One of the main reasons that we came to the Serengeti at this time of the year was to witness the migration of the wildebeest as they head south towards the plains of the Serengeti.
Millions of wildebeest start their 1000km journey south to find greener pastures every October. However, it isn’t an easy migration. They have to cross over the Mara and Sand rivers that are full of Nile crocodiles that have not eaten since last year for their annual feast on wildebeest.
We packed up from Osopuko and said good by to the staff there. They were so welcoming and it was sad to say goodbye, but they had a great little send off song and the Maasi warrior who stood guard for them (Moses) gave us all bracelets as a parting gift.
He was a really nice man, and he spent the night before sitting with us, and especially Wilson, talking about the Maasi way of life. He gave Wilson a necklace that a warrior would get that included a lions tooth (but it was really a carved piece of cow rib…but symbolic nonetheless).
We started our long 9h drive north which was about 200km in total, and the sun was blinding Nico as we drove out of the lodge early in the morning.
We were lucky as we saw two female lions coming right at us, and eventually crossed right behind our truck, as we were headed out of area. That was amazing to see them on the move.
We had to stop at the only garage in the Serengeti to get something fixed on the truck. Nico gave us the option to go to the visitors centre which was near by, or to come with him to the garage. We thought that it would be quicker to go to the garage as we didn’t know how far it was going to be for him to go there and come back.
We piled out of the truck and Nico took it into the garage, which was a tall shed in behind some rocks, and they started to work on the truck. There was something loose in the engine and one of the hinges on the top roof door that we look out was broken.
We had fun playing HeadsUp (like HeadBanz but on the phone) with the kids, and then singing and dancing…but eventually, I needed to take a mindful moment under the tree as the sun beat down.
Wilson and I retreated to the guts of a truck to put our feet up as it was taking a bit longer than we thought.
Eventually, it was done and we were on our way! Happy days!! One thing to understand is that it isn’t like driving a highway there, the 200km took 9h since the roads are corrugated at best, and are filled with rocky bumps that make going any faster than 30 to 40kph impossible.
As we headed north there was a distinct change in the vegetation as it became greener and more dense, so I was not sure why the wildebeest were headed south as it was very brown and dry there. Nico said that the fires and the rain that was coming was going to green everything up in time for their arrival in a few months.
We also noted that there were fewer safari trucks the more North we went, so it was like we had the place to ourselves.
Eventually, the roads disappeared or became less evident, and we had the freedom to drive where we wanted to. At the same time the wildebeest became more densely populated. The animals were less densely populated as well, or they were just better at hiding. Nonetheless, it was beautiful, and a place we hadn’t visited in the Serengeti before.
If you can’t tell by now, the Serengeti is one of our favourite places in the world. It is full of amazing animals living how animals live, and the terrain is so different and varied from one area to the next.
I was still having a whale of a time with the present that the Bulgarian gave me in the Sahara, so I had to get out and check the tires of the truck several times (code word for going to the bathroom) which was lots of fun. Since there were no bushes to hide behind, I resorted to hanging off of the back bumper which provided the rest of the Craigholms with some comic relief.
We stopped and watched the wildebeest who were getting themselves organized to move from one area to the next, which was pretty funny. Some were lying down. Some where walking north, some were walking south, and then randomly there were ones that were sprinting to nowhere. Truly, organized chaos.
We arrived at the top of a rolling hill and saw that the wildebeest were starting to get a bit more interested in moving, and moving in the same direction towards a cloud of dust in the air in the valley between the two hills. Nico knew that the wildebeest were crossing there and so we boogied our way over to the river crossing site to watch. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of wildebeest crossing.
It was like a big game of follow the leader mixed in with Red Rover. “Red rover, red rover, try and make your way over. If you don’t, well I am going to eat you,” says the hungry Nile crocodile. However, at the dry river bed, there weren’t any crocs waiting for them.
“Hey! Where is George going? Well, if he is going, then I might as well go too! Hey guys….come on! George is crossing the river!” And everyone follows in line, sprinting as fast as they can. This was a wildebeest FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) moment for sure.
Once they got to the other side, they relaxed and started eating, sitting, and wandering in all directions again.
We took a short game drive around and saw giraffe, tons of zebras, warthogs, and then a massive kill that the vultures were picking apart (we had no idea what they were eating), and made our way to Mara Kati Lodge for the night just as the sun was setting over the horizon. African sunsets are simply amazing, you just can’t get enough of them.
We had an amazing dinner and a bottle of wine to calm our nerves down from the long bumpy drive that we had just had on the way up here.
We all made our way off to bed after some bush TV (the campfire) that only had one channel playing tonight, and fell asleep to the zebras that were eating grass right outside our tent.
Over the course of the night, the wildebeest continued to move along their migration path, and had to be careful of the lions and other cats that liked to prey on them at night with their excellent night vision. You could hear them running past the tent and their grunting noises that reminded me of either a horny teenage boy making stupid grunting noises or Bevis and Butthead laughing at each other.
Wilson and I woke up and the zebras were still outside our tent munching away, and by now, this was becoming the norm. “Oh, hey. Look, it is a zebra at our front door. Whatsup zebra?” And you walk to the dining tent. It is still pretty amazing to see these beasts, but there is a sense of complacency and relaxation with all of the animals that is kicking in. This is nice to see with the kids as they are no longer anxious or skittish, but still in wonder of what is around them.
The wildebeest like to cross early in the morning, so we got in the truck at 7am to get down to the Mara River to see them cross.
Nico parked the truck a ways back from where the wildebeest were organizing themselves, but once he saw them starting to cross, he turned on the truck and drove like a man on a mission to get down to the rivers edge as quickly as he could. That was a lot of fun!
(YouTube Video Link to Driving Down Like Mad To The Wildebeest: https://youtu.be/TtO6fDg1Fhg)
He got us pretty close to where they were entering the river, and there were a couple of crocs looking on, but it didn’t seem like any were making the move to take down a wildebeest. The crocs apparently don’t like to attack when they are in a group, rather they like to take out the leader of a new group or when one of them decides to go across on its own. They attack from under the water, and if they go into a group, they themselves can get killed from the trampling feet of the wildebeest.
There were a couple of pauses in the crossing, and you could definitely see the wildebeest acting like “I am not going first, you go first!”, “No, you go first, I am not going first”…then I am sure one of them got pushed from behind and that started the lemming-like flow of wildebeest across the river.
(YouTube Video Link to Wildebeest Crossing: https://youtu.be/Jc6hOZukOq8)
We were super fortunate to watch four of these crossings…two across the water, and two across dry river beds.
A lot of people come here at this time of the year to see the crossings and the migration, and wait hours upon hours and they never see a crossing. So we were very fortunate.
We spent the next three days hunting down the locations of where the animals would cross the river, and doing game drives along the river where we saw countless elephants.
We headed over to the Tanzanian and Kenyan border where the Maasi Mara is, and which is where the wildebeest eventually are trying to get to in one piece.
It is quite different than the northern part of the Serengeti where we were watching the animals, as it is quite flat again, but there are green pastures as far as the eye can see. There again was no border control or big wall separating the two countries, and we had some fun putting one foot in Kenya, and the other in Tanzania.
We headed back to our tented lodge for the last night up here before we made our way back to the Serena region for one night as we started our trek southward towards Nairobi and our flight to South Africa.