Wildebeest Migration Mara Crossing Safari

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Planning a Wildebeest Migration Safari and Hope to See Mara Crossing?

Safari Tips to Fully Experience Wildebeest Migration Crossing at Mara River 

I decided to write this blog since very often many of my friends reach out to me to understand when and how to experience this. It has to be noted that I am not affiliated with any travel/tour operators and these thoughts are purely based on my observation and experience of visiting east African national parks multiple times.

 

One of the greatest natural spectacle is the migration of the wildebeest, zebra and gazelles in the Serengeti National Park. More than 80% of the park is in Tanzania and the rest in Kenya. The predators gets active in the area where these herds are.

 

The definition of migration can also vary between a large herd of these animals to the river crossings. Being there at the right time is an experience of life-time.

 

migration safari masai mara serengeti river crossing

 

The fact is that these animals keep always moving as herds, millions of them split into multiple herds and they march on. They keep moving, looking for rain and fresh grass through out the year and their entire life time.

Typically they do not stay at a specific area for more than 3 weeks. When I indicate area, Serengeti is spread across almost 15,000 sqkms.

That’s 20 times as big as a country like Singapore. So being in the right area during the visit is important for good sighting experience. There are times, where I have seen huge herds during the evenings at an area and none the next morning. They keep moving all time, breaking as small herds or joining into bigger herds.

 

 

mara grumeti river safari best palces to be

 

Coming back to wildebeest migration, if the definition one is looking for just seeing the huge herd, it’s not complicated and can be experienced within few safaris either in Kenya or Tanzania.

Also, some of the areas have resident animals that do not migrate. So, as a first time safari goer, it is relatively easy to see them. Where as if the definition is to watch Mara river-crossing, then it requires lot more planning and luck.

 

Ultimate Safari Packing List

 

Best Time for Wildebeest Migration Mara Crossing Safari

 

 

safaris tanzania kenya mara river crossing timing

 

 

When it comes to  river crossings, large migrations happen across Grumeti river and Mara river during specific periods. To my understanding, it is not actually migration because they just keep crossing the river every few days on both sides depending upon the rain and fresh grass. The Grumeti one is of relatively shorter duration where as the Mara one extends for a few months.

 

Historic data indicate that the Grumeti crossing happens between May  and June while the Mara  river wildebeest migration crossing is usually going on between July to September.

 

Since Mara river becomes the natural border between Kenya and Tanzania within Serengeti, many indicate migrations happens to Kenya. Once again, its not exactly migration, the herds just keep moving across the north west part of Serengeti and keeps crossing the river as they feel. What’s amazing is that there are specific points of the river and they cross only there.

 

Perhaps they remember these points. Also, the herds accumulate near the river in thousands and more keep joining in. Thirstily, they might remain near the banks for a long time waiting for the first one to take the bold step and the rest follows in a frenzy. The herd size can vary from 100s to many thousands.

 

 

wildebeest crossing mara river serengeti safari

 

Therefore, to watch wildebeest river-crossings, one has to be close to Mara river between July to September. The options are Kenyan side of the Masai Mara park or the north west part of Tanzania. Kenyan side is easily accessible and hence it could be very crowded during these months.

 

The north west area of Tanzania is one of the best kept secret of Serengeti. This area is called as ‘Lamai Triangle/Lamai Mara’.  A place blessed with wilderness and the least crowd. I believe between July to September more than 70% of the herds remain here and its only the other 30% that crosses the river to the Kenyan side.

I remember not seeing more than 5 vehicles the entire day here. This kind of exclusiveness is beyond words.

Long ago, tourist could enter here from Kenya through the park easily. However, Tanzanian government closed the gates lately. After this, accessing Mara river from Tanzania side involves a lot of effort. Since it involves a drive of almost 300+ kms over dirt-track, many tour operators will not even inform this to the regular tourist.

 Perhaps, they don’t want to make it too rough for the tourist or due to choice of lodges. Of course, the few mobile lodges here are more exclusive and expensive too. But for those who do not have too many days to spare this is the best option without compromising on the whole safari experience.

It may be a good idea to do a fly-in from Arusha/Kilimanjaro to Kogatande airstrip and head to the camp in this area saving 2 driving days of the whole trip.

