The greatest wildlife show on Earth

The river crossings

The Great Migration of wildebeest face many obstacles, from ambushing lions to opportunistic hyenas. Yet the greatest obstacle that the animals face in the entire migration is crossing the river. It is undoubtedly the most jaw-dropping spectacle of the Great Migration too.

This is when hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra cross the Mara River during their endless journey between Kenya and Tanzania.

What’s so great about seeing a river crossing?

Crossing the river is the greatest obstacle that the animals face in the entire migration. It’s a nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience to watch the herds gather at the edge of the Mara, and then plunge down the riverbanks into crocodile-infested waters, hoping to get to the other side.

Many are drowned or swept away by strong currents. Others are taken down by crocs in frenzied attacks, unable to escape as they’re pushed into the water thanks to the mounting pressure caused by such huge numbers of animals on the shore.

When to go

The Mara River crossings can happen at any time during the dry season – it all depends on rainfall. Generally speaking, this will mean from June to July as the animals head into Kenya, and then again from September to October when they make their way back to Tanzania.

These days, however, the river crossings can start even earlier and end late, around mid-November. There are never any guarantees with wildlife sightings, and river crossings are no different.

The optimum time to travel to give yourself the best chance to see a crossing, is smack-bang in the middle of those times: between July and September.

Good to know

The negative, of course, is that this is the busiest and most expensive time to travel. Camps will be full, and there will be lots of other vehicles out there with you. But that’s the price you have to pay if you want to witness one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles!

Be patient and you will reap the rewards of great sightings and fantastic photos when everyone else has given up and gone back to camp.

And even if luck isn’t on your side, you’ll have dramatic granite kopjes, savannah grasslands draped over rolling hills, and prides of lions and all the other residents of this beautiful part of the world to keep you company.

You’ll need a few nights

If you’re hoping to see river crossings in northern Tanzania, give yourself three or four nights at least. As part of a 7-10 night Northern Tanzania safari, also taking in Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara, famous for its flamingos, tree-climbing lions and the soda-ash lake in the centre, this would be a truly spectacular way to see some of Tanzania’s most glorious sites.

If you’re leaning towards seeing the river crossings from Kenya’s Masai Mara, you can easily allow three to four nights and combine it with Laikipia and Amboseli to see more of the Big Five.

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