Where to See the Most Extreme Animal Migrations on Earth

Mother Nature is fascinating. If you watch certain animals for long enough, you’re bound to see some amazing and breathtaking sights. Among them may be massive migrations that seem like they’re indicative of a devastating global event.

While so many of us miss out on seeing these incredible sights, someone is always watching. It’s because of those people that the rest of us are able to see the awe and wonder of nature at work. If you want to go to the source of these unforgettable events, make sure you prepare for the trip.

Christmas Island, Australia

Photo of red crabs climbing out of the water
Credit: CHOKCHAI POOMICHAIYA/ Shutterstock.com

Besides having a delightful name sure to bring a smile, Christmas Island is home to a miracle unrelated to the festive holiday. The Australian island experiences a phenomenon that turns its beaches red.

When the first rainfall of the wet season sprinkles down across the island, it’s time for the red crab to start their mating season. Typically starting anywhere from October to January, the migration can cover the island in these vibrant crustaceans. It’s possible that some areas can be covered by as many as 100 crabs per square foot.

Though the start of the migration may vary depending on that year’s climate, red crabs have a very specific schedule on when they spawn. Regardless of when the migration starts, these curious crabs always finish spawning by dawn during the last quarter of the moon, always before the high tide recedes.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Photo of herds of wildebeest on the plains of the Serengeti
Credit: HelloRF Zcool/ Shutterstock.com

When you think migration, there’s a chance you’ll picture large flocks of birds and schools of salmon heading to their next destination. In Tanzania, across the Serengeti National Park, it’s neither avian nor fish that draws attention.

When the short rains begin around early November, herds of wildebeest begin their migration across the national park. Their journey takes them to Serengeti’s short-grass plains, just south and east of Seronera. It’s at this destination that they birth new calves, with the bulk of them being born around February.

The herd remains in the plains until April, at which point they continue their migration north to seek out water and food. The wildebeest are in a perpetual state of migration as the remainder of their journey, which continues northward in July and August, takes them to October, when they start making their journey back south.

When the rains begin again in November, the wildebeest are back on their trek to the short-grass plains.

Platte River, Nebraska

Photo of a large group of cranes standing in a river
Credit: Ann Cantelow/ Shutterstock.com

Residents near the Platte River in Nebraska can look to the sky between February and April to spot a flock of more than 600,000 sandhill cranes. The Platte River is just one stop along their incredible journey from the south to the north and serves as a stopover to relax and de-stress.

The flock is heading north, where the birds will settle in the much-colder regions of Alaska or Siberia. Nebraska’s Platte River gives them the opportunity to refuel for the long journey. Here, they will feast on whatever small invertebrates may be available. By the time they’re ready to leave, which is about three weeks after arrival, each crane will have added an additional 20% of its weight.

Curious individuals looking to experience this mass migration can do so in photo blinds placed within the Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary. The small box — which measures 8 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 feet high — is tight, but the chance to sleep among the cranes without disturbing them can be quite the story to tell.

Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

Photo of an information sign on a Snake Road trail
Credit: Cyrene Krey / Shutterstock.com

It may not be the migration some will want to see, but the slithery exodus across roadways and marshlands is no less extreme and fascinating. During the end of winter and beginning of spring, a mix of reptiles and amphibians begin a two-month migration from Illinois' limestone bluffs to LaRue Swamp, where they’ll spend their summer.

To accommodate the migration, Shawnee National Forest is forced to close Snake Road, also known as LaRue Road. The measure is to protect the threatened and endangered species that take part in the mass migration.

Among the most common snakes that migrate across Illinois is the cottonmouth, one of the deadliest snakes in the southeastern United States. Diamondback rattlesnakes, newts, salamanders, bullfrogs, toads, and musk turtles are just a few of the many critters finding their way to LaRue Swamp.

Respecting migrations

Photo of flying cranes
Credit: Alla Khananashvili/ Shutterstock.com

One of the most important things to remember about migration is that they are best left alone. Animals generally have a set path to reach their end destination, and anyone that may get caught up in the mass movement could sustain injuries.

Migrations are an essential part of population growth among different species. Since many animals cross great distances to mate, any disruption in migration patterns could lead to a decline in annual population growth.

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