Swimming, soaring or stampeding – witnessing immense numbers of animals on the move, as they journey to their next destination, is a wonder to behold.
Venturing vast distances in the search of food, ideal breeding grounds and more favourable living conditions, animal migrations are a true demonstration of nature’s determination to survive. The migrations are seldom easy, and come with many perils, however, these seasonal ‘survival of the fittest’ journeys are vital to the long-term success of the species.
Travelling across oceans, over land and through the air – Africa is the site of a number of wondrous wildlife migrations. ‘The Great Wildebeest Migration’ in East Africa might be the most well-known due to the sheer number of animals involved, as well as the dramatic river crossings, however it’s certainly not the only one worth witnessing. There are several lesser-known migrations that take place annually and could easily rival the magic of the wildebeest migration.
Botswana’s Zebra Migration
Previously, the wildebeest migration was believed to be Africa’s longest land mammal migration. However, this was disproved a few years ago, when a ground-breaking study by a team of researchers revealed that Africa’s longest land mammal migration is actually the migration of plains (Burchell’s) zebra. Making their way from Namibia to Botswana (and then back again), 30,000 zebras migrate some 500 kilometres across the Makgadikgadi Pans and the Kalahari Desert.
Photo © Kelly Robertson
The zebras spend the rainy summer months is the lush, green plains of central Botswana’s Kalahari Desert. Then, when the dry season sets in mid-year, they migrate north to the Chobe River on the border between Botswana and Namibia. The best way to see the zebra migration is from one of Botswana’s national parks which the herds move through, namely Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Recommended Accommodation: Nata Lodge
Set among the Mokolwane palms on the edge of the pan, Under One Botswana Sky’s Nata Lodge offers 22 luxurious, yet still African and rustic, thatched chalets built on stilts, as well as 10 custom designed Meru tents set on wooden decks and a beautiful campsite. The area surrounding the lodge incorporates a multitude of salt pans and vast grass plains and forms the Great Makgadikgadi, making it an ideal base from which to see the zebras.
Zambia’s Bat Migration
“There are a few wildlife phenomena that really stand out as extraordinary events. The wildebeest migration in East Africa, the monarch butterflies arriving in Mexico come to mind. Well this is amongst those top events in the wildlife calendar.” – Robin Pope Safaris
While the zebra migration may the longest migration in Africa, the annual migration of more than 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats to Zambia, is the largest mammal migration in Africa. Taking place between October to December each year, the bats migrate from various places all over Africa with one ultimate destination in mind – the ripening fruit trees of Zambia’s Kasanka National
Photo © Robin Pope Safaris
The best times of day to witness the soaring spectacle of the bat migration are during dusk and dawn, when the bats take to the sky in a swirling swarm of black silhouettes searching for food. The sky can become ‘overcast’ with the number of bats that fill the air and the cacophonous screeching that accompanies them is incredible (and not for the faint-hearted!). Descending on the Mushitu swamp forest in their millions, the bats strip the trees as they gorge on the fruit, often feasting on more than their own bodyweight.
Recommended Accommodation: Wasa Lodge
Located on the tranquil shores of Lake Wasa in Kasanka, Wasa Lodge is the closest lodge to the forest where the bats roost. The accommodation is rustic but comfortable and consists of seven chalets (four large chalets and three smaller rondavels). During late November through early December, Robin Pope Safaris offers guided safaris to Kasanka and uses Wasa Lodge as their base from which to see the bat migration.
South Africa’s Sardine Run
Described as the ‘Greatest Shoal on Earth’, the Sardine Run takes place between May and July and sees millions of silver sardines travelling north from the cold waters off South Africa’s Cape Point, all the way up the eastern coastline to the warm Indian Ocean of KwaZulu-Natal, on onwards.
Photo © Afridive
With shoals of sardines measuring up to 15km long, and 40m deep, the Sardine Run does not go unnoticed by predators and wherever the sardines go, a feeding frenzy follows. Sharks, dolphins, whales, big fish and birds all take advantage of the plentiful food supply, while on the shore, fishermen stock up their freezers with fresh fish. One of the best ways to experience the Sardine Run is to go diving, however only do this with reputable and experienced scuba diving companies.
Recommended Accommodation: Prana Lodge
One of the best places from which to experience the Sardine Run, is the magical Wild Coast. Situated in Chintsa East, Wild Coast, Prana Lodge is a small and exclusive hotel set in a pristine dune forest. Guests can stay in one of seven luxury suites, each with its own private garden and plunge pool. For the best chance of seeing the Sardine visit, plan your stay at Prana Lodge during June/July.
If one of these migrations is on your travel bucket-list, then get in touch with us and let us help you make your dream safari a reality.