Each dry season, tens of thousands of wildebeest brave the torrent of the Mara River - not to mention its fearsome crocodiles – on their annual migration

In many ways the world famous crossings of the Mara River in the Northern Serengeti has become THE iconic safari event. For sheer drama and scale it’s hard to beat and the experience of watching tens of thousands of wildebeest doggedly braving the swollen river and the monster reptiles is one which will stay with you forever.

Where to stay

For maximum safari flavour think about staying in a seasonal tented camp to catch the crossings. Think large walk in tents, great food and unrivalled personal service in luxury tented camps like Nomad’s Serengeti Safari Camp. If you’re after something a little more simple, then a light tented camp is an excellent alternative. Seeing a crossing takes luck and patience, but regardless of where you stay having an excellent and experienced guide who knows the area like the back of his hand is critical if you are to connect with a crossing.

Where do crossings take place?

The Mara River runs more or less along the border of Tanzania and Kenya, separating The Serengeti National Park from the Maasai Mara. This is where the main crossings happen in Tanzania and the majority of visitors to the Serengeti aim for the Kogatende area. This is partly because there are a number of well-used (wildebeest) crossing points here and partly because this is the only place where you can cross the Mara River by vehicle to the north bank (and the stunning Lamai Wedge). It’s also where the airstrip is.

On the other side of the river in Kenya’s Maasai Mara there are crossings not only of the Mara River but also the Talek and other tributaries of the main channel.

When do crossings happen?

Exact timing of the migration is driven by the weather (an unusually wet or dry year can cause a variation in timing of weeks), however the wildebeest normally reach the northern Serengeti by early July and by late July it’s safe to assume that crossings will be under way.

Unlike the Israelites crossing of The Red Sea, the Mara River crossings are not a single event, rather crossings happen throughout the dry season. Groups varying in size from a few hundred to tens of thousand cross the river in both directions between July and October in response to localized weather patterns (following the rain showers and therefore the fresh grazing). The last crossings happen in late October before the herds move south again.

What’s amazing is that the vast majority of animals make it across unscathed, but their troubles rarely end there; lion frequently wait in ambush to greet the swimmers.  If you’re after an action packed safari, this is it.