The wildebeest migration centres on the annual congregation of innumerable wildebeests from the vast Serengeti plains in Tanzania. Their aim? To wade through the treacherous brown waters of the Mara River into the greater Masai Mara in Kenya.
Like a blanket covering the earth, these beasts surge forward against all odds to reach the other side. Jumping headlong into the water, some get injured, others are driven away by raging currents, and many become a delightful feast for lurking predators.
You would think this will break their resolve, but no, the wildebeest still jumps into the water intent on getting to the sweet grass shoots on the other side.
The event is so spectacular it was named one of the 7th wonders of the Natural world.
The best months to view these crossings are July through November, although rainfall patterns can alter herd movements leading to early to delayed migration.
The event attracts visitors from across the globe, meaning safari companies and lodges get super busy at this time. We recommend getting your migration safari booking done early to ensure you don’t miss the best aspects of this wonderful phenomenon.
How Did the Wildebeest Migration Start?
In the spirit of self-preservation, one wonders why the wildebeest embark on such a perilous quest.
Why wake up and start a 600-plus mile trek across plains, rivers, and two countries (Tanzania & Kenya), and face predators while battling exhaustion and diseases?
In the 1800 and 1900s, the millions of wildebeest we see today were non-existent. Nature made it so that there were sufficient carnivores to keep the numbers in check.
Female lions that typically hunt wildebeest and zebras can consume anywhere between 7-25 kgs depending on their hunger levels, while their male counterparts dig in up to 43 kgs. So you can imagine the level of balance several of these predators can create.
However, man took to lion trophy hunting drastically reducing their numbers and upsetting the balance.
The Rinderpest disease also took its toll on ruminant herds in the late 1800s killing off many animals and further depleting the predator population.
By the 1960s, the wildebeest numbers had grown considerably and their beloved habitation in the southern plains of the Ngorongoro Highlands couldn’t provide year-long sustenance.
The animals started moving, straddling the two nations in search of food and drink, but they kept coming back home to calve, ultimately forming the migratory corridor.
Wildebeest in the Greater Masai Mara
The Mara River crossing builds a mix of emotions for all that follow it. Awe at the sheer number of herds crossing, excitement as the leader takes the life-changing leap and anticipation that they will cross safely. Well, plus tension and heartache as you watch massive crocodiles slither into the waters and tear mercilessly at the herd.
Throngs more survive, marking the climax of the journey for a while. The large pulsating column of life now breaks up into smaller herds that spread out into the Greater Masai Mara to enjoy nutrient-rich spoils.
The Greater Mara spans over 580 miles and sports different scenery from open plains littered with bushes, sandy spaces covered in small bushes, and lush grasslands/woodlands.
It is home to plenty of wildlife (mammals, reptiles, birds) which makes it an ideal holiday option for the whole family. The wildebeest spend their days feeding, fattening, and dodging African wild dogs, lions, and other predatory cats. With the onset of November, the animals start moving toward the Mara River.
They will brave the danger one more time if only to reach their home among the Serengeti plains. Soon the pregnant females will calve to replenish the numbers they lost and preserve the circle of life.
Wildebeest are related to cows. They belong to the Bovidae family, which comprises cloven-hoofed animals like bison, cattle, goats, antelopes, and buffaloes.
Gestation takes around 8.5 months with mothers birthing one calf each time. Newborn calves get moving within minutes of birth. Unfortunately, two out of every three calves never make it back to their land of birth.
Running at 50 (mph) a wildebeest moves at the same speed as a lion but has better endurance and will probably outrun the lion. The best option for the lion would be to pounce at a close distance and catch its prey quickly.
With an average lifespan of 20 years, the wildebeest outlive most predators (hyenas, cheetahs, lions, and leopards). The lucky ones can push to 40 years.
Book your Trip today
It’s an absolute delight for us to help plan your safari to the Masai Mara National Park. Whether you’re planning your family vacation, looking for short bursts of fun-filled African adventure, or want to enjoy your honeymoon in the wilderness contact us today. You can reach us via +254719222430 or [email protected] ltd. You can also visit our website https://kenyaluxurysafari.co.uk/.
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