The Great Migration is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. 1.5 million wildebeest, 500,000 Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles and 250,000 zebra follow the seasonal rains and fresh grass in a huge circle through Tanzania and Kenya. This map shows where they are month-by-month (though there is huge variation in timing from year to year); we went to the Northern Serengeti in September and October, for reasons that will become clear!
In an earlier post I showed you a herd composed largely of zebra, but the real spectacle are the Blue Wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus, the largest antelope. At this time of year the herds are composed of adults, with the males weighing as much as 640lbs, with horns up to 33″ long:
This sub-species is also called the White-bearded Wildebeest, C. t. albojubatus, for obvious reasons: the one below is young, its horns have not yet grown their swooping curves, but its hipster-ish white beard is already present.
But the herds also include teenagers, some still nursing. They won’t be weaned for 6-9 months.
They pause to graze, searching for phosphorus-rich grasses:
Then they move on, threads of them crossing the landscape like ants:*
But sometimes their onward surge is blocked by a natural barrier, most famously the Mara River, a deceptively benign looking stretch of water:
Next time, we shall see the challenge that it poses …
* The balloon in the photo looks tempting, but they are controversial because they often violate park regulations by flying too low, so that the noise of their hot air burners disturbs the animals. We passed.