Sometimes referred to as “The Great Migration” or the “Wildebeest Migration,” most people in Africa simply speak of this incredible natural phenomenon as “The Migration.”
The sheer scope of this animal trek is, quite frankly, hard to believe for many people. How could so many animals know to come together to move about the continent? With the migration in Africa, it seems we are seeing perhaps the grandest ever example of what is commonly referred to (in other circumstances) as “the herding instinct.”
It’s not a quick event by any means. Starting in the May-June period, this annual migration of some two and a half million animals (by some estimates) begins in the Serengeti, in Tanzania, as the wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, and antelope begin to move out of the drying grass in search of richer and more plentiful grasses farther north and west. They’ll cross the dangerous Grumeti river, where many of the animals drown and others are attacked by the huge crocodiles waiting for them. The survivors – still huge in number – will head on up to the Masai Mara, there to attempt to cross the Mara river into Kenya, but predators are waiting for them there as well and they seem to know it, with thousands of them sometimes waiting on the riverbanks for up to two weeks at a time before plunging into the river. Several hundred will be devoured but as they die, they make the way relatively safer for those that have been waiting, leaving them free to move on across the river and up into the Masai Mara Game Reserve, where they will spend two or three months moving about across the beautiful grasslands of that treasured part of Africa.
By September, the animals will have had enough of the green grass of the Masai Mara, and they will begin their long journey back into the eastern Serengeti, where they will remain until April or so, before getting the signs from nature that it’s time to head back north and west again.
Called by some “the world’s greatest natural spectacle,” the migration just goes to prove, once again, that the bounties of the earth are still valuable for the most elementary of needs. It’s a special kind of joy just to think about what the sight must be, to see these incredible millions of animals moving so far in search of their own version of “the good life.”