Do you dream of witnessing the greatest show on Earth? Of hearing the sheer power of millions of thundering hooves? Of coming face-to-face with mighty predators? Of losing yourself in the wild savannas of Kenya and Tanzania? If so, the welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth! No, I don't mean the Calgary Stampede (although it's a spectacle to behold!) I'm talking about the phenomenal sight of the Great Migration through Kenya and Tanzania. 1.5 million wildebeest thundering and snorting their way across the annual 1,200 mile circular path. This is the origin of safari - the ultimate safari experience and an awesome sprint of survival.
No one can explain the highlights, sites and sounds more than an article I read recently by Sky Blue Vickie (Vickie Paget):
Where does the Great Migration take place?
In Tanzania the wildebeest move through the Serengeti; while in Kenya, they pass through the Masai Mara. Both landscapes provide a truly dramatic backdrop to the greatest show on Earth.
What wildlife can you expect to see during the Great Migration?
The wildebeest are joined by approximately 200,000 zebra and 35,000 gazelle. A whole host of hungry predators follow in their wake: lion, vulture, cheetah and crocodiles—all drooling at the thought of picking off a tasty tired migrator or two. Only the strongest survive this brutal journey, and it’s estimated that some 250,000 wildebeest don’t make it each year.
Why is the Great Migration such a sight to behold?
Witnessing nature at her most raw and powerful is a truly humbling experience—some would even say it’s life-changing. You will never forget the frenetic sound of millions of hooves trampling across the savanna, kicking up dust storms as they race towards survival. It’s a heart-thumping, ground-trembling, primal display of the overwhelming power of Mother Nature.
When does the Great Migration begin?
Nature likes to keep us on our toes, so the exact timing of the migration changes from year to year, as it depends upon rainfall patterns. However, experience shows that this incredible endurance race usually begins when the herd reaches Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the south Serengeti to graze in November/December. Wildebeest calving season takes place there between January and March, which brings with it a lot of hungry predators, all hoping to chow-down on some wildebeest babies.
Why do the wildebeest leave Ngorongoro?
The rainy season in Ngorongoro comes to an end in April/May and the wildebeest begin their epic journey across the Serengeti to the greener grass plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara to the north. May is also mating season for the wildebeest, so the males begin to fight fiercely for female attention—adding even more staggering, stomping showmanship to the spectacle that is the Great Migration.
What are the most dramatic stages of the Great Migration?
Watching the wildebeest attempt to cross the two rivers on the Great Migration route are undoubtedly the most dramatic stages of this heart-in-your-throat journey. In June, the herd reaches the Grumeti River in Serengeti National Park. For many of these already-exhausted animals, this is a river too far, and they fall fowl to the river’s hungry crocodiles. Those who do make it then have to go on and cross the Mara River, where they’re faced with strong currents and even more crocodiles that are eagerly awaiting their annual wildebeest feast. As Mother Nature picks off the weakest in the herd, you witness a brutal, literal display of the survival of the fittest.
When do the wildebeest reach Masai Mara?
Having fought their way along the treacherous migration route, the strongest of the herd finally hit the luscious plains of the Masai Mara some time in August/September. But the battle for survival doesn’t stop there. The plains may be overflowing with herds of grazing wildebeest, zebra and gazelle, but wherever these animals go, they are hotly pursued by a whole host of predators, and there are always lions and hyenas lurking in the shadows, waiting for their next meal.
When do the herds return to Ngorongoro?
As the rains return south around October/November, the herd continues on its circular route back down to their calving grounds in Tanzania. When calving season kicks off again between January and March, the circle of life is complete and yet another Great Migration gets underway.