Categorized | Adventures, Africa, Kenya

Plan a Perfect Safari in Kenya: 4 – Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience

Posted on 01 June 2012 by David

Today, we are on the fourth part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.  If you’re planning on a safari, you must try to catch a Wildebeest Mara river crossing.

Animals being animals, they don’t exactly publish a calendar of when they will be crossing.  Catching the big event takes luck to find a crossing and patience for the crossing to start.

If you have already signed up to go on a safari or just thinking about it, this is our wildebeest crossing experience.

Tourists on African safari watching wildebeests crossing the Mara in Kenya

We rose at 7am to have our single bucket shower (more on this on a future post =) and to have breakfast.   Today was the day for catching a crossing and we took our lunch with us.  We were going to be out for at least 8 to 10 hours today!

By 8am we were out on a game drive on the truck with our guide.  We wandered all over the park crossing our checklist of animals to see.  All the while, our guide was on a walkie talking chatting with other guides about sightings and possible news of a Wildebeest crossing.

Around noon we were getting concerned we were not going to see a crossing today.  Our guide radioed out and received a communication that wildebeest were gathering at a crossing.  We were a bit far away so we held tight and he floored it.

It took us an hour to get to the site.  There were already a dozen other vehicles stationed a distance away from the gathering.   At this point the worst thing that could have happened is for one of the vehicles to get too close and spook the herd away.   The thickness of anticipation was exhilarating as everyone was watching each other and the animals – waiting for one of the animals to make a move.

We were prepared for the wait.  We were just about to start taking out our lunch when all of a sudden our guide whispered strongly, “THEY’RE MOVING, HANG ON!”   We both fell back into our seats, camera gripped in one hand and holding tight to a handlebar with the other.   A dust storm erupted as animals and vehicles engaged in a rally race to the river bank.  We came to stop right at the river bank so near to the edge we were precipitously close to falling in.

Tourists on African safari watching wildebeests crossing the Mara in Kenya

Suddenly, nothing happened. The herd chickened out.  However, we were in for a treat!  There was a family of Giraffes gathered at the edge of the water.  Our guide was just as fixated on the Giraffes as we were.  “This is going to be good!  It’s so rare that they do this” he told us.   Apparently it is rare to see Giraffes at a Wildebeest crossing, and even rarer for a family of Giraffes to be crossing together.  The amazing part was that the largest Giraffe, possibly the father went first, crossed to the center and stayed there until all the other Giraffes finished crossing.  He was protecting his family!

African Safari - Giraffes Crossing Mara River in KenyaAfrican Safari - Giraffes Crossing Mara River in Kenya

After the Giraffes made it safely across the Wildebeests took it as their cue to go.  In an instant, a whole mass of wildebeests leaped into the water and thus began the famous Mara crossing.    Moments later one wildebeest appeared like it was in trouble.  It let out a scream of agony and we knew what it was.  A crocodile has found it’s meal.  The sounds of an animal being eaten alive and screaming in agony was painful to see and hear but also amazing to experience.  Fortunately for the Wildebeests, that was the only casualty of the day.  Hundreds of Wildebeests made it safely across living on for another day to continue the migration.

African Safari - Wildebeests Crossing Mara River in KenyaAfrican Safari - Wildebeests Crossing Mara River in KenyaWildebeest caught by Crocodile in the Mara River of Kenya

By this time it was well past two.  Happy that we met our objective of catching a crossing in person, we went to a nice quiet spot along the river banks and had our lunch.

If you are in the middle of planning a safari, we’re working on our next post, “Choosing When and Where to Go” that may help you out.  Come back for it on Monday!

Seven Part Series of our Safari in the Mara North Conservancy of Kenya:

  1. Introduction
  2. 10 Must-See Animals (including the Big 5)
  3. Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience (Current Post)
  5. Choosing When and Where to Go
  6. Kicheche Camp Review
  7. Getting to Maasai Mara

You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)

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