The Great Migration

Wildebeests crossing the Mara river on the Tanzania-Kenya border.
Wildebeests crossing the Mara river on the Tanzania-Kenya border.

The Annual Wildebeest migration is one of the travel wonders of the world and is the largest animal migration on our planet.

The sight of 1.5 million wildebeests and 200,000 zebras braving fearsome predators on their 800 km search for food is the African safari experience of a lifetime.

They make this annual round trip from southern Serengeti in ­Tanzania to the ­northern edge of the Masai Mara national reserve in Kenya. The Great ­Migration is probably ­Africa’s greatest safari ­spectacle and the most exceptional natural wonder of the world.

I was extremely lucky to be present at the right spot at the right time at the Tanzania-Kenya border Mara river bank to witness this great spectacle, on August 28, 2013 at noon time.

The animals crossing the river that day were also lucky as none of them were attacked by the crocodiles and everyone crossed the river safe and alive from Tanzania to Kenya. ­However they were to face the greedy predators across the land.

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River crossing

Herds of these animals walk across the Serengeti’s various water bodies, mostly during August-October, with the most dramatic crossings at Mara, Grumeti and Sand rivers, bordering Kenya and Tanzania.

Groups congregate to fret about steep banks of these rivers. Water currents and predators (17-foot crocodiles) hide below the surface and in waterfront thickets. When they finally cross, it is by ­hundreds of thousands; with plenty landing on the chops of aggressive crocodiles.

When they reach Masai Mara at the Tanzania-Kenya border, they are the densest population of game on earth.

 What is a wildebeest?

It is a bovid antelope, belonging to the family of ruminants having hollow unbranched horns such as sheep and cattle. An East African folklore says the wildebeest has a thin face of a grasshopper, a lion’s mane, buffalo’s horns, a horse’s tail and the lithe body of a hyena!

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Most adult wildebeests weigh over 400 lbs, all muscle. They only live to eat, following the rains in search of their food, the short green grass.

When they reach Masai Mara in August at the Tanzania-Kenya border, they are the densest population of game on earth. One could easily spot 250,000 wildebeests and zebras in one day.

Pictures by: M Swaminathan

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