 

 

mara crossing safari kenya tanzania travel tips

 

 

Some Tanzanian tour operators will organize the regular Ngorogoro, Central Serengeti (Seronera), Manyara/Tarangire safaris and call this as Migration Safari! It is sad, some of my friends have also fallen for this. It’s not that  these are bad places to go on safari,  but between July to September when one pays peak-season rates, these are not the places to be in Tanzania for the best experience.

 

The Best Place to Experience Wildebeest Migration Crossing  Mara River

 

  • Lamai Mara of Serengeti, Tanzania
  • Masai Mara of Serengeti, Kenya

 

The choice could be based on the budget, trip duration, the appetite for wilderness and exclusivity. Most of all, crossing river is a natural event and no one can predict when the Mara river crossing can happen.

 

We have seen thousands crossing once and another time, we waited for several hours next to the river bank with a huge herd but as the crossing started it was interrupted when a baby crocodile came up on the river bank and then it was waiting for the whole day without events. Therefore, it depends a lot upon luck too.

 

 

wildebeest migration mara grumeti river crossing

 

Photo Tips Wildebeest Migration Mara Crossing Safari

 

 For good travel photography on safari you will need a good zoom lens. Any reasonable long range lens would do.  Most action would happen between 200 to 600 mm.  High fps camera is preferred because when  the crossing begins, action starts with full swing. To capture the scenes and not loose moments between the clicks.

 

I hope this short blog post helps the one who is keen to experience river-crossing by guiding to the right place at the right period and the rest is Good Luck!

 

 

wildebeest migration mara river crossing best time to go on safari

Written by: Marzook aka Zookk – Nature and Wildlife Lover, Passionate Photographer, Selective story teller. See more of his safari photography on Instagram All photos in this post property of Zookk.

Which African adventure is your favourite? Have you been on African safari? Let me know in comments.

 

By |2018-11-16T01:46:47+00:00May 17th, 2017|Categories: Kenya, Safari Tips, Tanzania|28 Comments

About the Author:

Safari Junkie is dynamic travel blog focused solely on Africa. Our aim is to spread a passion for all types of travel to Africa, inspire and to encourage people to take first step into wonderful world of Africa! We can partner with you and help promote trips, tours, sights and African destinations that wouldn’t ordinarily be on average traveller’s radar. We love exploring off beaten places in Africa as well we love pay a visit to classic African destinations and reveal what is invisible to average traveller’s eyes! © Safari Junkie. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published without permission, rewritten or redistributed.

28 Comments

  1. Kavey Favelle 05/17/2017 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    Yes, agree with all your advice. We have been on safari in both Kenyan and Tanzanian sides. More often in Kenyan. We love the Masai Mara even with the crowds. Sometimes a crossing in the Kenya side is actually stopped by poor behaviour from some guides / drivers. Parked back from the bank, they surge the cars forward the second it looks like there might be a crossing to get best position for their passengers but that has scared the wildebeest back sometimes! I try and avoid the crowds for that reason!

    • Safari Junkie 05/17/2017 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      I heard the same stories. Myself I am not sure If I want to see this in person. Specially the dying wildebeest and gazelles:)

  2. LaiAriel R. Samangka 05/18/2017 at 12:30 am - Reply

    Wow, what a detailed post about this wild animals and how to fully experienced them. I like how you include all the necessary information. I hope I get a lucky time to witness these wildebeests migration when they cross the river of Mara river. i actually have just heard about wildebeest and its something that interest me. I’ll get to research more about them. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and for your unselfish tips which is truly a big help for all of us.

    • Safari Junkie 05/18/2017 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      If you go to East Africa, wildebbest migration is a topic to do some research on! Then you better understand safaris and parks too!

  3. Joella 05/18/2017 at 3:33 am - Reply

    A very informative post. Reading any post on a Safari brings many emotions to me. It was my dads dream to go on Safari and he passed before he was able to make it a reality. I have promised myself to go on safari one day in his honor and to enjoy all the things he was not able to enjoy. Thank you for sharing this and all your other posts. It will help me plan this dream trip one day.

    • Safari Junkie 05/18/2017 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Awww, this is such a nice gesture you plan! I hope you make it one day,because safari experience is really unique!

