Kenya Wildebeest Migration
The annual great animal migration - survival for the fittest
A fact about the wildebeest migration is that every year, about 1.5 million wildebeest, zebra and several species of antelope uniformly make a circular tour between the Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya, in search of greener pastures.
This mass exodus is not only noted as a wonder of the world, but is always a great opportunity for people to witness nature at its best. You can witness the drama unfold as predators lurk in the bushes and prey scamper for safety in what has since been dubbed 'survival for the fittest'.
The most notorious among the predators is the lion and the Nile crocodile.
The lion perfectly chooses its arena - the grassy Mara plains. In the plains, the lion is shrouded in thick grass cover and gets a strategic hiding spot to attack unsuspecting wildebeest and zebras. During the peak of the migration, vultures circle the air and hyenas laugh in the shadows; an indication of the innumerable wildebeest and zebra that have fallen under the claw of the mighty African lion.
The Nile crocodile however takes the medal as the deadliest predator. It comes in at the climax of the Mara migration - the crossing of the Mara River! This avid killer shapes the events that take place during the crossing of the Mara River. From the splashing waters and floating wildebeest bodies, it is the match-maker.
Crocodiles are known to kill by drowning. When it spots a potential victim, it clutches the prey in its strong jaws and pulls it beneath the water surface. In the process, it ferociously twists and turns its head. This shreds its prey into pieces and suffocates the life out of it.
Did you know?
- Crocodiles also use their tails as secondary weapons.
- A crocodile can lunge more than half of its body length out of the water. (That’s more than 2 meters!)
When and where to enjoy the wildebeest migration wonder
The start of the wildebeest migration
The African animal exodus begins between January and March in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation area, where the calving season brings forth a record of 500,000 new calves.
Enormous herds of wildebeest and zebras can be seen grazing on rain-ripened grass. As the food supply quickly diminishes, the herds are forced to head to the long grass plains and woodlands of the Serengeti's western corridor near Lake Victoria. Here, the animals divide, with some swinging further west and others heading northwest. They will meet up again in the Maasai Mara of Kenya.
April to July is a transitional period between the rains and the dry season and the wildebeests start moving north towards the Maasai Mara for greener pastures. As they go, they attract numerous predators such as lions, cheetahs and hyenas. They are all heading to the next watering point, the Mara River.
The spectacular wildebeest movement
From July to October, the grazing animals take a four-month-long trek towards the Mara River. In desperate need of water to drink and grass to graze, the countless herds need to cross the river to reach the lush, green grasslands in Maasai Mara. The world's most spectacular sights truly happen at the mass crossing of the swollen Mara River.
Depending on the amount of rainfall, the chosen crossing place is usually shallow enough to allow the majority of the herd to cross safely. However, most of the river is deep and fast flowing, with steep banks on either side. Many of the weaker animals are swept away by the strong river currents or are trampled by the stampede of the other wildebeest as they swim. Hundreds of animals die during the crossing. The close-following predators are always in for a treat at this time of year.
The wildebeest exodus
In November, the short rains call the migration southward, back to the Serengeti. About 250,000 wildebeest die during this 1,800 mile journey due to predator attacks, exhaustion and sickness. Although the trek culls most of the old or very young wildebeests from the herd, the next calving season will produce another 500,000 new calves to continue Kenya's great "Seventh Wonder of the World". To view the return of the wildebeest to the starting point Lobo Wildlife Lodge or Klein's Camp (both in Tanzania) are good locations to stay during this time.
You can enjoy the adventurous experience of a Wildebeest Migration Safari in Kenya with professional guides in open-topped, 4WD vehicles and first-hand tours to remote villages of the neighboring communities. The wildebeest migration is definitely a must-see Kenyan attraction and a great reason to go on a safari in Kenya.