Monday, January 21, 2008

Serengeti National Park Migration

Serengeti Migration – Serengeti National Park - Africa

serengeti migrationSerengeti Migration image courtsey:

The greatest show on earth

An endless plain with endless animals

The Masai Tribals have named this plains right ‘Serengeti’ meaning endless plains in their own language. Serengeti is located in the Great African Rift Valley, which is an endless grass lands dotted with isolated trees here and there; it has an area of about 30,000 sq km. The Serengeti National Park region consists of diverse habitats like swamps, riverside forests, kopjes (granite hills found here and there where non plain organisms find a haven), grass land etc and hence hosts unparalleled biodiversity. About 70 species of large mammals, 500 species of birds and innumerable reptiles live in this diverse ecology.


Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara, Ngongoro Conservation Area, Meswa Game Reserve all forms a very large area known as the Masai-land; for animals it is their virtual republic to roam free from one place to other where the grass is green. Serengeti has two short-spells of rainfall and the grass that grows with each rain wilt soon in the hot sun necessitating migrations, leaving for the plains of Masai Mara plains and then returning to the hilly Serengeti.

This mega migration of more than two million wildbeasts, buffaloes, zebras etc; as a united force proceeding to the Northern plains (Masai Mara Conservation Area) which is located hundreds of kilometers away. They are unmindful of the national barriers. This phenomenon has always attracted the curiosity of the scientists as well as common people. It is undoubtedly one of the Seven Tourist Travel Wonders in the World.

A journey triggered by instincts

serengeti migration map

Serengeti Migration Map courtsey:

As in every case scientists have one explanation it is in their instincts; as a bird of a particular species build a particular pattern of nest, animals (those depend upon grass for their survival) of these region are led by their instincts to go for greener pastures however distantly located these places are.

The wildebeests

serengeti migration

Serengeti wildebeests image courtsey:

It is written in their genes and these millions of animals to perform this yearly ritual of migration not knowing what are in store for the individual animal. Wild beests the large animals form the major partners of this animal-run is ‘the ugliest of all antelopes with the horns of an ox, mane of a horse and sloping hind quarters of hyena’ (as per Brian Jackman) is one of the most successful species in these plains mainly for their smartness in fast multiplication!

Grass is everything

serengeti migrationSerengeti National Park image courtsey:

Along with these wildebeests millions of other animals of all sizes and shapes as well as age groups from calves to old ones who limp along with; buffaloes, zebras, gazelles, everything that lives upon grass take part in this annual marathon in search of grass; for Serengeti grass is not just food but everything that represents life.

A nation of animals

serengeti migrationSerengeti National Park image courtsey:

The Serengeti National Park –that spreads from Masai Mara (in the southern part of Kenya) at north to Ngongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania -is a part of a larger ecosystem that comprises Tanzania (major portion of the system is in it) and parts of Kenya.

It is actually a big republic of the animals, where they are free and live a life of their own life led by their instincts alone, far more free than human beings who live in some so called republics! The number of these beasts living free in this ecosystem is astounding they run in to millions, as per some statistics there are two millions of herbivores (wild beasts, zebra, buffaloes etc)and several thousands of predators (lions, cheetah, hyena, eagles, vultures etc) .

The observers

serengeti migrationSerengeti National Park image courtsey:

Those animals which don’t take part of migration are the predators like lions, cheetah, hyena, eagles and river crocodiles. That do not mean they are not beneficiaries of this migration, most of them get their stomachs filled simply preying upon the runners! This trans-national run cleanses the tribe of these mammals as it finishes all those are weak (they either die on the way or fall to the predators lurking all the way). Most of the predators which are living generally on mean diet wait for this run to have a stomach -full of food.

January to March

Let us start with January; now the animals are back in Serengeti from Masai Mara; January to March is ‘delivery time’ known as the calving season, new calves are born, it is the time for eating as much as grass and growing as fast as they can, for the new bourns and the suckling mothers it is happy time.

March to June

Good times never last for ever and no one knows it better than these beasts by mid May grass begins to wilt. Calves have to grow fast to endure a great marathon; because it is animal kingdom, no place for the weak and shy; survival of the fittest is the dictum.

June to July

Animals as if obeying a command of one unknown; assemble (the greatest ‘animal assembly’ on earth) on the western banks part of Serengeti. This is a warm up time for a mega marathon! The young ones are grown up and prepared; all waiting for trigger, no one can predict the exact time as it is triggered by their own instinct.

July to August

It can be from the end of June or some days later, it all begins with crossing of the crucial Grumeti River the real test by fire of survival and luck, the weak either drown or fall prey to the lurking crocodiles in the river waters, but the marathon goes on there are predators all the way (cheetah, lion for first assault hyena, jackals vultures afterwards), most of them die due to sheer exertion.

August to September (arrival) September to November stay

They will reach in Masai Mara Conservation Park; their final destination; where green grass awaits them. This time there is to eat, grow, and enjoy! In certain times their arrival may as early as July. However almost up to November they stay in Mara. It is time to return to Serengeti first to cross the Mara River and start the ‘reverse migration’.

December to January

Serengeti is their original abode, this journey is not as fast and sharp as the first one, only the fresh grass of Serengeti can rev them up, they have the heavy burden on their shoulders to make good the numbers that fell to the predators and those who died due to over exertion, for that they have to grow fat, mate, and give birth to the new generation because the annual ritual of Serengeti Marathon has to continue!

For the visitors

serengeti migrationSerengeti National Park image courtsey:

There is no such phenomenon anywhere else in the world that is comparable to the Serengeti migration; either in the number of animals involved or the distance they cover, to witness this event is a lifetime experience that can give unforgettable in one’s life. It is due to this the Serengeti National Park Region remains as the most favorite spot for wild life lovers all over the world.

Wild life safari-operators offer packaged tours and observation camps for the visitors to get the most convenient view of the spectacle. The best time to see this grand migration is between June and August, this being a spontaneous natural process there is only a broad season but not a sharp calendar date.

Serengeti Serene Lodge, Ndutu Safari Lodge Kusini Camp etc are just some of the places that offer amenities to the visiting tourists.

Tourists can select Serengeti if it is between June and July or Masai Mara Park between August and September to see the incoming migration, but please remember this is a natural phenomenon and not a sharp time bound event; the arrival can be as early as July, keeping a sharp time keeper a late comer! Animals can’t wait for the visitors; visitors have to wait for the animals!

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