I was 11 years old when my family and I set off on the greatest adventure that I have ever had. It was there, in Tanzania, where one of the world’s most wonderful spectacles would unfold right under my eyes – the Great Wildebeest migration.
That day I woke up to a glowing ember sun that cast red shadows over everything it glanced at. The sky was painted with different hues of amber and lilac, and clouds were scattered over the grassy plains. From the tent, I could just make out the silhouettes of the zebras and giraffes that were awakening from their slumber.
After a long breakfast of pancakes, eggs and juice, we set off in search of the legendary great migration. The fresh breeze of wind and the cool crispness of the air accompanied us in the jeep, as we bumped along trails and rocks on our way to the river. To pass time, my sister and I would stand on our seats and raise our heads around the edge of the jeep, letting the breeze fly through our hair and we would marvel at the many animals, dotted on the horizon. Our guide knew where he was headed, and so we quickly arrived at the Mara River.
The Mara river. Calm pulses of waves strolled through the brown muddy water and sometimes, crocodile jaws would snap above the water, their white teeth gleaming through water and wind. Steep slopes of dirt path separated the antelopes from the heart of the river, and thousands of wildebeest were stood on one side, eyeing it, daring one of their own to be the first martyr. Our van had tactfully parked behind a tree, making sure we tried our best not to disturb their natural lifestyle.
Seconds passed. Then minutes. Then half an hour. The only sound you could hear were innocent birds chirping by, unaware of the importance of these tense moments. The river flow had seemed to stop, and even the wind had stopped whistling.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a movement from one of the wildebeests, and so my eyes drilled into his every movement. I could spot his legs twitching and I could almost hear his indecisiveness. But then, he charged. And thousands followed.
It was a flurry of activity. Crocodiles snapped ferociously at the water, trying to catch an unlucky wildebeest. Storms of waves broke from the river, creating a torment of water. The other side of the river became a playground for smoke and mist. The shadows of the wildebeest were the only thing that gave away the fact that there were still tens of thousands of others on the other side of the river, having not yet managed to cross.
However, even after escaping the crocodiles’ jaws, the wildebeest had to climb out of the dirt slopes. And that was a challenge in itself. Many fell down the river, falling to their deaths. Some others couldn’t find their loved ones and charged back across to look for them. In these cases a few wildebeest would follow like blind sheep, following whatever sudden movement happened. Challenge after challenge the wildebeest had to face, and challenge after challenge most of them succeeded.
It was a miracle to watch those animals fight to the death, to risk and to give up so much. It was even more beautiful to watch those who went back for their family members, to feel the desperation they had when they couldn’t find their loved ones. It reminded me that love and fondness was still alive and well in this world. And so this is why, even though three years have passed since I watched the migration, I can still remember every single detail of it.