When we decided to go to the Serengeti, the first thing that came to mind was the yearly migration of wildebeests and zebras: National Geographic images of crocodiles attacking wildebeests as they cross a river; shots of lions surveying the plain and helping themselves to whatever tasty morsel they fancy; and photos of hungry zebras in search of food. It’s the survival of the fittest – a tough, unforgiving world and now we are here to observe it first-hand.
Our guide Cliff explains that since the migration is a cyclical event, we need to figure out where the animals are at the moment. “You can drive through the Serengeti for days without seeing a single wildebeest, and then suddenly there will be so many that you won’t be able to see the ground anymore – there will be tens of thousands of them on the move.” He says our best chance of seeing the animals is in the Olduvai Plains between Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. “The majority of the animals should be there before moving westwards and then northwards.”
The Olduvai Plains are known as the Cradle of Mankind after scientists found the skeleton of a 1.75-million-year-old hominid there. “They call him the Nutcracker Man because of the size of his jaws,” Cliff says. There is not much evidence of this ancient history left today, but driving through Olduvai knowing what it stands for adds to the experience.
Thousands of wildebeests are moving through the vast flat plain. Cliff explains that the animals do most of their trekking in the early morning or late afternoon; the rest of the day they graze and the young frolic around. The wildebeests move in droves: sometimes they stand around for a while, but when one of them starts running, the whole herd soon follows – real pack animals! It is an extraordinary sight, all these animals on the move, following the rains in search of food. They are like nomads; driven by hunger to cover the same 800-kilometre circuit every year in the face of life-threatening dangers. It’s certainly no walk in the park, the life of a wildebeest!