Jonny in the northern Serengeti, October 2011
Massing for the Migration in Northern Serengeti
Pure luck – that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. No matter how skilled or knowledgeable your guide is, no matter how carefully you have positioned yourself – if they are not ready to cross, it will be a frustrating day. Trying to catch a wildebeest crossing on the Mara River is not as easy as the documentary makers would have us believe.
Most people associate the annual wildebeest migration and its attendant crossings of the Mara River with Kenya’s Masai Mara. However, a similar volume of crossings take place in the northern section of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, where the Mara River carves westwards and creates a natural obstacle for the herds heading north or south. Or perhaps sideways too. The migration is a funny thing. It’s not an exact science and the wildebeest are contrary creatures, massing along the banks of the river in all certainty about to cross; running up and down; turning away at the last minute; mooching around all day and then doing nothing; or crossing over in a mad rush only to turn around and go back!
Whatever their intentions, one thing is certain – they want to cross and get to the rain induced pastures on the other side. It’s an urge, an animal instinct that they simply cannot ignore. They will cross – it is just a matter of where and when!
There are several spots along the course of the river which are favoured crossing points (with low banks and no boulders), so it is simply a matter of spotting a massing herd and identifying the likely crossing point that they might attempt to cross. Then it’s a waiting game. Sometimes it’s only a matter of minutes, often a few hours and occasionally a full day. Waiting. Take a book. Certainly take a camera, as once they start they is no stopping them and you will have only a few minutes in which to get shots of a lifetime. If you are really lucky you might catch a crossing that is so huge it lasts for hours.
Seeing a crossing is a once in a lifetime experience for most of us and you want to get it right. You want to be in the right place at the right time, staying at the right camp. Proximity to the Mara River is important and there are several seasonal tented camps and a couple of permanent luxury lodges which offer good access between mid-July and early November. Although potentially still busy around some crossing points in high season, the Serengeti is mercifully free of the chaos sometimes seen at crossings in Kenya’s Masai Mara where serried ranks of minibuses and 4×4’s vie and jockey for position. The northern Serengeti hosts only a fraction of the camps and lodges found across the border in Kenya, and offers a much more genuine chance for you to witness this phenomenon in relative exclusivity.
With a bit of luck of course, and certainly a lot of patience!
For more information on Serengeti safari options please call us on 01787 888590 or contact us to speak to one of our specialists.
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