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Places to Get a Front-Row Seat to the World’s Largest Animal Migrations

Places to Get a Front-Row Seat to the World’s Largest Animal Migrations

Animal migrations are one of the most fascinating events in the world. Thousands of animals gather and go to the other end of the globe yearly, some crossing through vast African plains while others cruise the oceans. Here are some of the most magnificent and largest animal migrations in the world:

Wildebeests in Tanzania

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Millions of wildebeests start thundering across the Serengeti to reach the Masai Mara in Kenya every year. The same herd makes a round trip, again causing thunderous footsteps to echo across the land. Called the Great Migration, this migratory behavior isn’t easy; thousands of wildebeest lose their life to stalking predators and disease. Tourists can witness this majestic sight between late July through September on guided safari excursions along the Serengeti.

Mobula rays in Baja California Sur

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Thousands of Mobula rays grace the shores of Mexico’s Baja California Sur every year. Commonly referred to as devil rays, these majestic creatures are known to jump out of water, surprising unsuspecting tourists. Mobula rays migration peaks during May and June, and tourists heading to Baja California Sur can glimpse them anytime. Luckily, when choosing locations, these rays aren’t picky, so you don’t need to head to a specific spot to watch them.

Red crabs in the Christmas Islands

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Tiny red crabs travel from the forest to the shores to spawn, turning the coastline scarlet for miles. Red crab migrations are one of the largest in the world, with a record number in the millions every year—their migration peaks in October and November. Although tourists can easily catch these migrations, most excursions and tours are planned carefully to avoid disrupting these majestic crustaceans; the island even has unique bridges constructed to facilitate these tiny creatures.

Monarch butterflies in Mexico

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Although monarch butterflies live in parts of Australia and New Zealand, their Mexican habitat is the most famous, as these vibrant critters are seen fluttering for nearly 3000 miles. Monarch butterflies settle in the fir forests in Mexico, covering trees and turning the entire forest into a rainbow. Here, they typically spend November through March tied to branches, when tourists can trek through Central Mexican forests to take a look.

Hawk migration Palo Verde

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Every year, tourists visiting Palo Verde National Park in Costa Rica are graced by hundreds of Swainson’s hawks soaring the skies. These magnificent birds start their journey from North America to South America, with their migration peaking from December through January. After spending the winters in the south, they fly back to the north, once again sparking an exciting tour opportunity. Most tours center in the Palo Verde National Park, where they reside for a while before taking up again.

Zebra migration, Namibia-Botswana

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Tourists can glimpse the majestic zebra migration on guided safari tours throughout Namibia and Botswana, with peak migration times falling in December and January. These striped animals may not look like it, but once they start running, you’ll only be able to see a horde of black and white rushing past you. Of course, tourists occasionally see these animals feasted on by lions and other predatory animals, and some even pass away from lethargy and disease. But this allows the strongest of the bunch to survive, which still journey back in June and July.

Porcupine caribou, Canada-Alaska

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These curious terrestrial mammals take some of the longest migrations, starting from Yukon and Alaska’s north slope to reach higher calving grounds in the Beaufort Sea coastal plain. Here, they’ll birth their calves, raising them for a while until moving back to Alaska; during this, they double their numbers, with some reaching close to 200,000. The first journey falls in late May and early weeks of June, and the second during September.

Fruit bats, Zambia

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One of the few bat species to migrate, fruit bats take flight over Sub-Saharan African skies, eventually settling in the Kasanka National Park in Zambia. This particular choice of destination owes to the abundance of fruit in the park’s Mushirut swamp forest. Tourists hoping to catch a glimpse can visit during November and December when these fruit bats will swarm for up to 20-30 minutes.

Pacific Salmon, Alaska

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Having settled in the ocean, Pacific salmon travel to freshwater pools to spawn. This, however, requires a tough journey upstream, which naturally makes the salmon susceptible to bear-feeding attacks and other modes of elimination. But at the top of Alaska streams, salmon gather in thousands to spawn—the spectacle peaks during June, July, August, and September.

Flamingos, Tanzania

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A flurry of pink crosses tourists’ eyes as they watch hundreds of flamingoes settling in Tanzania’s Lake Natron, where algae-rich water sustains them. These flamingos gather in massive crowds during August through October, which serve as peak viewing times. These flamingoes aren’t there just for the food; they perform their infamous mating dance to entice mates.

Elephants, Sri Lanka

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Dubbed “The Gathering,” elephant migration can be witnessed in Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park. These gentle giants move throughout Sri Lankan national parks searching for food and water after their original habitat suffers a major dry spell from July through October. These elephants come close to 300 individuals, gracing tourists with a majestic sight.

Antelopes, USA, China, Serengeti

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Depending on where you are, you can spot massive antelope migrations across the U.S., China, and the Serengeti. In the U.S.A., pronghorn antelopes migrate from Grand Teton National Park to Pinedale, Wyoming, where they seek fresher grazing opportunities. Tourists can witness them in either destination from spring to fall. Thousands of miles away, the female Tibetan antelope gathers into a vast crowd and journeys to safer ground to breed. They can be observed from May to July, with the crowd returning with their babies. Like other migratory animals, Serengeti antelopes cross the land from April through May.

Snow goose, Canada-US

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This majestic white bird spends the breeding season in coastal arctic tundra from June through September. Once it hatches its young, the snow goose makes its way to the Atlantic coast in the United States, where it settles in bays and coastal prairies. In Canada, snow geese move toward the St. Lawrence River, beginning their journey in March.

Sooty shearwaters, NZ- North Pacific Ocean

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Approaching land only to breed, sooty shearwaters nest close to colonies built along New Zealand and North Pacific Ocean shores. They usually head down in September or October, when tourists can see them in full action. Here, they spend time guarding the eggs until they hatch in January. After a few weeks of training their young, the sooty shearwaters return to the skies.

Gray whales, California-Mexico-Alaska

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Every year, hundreds of gray whales begin their journey from the Arctic to the Baja Californian coast, where superior calving conditions ensure a high chance of survival for their to-be-born babies. Their migration begins in September and lasts until late December when tourists can view them from any prime whale-watching spot from the Arctic to Mexico. Once they take their leave back home, they remain in the Arctic from May to September.

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Emese Maczko is a travel blogger behind Eco Lodges Anywhere. Having explored several destinations around Europe, the US, Indonesia, and Australia, and resided in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, Emese possesses a keen understanding of diverse cultures and an appreciation for the beauty of each destination she visits. She advocates for sustainable travel and ecotourism.