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Serengeti Great Migration: River crossings, where to stay?

Where to stay in the Serengeti for the Great Migration River Crossings 2022?

A Mara River migration crossing in the Serengeti is without doubt one of the greatest wildlife experiences on earth (and there are many out there).  Navigating your way through the information to figure out how to get to the migration can be overwhelming.  It is difficult to distinguish between the types of accommodation and the terminology. It is really hard to figure out where to stay to see the wildebeest cross the Mara River, and I’m not talking safari-style (that’s personal to each camp and guest).

The Serengeti is an extraordinary place, yet it is also very large making it to be in the “wrong” location for the great migration due to the size of the place and the unpredictability of the migratory herds.  Remember this Migration Update which illustrates the comparative size of the Serengeti to states and countries? 

It is much easier to understand that it is possible to be staying many hours drive from the wildebeest herds,  and there is a chance you could miss nature’s greatest show.  Where you stay and what type of accommodation you stay in, can affect your river crossing great migration experience.

Where are the Great Migration River Crossings? Northern Serengeti

A reminder that the Mara River Crossings happen annually, roughly from July-October as the great migration passes back and forth through Tanzania’s Northern Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara.  The great migration USUALLY moves through Kenya at some point in these 4 months, however the migration is ALWAYS in Tanzania.

In Tanzania, this means you will need to stay in the Northern Serengeti, with the closest airstrip at Kogatende. There is more accommodation on the southern side of the Mara River at Kogatende, making the Lamai side of the river a bit quieter than Kogatende.  Get your timing right for the Masai Mara and you will have an incredible migration experience in Kenya, there are amazing places to stay beyond the scope of this blog.

Where to stay for the river crossings, Great Migration – Safari Lodges, Serengeti

Permanent buildings, bigger capacity and all the bells and whistles.  Permanent lodges act as a luxury gateway to experiencing the African bush. They have fantastic safari operations, from food, to linen and guiding.  Set in exotic locations, with elevated views, private plunge pool, libraries and luxury amenities. Each lodge creates its own signature niche– from interior design to signature activities like spa therapy’s, wine tastings to decadent bush breakfasts (all for additional fee).

Where to stay for the river crossings, Great Migration- Semi-permanent Camps, Serengeti 

In theory they can be packed up and leave nothing behind. Many have been in the same place for 10 years or more and don’t move at all. Boreholes have been sunk, and these luxury camps are extravagant tented structures on wooden platforms with draping and safari-style furnishings,  East African safari décor, and quality amenities. Great locations and generally have good service and years of experience. We love booking our guests into boutique spots.

Where to stay for the river crossings, Great Migration- Mobile camps, Serengeti

These tend to move move between two set locations in the Southern Serengeti, during the calving season and in the Northern Serengeti for the crossing season. A team and crew will take a couple of weeks to set up camp which stays in the location for about 4 months (sometimes a bit longer) before packing and moving to the opposite end of the park.

These safari camps are “mobile” in that they can move, but it’s not fast nor often! These stylish mobile safari camps are no less luxurious than the permanent camps and lodges, with varying facilities and services according to the particular camp’s style & budget.

Where to stay for the river crossings, Great Migration Camps, Serengeti

Yes that’s unashamedly us!  Great Migration Camps operate like a luxury “fly-camp” (a sleep-out adventure in the wild for lodge clients). This is a comfortable, all needs camp that can move in a day following the herds. This is a RAW, real, immersive experience, close to nature, close to wildlife and close to what people are coming to see. The camp location moves, to various special camping sites, which are private as we are fully self-sufficient.

Where to stay for the river crossings, Great Migration- Budget Camping

Basic food and tents in public campsites making use of public facilities – most notably ablutions. Public campsites are in central convenient locations of the park, with variable servicing of public toilets and facilities. Clients travel with the luggage and tents, seldom leave camp before 08h30 as everyone has to eat and pack up before departing camp. Return earlier in the evening for food preparation and camp chores.

There is no public campsite in the Northern Serengeti, where the river crossings take place, so at best you can do a day trip from Lobo or Seronera. (Self-sufficient self-drive campers can get in touch with GMC directly for camping assistance in the northern Serengeti)

Where to stay and how long to stay for? Great migration river crossings, Serengeti?

