This week we look at some of the most spectacular wildlife migrations from around the world.
Certain wildlife migrations are the stuff of legend. Hearing David Attenborough describe the Wildebeest’s annual journey was a childhood highlight and the sheer scale is impressive, they are definitely an eco travel bucket list contender! This week I take a look a 7 of the animal kingdoms wildlife migrations, some you may know some you may not, but all equally spectacular.
1. The Monarch Butterfly Kaleidoscope
With a wingspan of 3 – 4” and sunset orange colouring, the Monarch Butterfly is one of the most colourful wildlife migrations on our short list. No single butterfly ever actually manages the entire journey. On average it takes 3 to 4 generations to make the lengthy trip across the entirety of the U.S.
Did you know? One of the main theories on how the butterfly finds its way is by using the magnetic field of the earth as its guide!
See it live: Santa Barbara in February is a popular choice – huge flocks have just finished mating and are starting their journey. But you’ll stand a good chance as far back as October. Eco Companion’s very own Monarch Butterfly Tour is the perfect trip
2. The Sardine run
This little fish numbers in the billions when their migration is triggered by a drop in temperature; heading from the south eastern point of the African continent up the eastern coast of South Africa. This huge concentration also leads to one of the biggest gatherings of marine predators, all hoping to take advantage of the opportunity.
Did you know? The normally friendly dolphin is actually one of the biggest dangers to the sardine. They use their higher intelligence to tactically gather the sardines into ‘bate balls’, where they are rounded up in tight packs. This causes a feeding frenzy for the dolphins, a variety of shark species and many other game fish.
See it live: Any time between May – July along the east coast of South Africa to experience this natural phenomenon. Search our range of South Africa Tours here.
3. The Great Migration of Wildebeest
The wildebeest migration has to be the most famous on our list. It’s the largest in terms of pure size in the world, 1.5m Wildebeest and around 300,000 Zebra along for the ride! The herd starts from Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains heading north to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve.
Did you know? Although their swarming can seem chaotic, a theory has emerged that the wildebeest has ‘swarm intelligence’. This is where they collectively analyse and overcome challenges like a deep river or predators through repetitively challenging the obstacle through pure numbers. They then just take the path of least resistance.
See it live: Around July time, the wildebeest are quite far into their journey and hit one of their biggest challenges in the strong currents of the Grumeti River. The Porini Mara camp offers a great opportunity to see this event up close, click here for details.
4. The pole to pole journey of the Arctic Tern
The arctic tern is probably the one you’re least likely to have heard of, yet it holds the number one title for distance covered in a migration. This elegant little bird, with its ‘mask of zoro’ black head, covers 56,000 miles from its arctic mating ground to its Antarctic wintering ground and back again each year!
Did you know? The average distance covered by an artic tern across its life could get you to the moon and back!
See it live: In the summer months between May and June, you can find large numbers along a lot of the west and north coast of the UK.
5. The march of the Emperor Penguin
Made famous by the recent blockbuster ‘Happy Feet’, the emperor penguin’s reality is somewhat tougher than it’s made out to be. Their migration leads them, from their feeding grounds in the more southern warmer waters, north for 60 to 100 miles in to the icy chiller of the Antarctic.
Did you know? The average male emperor penguin has to bear temperatures as low as -50°C, and winds up to 125mph, for 115 days straight while holding their egg. The average Brit, on the other hand, struggles to hold back a complaint at anything below 20°C and anything above 24°C…
See it live: They’re one of the more challenging species to see, but we’ve got you covered. Tour the Artic region here.
6. Whale Sharks of Mexico
Our penultimate wildlife migration is not just one of the great’s but also the largest fish in the world. Reaching up to 40 feet in length, these animals live entirely off plankton, krill, shrimp, larvae and algae by filtering the ocean water. They exist in a variety of different oceans around the world and their exact migratory routes are still somewhat of a mystery. One recent area of research has focused on the coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico, where over 800 gather each year to feed on the high concentrations of plankton in the warm waters.
Did you know? Each whale shark has a unique pattern of white spots across its body that allows each animal to be identified just like a human’s fingerprint!
See it live: They’re remarkably docile and so easy to see up close and personal. If you fancy swimming with Whale Sharks why not try it here.
7. A fever for stingrays
Golden cow-nose rays glide effortlessly through the water – they’re migration is regularly described as one of the most graceful wildlife migrations in the ocean. This visual impact is only heightened when they reach groups, or ‘fevers’, of over 10,000 during their migration from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula across to Western Florida.
Did you know? As well as graceful, they’re also potentially deadly. With a venomous razor-sharp spine that can stretch out 15 inches back do be careful. Don’t go thinking they’re the same breed as those in the London Aquarium that we all experienced nervously stroking as a child!
See it live: You can be in with a chance of seeing one almost anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico. There are two times of year in particular that you have a chance of seeing the golden cow-nose ray, during either their northern migration to the summer feeding grounds in late spring or alternatively their southern migration in autumn. Take a look at our Marine Projects and Diving Tours to see this first hand.
Did you enjoy this article? Get sent new journal entries we post by joining our community here