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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 5 – When & Where

Posted on 04 June 2012 by David

Today, we are on the fifth part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.  Planning to catch a migration?   Then you have to plan your trip to give you the absolute best chance to see one.   The wildebeest migration is not an annual event.  The herds move around the African plains depending on food availability  in the location where they are at.  When the grass is getting thin, it’s time for the wildebeest to migrate to greener pasture.

National flag of Kenya

Where?  Kenya or Tanzania?   KENYA

The best chance of catching a crossing is when the herds are in a concentrated area and are moving to reach more plentiful grasslands.   One of the best places where this happens is in the Mara North Conservancy of Kenya.

Transportation wise, it’s easier to fly into Nairobi, Kenya than into parts of Tanzania.

Health and safety are about the same for both countries.

Based on that we declared Kenya as the better choice.

Zebra in Kenya

When?   Best time of the year to go?   EARLY OCTOBER

It takes a little bit of educated guessing to figure out where the animals will be during any given period of the year.   However since the river crossings are one of the biggest highlights, timing is everything!

Based on our research we determined that the best time to go on a safari and catch a wildebeest crossing is early October.

In September the herds arrive in Kenya’s Maasai Mara in search of fresh water and grazing.  The herds linger in the Mara for the month, then in October, they begin to move south towards the Serengeti plains in search of fresh grass.

When the herds begin their move down south they have one major obstacle, the Maasai Mara River.  There is no way around this and all the herds must cross in order to get to more fertile land.

Please remember that although the general timing of the migration is consistent year-over-year, the exact timing of when the herds move (End of September? First week of October? etc.) varies by year, and it depends heavily on the rainfall that year.  If there were more rain, then the grass would be more plentiful in the Maasai Mara, and the herds would stick around a little bit longer.  Before we set on a date for our wildlife safari, we checked the rainfall forecast to increase our chances of witnessing the Mara crossing.

African Safari Lion in Kenya

Our experience?   

We nailed the timing and location on this part of our round the world trip.  We were in the Maasai Mara Conservancy October 9 through October 13, 2011.  During this period the wildebeest herds had gathered en masse near several points along the Mara River.   For the first couple of days there wasn’t much movement and then on October 12, 2011 the herds decided it was the day to move and we caught two crossings, one small and one big, in one day!

Stay tuned for our “Kicheche Camp Review” tomorrow!

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
  5. Choosing When and Where to Go (Current Post)
  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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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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Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
(African Safari in Kenya)

Posted on 31 May 2012 by David

Today, we are on the third part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.  Your safari should include an attempt to catch a Wildebeest crossing.  If you’re like most people you probably have read about it in National Geographic but when you go, here are a few things that you probably didn’t know.

African Safari - Wildebeests Crossing Mara River in Kenya

  1. Wildebeests can line up for miles in single file and we’re not exaggerating!  Now, if you need to get to the other side of their line, don’t force your guide to drive through them.  It will disturb the herd and it will ruin the crossings for many others on safari who have been waiting patiently for hours!  You don’t want to be “that *&!# tourist who scared off the herd.”
  2. A Wildebeest herd will always wait for a different type of animal who is more experienced to cross first.  If you see a Zebra or Gazelle at the river bank with all the Wildebeests, it’s a good sign a crossing may happen soon!
  3. It can be emotional to watch a Wildebeest eaten alive by a crocodile.  You will hear the screams, see the struggle, and feel the fear.   It is amazing to watch but be prepared.
  4. You’re probably going to wait many many hours for a 5 to 10 minute show.  However, once the crossing starts you’ll see hundreds to thousands of animals crossing all at once!
  5. In addition to the fear, animals feel love too.  We once saw a family of Giraffes cross.  The father crossed first, and waited halfway in the crocodile infested river for his ‘wife’ and children to cross before finishing the crossing himself.  Now isn’t that love?

African Safari - Giraffes Crossing Mara River in Kenya

Stay tuned for our post on “Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience” tomorrow!

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 (Current Post)
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience 
  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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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 2 – 10 Must-See Animals

Posted on 30 May 2012 by David

Today, we are on the second part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.  Traditionally when you go on a safari, you are going on a big game hunt.  Your objective is to successfully shoot and bring back  some of the largest and ferocious animals on the planet.   These days the objective of a safari hasn’t changed except now you’re shooting the animals with your fancy DSLR and bringing them all back in your memory cards!

You must first hunt down the Big-5.  Once you’re done with that you can go for many others.  Here are the Big-5 we captured, plus five others you may also want to hunt for.

The Big 5:

1. African elephant – You’ll have no trouble finding them.  However you’ll need to keep your distance as the last thing you want is for an angry mom to charge at you!

African Safari Elephant in Kenya

2. Black Rhinoceros – Here we caught a pair of African White Rhinos, a mother and son staring at at each other.  The black rhinoceros is very difficult to find!

African Safari White Rhinos in Kenya

3. Cape buffalo – There are a few of these around.  Not too hard to find.

African Safari Cape Buffalo in Kenya

4. Lion – There is nothing like hearing a lion roar in person in the wild (especially when you are sleeping in the tent)!

African Safari Lion in Kenya

5. Leopard – You need luck to find leopards.  They like to hide up in the trees.  We got lucky and found this one cooling off in the shade.

 African Safari Leopard in Kenya

Others worth searching for:

6. Crocodile – They’re huge, about the size of a hippo!

African Safari Crocodile in Kenya

7. Cheetah – Beautiful animal.  Looks like a leopard.  Compare their coat pattern!

African Safari Cheetah in Kenya

8. Giraffe – Once you see them in a herd in the wild you’ll never want to see them in a zoo.

African Safari Giraffe in Kenya

9. Topi – The males of this type of antelope mark their territory by standing on a big pile of dung, ready to fight any other male that tries to invade.  The taller the pile of dung, the better it is for them!

African Safari Topi in Kenya

10. Warthog – They were very funny to watch.  They always ran with an urgent purpose, like they were late to a meeting or something.  Now we know why warthogs always wear business suits in cartoons!

African Safari Warthog in Kenya

 

Stay tuned for our post on “5 tidbits you should know about the Mara Crossing” tomorrow!

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

  1. Introduction
  2. 10 Must-See Animals (including the Big 5) – Current Post
  3. Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience 
  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)

Did you like this post? Subscribe via email or RSS so you don’t miss an update!


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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 1 – Introduction

Posted on 29 May 2012 by David

 African Safari Sunset

Introduction

Back in October of last year we traveled to Kenya to go on a once-in-a-lifetime Safari.   We had read about the great migration of the animals, especially the Wildebeest river crossings.  It is the kind of event that you would see on a National Geographic episode and we wanted to see it for ourselves.  Since then, many of our friends have asked us to write about our experiences, so here they are – for the next week, we will focus on reviewing our African Safari trip.  By the way, if you are planning a safari to catch the crossings, you should book the camp now!  The best ones filled up very quickly!

A successful Safari requires some planning to take into account the type and location of your accommodations, the time of year of your visit, the animals you want to see, and your transportation to the Safari.  You also need a little bit of luck so if you’re superstitious, carry a lucky charm!

In the following seven-part series we’ll let you in on the details about our experience and we’ll share a few things to consider when planning your own successful safari.

In the end our safari was better than we could have hoped for.  We got lucky and saw the “Big 5” plus others not on the list that we thought were also big or must-sees.    We were also fortunate to see a Wildebeest crossing, twice!   All in all we had a fantastic time with which made the long journey well worth the effort.

You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)

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