Double river crossings of the Great Wildebeest Migration, Serengeti
The Great Wildebeest Migration is often erroneously linked with the river crossings of the Mara River. The river crossings are riveting to witness, and the star of the great migration show. For some lucky observers, it is possible to watch a double crossing during one river crossing event.
What is a double river crossing of the Great Migration?
Some of the wildebeest calves are separated from their mothers whilst crossing the Mara River with the rest of the herd. These calves often return to where the came from, looking for their mothers. Sometimes the mothers go back and swim through the waters again to find their young ones. The double river crossing or return river crossing refers to some wildebeest individuals crossing the river twice in one event.
Who is involved in double river crossings during the Great Migration?
Watch this amazing video of the 6-month-old calves in a “return crossing”. We witnessed the main crossing of the entire herd, then in a state of confusion, these calves returned to the Mara River and crossed it again. The adrenaline and chaos of the crossing and being in the water dulls the calves’ sense of smell. Smell is their primary way of identification. In the water, or just after getting out of the water, they cannot smell or find their mothers. In a sense of desperation at being lost their natural instinct is to go back to where they came from, resulting in a double crossing. Lost calves are brave in their determination to find their moms!
Experience the Great Migration in 2022 – River Crossings and more
Join us for the world’s largest overland mammal migration as 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra, 18,000 eland and 200,000 Thompson’s gazelle move through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. We don’t wait for the herds to come to us, we take you to them – leaving no trace. Follow them with us online or in person. Migration Updates every month. Email email@example.com to book your seat to the great migration. We still have some availability in late August, into September, so join us before the 2022 river crossing season is over.
“Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced.” John Keats
Part 2: Where the wildebeest cross the Mara River?
Knowing where the wildebeest cross the river, can improve your great migration experience, as you should choose which side of the river to observe the wildebeest crossing the Mara River. If the herds cross to the north then it is probably better to be on the northern bank of the river and visa versa for the return journey.
Where the wildebeest cross the Mara River? Changing crossing points
In Part 1 we talked about favourite or geographically determined crossing points for the wildebeest during the Mara River Crossing Season. This also changes! The Mara River Floods of 2018 and 2020, changed its course, making new bends in the river and causing a shift in Crossing Points. Knowing recent climatic events can get you front row seats to observe this natural show.
Where the wildebeest cross the Mara River? The inside bend
Let’s take a river crossing example.
The river crossings from South to North take place in the inside bends of the Mara River:- these are crossing points Makutano, No 8, No 6, N0 4, No 3 and No 1 in front of Singita.
The return journey from North to South, takes place on the alternate (now inside bends) of the river at crossing points No 2, No 5, No 7 and No 9.
Where the wildebeest cross the Mara River? Early season crossings
The crossings early on in the season will come from the Eastern side. The eastern herds are mostly bachelor herds, with fewer obstacles in their way, so they move quickly. The first river crossings of the year will probably be Sand River crossings between Bologonja Spring and the Sand/Mara river confluence. Sand River crossings have taken place as early as June.
The first Mara River crossings are commonly at No 10, No 9, No 8 and Makutano in July each year.
When the western herds arrive from Ikorongo and the Grumeti Reserves they would start crossing at the western crossing points from late July onwards at crossing points No 1 – 4 and perhaps at No 5 and No 6 in front of Sayari.
Conservation Talking Points
Flash flooding and fast runoffs during the dry season (July – October). Fast flowing water is difficult for wildlife and animals to judge in general. The wildebeest sometimes miss the exit points of the Mara River due to the strength of the fast flowing water of the Mara River, resulting in drowning. These changing climatic conditions (Floods 2018, 2020) have an impact on the survival rate of the Mara River crossings. The solutions can often be found in the catchment area, the source of the Mara River, the area where trees should be holding the water.
Book now to see the Great Wildebeest Migration: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact us now for River Crossing availability 2022 season.
