Wildebeest crossing the river

What is the Great Migration?

What Is The Great Migration?

If you’ve heard of the Great Migration, it may have been from the legendary David Attenborough, from a fellow traveler, a friend, or maybe just researching safaris in Africa. This cyclical procession of creatures is one of Africa’s, if not the world’s, most impressive displays of biologically-fueled organization. The Great Migration has been called one of nature’s greatest spectacles, an annual journey of drama, excitement and beauty.

Wildebeest during the Great Migration

Africa’s Great Migration

Every year, around 1.5 million wildebeest, 250,000 zebras and a collection of trailing gazelles make the round-trip pilgrimage from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. This there-and-back journey happens over the course of a full year, as the wildebeests, grazers that they are, follow the rains like a carrot on a stick. Where the rain falls, the grass grows, and this need to feed is the basis for the migration. The migration will happen in massive, collective pushes: A flood of creatures stomp across the plains to their destination where they remain for some months before another massive exodus in reverse, veritable sea of mammals departing seemingly overnight.


In the chaos of this great migration, many animals become prey to predators such as lion, crocodile, cheetah and hyena. This tightly-bound mass of fur, hooves and claws results in a great deal of some of the most memorable photos and film the natural world in action. It is in this bustle that National Geographic and countless others have filmed emotion-filled scenes of the animal kingdom’s struggles at their most primal and raw. Around 250,000 wildebeest and 30,000 zebra perish during the journey. This fate usually falls upon the very young, as they often lack mature instincts and are more easily separated from the group, leaving them vulnerable to predators.


Perhaps the most iconic of all moments is the wildebeests during their crossing of the Mara River into Kenya. It is here that the seemingly fearless Wildebeest, fueled by hormones, rainfall, and a ticking clock, cascade down sheer walls, plunging into the turgid river, fraught with crocodiles awaiting the biggest meal of the year.


This is simply one wildlife encounter among many to witness during a visit to East Africa, where the Great Migration’s legitimately incomprehensible scope and raw beauty are on full display throughout the year. Surrounding the migration is the Serengeti National Park, a beautiful destination in its own right, even without the staggering and varied wildlife.