Great Migration is a blog post from the Miscellaneous category.

Great Migration

Posted by Will on

The annual wildebeest migration is well known as one of Africa’s most impressive spectacles. Over 1.5 million wildebeest migrate between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya, making this the largest mass-movement of land mammals anywhere on Earth. In order to find fresh grazing pastures, the wildebeest are forced to cross the Mara River.

Our trip took place in September, when the wildebeest were beginning to travel south into the Serengeti again. We have put together a simple migration map showing the route and approximate timings of the wildebeest’s 3,000km round trip.

Whenever we cover something that has already been well documented by other photographers, we try to come up with an original way to portray it. The result is the short film below which we hope conveys to you the magnitude and drama of this incredible migration.

This film is a combination of telephoto video clips and wide-angle time-lapse sequences that speed up the motion by around 25 times. Before this, we have never seen a time-lapse of a wildebeest river crossing – perhaps this is the first time it has been done. Among other things, the clips show the wildebeest being pulled downstream by the current and swarming up the far banks of the river.

Of course we also took plenty of photographs of the wildebeest river crossings (there are more than 70 in our wildebeest galleries). Below we have included a few of our favourites.

A herd of wildebeest dithering on the banks of the Mara River.
Wildebeest in the rain, waiting to cross the Mara River.

When the wildebeest reach the banks of the Mara River, they gather in vast herds as they summon up the courage to make the crossing. Eventually, it takes one brave individual to venture into the water and then all the other animals rush to follow. We often spent many frustrating hours waiting for a dithering herd to start crossing!

Wildebeest pour down the banks before leaping into the Mara River.
Ten thousand wildebeest crossed the Mara River in just half an hour.

A couple of the crossings we witnessed had upwards of 10,000 individuals swim across the river in just half an hour. It is hard to describe the mayhem and noise that accompanies one of these epic crossings.

Wildebeest emerging from the river.
Wildebeest starting their crossing of the Mara River.

The crossing is very perilous, with wildebeest frequently drowning, breaking legs after jumping down cliffs or falling victim to the river’s well-fed crocodiles.

A wildebeest jumps into the Mara River.
A slow shutter speed was used to emphasise the mayhem and chaos.

In order to capture the scale of one of the crossings, we took over 30 overlapping images which we then stitched together to create a 300 megapixel panorama. If you click on the preview below you can explore a high-resolution version of this panorama (it has been shrunk to around 50% of the original size but is still over 16 thousand pixels wide!).

Great Migration Panorama

The influx of animals into the region provides a valuable opportunity for predators and scavengers. We saw cheetahs, lions, hyenas and vultures all feasting on wildebeest kills.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the great migration has been one of the most incredible spectacles we’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing. On occasion we found it hard to hold our cameras steady as the adrenaline was making us shake so much!

For more of our wildebeest photographs, please checkout our Wildebeest Migration page. You may also want to read about the rare pink hippo that we photographed during the same trip.


  1. Rob Clayton Photography said: May 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Genuinely amazing work…..the panoramic is just unbelievable!!

  2. tomsan said: May 8, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    amazing, hard job behind that

  3. Walter Kohrs said: October 12, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Hi Burrard-Lucas, the clip is really great and I was wondering if we could imbed it on our website.

    We could add a link to your blog if you wish and obviously it will remain unedited.

    Music and scenes are excellent.

    It’s just an idea as I really enjoyed it! Hope you have a lovely day!


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