“If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” - African proverb
Great Plains Conservation sent a communication to trade this week about Africa’s annual Great Migration, currently about to cross into Kenya.
The annual Great Migration is about to cross the Sand River into Kenya. The migration of nearly 1.5 million wildebeest covers almost 1 000km. It has ended up on our doorstep at Mara Plains, Mara Toto, Mara Expedition and Mara Nyika (our Great Plains offering in Kenya’s Maasai Mara). There are not many other more exemplary examples of the ‘collective’ working together to stride further.
Any day now, even sleeping at night in camps will become a hardship (without earplugs). Still, we often forget that nearly a quarter of a million wildebeest get killed by lions, hyenas, cheetah and crocodiles each year. And yet they keep coming. With them, over 200 000 zebras, 350 000 Thompson’s gazelle and about 90 000 eland move along the same path.
The reason for this collective strength is apparent, even though they must compete for each blade of grass.
I once watched a lone wildebeest wander off to a lovely green patch, but so did the waiting lions. We have filmed wave after wave crossing the river. And witnessed a male leopard sighing before dropping down to hoist his 12th kill into the trees, eventually running out of suitable branches to store them all.
And yet they keep coming.
As they head northward, I want to mention the assembly of conservancies that form a semi-circle around the Maasai Mara, because while tourism may be down, even during this annual migration, the Maasai Mara still accepts self-drive and minibus tourism en masse (it’s organic migration at times).
This jewel of an event is to be cherished, valued, not disrupted, or abused. Each time I witness its arrival, I am never in a rush to drive right into the herds but prefer to stop, some way off, often without seeing them, listening for the approaching hordes as their individual moans and grunts suddenly find a unified resonance and rhythm.
It’s like clever jazz music, where each player is an individual, performing at his or her best and yet still circling back to intersect with others for even more significant effect.
There is purity in this migration, even with its chaos and clutter, punctuated with death and narrow escapes. But for me, the wonder is in its whole, a Ming vase of our planet’s natural capital, where the value is not in its individuals or in the biomass, the meat to consume, or the dollar or ticket price to see it. It represents that side of our nature, where we do not have just two choices: to monetise or destroy.