The Great Wildebeest Migration. It’s an endless loop of hooves and horns, hope and heartbreak encompassing Africa’s Serengeti and Masai Mara – countless creatures in thrall to the rains and new grass.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness this inexorable flow of life on several occasions, each time choosing different locations and months of the year to enjoy the best viewing. Picking my single most memorable migration moment would be tough – suffice to say that the patience, endurance and courage of the wildebeest will make an indelible impression on you.
It’s a common misconception that the migration only happens at certain times. The animals in fact are continuously moving, plodding more or less the same annual route through Kenya and Tanzania. Witnessing the migration is all a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and choosing between fixed camps and semi-mobile operations, which can follow the herds.
They may seem as though they were designed by committee, but wildebeest are supremely adapted to undertaking this ceaseless international trek. Along the way, they somehow give birth to the next generation, and run the gauntlet of the claws and jaws of a fearsome range of reptilian and mammalian predators.
Well over 1.5 million trudging, leaping wildebeest are involved each year, alongside roughly 400,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 300,000 zebra and 12,000 eland. Highlights to plan your trip around are seeing them calving in the short-grass savannah of the southern Serengeti (February and March), crossing the perilous Grumeti and Mara rivers (July and August), or simply watching them on the move (in the Masai Mara from July to September, and the Serengeti the rest of the year). This is compelling natural theatre at its best.