5 Things You Never “Gnu” About The Great Wildebeest Migration

It’s the dreaded moment for all introverts: the awkward lull in conversation begging to be filled at a party. But fear not, for the Great Wildebeest Migration is coming to your rescue! Let these lesser-known facts be the saviour of your dinner conversations and impress your friends with fascinating insights about this magnificent phenomenon.

Herd of zebra and wildebeest seen on a game drive

Millions of wildebeest, followed by gazelle and zebra make their way through the Serengeti, Image Credit: Serengeti Bushtops Camp

The Great Wildebeest Migration’s Entourage 

This annual spectacle involves a united circular movement of approximately 1.5 million hoofed animals. The primary participants are blue wildebeests, numbering around one million, accompanied by vast herds of zebras, elands, impalas, and gazelles.

The Great Wildebeest Migration also attracts a host of predators like lions, cheetahs, and hyenas, drawn by the opportunity to hunt prey amid the moving masses. And let’s not forget the eager Nile crocodiles awaiting the herds’ river crossings, anticipating a chance for a meal. 

Here are five other baffling facts you probably did not know about the Great Wildebeest Migration, including some first-hand insights into what it’s like to see this spectacle in real life

Pirschfahrt durch die Serengeti in Tansania

Fulfill your dream of a safari in Tanzania, Image Credit: Serengeti Under Canvas

1. Scent-sational Soles Leading The Way

The Great Migration isn’t just one large herd. Instead, it’s a main herd accompanied by several satellite herds that splinter and reform over time. But did you know that these wildebeests have glands in their hooves that release pheromones and faeces onto the ground, leaving a trail for them to follow each other’s scent?

This simple yet remarkable mechanism helps the splintered herds of the Great Migration find each other again, ensuring cohesion despite their temporary separation.

And echoing the marvels of the Great Wildebeest Migration, our Travel Expert Dee Dlamini’s first-hand encounter during a game drive in Maasai MaraKenya vividly illustrates its breath-taking scale and sensory immersion.

“What struck me was just how sensory an experience this was, the proximity to this natural spectacle was nothing short of phenomenal. To this day, it remains the most remarkable experience of my life.”  Dee Dlamini.

Aproxime-se da abundante vida selvagem da Tanzânia

Imagine being in the thick of this astounding spectacle!

2.  Wildebeests Are Born to Run

Wildebeest and zebra calves are astounding from birth, quickly standing and even running around within hours. Wildebeest calves can walk within minutes and keep pace with the herd, even outpacing predators like lions. Zebra foals also exhibit remarkable mobility shortly after birth.

These species are precocial, born in an advanced state to survive the predators lurking around. Gestation periods range from nine to 13 months, with approximately half a million calves born in a two-month period, mostly between January and March in the south-eastern Serengeti plains.

Wildebeest and calf

This little calf can stand minutes after birth!

3. Check The Loos For More Than Just Gnus

Amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Great Migration, an unexpected encounter with Africa’s apex predators is always possible. With their formidable appetite, lions can devour up to 40kg (88 lb) of wildebeest in one sitting, showcasing their impressive dining habits. 

If you’re eager to witness lions in the wild, look no further than the Great Migration national parks located in the Serengeti, Maasai Mara, and Ngorongoro Crater, all renowned for their impressive lion sightings.

Lions in the high branches of a tree

Tanzania is also home to unusual tree-climbing lions!

4. Did You Know That Gnu Grunts Are Unique?

Wildebeest each have their own unique grunts, from which they get their other name, gnu. The word is onomatopoeic since it mimics the grunting sound wildebeests make. These grunts play a crucial role in helping the animals locate each other. In darkness or amidst a large herd, a mother and her foal, for example, can reunite by listening for their distinct “gnu” calls.

Wildebeest group

Gnus and their grunts share an intriguing similarity with snowflakes

5. Lean Cuisine

Did you know that Nile crocodiles, some of the largest in Africa, can weigh up to 750kg? Despite their size, these formidable predators have a remarkable ability to survive on minimal feedings. During the long dry season, when the Great Migration herds must cross rivers like the Grumeti and Mara Rivers, Nile crocs pose a significant threat. 

Despite their immense size, some of the larger crocs can sustain themselves on just one or two feeds per year! They gorge themselves during these feeding events and then enter a semi-hibernation state, slowing their heart rate and metabolism until the next opportunity arises. It’s truly astonishing!

One of our Travel Experts, Janine, was lucky enough to witness the spectacle of a river crossing in person!

“One thing I did not realise, which I do not think many prepare themselves for, is how emotional such a spectacle can be! You’re watching nature in its rawest form.” – Janine Gous.

Ein Krokodil greift ein Gnu im Wasser an

Nile crocodiles can live for 70-100 years!

One minute, you’re watching the herd along the banks of the river, and it only takes one brave leader to take the plunge into the water, and the rest follow within seconds…” – Janine Gous.

Witnessing a river crossing is a dramatic experience

Ready, Set, Safari

Now that you’re armed with all the fascinating facts about the Great Migration, what’s stopping you from experiencing it first-hand? It is a thrilling sight and an opportunity to create memories that will fuel your dinner party anecdotes for years to come. 

So don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Travel Experts to plan the trip of a lifetime. 

Great Migration crossing a river

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