Extra Ordinary River Crossing: Masai Mara Great Wildebeest Migration

wildebeest Migration masai mara

The Great wildebeest Migration in Africa takes place in Kenya and Tanzania within the prominent National Parks of Masai Mara and Serengeti National Parks where gathering large herds of wildebeests, zebras and other grazers follow instinct then start to move in large herds, it is truly one of life’s greatest occurrences. The Wildebeest migration is highlighted by river crossings, normally this occurs when the various sizes of herds gather at a river and when one starts to cross the rest follow, safety numbers quite overly and everyone makes it to the other side or even better no shoving pushings, one after the other they all just stroll across the river to continue feeding on the other side because as you know the grass is always greener on the other side. It is the epitome of an African safari seeing parts of the migration when herds of 1.5 million wildebeest and over 500,000 zebra migrate between Serengeti in Tanzania and Masai Mara in Kenya. It is certainly an unforgettable experience however even when you don’t see the migration these two parks definitely deserve every bit of the international scene.

While on a game drive in Masai Mara (August 2020) something extra ordinary happened, we quickly zoomed into the area close to the border between Kenya’s Masai Mara in the north and Tanzania’s Serengeti in the South. At this point two rivers join; the Sand River running from east to west and the Mara River coming from the north to the South. Once they meet, they continue westwards to Lake Victoria. We were returning from a morning safari game drive in the western part of the park and had just crossed the bridge over the Mara River, as we looked towards the river we saw a relatively large herd of wildebeests congregating at the river and we swung into the parking lot where one is allowed to get out in order to have a better look at the river, as we got out, there was a scene that made us. The large herd of wildebeests decided to cross the river and aim for a specific gap in the sand bank of the opposite side. However they did not keep the speed of the river in mind sweeping them from left to right and therefore missing their target completely. At this point they were facing a vertical solid sand bank which was impossible to climb so they were now all swept downstream and had no choice but to return to the side they just came from. The reason why they could not continue downstream to reach flatter ground to exit is because there was a pot of hippos lying in a long line preventing them from coming down further. 

This was just the start of a nightmare because wildebeests are herd animals like sheep, one follows the other one in front without really thinking of the consequences of that action. To our surprise as soon as they got out of the hippo and crocodile infested water they would jump straight back in again to do the same pointless circle once more. At this point their problems are just about to get worse when the hippo could not take it anymore and decided to attack these intruders as you may know hippos a vegetarian’s so they will not kill something to eat however they are extremely territorial and will attack anything coming into their path and when you come face-to-face with a hippo, the razor sharp tusks up to one foot long will be probably your last memory, these very tusks rip trees like paper and leave the victims bleeding to death if not already crushed by these gigantic joists. It was at this point that the wildebeests were starting to realize the situation however many continued with this deadly game of circular swimming whereas others had second thoughts and returned the same way that went in. Sadly some animals were so tired that they would get swept downstream into the line of waiting crocodiles and these poor soul got bitten not once but twice before making it to the bank. At long last some good news came when some of them found the gap on the opposite side and others found the flatter ground where we were standing. During all this chaos of the crossing, animals got separated, mothers were calling out for their missing calves, calves made it to the other side only to wonder where their mothers were. Once again the worst was told to be witnessed so many bodies were left floating and these were not the backs of hippos but rather drowned wildebeests, within minutes We counted a hundred floating carcasses. Many people think that crocodiles kill most wildebeests during these crossings but the fact is it is deadly crossings like these that cost many more lives. Some of the remaining herd of wildebeests stood in the dangerous river and eventually collapsed. 

It can be heartbreaking and disturbing to witness events like these, it’s like a lion kill, at Masai Mara Holidays we often witness visitors that want to see a lion kill only until they see a lion kill. What we often hear is the cycle of life but one can’t help to feel very sorry for the victim. This reminds us always that life’s end is always brutal does not matter how it comes. From a human perspective what does matter though is not to focus on the things we cannot change like the inevitable death but on the things that we can change like life we can ensure to protect, these wildlife locations like Serengeti and Masai Mara for life, we can spread the word that Africa is an exceptional destination with friendly people stunning scenery and unmatched wildlife and you can enjoy all her splendor just by coming here on a safari and becoming part of a movement to protect our natural resources for generations to come long after you and I have left.  

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