The Great Migration is one of nature’s most remarkable wildlife events, which sees two million animals move en-masse each year in search of fresh pastures in an enormous clockwise loop between Kenya and Tanzania.
One of the planet’s most famous happenings, it rightly sits at the top of every animal lover’s wish-list and draws thousands annually to view it, but serious Africaphiles will tell you that it is not the only show in town, so here we shine a light on some of the continent’s lesser-known Migrations.
If swarms of bats darkening the skies are your thing then there really is only one place outside of Transylvania to head to - Zambia’s Kasanka National Park. In October every year up-to ten million straw-coloured fruit bats arrive with the rains from West Africa and descend on an area of swamp forest to feed on the wild fruits, making this the planet’s largest mammal migration. With a wing-span which can measure up to a metre, they emerge to feed at dusk, return at dawn and create an astonishing wildlife experience enjoyed by very few.
Animals roamed the plains of Africa long before humans were ever around, and the relationship between the two has often been a fraught one. Botswana’s successful cattle industry required many miles of fences to be erected, which resulted in disruption to many ancient migration patterns. The biggest casualties were the zebras, with it only being discovered within the last 20 years that 30,000 of the species were spending the dry season in the Okavango before crossing the Kalahari to reach the Makgadikgadi Pans in time for the rains and fresh grazing.
Southern Right and Humpback Whales make an annual pilgrimage to the waters of South Africa’s Western Cape to calve in the sheltered bays. Offering some of the best whale-watching opportunities anywhere in the world, they come so close to the shore that they can easily be viewed from the land. An industry has been built around these majestic creatures, with the former fishing village of Hermanus the epi-centre, even hosting a Whale Festival. Up-close boat trips offer the best viewings, but sightseeing flights allow the visitor to understand the scale of such a gathering, with up-to 30-40 whales present at any one time.
Those seeking an alternative to the world-famous Great Migration should venture further south into Zambia where, in late-October, the arrival of the rains force more than 45,000 wildebeest to move across the Liuwa Plain National Park in search of higher ground. Second only in size to East Africa’s Migration, the Park’s location close to the Angolan border means that it escapes the hordes of tourists which can sometimes over-run the Serengeti & Masai Mara, giving the intrepid traveller front row seats to witness an extraordinary phenomenon.
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