As far as they eye could see, in their thousands
and tens of thousands, the wildebeest came.
Stringing down from the smooth yellow hills like
ants in single file, they stopped and waited at on the bank of the
Mara river in their uncounted masses.
Below, the ancient crocodiles were waiting in the
swift brown water, faces set in a sardonic, reptilian grin.
They were ready.
The great mass milled about, nervously watching the
far bank. None wanted to be the first to go.
They had no choice.
And still the multitudes kept streaming down from
the low hills, heads low, moaning softly. They joined the throng and
Suddenly an old male, the patchy skin smooth and
grey with age, leapt far out into the river. It was the signal.
Like a flock of birds, moving together with
choreographed instinct, the masses began to cross. Pushed from the
back, the animals in the front were forced over the bank and into
the water - where the giant reptiles waited patiently.
The crossing had begun.
No television programme - no matter how carefully
edited and eloquently narrated - can describe being in the middle of
the pandemonium and action of the crossing. The bleats, the dust,
the river, the death - all combining to create the greatest
spectacle I have ever seen.
This is one of the greatest natural spectacles in
the world. The annual movement of massive herds of wildebeest
continues year-round in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya
Masai Mara National Reserve.
Great Migration Movements
December to May
For the wildebeest only one place is truly home -
the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti, from Lake Nduni to
the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is where they are born and
where they seek to return whenever there is plentiful grazing. From
December up to May, once the November rains create ample grazing, up
to two million wildebeest can be found here.
April - June
The herds disperse throughout the central Serengeti,
heading mostly in a north-western direction, towards the Western
Corridor and the Grumeti River. Some will travel directly north,
towards Seronera, while a few leave the Serengeti altogether.
June - July
wildebeest encounter the first major obstacle in their quest - the
Grumeti River. In dry years, the river is reduced to a series of
pools and the herds can easily pick their way between the hippos and
crocodiles in their depths. In wet years, the wildebeest are forced
to plunge headfirst into waters inhabited by some of Africa’s
July - September
The herds head north towards the lush plains of the
northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara. The next set of spectacular
river crossings takes place at the Mara River any time between July
and October. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest may congregate on
the banks of the river, gazing dreamily at the green grass on the
other side but not one will make a move.
Most of the wildebeest are now in Kenya’s Masai
Mara, although some still remain in the Serengeti. As the rains
shift from east to west, the herds may cross the Mara River
repeatedly, following the life-giving rains and the green grass that
springs up after them.
The herds now return to the place of their birth,
the grassy plains of the southern Serengeti. Unlike their previous
movements, the wildebeest do not wander off in smaller groups, but
depart suddenly in a concerted movement, arriving in the south
within just a few weeks.
By mid-December almost two million wildebeest will
have returned to the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti.
We flew to Nairobi where we visited
lies directly in the path of the Great Migration making it an ideal
destination for the ultimate Masai Mara safari.
The Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the
richest and most diverse wildlife areas in the world. Known as the
‘spotted land’ to the Maasai, the reserve is home to a vast number
of resident wildlife, as well as part of the annual phenomenon of
the Great Migration.
The migratory wildebeest, zebra, kongoni and topi
join abundant elephant, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, lion and cheetah in
the Mara. Leopard and serval are frequently encountered, while
endangered black rhino can be found in the dense bush thickets.
The Masai Mara National Reserve is part of a huge
conservation area that also includes the Serengeti National Park and
the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in neighbouring Tanzania. With no
fences or man-made barriers, wildlife can move freely throughout
this area, constantly recreating an ageless natural cycle.
Go and see the migration.
Borrow money if you must. Take the ones you love and
You can always get more money - but you can never borrow more