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!
See the greatest migration, with over two million animals as they face off with Nile crocodiles and other dangers while crossing the Mara River.
Tanzania: Serengeti National Park
Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
- On Safari: What Photography Gear Should I Bring? (coming soon)
- Spotting the Big 5 in Kenya and Tanzania (coming soon)
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Been on safari? Let me know about your experience, and if you have any tips!