The Greatest Show on Earth

8th July 2021

The Serengeti and Masai Mara are not only two of the most famous national parks in the world, but they also play host to the longest and largest overland migration on the planet.

One and a half million wildebeest, and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelles journey on a perpetual cycle of clockwise rotation through the parks, following the rains and searching for food. This annual circular pilgrimage is considered to be one of the most spectacular natural wildlife shows on earth.

As this extraordinary animal mass moves from the southern Serengeti plains at the end of the wet season, towards the Masai Mara, it showcases a breathtaking and moving display of animal instinct, survival, and loss. In any given year a wildebeest may cover an incredible distance of some 1,200 miles. The journey is brutal with over a quarter of a million wildebeest falling by the wayside: falling victim to predation, or collapsing through exhaustion, hunger or thirst.

The crossings of the Grumeti and Mara rivers provide not only the toughest obstacles to the herd but also the greatest opportunity for predators and scavengers. It is also the climax for those viewing the migration.

Lions and crocodiles lie in wait, and vultures line the river bank: for them this is a time of feasting and excess. The river, littered with the bloated corpses and dismembered limbs of the fallen, offers little encouragement to those about to embark on a crossing. Animals back up as the numbers build on the banks: hooves scratching, tossing heads, and the sound of grunting reverberating out onto the plains. A waiting game ensues with no one prepared to make the first move despite the lure of the sweet green grasses of the Masai Mara the other side. A spectacular scene unfolds as, following the tentative steps of the first mover, the herd lunges into the river, and the race for life commences. Whilst many wildebeest fall victim to the currents and the lurking crocodiles, some simply get trampled underfoot as a result of the fight to get to the far bank, and relative safety.

It’s almost primal but breathtaking: spectacular, horrifying at times and completely mesmerising. A flailing of hooves and tangled bodies as thousands of wildebeest throw themselves into the unforgiving rapids, watched over hungrily by camera wielding tourists, vultures and crocodiles alike.

Two years worth of pent-up demand will almost certainly create availability issues for the best properties in the coming years, so if the natural phenomena of the great migration is top of your bucket list for when the world opens up once more, it’s time to get booking. The Elewana Collection offer camps that deliver front-row seats to this incredible spectacle – contact us for details.