December 5

Have You Heard of the Zebra Migration?


By Ali Findlay on
December 5, 2016

The Great Migration, often called ‘the greatest wildlife show on earth’, is one of Africa’s most renowned attractions — consisting of over a million wildebeest along with huge numbers of gazelle and zebra, it’s not hard to see why. But wildebeest are not the only mammals that make such an incredible annual trek…

Recently, researchers have discovered that zebras make an impressive journey of their own in Botswana. The details of this epic trip aren’t clear, but we do know that it’s the second largest land-based migration in Africa, one of the greatest natural spectacles on the continent. Here’s everything you need to know about Botswana’s zebra migration, one of Africa’s best-kept secrets.

A zebra from Botswana

  • The migration is made up of between 25,000 and 30,000 plains zebra. their epic journey begins in the southern Okavango and head through the Nxai Pan National Park, ending up at the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. At some point the group splits up into smaller pods, some stopping along the way and others traveling even further.
  • The zebras make their way between the Okavango Delta and the Pans in search of mineral-rich grasses, fresh water sources, and safe breeding grounds. While this migration of ungulates is not as famous as the Serengeti’s Great Migration, it’s no less impressive.
  • In recent years, researchers discovered that one/some of the zebra pods travel over 500 km (300 miles) in total — to and from their migratory destination. This is the longest land-based mammal migration ever documented in Africa — some reports state that the zebra travel as far as 680km (about 420 miles).
  • Unknown for a long period of time, the migration was discovered by accident relatively recently when researchers noticed that zebras fitted with tracking collars were travelling huge distances twice a year, every year, and crossing over two national parks.
  • The migration takes place during the wet summer months, usually between November and March. Because the migration is dependent on the rain, the timing can differ year by year — migrations are not an exact science so it’s impossible to say exactly where the animals will be at an exact time.
  • As with most migrations, large predators follow in the wake of the thousands of zebras, making for some truly unforgettable game-viewing.
  • The rainy season brings a plethora of migratory birds, making the area a birder’s paradise. Sometimes large flocks of breeding flamingos can be seen around this time as well.

Herd of zebras in Botswana's grasslands

Although it’s usually best to go on safari during the dry winter months, you may want to question that theory when it comes to Botswana: witnessing one of Africa’s best-kept secrets is sure to be unforgettable. So instead of heading straight to the Serengeti for a wildlife show, why not try the less crowded monochrome migration? Observing thousands of black and white stripes moving around a spectacular brown-green landscape to the music of thousands of thundering hooves is pure, natural magic.

The evening sun in Botswana


Africa, Okavango Delta

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About the author 

Ali Findlay

A born and bred Capetonian, Ali is passionate about the city she calls home. As her studies draw to a close, she is getting closer to her dream of becoming a writer and travelling South Africa. In the mean time, you'll find her taking photographs around her favourite city and stalking any dog she sets her eyes on.

  • I am interested to know more about it. I have heard of this but don’t have lot of details
    I am based in Livingstone, Zambia and often vist Chobe National Park

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