Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Masai Mara and Serengeti wildebeest migration: Kenya wildlife safari

Masai Mara and Serengeti Wildebeest migration: Kenya wildlife safari

Wildebeest migration between Serengeti into the Maasai Mara is the most unique wildlife spectacle in Kenya. This wildebeest migration is such a magnificent phenomenon covering movement of over 1 million combined herbivores crossing the Mara plains and rivers. Mara River crossings are the single most spectacular where the gnus of the Mara trudge into the rivers fully infested with crocodiles and raging water currents. The wildebeest is notable as the wag of the Savannah. Aka gnu, it has a structure similar to a young horse with a deeply built frontal shoulders and chest and a lean posterior. The animal legs are so thin it’s intriguing how it is able support the proportionately bigger body framework. The gnu has an unusual behavior as considered to other bovids. Surprisingly, a herd of gnus will usually fling different directions if attacked by a lion.

The Wildebeest Migration:
What gives the gnu its populous repute is not its body structure, but the spectre and absolute sheer numbers created by its migration. These animals migrate to and from the Serengeti and Mara plains in Tanzania and Kenya respectively. This is necessitated by search of lush grass and water. Researchers have estimated that greater than one million of these so called gnus are always on the move during the dramatic migration season from end of June and October. These numbers are so huge that miles upon miles of Savannah grassland is blanketed by a large mass of moving beasts. They simply extend from one horizon to the other; of the conveniently flat and treeless Maasai Mara plains. This is a sight to behold especially when you are on a Kenya wildlife safari. The gnu migration phenomenon is so enormous that satellites miles away in space are more certainly able to capture the flow as a black moving mass on the plains of this Kenya's great wildlife reserve. Now, that is huge for sure: and to excite more it is awesome viewing it on the ground during guided game drives or afloat with balloon Safari, a great experience not to be missed!

Masai Mara Wildebeests crossing Mara River
Mara River Crossings:
The most memorable and dramatic Masai Mara safari experience is when you observe the migrating wildebeest at the several Mara River crossing points. Numbers upon numbers congregate at such river crossings not sure of their next move, but to cross the river. The crossings are such infamous spots that the wildebeests have developed a self safeguarding instinct over time. Gnus will amass in their hundred of thousands at the banks of River Mara that is rife with the raging water currents and the heavily dreaded Nile crocodile. Put in the fast water current, prominent stampedes and jaw retorting crocodiles in this whole movie theatre and you are assured to get an exciting recipe for mass kills at such river crossings. The Mara River is typically awash with bloated mass of gnus carcass that the Nile crocodiles feast on for several days on end.

It is estimated that more than 250,000 of the migrating gnu die from stampede, drowning, the predators and crocodiles each year. But even this annual bloodbath is not enough to scale down their numbers. The gnu deaths during migration period are replenished by the more 400,000 births every year in the Serengeti especially in the February-March period. The deaths during this migration season are now considered as a natural population watch; rather a natural selection at its best.

Do and Die Point:
Mara River crossings are favorite spectacular points to observe the Masai Mara migration on your safari in Kenya. The animals will collect hesitantly in large numbers on the banks, not sure of when to plunge. Those other wildebeests behind the front line keep amassing into hundreds of thousands until the pressure on those in the front is too much to bear.

Eventually, they take the plunge; and when they do so, even the waiting Nile crocodiles scatter to the edges. The panic of being trampled by the millions of gnus is so real for even a crocodile to risk a head on confrontation. Hundreds upon hundreds make this death-daring- high plunges into the water, that the splash makes a swash-like a million water falls.

The Wildebeest Predators:
The Wildebeest migration is such that an Iota of population of other herbivores, join in the migration including Gazelles and Zebras. Lion prides also accompany (as they eat some, of course) and invite the migrating wildebeests on either side of the Mara River Crossing points. The lions stark up their stomachs with wildebeest carcass to a point, the prey pacifies the prides in the Mara plains with little fear. As long as a lion has had his 35 odd kilos of meat a day, he poses no threat. It is surely a game of numbers. The Leopards on other hand, don’t have to stroll far to hunt its prey. All they will do is seize on unsuspecting wildebeest as they pass by their (leopards) tree parches. The rest of the wildebeests scatter as usual in different directions. This is just another sacrifice, after all; they still got the numbers to dominate. This is one of the most rare  picture-perfect moments when you are on your Masai Mara wildlife safari.

Visiting the Masai Mara National Reserve:
It is not only the carnivores that will accompany migrating wildebeests but also humans as well. The Maasai Mara attracts such great interest that the ensuring demand during the months of June through October is not met. You will find it hard to get a space in the lodges, various tented camps and camping grounds if you do not book well in advance. Your accommodation in the Mara varies from 4-star to 5-star deluxe lodges or luxury tented camps and also simple camping tents. Wildebeest Migration takes place everyday of the 4 month period of July-October. You are as such assured a sighting irrespective of which month of the four  you visit.

Your bookings can be handled by several very professional companies which also offer transportation and transfers from airports, self drive car hire and lodging in the Mara. Make sure you see the migration the next time you make a safari in Kenya. Mount Kenya Climbing Expeditions offer a variety of African wildlife safari trips including wildebeest migration. You can take advantage of their offers.

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