Follow our migration updates from the Serengeti National Park here: Great Migration Updates
The Great Wildebeest Migration happens 365 days a year but we’re the only ones that can guarantee you’ll see it. We don’t wait for the herds to come to us, we take you to them – leaving no trace. We follow the wildebeest in our small pioneering camp according to the wildebeest and their movements. Great Migration Camps is headed north for crossing season 2022.
Calving Season (January- March)
Almost 2 million wildebeest gather on the southern plains of the Serengeti for calving season. The herds don’t all arrive at the same time in January.
Females synchronize their birthing, so about 500,000 wildebeest are born in a 3-week period (early Feb)
Sheer numbers give them a level of protection whilst the calves are still young. This many creatures need a lot of food. The southern plains have the most nutritious grass to sustain the numbers.
Despite significant predator action, the wildebeest stick around for as long as possible, as the grass is good & the calves gain strength.
As the grass dries out, the wildebeest start moving north- the timing of which is unpredictable and sadly doesn’t correspond with any fixed dates.
The Long Rains (April- May)
April – May is the long rainy season so the wildebeest move to locations where it has rained. They can scatter & almost disappear which seems crazy as there are hundreds of thousands of wildebeest in the great migration
North to the Seronera area
North-West via Kusini to the western corridor.
Eastern border of the Serengeti.
Rutting Season (June)
Breeding season for the wildebeest takes place in June.
Birthing is synchronized so it figures that rutting is also synchronized.
In June, smaller family herds gather (often in close proximity) dominated by one male.
The lone male spends a great deal of energy protecting his females from males without their own harem,
River Crossing Season (July- October)
The Mara River starts in Kenya and runs north -south and then east to west in Tanzania
River Crossings generally start from mid-July (earliest).
Generally peak season is August & September but depends on the weather and rainfall.
The northern Serengeti (Tanzania) and Masai mara (Kenya) have more permanent water & grass attracting the wildebeest to the north. To get there they need to cross the Mara River.
It’s probably the most dramatic time of the migration as a river crossing is dangerous for the wildebeest. Hungry crocs & predators await, it’s easy to break a leg jumping into the river or drown during a crossing.
The crossings themselves generally involve a buildup of wildebeest numbers. The wildebeest can move up and down the Mara River looking for good spots to cross or to simply wait for more wildebeest to join the growing herd. The micro movement up and down the river with multiple hesitations and disruptions can and does drive people crazy! They just won’t cross until they decide.
The wildebeest can cross northwards but a little rain or fresh grass can bring them south again. Ultimately, they could cross the Mara River multiple times.
Book early as supplemental services get full (flights etc)
When it comes to river crossings – you have to have patience. You can be at a great spot, with a large mass of wildebeest waiting to cross. The wildebeest can do nothing for 2 days …yet the moment you wake up late, they will all cross over in 20 minutes and you’ll find them standing on the opposite bank, with only a few fat crocs to show where they were!!!!
Waiting for Rain (November- January)
We call this final period “waiting for rain”! The short rains are usually in Nov-Dec but this can vary a lot.
In general, the wildebeest move southwards through the Serengeti to the southern plains… following water and rivers.
They can move in large herds or as small family groups as they make their way back towards those plains where the journey started in a seasonal yet variable repetition of events.
For human mortals – here is the month-by-month calendar version
January-February-March Dry months of the year. Wildebeest move south for calving season on the southern plains.
Usually dry and before the long rains. Wildebeest start moving north as plains dry out.
Long rains. Wildebeest on the move – mostly headed north and north-west. Access can be difficult, getting stuck is common. Interesting sightings and beautiful as very green with no dust.
The transition to dry season. Can have dramatic clouds. Wildebeest rutting season, big herds in the west and NW. Some herds move up the eastern border of the Serengeti.
Dry season and it coincides with northern hemisphere summer holidays. River crossing season of the migration in the northern Serengeti.
The good conditions last into about mid-October when the buildup for the short rains begins. Can be spectacular and not particularly crowded. An untraditional “spring” brings new wild life.
Tanzania’s short rainy season starts & continues until the beginning of December. Afternoon rains are common so be prepared for a shower. Uncrowded. Wildebeest location unpredictable.