At Great Migration Camps, we believe you have to be in it to win it.  With wildlife,  and especially the great migration, there is no quick fix or instantaneous gratification for sightings. Give yourselves as much time as you have available and can afford to spend near the Mara River for the crossings.  We recommend a minimum of three nights, which only allows two full days for safari.

There is a lot of distance to cover- some 50km of Mara River, no highways and no traffic reports.  Wildebeest herd  “building” can take a few days as they gather one by one into big groups. At a certain trigger, they develop herd mentality to think and act as one to cross the Mighty Mara River. This is unscripted, so do yourself a favour if you have made a long journey to Tanzania, give yourself enough time for the show to unfold. You won’t regret it.

Book your stay to the Great Migration River Crossings, Serengeti 2022

We still have tickets available to the Greatest Natural Show on Earth 2022, starring Great Migration Camps, in conjunction with Conservation Through Tourism. Get your 2022 River Crossing tickets now by emailing sally@greatmigrationcamps.com. Tickets are selling out fast, don’t delay, book your river crossing migration safari today.

We can book your entire safari- meeting you on arrival, with a full tour itinerary. This includes all the road or air transport,  experienced guides, route planning and accommodation bookings.  Our camp is not suitable for everyone. There are many safari camps that are much finer & fancier than ours- we would love to put you there.  Get in touch via email: info@conservationthroughtourism.com

Other Animals of the Great Migration

The Serengeti National Park & Great Migration’s other animals

90% of the clients that stay at Great Migration Camps, come to the Serengeti “to see the great migration”. Besides the wildebeest, every client also wants to experience other animals encounters in the Serengeti.  You will, guaranteed. Serengeti National Park is home to over 300 animal species. And the populations of many are very healthy and strong.

The Serengeti National Park is a unique setting of ‘endless plains’ dotted with rocky outcrops (kopjes) interspersed with rivers and woodlands and a wide range of habitats.  Due to the topography, geology, soils, rainfall, and drainage systems, the Serengeti National Park sustains the largest number of ungulates and the highest concentration of large predators in the world.  Famous for the great wildebeest migration – their grazing and trampling of grass allows new grasses to grow, while their waste helps fertilize the soil, making it one of the most productive ecosystems on earth.

Migrating Animals in the Serengeti

At the heart of the Great Wildlife Migration is the wildebeest, or the blue wildebeest to be more precise

  • Wildebeest:  The wildebeest are so important that sometimes the migration is referred to as the Great Wildebeest Migration. Around 1.7 million wildebeests take part in the migration.   
  • Zebras:  Around 300,000 zebras travel alongside the wildebeest as part of the Great Migration.  Did you see our must watch video on the Serengeti Zebra Migration?   
  • Thomson’s gazelle:  Sometimes referred to as a “tommie”. Around 500,000 take part in the Great Wildlife Migration!  They’re fantastic runners, and can exceed 65 km per hour. 
  • Eland – Around 18,000 elands take part in the Great Migration. Eland are the largest antelope and they can be very shy.

Serengeti Animals create Outstanding Universal Value

UNESCO recognizes the Serengeti National Park for its outstanding universal value with a whole bunch of accolades – there is a whole lot of wild in this incredibly beautiful and abundant park.  Check it out.

  • The Serengeti National Park hosts one of the largest and most diverse large predator-prey interactions worldwide.
  • The ecosystem supports 2 million wildebeests, 900,000 Thomson’s gazelles and 300,000 zebras as the dominant herds.
  • Other herbivores include 7,000 elands, 27,000 topis, 18,000 hartebeests, 70,000 buffalos, 4,000 giraffes, 15,000 warthogs, 3,000 waterbucks, 2,700 elephants, 500 hippopotamuses, 200 black rhinoceroses, 10 species of antelope and 10 species of primate.
  • Major predators include 4,000 lions, 1000 leopards, 225 cheetahs, 3,500 spotted hyenas and 300 wild dogs.
  • Of these, the black rhino Diceros bicornis, leopard Panthera pardus, African elephant Loxodonta africanaand cheetah Acynonix jubatus are listed in the IUCN Red List.
  • There are over 500 species of birds that are perennially or seasonally present in the Park, of which five species are endemic to Tanzania. The Park has the highest ostrich population in Tanzania and probably Africa, making the population globally important.

