It’s known as the Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth. The largest single movement of wildlife on the planet, the annual migration of the wildebeest is a spectacle unrivalled in grandeur. Pure theatre, it is always awe-inspiring, sometimes comic, often tragic. Painted large across the face of the savanna it presents an image that is both breathtakingly beautiful and bitterly brutal.
Between the end of July and November, over one-and-a-half million blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), accompanied by half again as many zebras and gazelles, migrate from the short-grass plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to fresh pasture in the grasslands of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Moving in groups of up to 20,000 at a time they thunder across the plateau hesitating only briefly to cross the Mara River, where many fall prey to the waiting crocodiles.
Towards the end of October they begin crossing back into Tanzania. The actual timing of the migration, however, is dictated by the weather and does not always run to schedule.
As well as featuring in the main migration, Kenya has its own private migration, known as the Loita migration, which commences in April when some 30,000 wildebeest migrate from the conservancies to the north of the Masai Mara National Reserve to the mineral-rich soils of the Loita Plains – lingering until June when they move back to the private conservancies.