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The Great Annual Wildlife Migration - Masai Mara

Updated on March 1, 2014

One of the world’s seven wonders, The Great Annual Wildlife Migration or The Great Migration of Wildebeest and Zebra is a spectacular view to behold in its natural setting.

The migration of wildebeests including zebras and other antelopes from Tanzania to Kenya, and Kenya to Tanzania affords seeing nature at its best and how the wild animals live by teeth and the survival tactics they use in order to stay alive in the wild.

It is estimated around 1.5 million wildebeests and 300,000 zebras including other antelopes cross the Grometi River in Tanzania, and Mara River in Kenya, where many of them meet death at the fierce teeth of great Nile crocodiles which lie in wait to have a feast of a lifetime every year.

The journey isn’t easy for these herbivores animals as an estimated 250,000 wildebeest never make it to the other side. Not only is the journey of these herbivores animals dangerous when they meet their death as they cross Mara River and Grometi River; the journey is also long covering a distance of 2,897 kilometers.

Lioness and her Cub
Lioness and her Cub | Source

The Migration from Kenya to Tanzania

In Tanzania from December to March at the Serengeti plains is where one can find large herds of zebra and wildebeest as they graze. The Serengeti plains is located in Northern Tanzania.

This is the season of calving, a time when female wildebeests give birth. The most interesting fact about the wildebeests is that most of the calves are born during a three-week period. This usually happens at the start of February to March.

The birth of wildebeest calves attracts predators which hunt these young ones as they are easy to catch and kill immediately. This indicates from December to March one will behold the big cats as they hunt for a catch, the easily targeted victims being the wildebeest calves. Not only that, one will be able to behold an estimated half million calves born and running beside their mothers.

The best areas to see the wildebeests as they graze including watching the young ones running alongside their mothers is at Salai and Ndutu plains.

During May to April the wildebeests and zebras migrate to west of Serengeti where there is abundance of grass. At this time it’s raining cats and dogs, therefore it is hard to follow them.

At the end of May, the wildebeests form larger herds as opposed at the beginning whereby they were in individual groups. At this time the rain has already stopped. This is a time when the wildebeests mate and the start of beholding the spectacular view of their migration to Kenya’s Masai Mara plains.


The Migration from Tanzania to Kenya

Crossing the first dangerous river is Grumeti River. This takes place on the month of July. The river presents an obstacle depending on the intensity of rain which took place in the previous months. The river is deep leading to many of the wildebeests unable to cross it as they drown which presents an easy catch for the crocodiles.

During the last days of July the grass at Serengeti are turning yellow.

After crossing the first river they have to cross another one, Mara River if they have to reach to the grassier plains. Mara River becomes more dangerous river compared to Grumeti River. The river is infested with more hungry crocodiles and is a matter of survival to try to cross the river in order to feast on the abundance of grass on the other side, Mara plains.

Nile Crocodile
Nile Crocodile | Source

The Mara plains are filled with large herds of wildebeests from September through November. Masai Mara known for its abundance of wildlife is a spectacular place to watch various wild animals including the big cats and over 450 species of birds.

The climate at Masai Mara is rarely hot and rainfall is well-spread all year-round.

From November to December, the wildebeest begin another long journey back to the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to give birth to the young ones, and the cycle begins again from December to March in Tanzania.

Interesting Description of Wildebeest

This is a funny description of wildebeest: “There is not other antelope like the wildebeest. It looks like it was assembled from spare parts – the forequarters could have come from an ox, the hindquarters from an antelope and the mane and tail from a horse.” (OuttoAfrica)

Interesting Facts

Masai Mara National Reserve is 270 kilometers from Nairobi.

It takes 4 to 5 hours by road to travel from Nairobi to Masai Mara National Reserve and 40 to 45 minutes by air.

Currently the size of Masai Mara National Reserve is 1,510 square kilometers.

Another name for wildebeest is Gnu. This is because of the sound they make which sound ‘gnu.’

An estimated 400,000 calves are born every year during a three-week period.

Born to run, the young ones are already on their feet and running alongside their mothers just minutes once they are born.

It’s hard to believe but it’s a fact – no two zebras ever look the same.

An estimated 250,000 wildebeest never make it during the clockwise migration.

This migration which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World only started in the 1960s.

The clockwise or circuit Serengeti-Mara ecosystem migration, the journey covered every year is between 805 to1, 609 kilometers.

“The migration starts after the calving season in January and February on the short grass plains in the southeastern Serengeti. Wildebeests move west toward Lake Victoria, across the grass savanna to the open woodlands, then turn north into the Mara. They then begin the return trip to the south.” (OutofAfrica)

During the migration, the wildebeest are either injured, killed or get lost; the young-ones becoming the most disadvantaged.

The wildebeest including other antelopes give birth in the middle of the heard and not secluded places.

The calf is suckled for 4 months though it starts feeding on grass at an unbelievable age of 10 days.

The calf remains with the mother until another calf is born which implies it stays with its mother for one year.

2 Lovely Faces
2 Lovely Faces | Source

© 2014 Alianess Benny Njuguna


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    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very interesting. Would love to see the great migration someday. Thanks for sharing.