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    Top 10 facts about the great wildebeest migration

    10 minutes read
    wildebeest crossing river in tanzania

    The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of the most amazing natural events worldwide. This event of life attracts millions of people each year to Africa’s extensive open plains.

    We present a comprehensive guide with fascinating facts about this beautiful event for those curious to learn more. Uncover the top 10 interesting facts about the Great Wildebeest migration journey and plan your adventure with Easy Travel to witness this natural spectacle!

    Fact 1: The Largest Overland Migration


    The Great Wildebeest Migration is truly special. It’s the biggest migration on land in the world. It changes Africa’s landscapes into a place full of life. Every year, close to 1.5 million wildebeests start this journey. Along with them, many other plant-eating animals also travel.

    This annual migration of herds through the Serengeti National Park is significant for Africa’s ecosystem. It has more animals moving than any other migration on Earth. It’s a fantastic sight when these herds cross from one place to another. (Source)

    Fact 2: Migration Paths

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    The migration isn’t a simple start-to-finish trip. Instead, it’s a circular journey influenced mainly by when and where it rains and where the grass grows. The paths that the migrating herds take to cross over the borders of countries. This shows how nature follows different rules than we do.

    The movement of these incredible animals can be observed in places such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Serengeti National Park, the Masai Mara National Reserve, and more. It’s a thrilling sight to see and a true testament to the wonders of our natural world. (Source)

    Fact 3: There Are Many Animal Participants

    While wildebeests are the main attraction of this event, it’s important to remember the zebras and Thomson’s gazelles. They also take part in this incredible journey. These smaller herds of animals benefit from the bigger wildebeests as they make their way through tall grass.

    This is a perfect example of teamwork in the wild. Remember to pay attention to these smaller participants during a wildebeest migration safari. The diversity of the migratory herds is one of the many highlights of this fantastic spectacle.

    Fact 4: Predators in Action

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    The Great Migration is more than just a journey for the animals. It’s also a big meal for Africa’s most powerful hunters. Lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and Nile crocodiles join in to enjoy a feast of their own. This adds to the excitement and drama of the migration.

    Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is an excellent place to experience this amazing sight. Within the Serengeti ecosystem, the migrating herds cover thousands of kilometers, demonstrating the large-scale impact of the Great Migration on the region.

    Fact 5: Calving Season: Half a million calves are born

    Between January and March, the southern plains of the Serengeti come alive with a spectacular scene. It’s calving season, and half a million wildebeest calves are born, joining the ever-moving herds. This event is one of the most noteworthy highlights of the annual wildebeest migration.

    It presents a unique glimpse into the circle of life, wonderous yet packed with raw survival instincts. With the arrival of this calving season, the predatory animals in the wild become more active.

    The interactions between predator and prey increase significantly. This is when the stark realities of the wilderness are on full display. It’s a vital part of this incredible spectacle, a poignant reminder of nature’s beauty and brutality.

    Fact 6: The Mara River Crossing is iconic

    One of the most iconic moments of the migration is the Mara River herd crossing. This is where the herds face an incredible challenge. Wildebeests plunge into the crocodile-infested waters, creating a heart-pounding scene.

    This intense display is a powerful testament to the harsh yet endlessly captivating African wilderness. As the drama unfolds, the wildebeests’ sheer determination to survive embodies their relentless drive for life. This event stands as a fascinating and mesmerizing highlight during the migration cycle.

    Fact 7: Human Interaction and Migration

    The interplay of human activities with this natural cyclic journey, both positive and negative, is integral to migration dynamics. Conservation efforts are critical in preserving the habitats where the migration occurs, ensuring the sustaining of the mega herd, the largest terrestrial animal migration on the globe. But alongside these efforts, there’s a need for responsible, sustainable tourism to avoid disruption and maintain the harmony of this grand spectacle.

    Striking a balance between these elements is essential for a harmonious coexistence between mankind and nature. This balance is vital in safeguarding the riveting river crossings, one of the migration’s most dramatic highlights. Upholding this coordination is fundamental to ensuring that the wonder of the Great Wildebeest Migration continues to captivate and educate future generations.

    Fact 8: Migration plays ab important role in shaping the Ecosystem

    The Great Migration is anything but a simple spectacle; it plays a profound role in shaping the ecosystem of the Serengeti plains. The hooves of the ungulates, or hoofed animals, perform a natural leader’s critical duties by inducing aeration and disseminating nutrients in the soil. This activity stimulates the environmental balance needed to sustain diverse flora.

