7 stunning African Migrations : Amazing wildlife migrations occur throughout Africa, including the globally recognized wildebeest migration in the Serengeti and Masai Mara and the whale migration along East Africa’s coastline. These are our top seven, some of which you may or may not be familiar with. All of these will serve as inspiration for journeying to remote and untamed locations in order to take in the beauty of nature. The Great Wildebeest Migration, which yearly circles through the Serengeti-Maasai Mara habitat, is the most important event on the list.
Hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebras, and a variety of antelope follow the rains through Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara in search of new pastures and grazing. This phenomenon is frequently referred to as the “Greatest Wildlife Spectacle on Earth.”
Predators await at every turn along this endless clockwise path through this amazing nature, making it extremely dangerous. The amazing calving season in the southern Serengeti, especially in the Ndutu area, occurs from January until about mid-March. At its height, up to 10,000 wildebeest calves, zebra foals, and an abundance of antelope lambs are born. An impressive sight unto itself. Include the predators in the mix, as they are also raising pups and cubs, increasing the number of hungry mouths to feed. During this migration period, predators are most likely to be seen hunting during the day, with cheetahs, prides of lions, clans of hyenas, and leopards all following the herds in search of easy prey.
Depending on when the rains fall, the mega-herds leave those early months and follow the rains north, through the Serengeti’s centre regions before reaching the Grumeti and Mara river systems in the north between July and October.
- River crossing of the great migration.
This is the location of the well-known river crossings. To continue their trek, the herds must bridge several rivers, but these are dangerous waterways full of enormous, terrifying crocodiles that lurk, quietly waiting for their chance to snatch those who dare to venture into the turbulent waters. And even for those who make it through, there are plenty of predators waiting on the wide plains of the Maasai Mara.
The herds head south, tracing the western flanks of the Maasai Mara and the eastern edge of the Serengeti, returning to the magnificent Ndutu plains, their calving grounds, where their voyage around the sun must recommence.
Predators who also need to feed their hungry families will have plenty of possibilities as a result of this huge migration. It’s also a time of plenty when the migration goes through their lands. Is this the primary cause of the fact that the Masai Mara-Serengeti environment supports some of the greatest lion and cheetah populations that exist in the world today?
Where and when to see the Great Migration of Wildebeests.
Since Tanzania’s Serengeti is where most of the Great Migration takes place, there are several locations to stay. Our top pick is the famed Ndutu Safari Lodge. How come? Situated in close proximity to the Serengeti’s kopjes, which are enormous rock formations where predators perch and wait for their next prey opportunity, it offers a primitive safari experience.
Even though it only lasts a few months in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, the Great Migration is unquestionably one of the highlights of the global wildlife calendar. And what better place to see it than in the seclusion of the Northern Conservancy of the Masai Mara, where you can take in the world’s greatest wildlife show in peace and quiet, far from throngs of people. Situated on the banks of the Mara River itself, the historic Governors Camp is one of our favorite places to stay.
- Kasanka Bat Migration – Zambia.
Contrary to common opinion, the grasslands and savannas of the Serengeti and Masai Mara are not the site of Africa’s greatest wildlife migration. Instead, it occurs in the skies over Zambia and the Congo in November, when over 8 million straw-colored fruit bats go to Kasanka National Park in Zambia and settle in a small area of marshy woodland that is home to them from October to December every year.
There are bats everywhere you look, in all directions, during the colossal yearly migration, which can be fully experienced at Kasanka National Park with its abundance of hides and observation sites.
They fall back into the trees in the morning, noisily climbing over each other and pushing and shoving until they find a comfortable spot to hang upside down and take a nap. Because there are so many bats in the neighbourhood, it is not unusual for the branches to break, sending these large, bloated from fruit creatures flying ungracefully to the earth.
- Zebra Migration Botswana.
When travelling to certain regions of Botswana in the summer, which is often from December to March, you can witness this breathtaking spectacle in all of its splendour. Witnessing the spectacular spectacle of thousands upon thousands of zebra and wildebeest raising plumes of dust as they transition from one grazing area to the next is an incredible experience.
