Usually when the migration is mentioned, thoughts turn immediately to Tanzania and the stampeding hordes of zebra and wildebeest, plunging down river banks, avoiding the crocs, snapping eagerly at their heels. Whilst Botswana may not have the same huge numbers of migrating zebra, they do in fact have their own migration.
During the dry season, Nxai Pan and the Makgadikgadi are parched and the earth salt-crusted. It’s hard to believe anything can survive here, but come the rains (usually in late November), the landscape is transformed. The ground sprouts with succulent, sweet grasses and pools fill with water once again. Life is good at this time of year, food and water are plentiful. It’s the time of year when many animals have their young, and there are cute, playful zebra foals in abundance, with their long lanky legs. Did you know that they have such long legs so that they are not easy to pick out amongst the crowd, giving them a chance to go unnoticed by hungry predators?
As the rainy season ends (around March) and the water pools dry up, the grass dies and the area becomes a parched wasteland again, where do the zebras go?
Elephants without borders, with the help of some collared zebra, have been monitoring the movement of zebra from Nxai Pan and the Makgadikgadi, and there are two distinct migration routes.
The main ones sees the zebra making the 250km trek north to the Chobe River, sometimes covering as much as 30km a day. They move in smaller family groups that the huge herds of the Serengeti, but it’s a migration nonetheless and quite a spectacular site. From May to November, the herds collect on the riverbanks and floodplains of Chobe before making the journey back down south for the rains.
Other groups take a different migration route and head from the Makgadikgadi south west to the Boteti River where they will spend the dry season close to the water before heading back to the pans when the rains begin and so the cycle starts again!
So, whilst Botswana’s migration is smaller than Tanzania’s it’s still an impressive sight and easy to see why a gathering of zebras is called a dazzle!