Written by Brian Johnston
Some of the world’s animals far outdo humans when it comes to travelling by land, sea, or air. Here are some mass movements, part of the great cycle of nature, that provide awesome spectacles.
Blue whales, Sri Lanka
Nowhere else in the world can blue whales be so easily spotted, thanks to deep waters immediately offshore and an upwelling of nutrients to which the world’s largest creatures return each year. One of the best locations for whale watching is Mirissa, on Sri Lanka’s south coast, where blue whales pass by between November and April. Between June and October, having migrated further around the island, they’re spotted off Trincomalee in the northeast. Humpback whales and dolphins are other easily seen marine creatures.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Distance: 3,631 km
Flight Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day
The annual wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park provides one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles, as vast numbers of these animals (as well as zebras and gazelles) follow new grass growth on the savannah on which to feed their young. The mass movement starts in late December, with calving in mid-February, when half a million young are born. As the rains end, the migration moves back northwards in May and June, when dramatic crossings of the Grumeti and Mara rivers’ crocodile-infested waters provide an amazing – if rather gruesome – spectacle.
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Distance: 3,790 km
Flight Time: 5 hours, 40 mins
Frequency: Twice Daily
Elephant seals, Argentina
These huge seals with their long, distinctive noses spend most of their lives at sea, returning to land only to breed between September and November, and to moult between January and April. The Valdes Peninsula nature reserve is a great place to spot these awesome (and admittedly rather smelly) sea creatures. As an added bonus, you might see killer whales in action off the coast, where they swim in wait for unsuspecting seal pups.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Distance: 13,319 km
Flight Time: 18 hours, 50 minutes
Frequency: Daily via São Paulo
with onward connections to Puerto Madryn near the Valdes Peninsula
In perhaps the world’s most colourful migration, millions of flamingos travel in V-shaped flying formations between the lakes of East Africa’s Rift Valley in search of food. Astounding numbers (in excess of two million) stand in the shallow waters of Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria, usually in January or February, but are dependent on the growth of algae that supplies both nutrition and the flamingos’ flamboyant colour.
Distance: 3,612 km
Flight Time: 5 hours, 15 minutes
Frequency: 2 flights a day
The movement of caribou across all countries of the Arctic is one of the largest movements of animals on Earth. In Alaska, herds of over 100,000 animals head north in late June and back south again in late September, and are most notably seen in Kobuk Valley National Park, where calves are born throughout the summer months.
Distance: 11,473 km
Flight Time: 14 hour, 35 minutes
with onward domestic connections to Anchorage in Alaska