Rains can extend, and the mountain becomes popular over Festive Season and for new year goal setting trips. Wildebeest start moving south for calving season.
Bookings are open for River Crossing Season 2022 of the Great Wildebeest Migration. email@example.com
For many people, the aim of a trip to Tanzania is “to see the Great Migration“. Not everyone realizes that the migration is not a once-off event, but rather a continuous year-round process. Each part of the cyclical journey provides uniquely different experiences. It’s coming up to the dramatic river crossings of the Mara, which is just one part of the migratory cycle, though what many think IS the great migration. It seems there is a good crossing season ahead – book early for the 2022 wildebeest migration in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
What is the great migration?
The seasonal movement of wildebeest from one habitat to another in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
The migration involves a return journey.
The herds move backwards and forwards across the park (or out of it!), sometimes over 40 km overnight.
It is not one huge herd of animals, but numerous large & small herds, all with their own agenda.
Why do the wildebeest migrate?
The simple answer is for food and water. Other factors include reproduction, predation & protection.
The southern Serengeti plains are ideal for reproduction. Wildebeest have synchronized birthing and the plains are the only place that can sustain the sheer numbers and provide enough nutrition.
If the wildebeest could stay all year, they would! The plains dry out, and the wildebeest are forced to move north to permanent water sources and sufficient grazing.
Weather influences the quality of water and grazing – thus the timing, intensity, location and duration of rainfall plays a crucial role in the wildebeest movement.
When is the great migration?
Calving Season (Jan-Mar).
Most calves are born in early Feb, the wildebeest stay as late into March as possible for the mothers & calves to get enough strength to move north.
Long Rains (April-May)
Rainy season gets thr wildebeest on the move
Rutting Season (June)
Breeding season – fascinating interaction with males protecting their harems
Crossing Season (July-Oct)
Peak period of the river crossing season is August and early September.
Waiting for Rain & Short Rains (Nov-Jan)
Rain brings fresh grass to the southern plains, and the wildebeest follow for calving.
NEXT EVENT: Book Now for Great Migration River Crossing Season 2022
Great Migration Camps wildebeest researcher, Carel Verhoef, has witnessed hundreds of river crossings, and explains what happens in the build up to a river crossing and how best to experience the “Greatest Show on Earth”.
Carel has an incredible strike rate getting his clients, not just to the wildebeest migration, but to witness river crossing(s)! Having studied and followed the great wildebeest migration for more than 15 years, he shares his Top 5 Tips for maximising your opportunities for a wildebeest river crossings. Read to the end for his Bonus Tip.
Top 5 Tips to Experience a River Crossing
River Crossing Tip 1: You need to get to the Mara River at the right time
When planning your “river crossing safari”, it’s important to deal with a knowledgeable company and consultant who have the knowledge to get you to the right place. Great Migration Camps provides Migration Updates on our Facebook page. GMC is in the privileged position of being able to move camp as the wildebeest move, ensuring we have the latest migration news and updates. Guides, pilots, managers, lodges, camps and colleagues all supply news and updates on the movement and location of the wildebeest. Ask GMC to help with your safari plans and timings.
River Crossing Tip 2: Buy yourself as much time as you can on the river itself
If you are really want to see a river crossing, then buy as many nights as close to the river as you can. The decision of a herd to cross the river is not taken lightly and they need to build up numbers and energy to do the crossing. It can take days for the right conditions, often leaving visitors frustrated at the anticipated event that doesn’t materialise. Wildlife takes time, you have to be in it to see it and experience it – river crossings are no different! The longer you have the better your chances. (See our packages)
The good news is that the area around the Mara River (on both the Serengeti and Masai Mara sides), has plenty of resident plains game and a huge quantity of big cats. This gives you the opportunity for a classic safari to view general game that could include lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, cheetah, hyena, jackal and much much more.
