Part 1: Where to cross the Mara River?
The Mara River Crossings of the wildebeest & zebra, of the annual Great Migration in Tanzania & Kenya is an event like no other in the natural world. It’s not a single event, nor a single herd, nor a single stretch of river, nor a specific date or time. Wildebeest crossing the Mara River is a visually magnificent 3-D, confusion of tangible adrenalin with stereo sound. In the animal history world, these dramatic & chaotic river crossing scenes must rank at the top due to the raw visual, auditory & sensory intensity. It will take your breath away. The 2022 Mara River Crossings are the next event in our part of the planet.
In case you missed it: The Great Migration Explained 2022
Things to consider when crossing a river
As kids we were taught various bush survival skills which included river crossing techniques for our safety. We knew if the river was too wide, flowing too fast or was too high & discoloured, the crossing point was not acceptable. Acceptable crossing places had shallow water, easy banks to get out on the other side and a nice gravel or boulder river bed. Deep, slow water was okay if it wasn’t too wide. As humans we had to remove loose clothing, belts & backpacks.
- Watch the far bank
- Don’t fight the current
- Don’t grab logs or rocks
- Try to move side on to the current
Where to cross a River? Crossing points
The first question was whether we had to cross or not. Was there an alternative option?
It we had to cross, the second question was where to cross the river. What is the best river crossing point?
- The nature of the river bed (is it sand, gravel, rocks, boulders?)
- Speed of river flow
- Depth of the water
- Turbulence of the water
- Temperature (coldness) of the water
- Capabilities of the group
- Entry and exit points
- Run out
Where to cross the Mara River? Crossing Points for the Great Migration 2022
- The Mara River is almost 400 km long and is wide, craggy and treacherous.
- It is home to Africa’s largest crocodile population.
- The Mara River represents the end of a long challenging journey for the wildebeest.
- It makes logical sense that the wildebeest are hesitant to cross the river when they arrive, making them seem aimless and indecisive.
- Despite facing the same river risks as humans, such as drowning in strong currents, or breaking a leg on rocks or river bank entries – the wildebeest must also contend with predators (crocodiles & carnivores)
- The wildebeest cross the Mara River on instinct, in a bi annual ritual- what goes north, must return south. The herds cross the Mara River at least twice, sometimes more.
- Humans have spent decades documenting the wildebeest movements to make it easier for ourselves to witness this river crossing event. The most commonly used geographical areas of the river have been named or numbered as Crossing Points.
- Each point is a stretch of river not a single GPS location and is used as a guideline for finding the wildebeest
Mara River Crossings 2022: What to expect from the wildebeest?
- NOTHING! They are unpredictable.
- When a herd of wildebeest arrives on the banks of the Mara River, they usually search for a place to cross where the banks are not too steep and the water not flowing too fast.
- The buildup is tense. Hours or days can be spent waiting near a crossing point before they get enough numbers and courage to leap into the Mara River.
- Triggers can cause many false starts for the wildebeest. The ultimate trigger starts an adrenalin charged surge into the water and a race to the opposite river banks & perceived safety.
- They are in the zone seemingly oblivious to the known dangers- they swim frantically, grunt loudly and move as a mass of nervous energy.
- Exiting on the opposite bank, can be gentle and gradual or often tragically a near vertical slope where any good foothold changes to a slippery mudbank, with every passing hoof. The glistening bodies fight against each other to get out and avoid sliding back to the watery nightmare.
- Unbelievably, within ten minutes the wildebeest can be seen calming grazing with little or no indication of their ordeal – for them it’s just another day.
Mara River Crossing Points 2022: Human behaviour at the crossings
- The main objective is to observe the river crossings but not alter or impact the outcome of a crossing.
- Wildlife always has right of way, don’t obstruct.
- Waiting for a river crossing, vehicles should be stationary and out of sight of the animals. It is common to see safari jeeps hiding behind the tree line to avoid windshield reflections or other distractions.
- There are parking areas at the crossing points – designed to stop the vehicles frightening or blocking a river crossing.
- ONLY when the wildebeest have started to cross the river, may safari vehicles approach the river slowly. (In reality there is a race to the river for the best viewing spot of the greatest animal migration in Africa along the river bank.)
- Do we even need to say it? Stay in the vehicle (we are not the only animals watching the wildebeest)
Part 2: Where Wildebeest Cross the Mara River
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