  4. Tania Mukherjee 05/18/2017 at 8:07 am - Reply

    The photos are all so incredible, no wonder you are a pro in this region. Initially I thought you are referring to ‘wild beasts’ in general then I googled and found out these particular animals are called wildbeest ! Wow I definitely learnt a lot about the beasts of Africa today.

    • Safari Junkie 05/18/2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      haha Wild beasts, good one!

  5. Stella the Travelerette 05/19/2017 at 3:07 am - Reply

    These are helpful tips. I’ve never seen the wildebeest migration but from your photos it looks spectacular. I hope to go to Kenya or Tanzania and experience it someday.

    • Safari Junkie 05/25/2017 at 12:02 am - Reply

      I highly recommend a safari, at least once in a lifetime! Go for it if you have a chance!

  6. Sandy N Vyjay 05/19/2017 at 4:40 am - Reply

    Wildlife safaris are one of its’ kind experiences, anywhere we move. Though the facts you stated above are not much known. The facts that you state are really interesting. and informative. The crossing is something spectacular and a once in a lifetime experience.

    • Safari Junkie 05/24/2017 at 11:55 pm - Reply

      The fact is you need luck with proper timing. The best thing is if you have safari insider and book just days before the Mara crossing event

  7. Candy 05/19/2017 at 6:01 am - Reply

    Wow! This is so in-depth and the photos are absolutely stunning. I have never heard of this and after reading this post I would love to experience this. I thought it was something that you can only experience through the discovery channel or animal planet 🙂

    • Safari Junkie 05/24/2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

      nope, you can have a live Nat geo session in Kenya or Tanzania:D

  8. Nisha 05/19/2017 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Amazing photos. Also thanks for the tips. Wildebeest migration is on my list. It needs meticulous planning especially since it is so expensive.

    • Safari Junkie 05/24/2017 at 11:58 pm - Reply

      I agree! It helps if you have an insider on the site and just book safari at the right time, which is usually last minute and more expensive

  9. Tasha 05/20/2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

    This would truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your photos are wonderful and your tips are great too. It’s a shame you had to wait a whole day for nothing to happen one time when you were there but you are so lucky to have seen the migration another time.

    • Safari Junkie 05/24/2017 at 11:59 pm - Reply

      Safaris are always unpredictable. You never know what you will get:)

  10. Skye 05/20/2017 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Wow what in incredible bucket list experience and definitely something I would love to do myself. So interesting you say the big tours don’t take you to the best viewing spots. That’s terrible as I imagine they are really expensive too. Tanzania is definitely somewhere I would love to explore and your photos are inspiring me to make a trip that coincides with the migration season.

    • Safari Junkie 05/24/2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

      Its all about the bang you get for your money:)

  11. Edrisa Kakekmbo 05/24/2017 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    What an awesome experience, soo amazing!!!!!!!!!

  12. Ami Bhat 06/14/2017 at 7:48 am - Reply

    WOW WOW And WOW on those captures. I sure would want to see these mass herd crossing and I hope luck permits. I can see from your post that you too say that it is a matter of chance. Well…nature!

  13. neha 06/15/2017 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Great advice. I will keep it in mind when I happen to witness the mara crossing. By the way, your pictures are just stunning!! As wonderful as this event itself

  14. Melvyn Thum 09/11/2017 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Great article and insightful! I was in Tanzania and Kenya with a group of ffriends and friends of friends. It was too ambitious for the planner to want to see so many conservation areas within a 10 day frame. Just too much discomfort over hours of bumpy roads. Totally agree with writer based on his experience. I won’t make the same mistake next time. I intend to zero in on a good operator on either the Tanzania or Kenya side nearest the River Crossings. If it’s the Kenyan side … I would now fly in from Arusha and from Nairobi to Masai Mara for Kenya.

    If you have suggestions for Operators … deeply appreciated!

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Anupam Tantri 07/11/2018 at 4:08 am - Reply

    A group of friends – 12 to 14 in total – are planning a safari either second half of June 2019 or the second half of July 2019. I have not been able to get a definitive answer from tour operators and hence this question. Is the likelihood of seeing a river crossing across the Grumeti River be high towards the end of June or be high across the Mara River (Tanzania side) towards the end of July. Would appreciate your advice and feedback with pertinent details.

    • Safari Junkie 07/11/2018 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Migration has its pace, its impossible to predict one year ahead where the animals will be.

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