Wildebeest Migration finally kicks off after weeks of delays

Wildebeests (connochaetes taurinus) cross the Mara river during their migration to the greener pastures, between the Maasai Mara game reserve and the open plains of the Serengeti, southwest of Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 15, 2016. Picture taken August 15, 2016. [Photo:REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya]

The long-awaited wildebeest migration has finally kicked off in the Masai Mara Game Reserve.

The epic migration enters its fourth day today, as tourists flock the Mara to witness what some US media have called the seventh new wonder of the world.

“The epic migration has just started, and is expected to go through September. We currently are receiving loads of tourists coming to witness the migration,” said Mara Conservancies Association chairman David Sopia.

However, this year, the widely anticipated spectacle delayed for several weeks compared to last year's crossing when the animals started their journey into Kenya from June 6.

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The delay has been attributed to the prolonged rainy season that kept pastures in Tanzania's northern Serengeti greener for longer. It has also been attributed to fires suspected to have been started by locals along the paths taken by the migrating wildebeests in the neighbouring country.

Billows of smoke

Tourists and guides visiting the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem reported seeing billows of smoke and fire in the northern parts of the Serengeti.

Although the wildebeests migrate throughout the year in a constant search of lush grazing land and water, the precise timing of their movement is entirely dependent on seasonal rainfall patterns.

Narok County executive committee member for Tourism and Wildlife Joseph Koila said this year's delay had forced some tourists to postpone their visits to various facilities in the game reserve.

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“We are urging tourists who had suspended their bookings to come witness this World Cup of Life, as the wildebeests migrate from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the Masai Mara,” Mr Koila said.

He said business was slowly picking, with most of the hotels almost fully booked.

The effects of the heavy rainfall experienced this year have boosted the herbivore's survival rates as well as the large numbers of calves born between January and February.

Largest migration

“This year’s will be the largest migration. More calves were born earlier this year and the delays saw the largest herds converging,” said Kiola.

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The delays had seen online travel websites, including Herd tracker and Asili Africa, for instance, relaying live news feeds and reports on the wildebeest movements everyday.

The live feeds are often accompanied by photos and videos taken in the Serengeti and Masai Mara.

Herd tracker says the website was ‘created to take away the fear of spending so much money on safari, only to end up missing the migration’.

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