That time of the year, when thousands of wildebeests start migrating from Serengeti in Tanzania to Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of pasture, is here again. This magnificent spectacle that is as exhilarating as it is saddening to watch is, perhaps, one of the great events, if not the greatest, in the world.
As you watch helpless and weak wildebeests succumb to the strong gripping jaws of the crocodiles and the raging waters of the Mara River after fighting so hard, you cannot help but pay marvel at their ‘kamikaze’ odyssey. Sometimes you may even be tempted to imagine the great migration is a futile and meaningless act of nature – do not feel like that.
The whole confusion unfolds before your eyes as the sheer mass of wildebeest and zebra break into a desperate stampede of survival to greener pastures and calving grounds after 4 long months of trekking. No words can help you appreciate why this spectacular event nearly earned the prestigious honour of ‘The 8th Wonder of the World’.
During the annual great migration, more than 2 million herbivores suddenly, as if answering to a ‘higher call of duty’, begin the long trek that will see many lose their lives from exhaustion, sickness, age, predators and hunger.
In all, about 250,000 wildebeest will die during the 2,896-KM journey yet another estimated 500,000 will also be born during this period to risk, yet again, with the remaining herd of survivors, the second leg of the perilous journey back to the Serengeti between October and November to arrive in February.
Something unusual has happened in this year’s migration. The main migration from the south in Tanzania arrived in the Mara earlier than the resident Loita herds that usually migrate into the Mara from the east of the park. The arrival of the Loita wildebeests normally heralds the arrival of the larger herd from the south but this was not to be the case this time around – so it caught everyone by surprise.
The best time to watch this dramatic live show, directed by nature, is between the months of August and September when the animals congregate at the banks of the now swollen Mara River. But by as early as July some action can be witnessed – this year the wildebeests had crossed the Mara by the 1st of July followed closely by the Zebras.
If you are a domestic tourist, there are ways you could experience this luxury event more cheaply. For starters, you could team up with friends and share the costs of travel. Consider also double or triple occupancy accommodation at some of the luxury tented camps around. Do not also forget to carry your national ID card to enjoy the much lower citizen park entry rates at the game reserve.
As the great migration gets underway, the stage is set for some spectacular gaming experience as the hunter pursues the hunted – it has been a long, dry and lean time for the hunter and food has finally arrived. Let the games begin and may the best animal win!