Kenya Photography Tanzania

Circle of Life: Witnessing the Wildebeest Migration

photography kenya tanzania

Witnessing the wildebeest migration is the experience of a lifetime, and truly insane! Every year during the months of July through October, over two million animals migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya on their search for greener pastures.

Though this a yearly occurrence, the crossings are a challenge to catch, as the animals congregate by the water for days on end, cautiously searching for both real and imagined threats. They stumble their way into the water, cross halfway, then retreat for unknown reasons. But if you’re lucky…in a panicked flurry of activity, thousands of wildebeest will suddenly leap their way into the water and initiate the famed crossing!

During my trip in 2011, we were fortunate enough to see the wildebeest actually cross the Mara River, fending their way through crocodile-infested waters — not all make it out alive. This is a natural phenomenon as old as the circle of life itself, and it’s a truly humbling experience to see this awe-inspiring, massive exodus.

So how to see the wildebeest migration? Follow the steps below!

how to see the wildebeest migration

see wildebeest migration

What

See the greatest migration, with over two million animals as they face off with Nile crocodiles and other dangers while crossing the Mara River.

see the wildebeest migration

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see the wildebeest migration

Where

Tanzania: Serengeti National Park

Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve

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When

While the months of July through October are prime for spotting the Mara River crossing, you can chase wildebeest year-round!

December to April: Southern Serengeti

May and June: Grumeti Reserve, Tanzania and Central Serengeti

Late June to Mid-July: Northern Tanzania

Mid-July to late September: Kenya, Maasai Mara

October: Southern Maasai Mara in Kenya and Northern Tanzania

October and November: Northern Tanzania

Remember — as with all natural events, there is no way we can control them from happening. The Serengeti migration is entirely dependent upon nature and rainfall. However, you can hope that with patience, planning, and a little bit of luck, you’ll be fortunate enough to see this incredible cycle of nature!

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How

Wildebeest arrive in the thousands, gathering around the Mara River and waiting to cross. As they wait anxiously, so do you!

Tips for increasing your chances of seeing the crossing:

  • Hire a local guide, as they will know the common spots. This is your best bet, as experienced guides can try and gauge the animals’ behavior
  • Stay for at least 3 days in the area to maximize your chances! Same with seeing the northern lights, this is also a numbers game. The longer you stay, the higher the chances!

On our trip, we spotted a National Geographic truck with tons of video equipment, and followed them to where they were stationed to wait for the crossing, cameras poised and all. After 2-3 hours, the wildebeest crossed at that exact spot, and we were able to finally see it for ourselves!

how to see the wildebeest migration

Of course, if you don’t see the migration, being on safari in Africa still offers limitless things to see and do. Take a look at my upcoming list: Spotting the Big 5 in Kenya & Tanzania.

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Stay

Depending on your budget, safari in Africa offers a variety of accommodations. From luxury tent resorts to camping under the stars, there are options for everyone.

Photography

I promise, you’re going to want to bring out the big guns for this event! I owe it to this experience for inspiring me to really get into photography. The pure scale alone is overwhelming and truly incredible.

You’ll want a strong combination of a powerful camera body, and lenses that are fast and have great zoom capacity.

If you want to learn more, read my upcoming guide on what photography gear to bring on safari!

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Read more:

  • On Safari: What Photography Gear Should I Bring? (coming soon)
  • Spotting the Big 5 in Kenya and Tanzania (coming soon)

Be sure to subscribe for upcoming posts ✨?

Been on safari? Let me know about your experience, and if you have any tips!

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21 Comments

  • Reply Annika September 5, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    Nice shot Pier. I do love all of your photos.

  • Reply Stephanie Jeannot September 27, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    This sounds like it was such an amazing experience. I am loving all the photos. Such energy drawn from them all. Like I was right there in the midst of it all.

  • Reply Angelic Sinova September 27, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    Witnessing the wildebeest migration does seems like the experience of a lifetime! I’m such a huge animal lover and would love to be able to see and study them in their natural habitations.

  • Reply Alli Rutherford Smith September 28, 2016 at 2:03 am

    Your photos are amazing! I would love to visit Kenya and see the wildebeest migration. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  • Reply dadofdivas September 28, 2016 at 2:58 am

    WOW, looks like an amazing experience. I have always wanted to go on one of these experiences, but have not yet, but maybe someday. Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you!

  • Reply Jacqui S September 28, 2016 at 5:45 am

    The pictures take us right to them! That’s awesome. In Virginia, they have something similar in Chincoteague in moving horses 🙂 Great pictures!

  • Reply Cindy September 28, 2016 at 5:57 am

    Wow! What an amazing part of nature. Your photography is amazing as always, thank you for sharing this with us!

  • Reply Christy Maurer September 28, 2016 at 6:08 am

    That has got to be such an awesome sight to witness firsthand! I love all of the photos. It truly is amazing how they know the exact time and place when they’re supposed to migrate!

  • Reply Annemarie LeBlanc September 28, 2016 at 6:43 am

    That was an epic experience for you! I have not gone on a safari tour but I wish I could someday. Your photos are amazing!

  • Reply Jenn @ EngineerMommy September 28, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Witnessing mother nature in action can be truly awe-inspiring. These are truly beautiful pictures. It must have been amazing to see this in person.

  • Reply Making Our Life Matter September 28, 2016 at 9:39 am

    I can’t even imagine what it is like to see this in person. Your pictures make me feel like I am standing right there.

  • Reply jmanandmillerbug September 28, 2016 at 9:53 am

    These are absolutely awesome pictures. That must’ve been a trip of a lifetime to see this! I don’t know how well I would do with it myself because I cannot stand watching animals eat other animals even though I know that it’s natures way. I must be just a little sensitive about it.

  • Reply Pam Wattenbarger September 28, 2016 at 11:30 am

    My husband wants to visit Tanzania and see a migration like this. It definitely sounds like the experience of a lifetime.

  • Reply brandyellen September 28, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    What an amazing thing to be able to witness. That is wonderfully breathtaking for sure …. wow.

  • Reply Liz Mays September 28, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    It’s amazing that these animals go on such a dangerous trip around Africa. I would absolutely love to see them.

  • Reply Chantal September 28, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    What an amazing experience for you to have been a part of. Migration is such a interesting part of how animals adapt and survive.

  • Reply jennifer September 28, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    this is absolutely amazing and what a awesome thing to see in person! your photos are stunning!

  • Reply tiarasandtantrums September 28, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Gorgeous images. I have not been on a safari – I’m not a fan of bugs and dirt, so this would not be a trip for me – but just beautiful images so I can live vicariously through you!

  • Reply chefjoe11 September 29, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Your photos are amazing! What a wonderful experience. I shared the photos with my daughter and she loved them too.

  • Reply Jasmine Watts September 29, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Wow.. All these photos you shared are amazing! I would love to go there one day!

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