Top 5 Tips to Experience a Wildebeest River Crossing

Great Migration Camps wildebeest researcher, Carel Verhoef, has witnessed hundreds of river crossings, and explains what happens in the build up to a river crossing and how best to experience the “Greatest Show on Earth”.

Carel has an incredible strike rate getting his clients, not just to the wildebeest migration, but to witness river crossing(s)! Having studied and followed the great wildebeest migration for more than 15 years, he shares his Top 5 Tips for maximising your opportunities for a wildebeest river crossings. Read to the end for his Bonus Tip.

Top 5 Tips to Experience a River Crossing

River Crossing Tip 1: You need to get to the Mara River at the right time

When planning your “river crossing safari”, it’s important to deal with a knowledgeable company and consultant who have the knowledge to get you to the right place. Great Migration Camps provides Migration Updates on our Facebook page. GMC is in the privileged position of being able to move camp as the wildebeest move, ensuring we have the latest migration news and updates. Guides, pilots, managers, lodges, camps and colleagues all supply news and updates on the movement and location of the wildebeest.  Ask GMC to help with your safari plans and timings.

River Crossing Tip 2: Buy yourself as much time as you can on the river itself

If you are really want to see a river crossing, then buy as many nights as close to the river as you can. The decision of a herd to cross the river is not taken lightly and they need to build up numbers and energy to do the crossing. It can take days for the right conditions, often leaving visitors frustrated at the anticipated event that doesn’t materialise. Wildlife takes time, you have to be in it to see it and experience it – river crossings are no different! The longer you have the better your chances. (See our packages)

The good news is that the area around the Mara River (on both the Serengeti and Masai Mara sides), has plenty of resident plains game and a huge quantity of big cats. This gives you the opportunity for a classic safari to view general game that could include lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, cheetah, hyena, jackal and much much more.

River Crossing Tip 3:  Wait for the energy to build up

The higher the water level in the Mara River, the more difficult it is to cross. The jumps are intimidating and this means that the wildebeest and zebra need to build up enough energy before they leap into the crocodile infested waters. Give yourself a few days for the wildebeest numbers to build up on the river itself and do some great game viewing or bird watching while the herds gather. The potential for a crossing is greater if there are wildebeest on both sides of the river. You will immediately realise that there might be enough energy if you hear the wildebeest calls becoming louder and more frequent. The noise can be like a giant humming.

River Crossing Tip 4: Position yourself away from the river

Don’t sit too close to the river bank – this might block the herds without your knowledge. Any barrier or obstruction can prevent the wildebeest from crossing the river. Position yourself some distance away from the riverbank, preferably slightly obscured so that you can allow the wildebeest herds to move unobstructed to the water’s edge or choose their crossing point. This way you won’t interfere. Don’t worry if you don’t have a perfect view at this stage – keep your eyes peeled for the dust as the crossing starts and the noise intensity increases. Then and only then should you move closer. Once the crossing has started it will not stop because so much energy has been created. You will easily get within a few hundred meters from the crossing herds. Moving to the river too quickly can prevent a crossing and leave you with a few days more to wait.

River Crossing Tip 5:  Stay Observant

It is surprisingly easy to get stuck waiting for one herd of wildebeest to cross – especially if there are good herd numbers arriving at the river. Make sure you look up and downstream from your waiting position for other possible crossings that could be imminent. Stay observant and alert to all the build-ups on the river bank. Notice weather patterns and the behaviour of other animals. Leopards have been known to walk behind waiting safari vehicles with not a single client seeing the magical creature taking a stroll right behind them – all eyes focused on the river.

Hot Tip

During a river crossing, stop to soak up the atmosphere – it is an incredible experience. Don’t just stare through your view-finder taking pictures. Feel the energy before, during and after the crossing; let the sounds echo through you as the visual show unfolds. When you do take pictures, make sure you don’t over zoom, you need the wider angle to capture the magnitude of what is happening.

BONUS TIP:  Both Sides of the Mara River

Don’t let an international border stop you from seeing a river crossing. If you are really serious about seeing a river crossing then give yourself the best possible chance by going to both the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya. If you are travelling during July and August visit the Serengeti first followed by the Masai Mara.  During September and October, visit the Masai Mara first and finish your stay in Tanzania the Serengeti. This drastically increases your chances of seeing the wildebeest herds cross the river.

Map of the Mara River Basin. Source: www.frontiersin.org

How to book

  • Ask us.  We’d love to help you.  The earlier you enquire, the less chance to be disappointed, especially during peak periods when other services can also be fully booked.
  • We can assist with tours before or after your safari, additional accommodation in town – as well as flights or transport in and out of the National Park.
  • We recommend 5- 10 days for your migration safari, especially during Crossing season.
  • Email your inquiry to info@greatmigrationcamps.com. Kindly provide your name, country, number of people travelling and preferred dates and duration.  Children of all ages are welcome.

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Migration Safari – Drive or Fly to the National Park?

Planning your Migration Safari

You’ve decided to go on a migration safari but should you drive or fly to your accommodation within the park? We are often asked whether driving or flying is the best option to get to the National Park? The answer to your transport questions (Drive or Fly?) is variable depending on a few factors.

Your Migration Safari Priorities

When planning your safari you will need to decide on your main interest to determine priorities such as how long you will stay in the park itself and to determine your budget. These criteria affect your choice of accommodation, and the means of transport to get there. Other factors that affect your decision whether to drive or fly to your accommodation to see the great migration include the number of guests travelling on safari and the places you would like to visit before, after or in conjunction with your safari.

