News & Blogs > A Wildebeest River Crossing in the Northern Serengeti by Jennifer Wright

A Wildebeest River Crossing in the Northern Serengeti by Jennifer Wright


A Wildebeest River Crossing in the Northern Serengeti by Jennifer WrightOur camp in the northern Serengeti had a beautiful setting overlooking the Mara River, just one kilometre from one of the regular wildebeest crossing points. We never expected to witness anything as exciting as an actual crossing but we were in luck and saw no fewer than four during our five days’ stay.

It is an incredible experience, utterly memorable, quite emotional; one feels very privileged. The waiting and watching beforehand in a solitary vehicle parked unobtrusively beside a small tree or bush is exciting in itself as the wildebeest gather in increasing numbers on the opposite side of the bank. The groups grow larger and denser as more and more animals crowd in until there’s hardly any room to jostle; heads, horns, backs, tails merge into one scarcely moving mass and behind, hundreds more are pressing in and swell the crowd. Beyond in the middle distance still more are coming, single file, one following the other, pacing steadily, occasionally breaking into a more urgent gallop. Further still the landscape is threaded with lines of black dots, all heading inexorably to the river. One begins to understand the term ‘herd instinct’; this is Nature’s prime example.

We sit and wait. Will they? This is a good place; the bank has broken down into a wide slope descending evenly to the river. Zebra are gathering too; they sense a crossing is imminent, but they wait, separate in their own small herd. Several wildebeest have ventured halfway down the slope, their spindly legs lifting restlessly; they toss their heads a little, tentative, uncertain. Some primitive impulse is beginning to take control and ……..suddenly…..they go. A surging line of wildebeest curves across the river, a frenzied dashing gallop, their hooves churn the water like some torrential waterfall. More and more follow through the clouds of dust, many risking steeper routes down clefts in the bank. The first comers reach our side and climb to safety, lowing, bellowing, snorting in an almost palpable release of tension. They head off for the plains behind us.

But more and more are still coming. A second line forms and now the zebra trot in, less frenzied than the wildebeest, one or two even stop to drink; have they registered there are no crocodiles in evidence? We watch enthralled. Clouds of dust swirl across the opposite bank and yet more wildebeest join the throng. There must be thousands of them. We lose track of time until gradually the numbers dwindle. A few stragglers make a solitary dash across, others hesitate and turn away. The river calms and is still; nothing moves on the other side. Silence. We draw breath.

If this proves to be our last holiday in Africa is has to be a fitting conclusion, one of the highlight experiences the continent has to offer; an indelible memory.

Click here to see Julia’s video of a crossing during her trip in October 2018

Photo courtesy of Judy Marshall

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