Why has this migration, though, only recently been “discovered”? This migration took place in peace in the most untamed regions of Botswana for thousands of years until massive fences were built in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the disease known as foot and mouth, which was then spreading rapidly. The migration restarted after these fences were installed in the middle of the 2000s.
Zebra herds go in two directions: first, from north to south, and secondly, the opposite direction. They travel with the seasons and the precipitation, constantly looking for new pasture. With up to 30,000 individuals moving across vast areas of land at once, zebras are able to cover enormous distances. Even if it’s not the biggest migration in Africa, it is in southern Africa.
- Flamingo Migration – Rift Valley, Kenya and Tanzania.
The greater and lesser flamingo migrations in the Great Rift Valley between Kenya and Tanzania they can even move as far as Botswana are a comparatively brief but equally impressive spectacle.
Millions of these peculiar-looking, vividly pink-feathered birds that precariously balance on incredibly narrow legs travel through the Great Rift Valley’s numerous soda lakes. Lakes Bogoria, Elmenteita, and Nakuru in Kenya are hotspots for flamingos.
Flamingo at Lake Bogoria; while it’s possible to see plenty of flamingos in their natural habitat at any of these lakes, Lake Bogoria offers the best opportunity for breathtaking photography against a dramatic backdrop, as countless flamingos frequently visit this extraordinary soda lake.
Lesser flamingos travel to Tanzania’s Lake Natron between September and December in order to breed. Despite the lake’s extreme alkalinity, which can burn skin, and its frequent temperatures of between 40 and 60 degrees Celsius, which make it extremely inhospitable for most plants and animals, the flamingos thrive there. Up to 75% of the population congregates around the lake in a magnificently spectacular flurry of pink, which some experts have dubbed “the greatest ornithological spectacle on Earth.” They rely on this distant lake for their breeding season.
- Whale Migration – South Africa.
Though it might not immediately come to mind when considering whale watching, South Africa is more than just a minor player in the activity, as its coastline is home to around thirty different species of whales and dolphins.
From the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Antarctic, whales such as humpbacks and southern right whales, along with numerous other Cetacea species, migrate northward towards the coast of South Africa. From the Western Cape, they are travelling along the continental shelf beyond Kwa Zulu Natal and then between Madagascar and Mozambique as far north as Kenya, where they will give birth in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
Of all mammals, humpback whales have the longest documented migrations up to 7000 kilometres. Their feeding areas are too chilly for them to calve, and the warmer seas provide much more ambient birthing grounds, which is the primary cause of this epic journey.
Over 8,000 humpback whales participate in this magnificent annual migration, which takes place for a few months between July and October. It also happens to coincide with the Sardine Run, a different maritime migration that takes place during which billions of sardines travel north along South Africa’s eastern coast. There are plenty of locations to witness these amazing creatures as they travel the length of South Africa’s coast; with our fantastic guide to whale watching in South Africa, you’ll soon be aware of the top spots.
- Wildebeest Migration – Luiwa Plains, Zambia.
The second-largest wildebeest migration in the world takes place when between 45,000 and 50,000 animals move to new grazing fields in the isolated Luiwa fields National Park. The greatest time to watch the massive herd of wildebeest grazing in Zambia is in November if you’re planning a safari trip. The wildebeest migration follows the rainy season and arrives in Liuwa Plains between September and November every year.
If perfectly timed, Zambia’s wildebeest migration would be an excellent complement to the November bat migration in Kasanka National Park.
- Bird Migrations.
There is no species or nation-specificity to this migration. It’s worth highlighting because this movement occurs all over the African continent.
The warmer, wetter summer months arrive in Africa as the colder winter months move in from the northern hemisphere. These months bring an explosion of newly seeded grass, blossoming and fruit-bearing trees, and an abundance of insects. Numerous migrating birds follow, heading south in quest of food, mates, and nesting locations.