Every year, about 1.5 million wildebeest migrate from Tanzania to Kenya in search of food. This natural phenomenon, known is as the “Annual Wildebeest Migration,” usually takes place in July or August every year.
When we found out that we were going to be in Kenya in July and August, we knew we wanted to see the wildebeest migration. It’s billed as one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” (whatever that means), and wealthy people flock to Kenya with their two-foot long camera lenses to capture the phenomenon.
Growing up with National Geographic magazines and TV specials, I had a vision of what the migration would look like. I expected enormous herds, treacherous river crossings, and perhaps a little bit of drama a la The Lion King. (Remember the part where Mufasa is killed by a stampeding herd of wildebeest? Yeah, I thought maybe we could see that…)
Turns out, those National Geo people have to spend an awful lot of time in the wild to see stampeding herds and death-defying river crossings. What we saw was a lot more mundane, and probably a lot more typical of the annual wildebeest migration.
So without further ado, here are some surprising facts about the annual wildebeest migration:
- To the casual observer, the “wildebeest migration” is less of a migration, and more of a “wildebeest standing around in small groups” phenomenon.
- The annual wildebeest migration has only been annual since the 1960s. Prior to that, the wildebeest probably didn’t need to migrate because they had enough food in the Serengeti to last them through the year.
- Wildebeest aren’t the only animals who migrate from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara during this time of year, zebras and gazelles also join in the fun.
- Sometimes it feels like there are more tourists than wildebeest migrating through the Masai Mara.
- Wildebeest are very stupid and will often cross a river, then realize they left a family member on the other side, and cross back. They will also stand at the side of the river for hours, say, until they get hot or until they see a zebra crossing the river, and then make their move.
If you ever get the chance to see the migration in action, I would recommend it. Just don’t let your memories of The Lion King and Planet Earth ruin the fun of watching thousands of animals doing illogical, silly animal things.