There are other great migrations in Africa. In Botswana, thousands of plains zebras travel 1,000km – the longest terrestrial journey of any mammal on the continent – from the floodplains of the Chobe River to the Nxai Pan and back again every year, while in South Sudan, some 1.2m or more antelopes, including 800,000 white-eared kob, form herds 80km long and 50km wide. But still, the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti and Masai Mara is the spectacle with which all others must bear comparison.
While the sheer numbers – often cited at about 1.5m animals in total – are mind-boggling, and the grisly challenge of the Mara and Grumeti river crossings exhilarating, it is perhaps the migration’s never-ending circularity that gives it the greatest resonance. The synchronised calving of the wildebeest on the Serengeti’s Southern Plains in February – attracting the whole gamut of predators from lions to hyenas – is another remarkable facet of this awe-inspiring phenomenon.