River Crossing Tip 3: Wait for the energy to build up
The higher the water level in the Mara River, the more difficult it is to cross. The jumps are intimidating and this means that the wildebeest and zebra need to build up enough energy before they leap into the crocodile infested waters. Give yourself a few days for the wildebeest numbers to build up on the river itself and do some great game viewing or bird watching while the herds gather. The potential for a crossing is greater if there are wildebeest on both sides of the river. You will immediately realise that there might be enough energy if you hear the wildebeest calls becoming louder and more frequent. The noise can be like a giant humming.
River Crossing Tip 4: Position yourself away from the river
Don’t sit too close to the river bank – this might block the herds without your knowledge. Any barrier or obstruction can prevent the wildebeest from crossing the river. Position yourself some distance away from the riverbank, preferably slightly obscured so that you can allow the wildebeest herds to move unobstructed to the water’s edge or choose their crossing point. This way you won’t interfere. Don’t worry if you don’t have a perfect view at this stage – keep your eyes peeled for the dust as the crossing starts and the noise intensity increases. Then and only then should you move closer. Once the crossing has started it will not stop because so much energy has been created. You will easily get within a few hundred meters from the crossing herds. Moving to the river too quickly can prevent a crossing and leave you with a few days more to wait.
River Crossing Tip 5: Stay Observant
It is surprisingly easy to get stuck waiting for one herd of wildebeest to cross – especially if there are good herd numbers arriving at the river. Make sure you look up and downstream from your waiting position for other possible crossings that could be imminent. Stay observant and alert to all the build-ups on the river bank. Notice weather patterns and the behaviour of other animals. Leopards have been known to walk behind waiting safari vehicles with not a single client seeing the magical creature taking a stroll right behind them – all eyes focused on the river.
During a river crossing, stop to soak up the atmosphere – it is an incredible experience. Don’t just stare through your view-finder taking pictures. Feel the energy before, during and after the crossing; let the sounds echo through you as the visual show unfolds. When you do take pictures, make sure you don’t over zoom, you need the wider angle to capture the magnitude of what is happening.
BONUS TIP: Both Sides of the Mara River
Don’t let an international border stop you from seeing a river crossing. If you are really serious about seeing a river crossing then give yourself the best possible chance by going to both the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya. If you are travelling during July and August visit the Serengeti first followed by the Masai Mara. During September and October, visit the Masai Mara first and finish your stay in Tanzania the Serengeti. This drastically increases your chances of seeing the wildebeest herds cross the river.
How to book
Ask us. We’d love to help you. The earlier you enquire, the less chance to be disappointed, especially during peak periods when other services can also be fully booked.
We can assist with tours before or after your safari, additional accommodation in town – as well as flights or transport in and out of the National Park.
We recommend 5- 10 days for your migration safari, especially during Crossing season.
Email your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org. Kindly provide your name, country, number of people travelling and preferred dates and duration. Children of all ages are welcome.
Follow us on your favourite Social Media platform for Migration Updates, Serengeti News and Amazing Sightings.
You’ve decided to go on a migration safari but should you drive or fly to your accommodation within the park? We are often asked whether driving or flying is the best option to get to the National Park? The answer to your transport questions (Drive or Fly?) is variable depending on a few factors.
Your Migration Safari Priorities
When planning your safari you will need to decide on your main interest to determine priorities such as how long you will stay in the park itself and to determine your budget. These criteria affect your choice of accommodation, and the means of transport to get there. Other factors that affect your decision whether to drive or fly to your accommodation to see the great migration include the number of guests travelling on safari and the places you would like to visit before, after or in conjunction with your safari.
Migration Safaris – Distances
The Serengeti National Park alone is a vast area of 14, 750 sq km (5,700 sq Miles) – roughly the size of Connecticut State in the USA or Northern Ireland (14,148 sq km/5463 sq mi).
The Greater Eco-system is an even larger unfenced area which includes the Masai Mara and surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area as well as Maswa, Grumeti & Ikorongo Game Reserves and Loliondo Game Controlled Area. At 30,000 sq km (12,000 sq Miles) it’s almost the same size as Belgium (30,528 sq km)
Seronera in the Central Serengeti is 320km west of Arusha and will take at least 6 hours of straight driving. Flight time from Arusha – Seronera is approximately 1 hour (direct with no stops en route). Time and distance are significant factors in the decision whether to drive or fly for your migration safari.
