Monday, 27 June 2011

The Great African Army Migration

One of the greatest spectacles in the whole of Africa is the great Wildebeest and other animal army migration. This is an amassing of one of the greatest armies in the world, equivalent to an army of approximately two and a half times the size of the army congregated by Napoleon to invade Russia in 1812, which was one of the largest armies ever gathered in human history.
 Much like Napoleon, the Wildebeest of more than 1.8 million gather together other nationalities to their numbers, including 500,000 Zebra and more than 100,000 other game animals.

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Between December and March the majority of game animals of Eastern Africa are in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area in the Southern Serengeti in Tanzania. By April the plains are no longer able to sustain the herds, and the army starts to march to the north in search of new grass, and this continues through May and June.

Between July and October the great herds arrive and stay in the Masai Mara in Kenya. Then as they start to deplete the grasses, they move south again towards the Serengeti where they start to arrive in November and December. This is an epic 1,800 mile journey, where these animals follow the food flow in a clockwise direction.

 When this army moves, it is like no other. Napoleon taught that an army should move quickly, and together, and this army does exactly that. No enemy can deal with this army head on; rather, they attack the weak and vulnerable, and normally younger soldiers on their flanks.

Although the army does suffer serious casualties en route, most of these are self inflicted like Napoleon’s, although not at the same catastrophic level as that suffered by the great French General. It is estimated that around 250,000 wildebeest die in the great migration, too weak to complete the journey. The army faces serious obstacles in its path like the Mara River, but the army gathers its numbers together before attempting a spectacular crossing. Many do not make it however, and it is not for nothing that the Mara River is home to the largest, and probably the happiest, crocodiles in the whole of Africa.  

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 When Napoleon’s army reached Moscow, they found an empty city, with no food, and no supplies. It was Napoleon’s biggest mistake. When the great African army reaches their destination in the plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya they find a beautiful plain, with freshly stocked grasses from the rains, and plentiful food.

Napoleon’s myth of invincibility was destroyed by his great migration, his massive army returned to France with only 27,000 fit soldiers, but the Great African Army lives on and actually repeats itself every year.

There are two amazing hotels to see this great animal migration. The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge occupies the prime position on the crater rim and offers stunning views over the crater floor. The hotel is simply spectacular and has regularly been voted one of the best hotels in the world. It has 30 sumptuous suites, which provide the very best in luxury safaris.

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                                             Image courtesy of

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For those who would like to follow the army during its march, Tanzania under Canvas provides three camps, which move between various locations. A hotel that moves!  How cool is that?!  But don’t imagine you will be slumming it. This roving hotel provides you with an exotic bedroom complete with double beds and ensuite bathrooms, with flush loos and bucket showers. You will be pampered in style, and your every need is catered to. 

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So what would Napoleon have made of this great African army migration? For so successful a general he would have saluted this army’s leaders, acknowledged their successful strategy and praised their tactics. Napoleon used to inspire his troops by his uplifting speeches and bold strategy, but he knew that ultimately all armies march on their stomachs and that there is no more uplifting sight than the arrival at a destination full of food as far as the eye can see.

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