What is it with wildebeest? They must be one of the most ugly antelope out there, but they are such characters. They have such joie de vivre, such spirit! Yes, they are not very intelligent, but they don’t seem to mind. In fact, I am convinced that they see themselves as really “cool”! And to top it all, here in the Serengeti, they thrive more than any other animal (excluding termites and dung-beetles perhaps)!
In August, while on safari with folks from Maryland and Pennsylvania, I was camped in a beautiful series of kopjes (granite outcrops) in the far north-western corner of the Serengeti, close to the Mara River. As we were game driving we could see clouds of dust near the Mara river, and when we approached saw masses of wildebeest mooing and lowing, and crowding together. It was clear they were building up courage and numbers for a crossing of the river, so we stayed in the vicinity.
Eventually they couldn’t wait any longer and in a dense single file plunged headlong from the bank into the raging river. Then what followed can only be described as wildebeest chaos! No thinking hominid can ever understand what goes on in a wildebeests mind!
They piled into the river en masse, and when they got to the other side, found the far bank to be too steep, so just crammed into the space between the river and the bank, until there was no space left. Then some began just charging up the bank regardless (and falling back down) and others began swimming back the way they had come, daring those reptilian remnants of the dinosaur age to try their luck again.
However the crocodiles seemed intimidated by the vast numbers, and on several occasions we saw crocs inches away from struggling wildebeest, but they didn’t attack. Eventually we did see a few wildebeest struggle for their lives with the giant reptiles attached to their sides, but the numbers killed were insignificant when compared to the size of the herds.
Of those who had rushed towards the banks, and come crashing back down, the numbers climbing the banks were so numerous that we could see the earth moving under their feet, just pouring downwards, much like earth pouring out of the sides of a digging machine. In a short space of time, there was a sandy ramp where the steep bank had been, and the masses waiting between the bank and the river began rushing up the ramp and off into the grassland beyond.
To me the forage on the far bank looked identical to that on this side. Is it just a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side”?