Driving to the Migration
Driving to your migration safari will take longer than you think! The condition of the road varies but in general you will be travelling on a rough and bumpy gravel road where 100km can take 3 hours. Also bear in mind that you will be spending a lot of time in the vehicle whilst on game drives. It is highly likely that you will need to stay overnight en route to the park to break the journey or visit an attraction along the way.
Travelling by road is a good idea if
You have a lot of time for your safari (Minimum 4 nights inside the park)
You like to see the country-side & interact with locals when stopping for toilet, food, fuel and a leg stretch.
You are a small group or medium group: 4- 6 people travel in one safari vehicle.
This makes the road alternative slightly cheaper when split by many so good for those on a budget.
You are afraid of travelling in a light aircraft.
You will have the same driver-guide from town to the National Park and for all your game drives.
You are visiting the southern or central sections of the park.
Flying to the Migration
Flying to your migration safari is in a light aircraft and gives you an aerial view of the country. The flight is an experience in itself and flight duration is seldom more than 2 hours (flight duration varies depending on stops en route) so a quicker more comfortable option than driving into the National Park. When flying in, you will use resident camp guides and vehicle who are familiar with the local area on game package.
Flying is a good option if
You have limited time, with only a couple of nights on safari.
You enjoy comfort.
Your primary interest is wildlife rather than sightseeing.
You are a small group of 1 – 3 people OR a large group of 12 or more.
You don’t like backtracking – driving in and out is usually on the same road.
You are heading to the northern Serengeti – Kogatende and Mara River and hoping for a river crossing.
Combination – Drive and Fly to the Migration
This option combines driving in and flying out or vice versa. Great Migration Camps recommends ending with a scenic flight rather than a bumpy drive out.
Drive-Fly combo is best for
Those with sufficient time – 2 days to drive in and at least 3 or more days on safari.
Those who would like to combine a destination en route to the park – options include Tarangire NP, Lake Manyara NP, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Natron(& Ol Doinyo Lengai)
Northern Serengeti Safaris – the northern sector is far away! A minimum of one night required to drive in – although we suggest two to enjoy the journey.
Combines sight-seeing with quality time on safari.
Those wanting to enjoy an adventure on the route into the National Park, but who like having the security and confidence of a departure flight to town to connect with an international departure flight.
At Great Migration Camps mobile we love all the options for different reasons. The choice whether to drive or fly to your migration safari is really about your time, your group size, your budget and your safari/wildlife preferences. As in life there are pros and cons to all three options.
Calving Season 2019
Calving Season is in full swing, and the wildebeest seem to be hanging around the southern plains whilst the little ones get stronger for the long journey northwards as the migration cycle starts again.
GMC mobile has Limited availability March 2019. Book now to confirm your seat for calving season and the great migration wildlife show. 2019 Calving Season inclusive packages below. Enquiries: email@example.com
Crossing Season 2019
Crossing season is filling up fast. One of the most dramatic seasons in the year long migratory cycle. The Wildebeest make their way northwards to cross the Mara River in Tanzania and Kenya. This can be a waiting game that tests the patience of many a nature-lover. GMC recommends booking as many days as you have available to give yourself the best chance of seeing a river crossing.
How to book
PLEASE enquire early to avoid disappointment particularly during peak periods as other services can also be busy. We can assist with pre or post safari tours and accommodation in town as well as flights or transport in and out of the National Park. We recommend 5- 10 days for your migration safari.
Calving season (Feb- March) -Ndutu area
Rutting season (June) – Grumeti area
Crossing season (July– Oct) – Kogatende/Mara River area
Kenyan Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has conquered mighty Mt. Kenya – Africa’s second highest mountain – to showcase the diverse adventure- and eco-tourism opportunities Kenya has to offer.
“Mt. Kenya has long been underutilised and under-promoted,” said CS Balala of his hope to change this status quo by drawing global attention to this natural tourism asset via the 7 Summits Africa Challenge, presented by Great Migration Camps.