The Great Migration – Nature At Its Finest

Lauren Curd

Each year, the largest movement of animals on the planet takes places in northeast Africa, an amazing natural occurrence that see millions travel over 1,600km in search of grazing and birthing grounds. In a calendar year, the Great Migration will start roughly between April and June, when over 1.5 million wildebeest, hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, plus a vast quantity of other game, will cross over from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The journey is perilous and countless beasts die but it is the smell of the long grass that sees these animals strive to survive.

The months of January to March are when the animals graze on the short grass plains among Ngorongoro National Park in the famous Serengeti. Calves are born in February, under the safety of millions of other animals, and they’re given some time to grow by moving northwest to areas like Kusini and the Seronera Valley to keep munching on the turf. Families will teach their young some techniques to survive the upcoming expedition. By April, the grasses are depleting and the ‘long rains’ fall in the north, drawing the herds towards the Grumeti River. Horse riding safaris are quite popular during the spring, in which you ride alongside the wandering wildebeest, admiring the sheer volume of nature and getting glimpses of the young trying to keep up with the herd.

The biggest threat during the migration is undoubtedly the predators. Crocodiles wait patiently in the river, snapping up their fill, and then lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas sit among the tall grass ready to strike. If not for predation then many animals will also die of thirst, hunger, trampling or exhaustion. By late June/early July, they will arrive at their second river crossing, the last test in their pilgrimage to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The Mara River crossing is a great safari attraction, providing an insight into the fragile but tremendous eco-system in which the wildlife lives. The safety in numbers approach invariably prevents many deaths and you’ll see plenty of calves reach the Masai Mara, frolicking among the verdant vegetation that these animals sought after. They will stay in the area for the rest of the summer and remain during autumn, until the dry season has been used up. In early November, they will make the return journey, hoping to reach the Serengeti in time for birthing again in the New Year.

There are thousands of other animals to witness on a safari and you should not limit yourself to just wildebeest and big cats. Of course, take in the migratory sights but keep your eyes peeled for rhinos, elephants, warthogs, vervet monkeys, baboons, giraffes and the numerous birds soaring in the sky, including huge vultures, African fish eagle, widowbirds, grenadiers and cinnamon-breasted rock buntings. Cross them off your safari list while enjoying the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Africa. It truly is a remarkable sight, and this natural phenomenon occurs every year so pick the best time for you to come and see it. Get in touch with us and we can advise you on your perfect safari holiday to witness the Great Migration.

Header images: © &BEYOND

 

**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**