Serengeti Species:  Other Animals of the Great Migration

In addition to the migrating wildebeest, zebra, eland and tommie’s, there are more than 35 species of plains animals. Add some 3,000 lions and great numbers of spotted hyenas, leopards, hippopotamuses, giraffes, cheetahs, and baboons.  Birds, Reptiles, Insects and fish are found in addition to the mammals. Rare and seldom sighted animals include Wild Dog, African Wild Cat, Rhino Bat Eared Foxes, Caracal, Serval, Pangolin, snakes.  More than 350 species of birds, including ostriches, vultures, and flamingos, have been recorded. Crocodiles inhabit marshes and water sources near the Mara River. 

Some of the exciting animals to look for on your great migration safari are: 

Aardvark | Aardwolf (civet hyena) | Baboon | Bat-eared fox | Cheetah | Crocodile | Eland | Elephant | Thomson’s Gazelle | Grant’s Gazelle | Giraffe | Hippo | Hyena | Impala | Jackal | Kongoni (hartebeest) | Leopard | Lion | Monkeys | Mongoose | Porcupine | Serval | Topi | Wild dog (painted dog) | Wildebeest (gnu)  | Zebra  (How many you can spot in the Serengeti Show Live, halfway highlights show? )  

Is it time to get your safari on and see some Serengeti for yourself? 

Chat to us about which aspect of the Great Migration you’d most like to see. We can advise you on your Tanzania Safari and help you to plan your great migration safari!  Contact us on sally@greatmigrationcamps.com. Let’s chat Great Migration! Come and see the Serengeti Animals for yourself. 

Serengeti Zebra Migration

The Serengeti Zebra Migration

The Great Migration encompasses a circular, seasonal movement of wildebeest, zebras, and Thomson’s gazelles and eland in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem.  The annual migration of the blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) covers the entire range of the Greater Serengeti ecosystem, a round-trip that exceeds the straight-line distance of 650 km.  Data from GPS collars suggest that the true distance covered is over 1500 km.  The wildebeest migration is constantly moving, with females having an average daily movement of 4.5 km. The Serengeti zebra migration moves with them.

Animals of the Great Migration

Among the 2 million animals of the great migration, around 300,000 of these animals are zebras.  A symbiotic relationship exists between the zebras and wildebeest of the Serengeti.  The main reason they stick together is for safety.

The Serengeti Migration: Zebra and Wildebeest

  • Together they have a strong “alarm” system, and the massive size of their accumulated herds reduces the chance of any single individual being targeted by a predator.  The wildebeest uses its superior sense of sound and smell to stay wary of predators, while the zebra uses its excellent eyesight to scan for threats.
  • Zebras and wildebeest don’t compete for food, either.  Wildebeest are fussy eaters; they are selective grazers and only feed upon the shorter parts of the grass. Luckily for them, zebras are bulk grazers – cropping the grass (like a lawnmower) and making it palatable for the wildebeest to consume.
  • Zebras have a great memory which helps them recall safe migration routes, which comes in handy for directing the sometimes-aimless wildebeests.  The wildebeest’s fantastic sense of smell can detect water even in dry times, an advantage for the zebra.
  • Both species like a more plain open grassy areas though this makes them more vulnerable and that is why they need the safety in numbers (advantage) from predators.

Serengeti Zebra Migration
Serengeti Zebra Migration

The Serengeti Zebra Migration

Join Great Migration Camps or follow us, as we follow the Great Wildebeest Migration through the Serengeti on their journey from the southern plains to the Mara River and back.  We follow the wildebeest, zebra , eland and Thomson’s gazelle through the Mara-Serengeti Eco-system.

We have mixed availability in Kogatende area for the River Crossing Season 2022.  Book early  for the great migration by emailing info@greatmigrationcamps.com to avoid disappointment. #Conservationthroughtourism

Great Migration: Where to cross the Mara River?

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.

In case you missed Part 1 in our river-crossing series:  here’s the link.   Great Migration 2022: Where to cross the Mara River? 

Book now to see the Great Wildebeest Migration:  info@greatmigrationcamps.com
Contact us now for River Crossing availability 2022 season.
Follow our migration updates from the Serengeti National Park here:  Great Migration Updates