Other migration spectacles
Components of the Great Migration
The famous river crossings are just one element of the endless pilgrimage that is the Great Migration. They’re the piece of the puzzle that gets all the PR.
But the migration is so much more than just this one part. Here are some of the other things you can witness on the extraordinary journey.
Every year an incredible calving season takes place while the herds are in their traditional homes: the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti. It happens sometime between late January and mid March, while the wildebeest are resting during the dry season. During this time nearly 400,000 baby wildebeest are born over a period of just two or three weeks. It’s a basic survival technique: flood the market and overwhelm the hundreds of predators – mostly lions and hyenas – that lie in wait.
It’s a thrilling and truly moving spectacle to experience: wildebeest as far as the eye can see; the newborns up and ready to go almost from their first breath. This is day one of the migration. Due to such intense predator numbers a calf can stand and run within minutes of its birth. It’s soon running at full pace and in just a day or two can keep up with the adults. By the end of March it’s time for the wildebeest calves to get moving and head off with the herd, taking their epic first journey. Two out of three of all the calves will never return from their first migration. And if a calf does survive, it will be on the move for the rest of its life, on this incredible endless migration.
The mating season, which is known as the rut, generally takes place sometime between April and June. The timing appears to be more influenced by the moon than rainfall, and the full moon in May/June often marks the peak of the rut.
During the season half a million cows mate in less than a month. But it’s the testosterone-pumped males fighting for dominance that make this time so exciting. A lot of sparring goes on during the rut and there are epic clashes between territorial wildebeest males. The fights are remarkably noisy and can look very vicious and aggressive, but there’s generally not much actual violence or serious injury.
And it all counts for nought anyway – the females are the ones who do the actual choosing when it comes to their choice of mate!
Great Migration safaris give you the chance to see enormous wildebeest herds, as well as zebra and antelopes such as eland and topi. They also give you the chance to witness some powerful predators.
While the wildebeest are continuously moving, predators don’t follow the great herds much beyond their home ranges. Like other resident game, they’re territorial and don’t want to risk abandoning their land or invading the regions of others. But when the wildebeest move through the predators’ territories, all bets are off – it’s an easy hunting opportunity for lions and other predators, especially given that nearly 400,000 calves are born each year.
Make sure you have your camera at the ready for some fantastic – albeit brutal – encounters.
The resident wildlife in the different areas of the Serengeti and Masai Mara are also a sight to see. You might also get to see Maasai tribesmen in their red robes and other incredible cultural sights.
There are many ways to view the Great Migration – as well as traditional guided 4×4 game drives, you can do walking and cycling tours, or even view the extraordinary scenes from above in a hot-air balloon.
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