The Great Migration: Interview with a Safari Guide

The Great Migration Serengeti a

We get the inside scoop on the greatest show on earth- The Great Migration.


The annual Great Migration, the greatest show on earth never seizes to amaze us. Millions of wildebeest along with thousands of zebras and a host of other antelope traverse on mass from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara, on a quest to find food and water. But, to get a front row seat to all the wildlife action we rely on the expertise of guides.

The average person’s office is just a small cubicle and if you are lucky enough a window with a view, but there are the lucky few that get to call the Serengeti grasslands their office. We caught up with a guide, Douglas Nagi from Cottars 1920s camp to chat about the Great Migration action in the Serengeti.

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Every year you see millions of wildebeest embark on their 800km grazing circle. What makes each migration different?

You just never know what to expect! The migration is determined by how much food is available, and every year, the numbers could differ. The migratory routes that the wildebeest take can also change due to some areas being subdivided and fences being put up. They keep us on our toes. It is also the anticipation that builds up as we don’t know when they will arrive. This year’s migration (2017) arrived earlier than normal and has returned earlier.

What amazes you about the great migration?

The numbers are just out of this world, you would expect with all the predators, and diseases that affect them, that populations would go down but there are still millions of them!

Their instinct to find food and water is also amazing to me. They just know exactly when to embark on their food journey. It is like someone flips a switch and they just run.

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Why do you think the great migration should be on every traveller’s bucket list?

No words or pictures can ever do it justice. It is unique and intriguing spectacle. There is nowhere else in this world where you will see such numbers of wildlife, together with their associated predators.

The migration as a whole is interesting, and each section plays a key role. Travellers get to see generations of wildebeest as they move along. From the young ones being born in Southern Serengeti, to the rutting in the northern Serengeti, to the river crossings, both Grumeti and the Mara. Perhaps the most important area for them is when they arrive in the Mara to find high grass. The grass is rich in Calcium, and just like humans they need this mineral for strong healthy bones.

Photos and documentaries don’t do justice to this phenomenon, it is a must see. There is something special about the migration, how they have beaten all odds, predators, diseases and many other calamities to increase in numbers.

Is there a moment during the recent great migration in the Serengeti that stood out for you?

Yes! Water crossings are always entertaining to watch. On this particular day, I was watching a crossing with quite a heavy current. It was amazing to witness all of the wildebeest, including the younger ones, make it safely across despite the heavy current!

It is usually chaotic and messy with a lot of casualties. Very seldom do safe crossings happen as either crocodiles will get into action or some will be swept away.

The sad reality is that every year many wildebeest don’t make it. What goes through your mind when you see a wildebeest fall victim to a crocodile?

Considering we see a lot of life and death situations out here on our everyday ventures, it is all about survival. Yes, it is sad, but it is not in vain.

It is all part of the circle of life

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Let us in on a little secret… where would you say is the best Great Migration action?

Some of the best areas to watch the Migration are along the Sand River. We have seen incredible crossings, not necessarily dramatic ones but incredible ones to watch. But, if it is drama you are after then the Mara River is the place to be.

Except for the millions of wildebeest, what other animals can you see during the migration?

You can see zebras which are the first ones to migrate because they prefer the long grass, closely followed by the wildebeest, then elands, and lastly Thompson s and Grants Gazelles.

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Any tips for traveller's coming to see the Migration?

Yes! No one will believe you when you tell them what you saw here in the Serengeti so ensure you bring a good camera to capture all the drama. Also remember to pack a pair of good binoculars. It is also important to stay at camps with qualified guides as they know the area best.

Last but not least- carry with you a lot of patience. All good things come to those who wait, and sometimes for a crossing to happen, or a kill, you need to be very patient.

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What a life it must be to be witness the Great Migration for a living. Get in touch with us and join us on a Great Migration safari adventure of a lifetime.