Migration Safaris – Distances

The Serengeti National Park alone is a vast area of 14, 750 sq km (5,700 sq Miles) – roughly the size of Connecticut State in the USA or Northern Ireland (14,148 sq km/5463 sq mi).

The Greater Eco-system is an even larger unfenced area which includes the Masai Mara and surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area as well as Maswa, Grumeti & Ikorongo Game Reserves and Loliondo Game Controlled Area. At 30,000 sq km (12,000 sq Miles) it’s almost the same size as Belgium (30,528 sq km)

Seronera in the Central Serengeti is 320km west of Arusha and will take at least 6 hours of straight driving. Flight time from Arusha – Seronera is approximately 1 hour (direct with no stops en route).  Time and distance are significant factors in the decision whether to drive or fly for your migration safari.

Map of the Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem.

Driving to the Migration

Driving to your migration safari will take longer than you think! The condition of the road varies but in general you will be travelling on a rough and bumpy gravel road where 100km can take 3 hours. Also bear in mind that you will be spending a lot of time in the vehicle whilst on game drives. It is highly likely that you will need to stay overnight en route to the park to break the journey or visit an attraction along the way.

Travelling by road is a good idea if

  • You have a lot of time for your safari (Minimum 4 nights inside the park)
  • You like to see the country-side & interact with locals when stopping for toilet, food, fuel and a leg stretch.
  • You are a small group or medium group: 4- 6 people travel in one safari vehicle.
    This makes the road alternative slightly cheaper when split by many so good for those on a budget.
  • You are afraid of travelling in a light aircraft.
  • You will have the same driver-guide from town to the National Park and for all your game drives.
  • You are visiting the southern or central sections of the park.
Drive In Safari Photo: BrendanAllenSoundcloud

Flying to the Migration

Flying to your migration safari is in a light aircraft and gives you an aerial view of the country. The flight is an experience in itself and flight duration is seldom more than 2 hours (flight duration varies depending on stops en route) so a quicker more comfortable option than driving into the National Park. When flying in, you will use resident camp guides and vehicle who are familiar with the local area on game package.

Flying is a good option if

  • You have limited time, with only a couple of nights on safari.
  • You enjoy comfort.
  • Your primary interest is wildlife rather than sightseeing.
  • You are a small group of 1 – 3 people OR a large group of 12 or more.
  • You don’t like backtracking – driving in and out is usually on the same road.
  • You are heading to the northern Serengeti – Kogatende and Mara River and hoping for a river crossing.
Fly In Safari Photo: BrendanAllenSoundcloud

Combination – Drive and Fly to the Migration

This option combines driving in and flying out or vice versa. Great Migration Camps recommends ending with a scenic flight rather than a bumpy drive out.

Drive-Fly combo is best for

  • Those with sufficient time – 2 days to drive in and at least 3 or more days on safari.
  • Those who would like to combine a destination en route to the park – options include Tarangire NP, Lake Manyara NP, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Natron(& Ol Doinyo Lengai)
  • Northern Serengeti Safaris – the northern sector is far away! A minimum of one night required to drive in – although we suggest two to enjoy the journey.
  • Combines sight-seeing with quality time on safari.
  • Those wanting to enjoy an adventure on the route into the National Park, but who like having the security and confidence of a departure flight to town to connect with an international departure flight.

At Great Migration Camps mobile we love all the options for different reasons.  The choice whether to drive or fly to your migration safari is really about your time, your group size, your budget and your safari/wildlife preferences. As in life there are pros and cons to all three options.

Calving Season 2019

Calving Season is in full swing, and the wildebeest seem to be hanging around the southern plains whilst the little ones get stronger for the long journey northwards as the migration cycle starts again.

GMC mobile has Limited availability March 2019.  Book now to confirm your seat for calving season and the great migration wildlife show. 2019 Calving Season inclusive packages below. Enquiries:  info@greatmigrationcamps.com

5D_4N Migration Revealed Calving Season Safari 7D_6N Born to Run Calving Season Migration Safari 8D_7N Migration Calving Season Migration Safari

Crossing Season 2019

Crossing season is filling up fast. One of the most dramatic seasons in the year long migratory cycle.  The Wildebeest make their way northwards to cross the Mara River in Tanzania and Kenya. This can be a waiting game that tests the patience of many a nature-lover. GMC recommends booking as many days as you have available to give yourself the best chance of seeing a river crossing.

6D_5N MIGRATION CHASER - crossing season migration safari  8D_7N MIGRATION UNPLUGGED - crossing season migration safari 9D_8N Great Great Migration - crossing season migration safari

How to book

PLEASE enquire early to avoid disappointment particularly during peak periods as other services can also be busy. We can assist with pre or post safari tours and accommodation in town as well as flights or transport in and out of the National Park.  We recommend 5- 10 days for your migration safari.

  • Calving season (Feb- March) -Ndutu area
  • Rutting season (June) – Grumeti area
  • Crossing season (July– Oct) – Kogatende/Mara River area

Email your inquiry to info@greatmigrationcamps.com

Kindly provide your name, country, number of people travelling and preferred dates and duration.
Children of all ages are welcome.

Enquire Now

No mountain too high for Balala: Kenyan Tourism Head conquers Mt. Kenya to promote eco-tourism

Kenyan Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has conquered mighty Mt. Kenya – Africa’s second highest mountain – to showcase the diverse adventure- and eco-tourism opportunities Kenya has to offer.

“Mt. Kenya has long been underutilised and under-promoted,” said CS Balala of his hope to change this status quo by drawing global attention to this natural tourism asset via the 7 Summits Africa Challenge, presented by Great Migration Camps.

 

CS Balala (left) on top of the world

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