Wildebeest surge across the Mara River in Tanzania.
Tanzania & Kenya – Been There

Africa’s cycle of life and death

Photo by Shaowen Lin

Tanzania & Kenya – Been There Africa’s cycle of life and death

The crossing of the Mara river by thousands of zebra and wildebeest every year during their migration between Tanzania and Kenya is one of the world’s greatest natural sights.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

There are few sounds more primal than that of a herd of wild animals, pounding the earth as they flow past you in complete indifference to your presence. My whole body resonates with the thunder of their hooves, and I realise how impotent a single human can be in the face of nature.

The annual migration through the Maasai Mara National Reserve sees over a million wild animals on the move, a movement on such a massive scale that it defies the evidence of my own eyes.

The herds move in a river of their own from horizon to horizon that hesitates and bunches as its meets the barrier of the Mara river. They know the hazard they face in its muddy waters: sheer force of numbers means many will drown, even though the numbers themselves are the best defence against the crocodiles that lurk in ambush beneath the surface.

Once the pressure from behind becomes unstoppable, the herd has to plunge into the muddy water. A crocodile suddenly appears, its jaws clamping to a wildebeest calf that it pulls beneath the water to drown – one individual thrown into unfortunate focus amid the mass. Panic and confusion spread in the ranks but the herd forges on, scrambling frantically to climb the slick mud wall of the river bank.

Then they are over, and the animals charge on, moving toward the horizon until the time comes to return and repeat the whole eternal cycle once more.

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