The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: Wildebeest Spectacle Starts

Nairobi — Hotels are full, the wildebeest have been sighted and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park are all set for the biggest wildlife spectacle in the world.

The early ones have already begun their movement - a breathtaking migration of two million wildebeest, zebras and antelopes northwards from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

The spectacle, dubbed the 'Seventh Wonder of the World', will see the wildebeest migrate in search of pastures and water.

It is the peak tourism season for the area, with hotels fully booked as tourists are set to witness the migration.

Accommodation

The hotels are so full that Tourism minister Najib Balala could not get accommodation in the Maasai Mara.

"The wildebeest migration continues to become one of our major tourist attractions," he said.

"You can imagine I failed to book for my family despite my position! They said they were fully booked, and that is good news for us," he added.

Ms Maimuna Mohamed, the corporate accounts manager of Heritage Hotels Limited, said almost all their hotels in Maasai Mara had been fully booked for the migration period.

"Most of the rooms have been paid for in the region of Maasai Mara by most of the tourists who want to view the migration of the herd," she said.

Kenya Professional Safari Guide Association chairman Paul Kirui said this year's movement has started two weeks earlier than the usual time in early July.

Mr Kirui said that the herd was driven more by instinct rather than the availability of pastures.

The migration is an unpredictable and spontaneous natural event that goes to reinforce the belief that it is caused by instinct, he added. Mr Kirui said that in the past two days, the migration has been fast, with wildebeest covering long distances per day.

In 2006, a jury of experts brought together by ABC Television in the United States selected the event as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The migration is said to have started in the 60s and 70s.

The movement of the wildebeest, though meant to enhance their survival, at times exposes them to death. Hundreds of big cats are said to target the young, the old and those that get injured.

In Mara River, crocodiles lie in wait for the wildebeest as they come to cross or to drink water.

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