Hailed as the greatest wildlife spectacle on Earth, The Great Migration is a natural phenomenon you wouldn’t want to miss for the world this August!
In the vast savannahs of Kenya, watching over a million wildebeests and thousands of zebras and Thomson’s gazelles being a part of The Great Migration is a one-of-a-kind experience for the wildlife enthusiast and photographer in you.
However, there are certain facts about the migration that are less known, and here, we make an attempt to discuss five such things about The Great Migration:
The Great Migration is not a big annual event that happens in Africa, not a grand random one-time occurrence. Migration is a mass movement of land mammals (of nearly two million ungulates) that happens throughout the year as their search of a better grazing place, and the timing and route changes from year to year depending on the rain.
The Great Migration usually happens in a clockwise motion through the Tanzanian Serengeti plains and the Kenyan Masai Mara Reserve – the Mecca of wildlife. The animals then move back again forming one massive circle, and they can be seen in different parts of the African savannahs depending on the time of year and location you visit the continent.
2. River crossing
Not only are the enormous plains of Africa dotted by the ungulates but the animals also cross the Mara River at different locations during the Great Migration. While the Mara River itself is recognised as the convergence of the Amala and Nyangores rivers that are known to flow out of the Mau Escarpment, its tributaries – the Talek, Engare, Sand and Engito rivers – also play a major role in this natural wonder of the world.
While the migrating animals face hunting threat from the hungry predators on the land, when they cross the river, they also become easy prey for the Nile crocodiles that the waters are infested with. The river crossings are best watched and photographed between July and September every year.
The Serengeti is soaked in rain during January and February, and this the time for the female wildebeest to give birth to their offspring; this is the harvest season in the savannahs. The mating season is between March and May, when the area becomes dry and the animals start moving northwards.
Between July and September, the animals are mostly crossing the Mara River, and after September, they start moving back into Serengeti from the Mara. Depending on when you wish to visit the African continent to witness this wonder, you will treat yourself to diverse but equally exhilarating phenomena.
There is a myth about the Great Migration that needs to be busted before anything else because it reduces the wonder that the journey of many ungulates to just wildebeest. The truth is that, along with more than a million wildebeest, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles also migrate from Serengeti to the Mara every year, making it the largest congregation of mammals in the world.
The zebras and gazelles, too, cross the Mara River just like the wildebeest do. And just as the wildebeest are, these two species also become potential prey to the ambitious predators. Like pilgrims thronging a place of worship, when these mammals gather and move en masse, being in Kenya and watching the Great Migration happen is no less a spiritual experience for a wildlife lover and photographer.
5. Other wildlife action
In a land of terrestrial superlatives, during August and September, the Great Migration happens as a centrepiece of the greatest wildlife show on Earth. However, what is usually sidelined is the fact that a lot more electrifying action happens in the wild where the scale of mammal exodus is immense.
Among several other scavengers, the vultures feast on an almost unlimited supply of food during the Great Migration. African elephant, African lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, ostrich, giraffe, impala, topi, warthog, hippopotamus, crowned crane and bataleur eagle are some of the rare and exotic animals you get to see only in Africa.