching the animals risking limb and life to get to the other side. Of course after the tiresome crossing the salivating predators have a field day shortly after – gruesome!
Overall it is a fantastic time to be in the Mara. Lodges and hotels are packed with international tourists looking to experience the most amazing wildlife phenomenon on earth. Book a migration safari today and get to experience the greatest show on earth! Stay tuned for more updates on the migration!
All photos courtesy of DB.