    Moreover, the sheer biomass of these migrating animals contributes significantly to the ecosystem’s health. These vast herds are much more than just a sight for wildlife enthusiasts; they play a crucial role in nurturing and maintaining an expansive array of vegetation. Thus, this monumental movement of creatures transcends visual marvel, leaving significant and life-sustaining impacts on the landscape as they trace their journey.

    Fact 9: Migration has over 250,000 fatalities

    The migration holds some harsh realities, with over 250,000 wildebeest estimated to succumb annually. These animals fall victim to predator attacks, fatigue, thirst, or disease during the highly rough journey of two million animals. This is one of the largest migrations in the world, with about two million animals involved.

    This is not for the faint of heart—it’s a ruthless representation of nature’s cycle. Nevertheless, these tragic losses play an essential role in maintaining the rhythm of nature, as evidenced in Kenya’s Masai Mara and beyond. The fallen become food for scavengers, crucial to the ecosystem’s balance.

    Furthermore, their remains contribute significantly to the nutrient cycle, enriching the lands they traverse. Thus, every intricate part of this migration highlights the incredible interconnectedness of life in the wild.

    Fact 10: The Migration pictures both beauty and challenges

    The Great Migration demonstrates the strength of nature, showcasing its beauty and challenges. As millions of animals embark on this remarkable journey, they create breathtaking scenes that mesmerize observers. With determination, these creatures exemplify life’s remarkable resilience.

    Their journey shapes and enhances the ecosystems they pass through, leaving a lasting mark on the habitats they visit. Overcoming obstacles like predator encounters and difficult terrain they reveal nature’s inherent strength. Ultimately, the Great Migration illustrates the awe-inspiring nature of our world and the cyclical balance of life.

    Getting you there?

    The Great Wildebeest Migration is something more than an annual wildlife event. It’s an exhibition of life’s resilience, a feast for predators, a harsh yet beautiful journey of survival. The ten facts outlined above merely skim the surface of this profound spectacle, and no words truly encapsulate the experience.

    Eager to delve deeper into the world of the Great Wildebeest Migration? Bookmark our site as your primary resource and kickstart the journey of planning your unforgettable African safari.

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    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. What is the Great Wildebeest Migration?

    The Great Wildebeest Migration is an annual occurrence often called one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Around two million wildebeests, zebras, and other antelopes migrate from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of fresher pastures.

    It is an epic journey of survival where these animals, driven by an inbuilt biological mechanism, move in sync with the seasonal rain and grass growth. This grand spectacle involves formidable river crossings, encounters with predators, and a relentless pursuit of life. It’s a cycle that has been going on for millions of years, creating a captivating show of nature’s raw power and resilience.

    2. When is the best time to witness the Great Migration?

    There’s no ‘best’ time as such to witness the Great Migration because it’s a year-round cycle. However, different seasons offer different spectacles. The calving season (January to March) in the southern part of Serengeti is the entire life, with the birth of thousands of calves.

    The dramatic river crossings typically occur between July and September when the herds move towards Kenya’s Masai Mara. But it’s essential to understand that the exact timing can vary annually depending on the rain patterns, which directly influence the grass growth and, consequently, the direction and speed of the migration.

    3. What predators are commonly seen during the Great Migration?

    As an integral part of the migration’s life cycle, various predators take advantage of this annual animal movement. These primarily include lions, hyenas, and crocodiles.

    Lions frequently target weak or straggling wildebeests, and hyenas are known for their opportunistic hunting strategy, often targeting young and vulnerable calves. Crocodiles await in the rivers during the wildebeests’ mass crossing, seizing the opportunity to predate on the swimming beast.

    4. Is the Great Migration dangerous for the animals?

    Yes, the Great Migration is dangerous for the animals participating in it. Many factors contribute to this, such as predatory attacks, river crossings, disease, exhaustion, and food and water scarcity.

    From the moment the animals commence their journey, they face these deadly challenges until they reach their final destination. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands die during this rigorous travel, making it one of nature’s most demanding treks.

    5. How does the Great Migration benefit the ecosystem?

    The migration plays a critical role in shaping and sustaining the ecosystem of the Serengeti-Mara region. The movement of such an enormous number of animals affects everything from the grasslands where they graze to the predators who depend on them for food. Their dung and urine provide much-needed nutrients to the soil, promoting grass growth, while the death of so many animals annually nourishes scavengers and helps in nutrient recycling.

