Kenya’s Wildebeest Migration

Getting a chance to watch the crossing of the wildebeests in the Masai Mara can be a a true test of patience, but the final payoff is exhilarating and a true lifelong memory.

The mid-afternoon sun scorched our backs through the open rooftop of our Land Rover. A friend had told us she’d seen “the crossing”, the Mara-Serengeti Wildebeest migration, after waiting six hours. We had only been waiting for two at one of the Masai Mara’s main crossing points, located inside the Mara Triangle. Resigning myself to many more hours of unfulfilled anticipation, I contemplated opening the lunchbox our lodge, Royal Mara Safari Lodge, had packed for us. All morning, the wildebeests had played us for fools, going back and forth across the multiple crossing points along the Mara River.

Wildebeest herd on the banks of the Mara River, starting to cross
Chaos reigned as the Wildebeests began crossing the Mara river. The beasts crushed against each other as they jostled for their turn to plunge into the crocodile infested waters

The First Move

“They are going to cross.” Our guide, Joseph Mbotte from Natural World Kenya Safaris, said, his voice excited. I took my attention away from the bee-eater I’d been watching and turned towards the herd. A large male at the front of the train was kicking up dirt, looking ready to plunge into the water. I was skeptical – we had seen this behaviour a few times before, when the animal did not, in the end, enter the water.

A crocodile with jaws wide open, about to catch the head of a Wildebeest
There were many large crocodiles at the main crossing point on the Mara river. They were very quick with hunting the wildebeests, and it was difficult to “capture the moment” in the chaos of the crossing

A Feast for Crocodiles

I was wrong. In a sudden flurry of motion, the beast, compelled by instinct, leapt into the air plunging into the mud brown Mara River. Inspired by their brave compatriot, the surrounding beasts began to follow suit, taking turns, one after the other. The many crocodiles, camouflaged along its banks came to life. It wasn’t long before we caught sight of one of these magnificent reptiles reaching for its victim. The crocodile’s jaws snapped over its victim’s neck, dragging the wildebeest down into its watery world.

Large crocodile in the shallows of the Mara River, waiting for the Wildebeests to cross
We saw this large crocodile waiting patiently in the shallows of the Mara River. In total, we counted around eight crocs of varying sizes in close proximity to the main crossing point in The Mara Triangle

The sudden flash of activity took me by surprise, especially after hours of nothing happening. It was a pattern I began to realise with each passing day being on safari in Kenya. This seemed to be the way of nature. Hours may pass with absolutely nothing happening, despite your best efforts. Then, just as you’re about to give up, something spectacular happens, making the long wait worthwhile.

Bee-eater with a bee caught in its beak
This was the little bee-eater that occupied our attention while we waited for the Wildebeests to make up their mind on when and where they wanted to cross. If you look closely, you’ll see he has a bee in its beak!