Wildebeest Migration in East Africa has been named one of the new wonders of the world. If you are a Safari enthusiast, this is an adventure for you. Being the largest animal migration on land in the world, it’s the most captivating, in every raw sense, experience that you just have to see to believe. The entire trek covers over 1000km. Every year, throughout the year, over 1.5 million wildebeests, 500,000 zebras and some 200,000 Thompson’s antelopes move from the Serengeti national park in Tanzania, towards the north, into the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya in search for fresh pastures and water.
This annual event has been happening for over a million years ago, yet It’s safe to say there has not been two same years in terms of routing and timing. These animals do not have any tight schedule. The migration entirely depends on the unpredictable cycle of mother nature, the rains. However, over time, a certain pattern has been formed and the closest prediction is on timelines. The best time to watch the migration in Kenya is between late July and October. This is when the Serengeti is too dry, and the animals are moving towards the north into the more fertile Masai Mara. They will stay here for the entire duration of dry season before heading back south where the grasses would now be grown again.
To witness the exact crossing, you will need a lot of patience. Give yourself some days. Avoid hopping from one place to another lest you miss out. Kichwa Tembo Camp is one of the centrally placed camps that is easily accessible for viewing. The camp offers 4-star accommodation from $330 per day per person for a classic tent, and is 55 minutes drive from the Masai Serena Airport. Then there is The Governors Camp that offers 3-star accommodation, and is 8.5 miles from the Mara Lodges Airport. The prices range from $89 per person per day. There are several other camps like the Sayari Mara Camp, and The Nomad Serengeti Safari Camp, all strategically placed for better viewing.
Additionally, there are several companies that provide professional tour guides and rides in open-topped vehicles. The guides will take you to the remotest of villages in the Mara. Book yourself a tour through the Kenya Tour Agent and guarantee yourself a professionally guided tour. Top companies known to offer these services include; Travel For Change Africa, whose charges range between $150-$450 per day per person. Wild Safaris and Travel that charge between $85-$450 per person per day. Wildebeest Safaris LTD that charge between $100-$450 per day per person, among others. These companies have their head offices in Nairobi and are accessible throughout the year.
The highlight of the whole event is when the animals gather to brave the crocodile infested Mara River and its fearsome torrents. The lurking crocodiles wait in readiness to attack the ones that seem weaker. The crossing is therefore not for the fainthearted. This is where most tourists camp since it’s here that the most dramatic wildlife encounter of all time happens. It’s a summarized portrayal of what happens in everyday plains of Africa.
Unlike the common assumption that all the animals move and cross the Mara River as one unit, it is never a single event. The crossings take place throughout the dry season that range from a few hundreds to thousands, and tens of thousands. You will sit for hours and hours idle as you wait for the numbers to build-up. Then, like a flash, one brave soul will take the dreaded step and daringly jump into the waters. Like a band, the rest would follow in unison, moving bravely forward but holding their breath, knowing at the backs of their mind that anything could happen. The bravest would make it out only to be greeted by the hungry predators on the other side. Lions, cheetahs, hyenas and even leopards would ambush them, taking advantage of the injured and tired. The entire experience is like watching an action movie about survival for the fittest.
Remember to carry plenty of drinks and food. Once the crossing starts, all vehicles must be in position. Nobody is allowed to get out of the vehicle. Take along some sunscreen, shades and a hat to protect yourself from the direct sun-rays that’s characteristic of the Mara. Do not forget a good quality camera so you can relive the experience later. If you want to capture the different angles, switch from taking videos to pictures. Most importantly, remember to have fun. Once in a while take a step back from the camera and truly observe the unfolding. Experience the feeling. Listen to every sound, noise and the chaos. Think of how incredible it all is, for there’s nowhere in the world you will find such a grant movement of living things. Don’t be surprised if you get emotional, it truly is an amazing experience.
By late October to November, the animals will be crossing back south into the Serengeti in readiness for the calving season of December through March. If you missed the earlier crossing, this is your last chance to catch a glimpse. The cycle continues throughout the new year and by the end of it all, some 250,000 animals would be dead, either due to the harsh journey or eaten by the predators.