    6. Is the Great Migration affected by climate change?

    Climate change could impact the Great Migration. Changes in rainfall patterns, higher temperatures, and heightened frequency of extreme weather occurrence could disrupt the migratory patterns of wildebeests.

    Precise rainfalls are essential for the growth of the grasslands on which the wildebeests depend for food. Any significant deviation from this could negatively affect their number and the timing and route of their migration.

    7. How can visitors contribute to the conservation of the Wildebeest Migration?

    Every visitor to the Great Wildebeest Migration has a key role in its preservation, which begins with adopting sustainable and responsible tourism habits. This encompasses a range of actions, from respecting the majesty of wildlife and their natural homes to maintaining a physical barrier that ensures their safety and yours.

    It’s also crucial that visitors stick to established trails, preventing disruption of these beasts’ ancient migration pathways. Abstaining from littering keeps their surroundings pristine, and choosing eco-friendly lodgings reduces the environmental impact.

    By adhering to these practices, tourists can transform their journey from a passive spectacle into an active contribution towards the sustained protection of this breathtaking natural marvel.

    8. Is it possible to predict the exact timing of the Great Migration?

    Predicting the precise timing of the Great Wildebeest Migration is an intricate task and can often feel like guessing. This is mainly due to its reliance on inherently unpredictable seasonal rains that can oscillate annually. The animals themselves are guided by a primordial instinct to follow the rains – an element of life that is as changeable as the winds.

    These rains promise lush, fresh grazing lands, essential for the animals’ survival during their arduous trek. However, while specific dates might elude us, there is a silver lining.

    The herds follow a general movement pattern each year, adhering to specific timelines shaped by climate. This provides a rough guide for tourists and conservationists, predicting when the herds might maneuver through particular areas during their monumental journey.

    9. Why do wildebeests migrate and not other animals?

    Wildebeests migrate primarily because they have an extremely selective diet. They feed on short grasses, are highly dependent on rain, and are quickly consumed.

    Thus, wildebeests are forced to keep moving to find fresh grazing lands. While several other animals, such as zebras and gazelles, join the herd, they follow predominantly because of the large numbers’ protective advantage against predators.

    10. How long does the migration journey last?

    The migration is not just an event – it’s an endless journey, happening every day of every year. Throughout the year, wildebeests travel up to 1,000 kilometres!

    This epic trek isn’t at a constant pace, though. It changes with the seasons and is significantly influenced by rainfall. Rain means fresh grass, their primary food source. As seasons and rains shift, so does this incredible march of millions.

    11. Why is the Wildebeest Migration called "The World's Greatest Wildlife Show"?

    The Great Wildebeest Migration is a truly notable event. Known as “The World’s Greatest Wildlife Show,” it’s unmatched in size and excitement. Over two million animals move together, marking the largest animal migration on earth.

    Viewers can see exciting river crossings and predator-prey chases. Large groups of bounding herds stretch as far as the eye can see. These elements combine to create a breathtaking spectacle.

    12. Can the Wildebeest Migration be affected by human activity?

    Human actions influence the Wildebeest Migration. Dangers include poaching and habitat loss from building infrastructure. Hotter temperatures from climate change can also disrupt migration.

    However, not all human impacts are negative. Conservation efforts play a role in protecting the migration. This includes creating protected areas and measures to prevent poaching.

    13. Why are river crossings so dangerous to the migrating herds?

    River crossings are risky for migrating animals like wildebeests. Dangerous factors such as strong currents, slippery banks, and deep channels can cause injuries or drowning. Additionally, predators like crocodiles target these crossings to ambush their prey.

    As the animals swim across, they become vulnerable, making it easier for predators to attack. This creates intense, life-threatening situations for the migrating herds during their journey. Despite the danger, these crossings remain crucial for the animals to reach greener pastures.

    14. What role do other animals play in the Great Migration?

    While wildebeests comprise the majority, other animals like zebras and gazelles also partake in the Great Migration. Zebras often lead the migration as they can eat longer grass, preparing the way for wildebeests that prefer shorter grass.

    The combined herd also provides safety in numbers, reducing individual susceptibility to predation. Predators and scavenger species also play their part in this theatre of life, contributing to the ecosystem’s balance.

    15. Can the Great Migration be seen from any location within The Serengeti or The Mara?

    The viewing of the migration largely depends on the time of the year and the rainfall patterns. At times, the herds can spread over large swaths of both the Serengeti and the Mara, making them visible from numerous locations.

    However, to witness specific events like calving or river crossings, one must be in specific regions during the appropriate season, as these events are localized and occur only at certain times of the year.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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