Tanzanian Safari: The Great Wildebeest Migration

Every year, the Serengeti is the stage for the largest and longest overland migration in the world. About two million wildebeest and zebra follow the rains, and the green grass that comes with it, from the Serengeti in Tanzania up into the Maasai Mara in Kenya and then back down again in an annual cycle. With the dry season coming to an end soon, we headed up to the remote northern corner of the Serengeti National Park to see them as the return from Kenya.

After seeing mostly small groups of animals in the first part of the safari, we hoped to see thousands of animals covering the plains. Once we arrived at our camp just on the edge of the Mara river, we learned that the prized sighting is a river crossing. As the migration moves between Kenya and Tanzania, the animals must cross the Mara river. This is a handy opportunity for crocodiles, lions, and other predators to catch a wildebeest snack.

The wildebeest know that crossing the river is dangerous and are very cautious. They gather on the edge of the river wanting to cross but aware of the danger. They spend hours of indecision approaching the bank of the river, only to turn around and head back before circling around again. Finally, one animal will start across. Others follow. Then the flood gates open. The thousands of animals that had gathered on the bank start stream across the water. The riverbed and riverbank churn with mud increasing the challenge of each following animal to make it across and up the bank on the other side.

After following the herd, waiting and watching them try to decide to cross, we finally hit the jackpot on our second day. We kept watching a huge herd of wildebeest gather on the bank. We were sure they would cross. But they started to retreat en mass. We moved the vehicle to get a different view and discovered they had started crossing further down. Our guide estimated we saw about 30,000 animals cross. Take a look in these videos.

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