Wildebeest of the Serengeti, on the move

The wildebeest migration is a seasonal movement of more than 1.5 million wildebeest within Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park (SENAPA).

According to Massana Mwishawa, the SENAPA Chief Park Warden Senior Assistant Conservation Commissioner, the wildebeest migrate from one point to another in search of grass and water.

 “The wildebeest migration is a natural movement from one point to another, and … is influenced by grazing, water and other things,” Mwishawa said recently. The wildebeest stay longer in areas with sufficient rainfall. 

Wildebeest crossing Mara River in Serengeti

The animals deliver thousands of calves while migrating. The calving season is one of the unique features of the annual wildebeest migration. Wildebeest babies can walk a mere 3-7 minutes after being born.

 The lifespan of a wildebeest is approximately 20 years. However, conservators say some wildebeest calves are eaten by hyenas and lions, which reduces and balances naturally the wildebeest population. “The wildebeest migration takes three routes, one which goes to western, second to the northern, and another one in the central part of the park,”  the chief park warden said.

The wildebeest migration has contributed to making the Serengeti one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Susan Miller from California in the US is just one of the tourists who were recently delighted by the Serengeti wildebeest migration. She witnessed the wildebeest crossing at Mara River in Serengeti during breakfast hours.

Shortly after viewing the wildebeest crossing the Mara River, Susan said:  “This is a wonderful experience and we are so excited to be here. This is a treasure.” Tour guides do everything possible to ensure that their guests do not miss the live crossing of the wildebeest migration. “The crossing of wildebeest is an event that makes our guests so happy, and it makes Serengeti a unique place,” said Stephen James, a Tanzania local tour guide.

The wildebeest crossing point was full of tourist vehicles. Tourists are not allowed to get out of vehicles while in the park.

Tourist caravans witnessing wildebeest migration across Mara River

“This is a trip of a lifetime, really wonderful and we are lucky to see wildebeest crossing the river,” another American tourist said.

The park is also blessed with other beautiful wild animals like giraffes, elephants, lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, zebras and rhinos.

“We have seen a huge variety of wildlife beyond what we expected. We witnessed babies and an incredibly huge and healthy population in a natural habitat,” Susan added.

Local tour guides say tourists visiting the park are only satisfied once they see the huge number of wildebeest crossing the trans-boundary river, which is shared by Tanzania and Kenya.

Charles George, another local tour guide, offered: “Serengeti is huge, with many animals like lions. But without seeing the crossing, a visitor will feel that s/he has not visited Serengeti. The crossing of wildebeest migration attracts me as tour guide, and also the visitors.”

However the number of local tourists visiting the park to see the wildebeest migration and other beautiful wild animals is still low.  “We are also appealing to Tanzanians to come and witness this wonderful incident of wildebeest crossing Mara River in Serengeti,” Catherine Mbena,  Corporate Communication officer at the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) said.

The wildebeest spend a very large part of their life in Tanzania.Their migration lasts about 11 months in the Serengeti, before then crossing to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya through the Mara River. 

In June this year, the Serengeti was voted Africa’s best park on the African continent for the year 2019 by World Travel Awards (WTA). WTA voters included both vacationeers as well as travel and tourism professionals. The Serengeti is the second largest national park in Tanzania, covering 14,763 kilometres.

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