The mass Wildebeest and Zebra Crossing typically happens between July and October when herds, in search of fresh grazing, reach the northern extreme of the Serengeti and face the Mara River and its dangers.
Most years, the herds number over 1.5 million animals, with around 300,000 zebras joining in on the journey, making it the world’s most significant and arduous mammal migration.
The wildebeest are driven by their instincts to follow the rain and the promise of greener pastures, even if it means putting themselves in danger.
And the Mara River is a significant obstacle they must traverse…
The crossings are awe-inspiring but they require a great deal of patience from both witnesses and the animals. The wildebeest may take hours or even days to work up the courage to enter the water, and the herds can shuffle indecisively for hours near the river banks while they wait for one of their numbers to take the first step – only to turn back to try another time.
Being the first to cross is a seriously daunting task. The wildebeest must be vigilant of predators on land and Crocodiles in the water. They must also navigate the muddy river bed to avoid becoming stuck or being blocked by steep banks. Sometimes, the crossing fails and the herd must begin the process again.
Finally, one brave (or foolish) wildebeest takes the plunge and a surge of movement follows as the rest of the herd pushes forward in an unstoppable, powerful wave.
Unfortunately, the sheer number of animals crossing the river creates chaos; many animals drown and float down the river; some fall prey to the crocodiles lying in wait; and others are picked off by lions and other big predators lurking on the opposite bank, waiting to claim the wet and tired animals after they have expended so much effort crossing the river.
It is sad to witness this but the crossings provide a vital food source for these predators and scavengers too, helping sustain their populations during the dry season.
The best way to experience the crossing is from Esirai Camp, Entara’s mobile migration camp which is carefully designed to be packed up and moved with the seasons. The camp balances intimacy, comfort and sustainability perfectly to enable guests to stay in unique and secluded areas.
If you have not witnessed the river crossings before, or are looking to go on safari over the quieter period in September or during the calving and rutting seasons, Entara has the best camp locations and most knowledgeable guides to ensure that you have a truly immersive and unforgettable wilderness experience.