They’re the dramatic and awe-inspiring scenes we’ve all seen in films such as The Lion King or in iconic TV documentaries voiced by David Attenborough, but now you can take a ringside seat to the animal kingdom’s greatest shows on earth.
From the great migration of wildebeests out of the Serengeti into the Masai Mara to the march of thousands of zebra in Botswana and the marathon journey of humpback whales along the coast of Madagascar, there’s nothing quite as incredible as nature on the move.
But rather than watching it via the small screen, now you can see these animals race to reach pastures new in the wild and up close from the comfort of luxurious safari lodges, glass-fronted ‘tents’ and on uninhabited islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
As well as witnessing animals and nature in all their raw beauty, you’ll also be helping conservaton and local communities who rely on ecotourism to thrive. So here’s The Ethicalist’s round-up of the best places to see the wonder of the wild in action.
The Great Migration: Masai Mara
Africa’s race for life – the world’s largest and Africa’s most famous migration where millions of wildebeest, antelope and zebra cross over 800 kms of the Serengeti in search of greener pastures into the Masai Mara in Kenya – is the ultimate representation of the circle of life that forms part of Disney’s most popular – and highest-grossing – animated film, The Lion King.
The migration is treacherous: the animals have to cross rivers teaming with 3,000 crocodiles and escape the Serengeti lions patiently waiting for a kill in the unforgiving landscape. But having given birth in spring, and feasted on the green grasses of the south-eastern Serengeti, a column of millions of animals stretching up to 40kms long is on the march.
In July, the herd will have crossed the Grumeti River to face their next hurdle: crossing the Mara River at the end of this month or in August to reach the northwest plains and the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Stay in the heart of the action at The Safari Collection’s Sala’s Camp in the Masai Mara for the ultimate wildlife bucket list adventure. Nestled along the tree-lined bank of the Sand River in the southern top of the reserve, the camp is less than two kms from the Tanzanian border g, with views into the Serengeti National Park and can watch as the wildebeests and other mammals thunder past the crossing between June and September each year.
As well as The Great Migration, spot the Big Five, including ‘Sala’s lion pride,’ leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinoceros in the wild on a traditional safari then sleep ‘under canvas’ in luxury glass fronted tents with private plunge pools. Hippos, cheetahs, an abundance of birdlife and the spectacular landscape are all part of this incredible experience, too.
The Details: A stay at Sala’s Camp start from $1,739 USD / approx. £1,422 per adult sharing per night, all-inclusive. The best time to witness The Great Migration is from July to September. safaricollection.com
The Humpback Whale Migration, Madagascar
From the mating dances of the males to the strikes of fins, breaching and even possibly the first movements of a calf, the migration of hundreds of humpback whales along the north east coasts of Madagascar to mate and birth is a spectacular sight.
Watch this natural phenomena from an exclusive private island on Madagascar’s north east coast with 2,500 acres of wilderness plus five uninhabited islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Miavana by Time + Tide is Madagascar’s number one luxury resort with a vibrant house reef, colourful corals and even brighter fish, and deserted coves where turtles lay their eggs on the beach.
See the whales up close from one of the 14 villas where you’ll have butler service, and 24-7 dining from Madagascar’s natural larded which which includes the world’s most succulent mangoes, vanilla, and spicy pink peppercorns.
The Details: Three-night stays at Madagascar start from £8,232 per person based on two guests sharing on an all-inclusive basis. The price also includes flights and transfers to Nosy Be. The humpback whale migration runs July to October. mavrossafaris.com
Wildebeest Migration, Zambia
Zambia’s answer to the Masai Mara – 3,660sq km of flat flower-scattered plains that Queen Victoria was asked to set aside as royal hunting grounds – is now the site where thousands of zebra, wildebeest and oribi come to graze under dramatic skies in November. Watch the continent’s second largest migration pass by followed by pelicans, cranes, skimmers and the lechwe – the country’s water-loving antelope.
Experience the cycle of nature in all its glory at the only camp in the area, Time + Tide’s King Lewanika Camp, a collection of six minimalist open-fronted and open-sided rooms designed to make the most of the views of the vast skies and plains.
There’s also jeep and walking safaris, bush picnics, kayaking and visiting the Lozi people, one of the two tribes living in the national park.
The Details: A stay at King Lewanika Camp start from $1,400 / approx. £1,145 per person. The best time to witness the Zambia wildebeest migration is November. Timeandtideafrica.com
Zebra Migration, Botswana
The largest and longest mammal migration in Southern Africa as thousands of zebra journey from north to south and back. More than half of the black and white striped equines migrate from Nazi Pai to Chobe while the remaining 45 per cent go from Makgadikgadi to Okavanga Delta in Botswana during the green season.
Inspired by the incredible surroundings of the wildlife-rich Delta is the Xigera Safari Lodge with its uninterrupted views over the floodplain. Named after the Pied Kingfisher that makes its home here at Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve, the Xigera (pronounced kee-jera), the lodge is a ‘love letter to the magic of the African bush.’
The lodge sleeps up to 24 guests in 12 individually designed suites, including one two-bed family suite on two islands that is bridged together with a bronze lily centrepiece. It is almost entirely powered through solar energy, single-use plastic has been eliminated and caring for the environment, and empowering and employing local communities is the priority for Xigera.
The property has a living gallery of bespoke art works by Africa’s most exciting young artists and craftspeople, and as well as watching the majestic Zebra, activities include glass-bottom mokoro excursions across the Delta’s waterways, sleeping out in a baobab treehouse a kilometre from the camp, spa treatments and game drives to spot myriad wildlife.
The Details: A stay at Xigera Safari Lodge starts from $2,630 / approx. £2,151 per person sharing per night. This includes accommodation on a fully inclusive basis, park fees and all activities. Spa treatments are additional. The best time to experience the zebra migration is the end of the rainy season, in March. xigera.com