The Circle of Life Safari

The wildebeest migration is a year-round event for these animals that are prey to lions and crocodiles and other predatory animals of the Serengeti and Mara. Exposed and vulnerable, the young huddle close to the adults, but none are safe as they cross rivers and the open plains in search of lush green food sources.

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The Circle of Life

A newborn wildebeest calf enters this world in February along Tanzania’s Serengeti. Her wobbly legs struggle to support her, but after many attempts, she finally stands upright. Grazing on the lush grasses of the Serengeti, this calf grows stronger and more confident on her feet.

In April, she follows her family, a herd of over a million, as they move from the southern plains toward the central and western regions of the Serengeti. By June, she’s strong enough to make the first of many dangerous river crossings.

It’s in these waters where crocodiles lie and wait, hungry, yet patient. Rarely will they attack the strongest of the herd; they focus on the young, the weak. Our calf nervously stands at the edge of this river as the adults plow into its depths.

She makes it across, but that’s only the first. By July, she’ll be grazing in the Maasai Mara plains of Kenya, and this is where you spot her, small against the backdrop of so many adults. She has a playful spirit, perhaps relief from surviving this trek.

For the next several months, she and her herd will relax and graze in the relative safety and comfort of these plains, but come November, the journey will start once more, ripe with the same dangers that met them on their previous venture.

Yet, this time, our calf is stronger and growing even more so with each passing month.

It’s the cycle of life that plays out here in the Mara and Serengeti like no other in the world, and you’ve witnessed a small part of it.

And you’ll never be the same.

Suggested Itinerary

For Those Who Celebrate Survival

February – March: Serengeti Ndutu Plains

DAY 1: Shear Numbers

As you step into the open safari game drive vehicle, mindboggling numbers run through your mind: more than 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra, 18,000 eland and 200,000 Thompson’s gazelle.

You’re driven through hallowed grounds of the famed Serengeti: Ndutu. This is where close to 500,000 soon-to-be-born wildebeest calves will be joining their mothers in a 1,200 mile odyssey of their lifetime, The Circle of Life..

As your guide moves you as close as possible to the large wildebeest herd, his experienced eyes spot a wildebeest mother showing signs she’s about to give birth. She slowly goes on her side and you watch with bated breath.

You quickly learn this newborn has barely ten minutes to gather her legs, strength, and get used to its environment. She must learn to run at full speed with her mother to survive the hyenas and lions stalking their midst.

The life and death roulette in the Serengeti has just begun.

You have just experienced the beginning of the Circle of life.

DAY 2: The First Steps

Waking to another glorious African sunrise, you stretch and gaze across the Serengeti expanse.

This script takes place across 150,000 square miles of woodlands, hills ,and open plains. A wilderness that includes not only the Serengeti National Park but also Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve.

You head out and spot days old calves already learning to gingerly tread and cross streams and rivulets and learn to gallop away from deadly predators.

Lost babies are being sniffed and rejected or accepted by mothers who have learnt to identify their newborn with a sense of smell alone.

The spectacles continue to be spellbinding.

DAY 3: Strength in Numbers

You’ve been turning the numbers of animals – particularly wildebeest and their calves- over in your mind.

You spot a lioness gather near the herd as she plots her next move. You don’t know if you can watch, but you can’t tear yourself away.

Then you witness many more births, almost at the same time and wonder why.

It’s strength in numbers.

No matter what the odds, they’ll always be stacked against the predators as the hundreds of the thousands of babies born in a two month period will have a greater chance of survival among a herd of 1.5 million.

The midday sun burns hard as the lioness executes her survival meal plan, as the calves hobble and stagger in hope of making it to the end of this day.

DAY 4: Dangerous Crossings

Your last day. You accompany the herd as it moves northward, trekking ever so slowly, drawn inevitably to green pastures but also having to navigate through a greuling pilgrimage.

An expansive natural labyrinth littered with deadly crocodile infested rivers, steep banks, rapids, and unforgiving predators driven by their own survival instincts.

You pray for serendipity, that those who survive will, in a few months’ time, partake in Part 2 of the Circle of Life saga to take place in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

Only the fittest shall survive.

July – September: Maasai Mara

DAY 1: Lurking Menace

As you land in Maasai Mara, Kenya you wonder what destiny holds for you.

Perhaps you’ll spot the same herds, and the new generation of wildebeests – now merely 6 months old – after their arduous journey from the Serengeti.

As you view the wildebeest herds gathering, snorting, making their distinctive calls raising plumes of dust clouds, it seems like controlled mayhem.

The herd is apprehensive as thousands gather upon a sheer drop to the Mara River. Gushing and frothing waters wind their way below.

Invisible to the eyes, lurking menacingly beneath the surface, hungry and expecting are 15 foot ruthless Nile crocodiles. The few hippos you spot will be disinterested in these animals and eventually move farther from the commotion for some peace.

The Circle of Life throws caution to the wind as the first wildebeest hesitatingly yet invariably begin jumping into the brown waters.

The air is filled with surreal anticipation.

Slowly, the ones become twos and threes and then a continuous stream of brown mass like a trail of ants starts crossing the river, their hooves making huge thundering noises that echo and rebound on the steep river banks.

Another test of survival has begun.

DAY 2: A Spectacle, a Life, a Loss

The spectacle continues before your eyes. Another day. Another crossing.

Prides of lions patiently wait, attacking the lame and exhausted wildebeest as they stagger up the deep river banks that have become slippery and rutted.

Crocodiles snap and drag them into the depths, turning over in their infamous death-roll.

The unfortunate ones, those that slipped, became exhausted, and drowned. Some are washed up or dammed against huge boulders.

Vultures and marabou storks nonchalantly swoop down nearby.

Unforgiving is this circle of life.

You attempt to philosophize your own life’s intricacies as they pale in comparison to the vicious survival game played out before you.

DAY 3: Finally, Peace… to a Degree

All is not lost. The reason for this journey is manifest this day.

You anticipate this moment and as far as your eye can see, wildebeest herds have intermingled on the sprawling mottled Mara plains.

It’s a spectacle you had only heard about previously – and perhaps seen a few photographs of in the past, but now you can witness it all firsthand.

These animals graze, unconcerned, nourishing and replenishing themselves upon the luscious grass that they made the trek for. Playful calves and mating pairs move about, happily snorting and grunting.

Safe, for now.

DAY 4: The Clock Winds Up

As you spend your last few hours amongst the herds of wildebeest, the satisfied pack of hyenas and lazy lion prides who pick and attack at will gather and will hang close for a time.

You start to paint a colorful mosaic in your mind. All the actors in this script have played their part to the hilt. Everything you had heard about this migration and the videos or pictures you’d seen pale in comparison to actually witnessing it as you have.

Nature’s clockwork presses on, though, and within a few weeks’ time, the return journey to Ndutu Serengeti will set off.

The Circle Of Life continues … and you witnessed one small part of it firsthand.

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