Kenya Great Migration Water Buffalo

The words “wonder” and “awesome” have become so overused that everything can be described with these adjectives – and nothing quite lives up. For intrepid travelers, though, the Great Migration reminds us just how wondrous and awe-inspiring nature is – and how it can render even the most jaded speechless. This July, journey to the Mara River, where swarms of wildebeest fight against more than just the currents to reach safety, and crocodiles snap hungry jaws in a riveting tale as old as time.

Each year, millions of herbivores, including an estimated 1.5 million wildebeest, migrate from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve – and back again in a never-ending cycle as they chase food and water supplies. And what’s chasing them? Predators, including lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah, and, of course, crocodile, keep a sharp, ravenous eye out for stragglers.

The thrilling climax to this epic trek comes in July, when great herds of wildebeest face their biggest – and deadliest – obstacle: the Mara River, infested with crocodiles the size of canoes. Razor sharp teeth and powerful jaws lie in wait as, on the banks, thousands of wildebeest begin to “build” or to gather. Strength in numbers.

The “leaders” on the banks sniff the air, dip a hoof into the water, gauging whether or not it’s time to cross – and teasing wildlife watchers on the sidelines who are impatiently waiting for the great beasts to cross. And then, with a signal only the wildebeest can comprehend, it begins. It looks quite orderly, like a queue of schoolchildren, but then pandemonium breaks out. Speed, nervous braying, wildebeest launching themselves through the air, clouds of dust, and constant thundering of hooves.

A wave of animals crashes through the river; the purpose of “building” is to overwhelm predators with sheer numbers. But crocodiles, too, take advantage: the chaos and noise allows them to kill at will, waiting for the right animal and clamping onto it until it drowns.

Most survive, making it to the other side. After the dust settles, literally and figuratively, the scene suddenly shifts, and the herds of wildebeest appear quite tranquil as they graze.

As a visitor, nothing can compare to the sights and sounds of the Great Migration river crossing at Mara. When you book a tour with a reputable travel company, you’ll be able to get the photos – and memories – of a lifetime, without interfering with this truly awesome and wondrous event.

Enid Glasgow