Once a year as the sun flames like a ball in the sky, scorching the grasslands, millions of wildebeest undertake the journey of a lifetime – to cross the sweeping Serengeti plains from Tanzania to Kenya in search of fresh water and greener grass. This adventure is called The Great Migration and is a spectacular sight to behold.
The herds begin their journey as the rainy season ends and the world around them starts to dry up. With thousands of calves at their feet, the great herds begin to gather to prepare for the epic adventure across the heartland of Africa.
As the season wears on millions of hooves begin to thunder across the plains and the eye can see nothing but a sea of wildebeest, zebras and elands crossing the continent. The journey is perilous and thousands upon thousands will not make it to the other side as the herds are set to encounter some challenges en route to the promise lands.
Also known as the moveable feast the Great Migration doesn’t just attract tourists and animal lovers but also draws in the predators. Lions, cheetahs and leopards prowl the outer rings of the herds, lying low in the long yellow grass and waiting for an opportunity to pounce on the young and the weak. Hyenas and wild dogs lurk in the shadows and crocodiles lay in wait for the wildebeest to make the inevitable plunge to cross the rivers.
Many visitors come to Africa with the hopes of catching the Great Migration in full swing and the wondrous chance to witness two million wildebeest and zebra en route to their new home. It’s the perfect place to catch Mother Nature in all her finery and witness first-hand the struggle against the seasons and the delicate balance of life and death in the Animal Kingdom.
As the Great Migration is a time of transition and depends on the seasons there is no time to come where you can guarantee to catch the action. However as nature works in cycles, usually dependent upon the rains there are times when you have a greater chance of seeing the herds on the move.
At this time of year the Serengeti is sprawling with wildlife and as calving season begins, the grasslands are suddenly busting with new life. It’s said a staggering 8,000 calves can be born in a single day! Arriving at this time means you get the opportunity to witness the Serengeti blossom with new life.
As April springs into step the little calves run beside their mothers and the rain beats down in sheets as the rainy season begins. As the rain hammers down the herds start their journey towards the west and the north to seek fertile woodlands and fresh pastures. At this early stage it becomes difficult to follow the herds and several smaller parks close their gates as the roads become banks of slush and mud.
At the end of May the herds congregate together and begin to journey north making Western Serengeti the best place to watch the action start to unfold. The journey is already perilous as the lion prides stalk in the shadows preparing to follow the wildebeests and take down any that stray from the safety of the herd.
By June the march is well under way and the herds are faced with one of the journeys major danger points – the Grumeti River. The banks can be swollen from the rains and crocodiles lay waiting in the muddy banks waiting for an opportune moment to snap. Many wildebeest and zebras will perish here. Watching the river crossing is a spectacular event that will linger in your memory.
By November the rains will start to trickle once more and the herds will return from the promise lands of Kenya's Masai Mara area and start their journey down to the Serengeti plains.