No matter how often you are lucky enough to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration, its magic never ends. Out in the wild and open country, the light is dazzling and you feel you could drive forever and never have enough of it. The Great Wildebeest Migration has been listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Not only does it offer incredible views of the plains dotted with huge herds of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle, but the rivers are often infested with large Nile crocodiles lying in wait.
On their most recent safari of this migration season, Joe and Rinka took a group out to the Maasai Mara’s Naibosho Conservancy. As well as being amongst vast herds of wildebeest in privacy of the conservancy, the group was lucky to be completely on their own for some spectacular river crossing scenes on a full day game drive into the main Mara Game Reserve. Once can never guarantee that visitors will see the crossing during a trip – it’s a game of patience and it really helps to have a private guide who can read and predict the herd’s movements.
River crossings are an especially dangerous part of the wildebeests’ annual migration cycle. Herds gather on the banks in their thousands before the simple pressure of that many animals, forces them down towards the waters’ edge and the dangers of strong currents and lurking crocodiles. Crossings are not for the faint-hearted – hungry crocodiles and hordes of panicked wildebeest taking seemingly less and less sensible routes are a recipe for disaster, yet they undoubtedly offer some of Africa’s most dramatic wildlife encounters.
Away from the riverbanks, the migration can be just as exciting. The spectacle of tens of thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle surging across the open grasslands is a phenomenal sight in its own right. The sudden bounty of available food attracts a multitude of iconic predators. Lions, hyenas and vultures follow the herds and the group witnessed some fascinating predatory and scavenging behaviour.
This particular lioness and her cubs were spotted in a thicket – the youngsters were playing as she kept an eye on an approaching line of wildebeest. At an unseen signal, she and her sisters all rose for the hunt, unsuccessfully this time but they didn’t seem too worried as they seemed to know the next opportunity was not far off.
If you’ve missed out on this year’s migration season in Kenya’s Maasai Mara , you may consider the short grass plains of the Serengeti in January to March as the destination for your next safari. These sunny and warm months after the end of the short rainy season are when the annual calving season occurs – over about 3 weeks around mid-February, almost half a million newborn wildebeest join the teeming herds as they prepare to resume the endless wanderings.