Anyone lucky enough to have witnessed the spectacle of a river crossing during the great wildebeest migration will never forget the sound as thousands of hooves hit the ground or the rush of adrenalin through your veins, as a crocodile lunges out of the river to lock its jaws around a wildebeest! As gruesome as it may sound, this is no zoo! Its mother nature at its best!
I’m not one for camping, so when my husband first suggested we should head to Tanzania for a tented safari in the middle of the Serengeti, I nearly fell off my chair! Wildlife safaris and scuba diving are my passion but camping is NOT! However, the Asilia camps we stayed at are far from what I had imagined, they are simply 5star hotels with canvas walls.
The action started from the moment we landed! Seronera, the area we were staying in is said to have the highest density of lions and Cheetahs in the whole of Africa from July to November and they weren’t wrong! As we jumped into the jeep and headed off to our first camp, within less than five minutes, a huge male lion appeared out of nowhere and started to run beside us before crossing the road in front to join the rest of his pride!
As we continued our drive alongside the Mara river, towards the Olakira camp, our driver suddenly slammed his foot down on the gas and drove straight towards the river bank! “THEY ARE CROSSING, THEY ARE CROSSING!” I almost peed my pants in excitement!
We sat there completely gobsmacked as to what was happening. We had only been in Tanzania five minutes and already we were witnessing our first river crossing, one of the best things to see during the great wildebeest migration!
On our first few drives, we were lucky enough to have the whole jeep to ourselves and spent two full days out on safari enjoying breakfast, lunch and sundowners, complete with a white table cloth and chairs in the middle of the Serengeti! It was very surreal! We spent our time following the herd and watching on as a few handfuls of wildebeest would cross here and there BUT it wasn’t until our third day when the monumental river crossing took place.
On the day of the epic crossing, we were joined by a lively 90yr old and his daughter! David would throw his cane into the jeep and hoist himself up on the back wheel refusing help from anyone. One thing I love about our trips is the people we meet along the way, from the locals to the other guests, whom many have become lifelong travel buddies.
Ok, so back to the epic crossing…As we were in the middle of eating breakfast, we got word that there were thousands of wildebeest preparing to make the suicide run across the river, so we grabbed a croissant and leapt into the jeep, which was toasty warm with blankets and hot water bottles. It’s a chilly start at 6am in the Serengeti!
After the adrenalin rush of driving full speed through the bush, we arrived at the point where the wildebeest were gathering. It was intense! There were thousands of wildebeest that just seemed to merge into one big brown ball of dust along the horizon! After hours of patiently waiting and watching as the wildebeest ran back and forward to the river banks edge, one of the herd had finally had enough! He came running from the back of the herd and launched himself off the river bank and straight into the water…. And like that, they were off!
It was total carnage as thousands upon thousands dashed across the river. I could barely contain my excitement as I sat on the edge of my seat! The pounding of hooves sent vibrations through the jeep!
There were wildebeest hurling themselves into the river, zebra clambering across the rocks, vultures circling and then the crocodiles moved in, clamping their jaws one by one around endless wildebeest and even zebra. By the end of it, there were even a few monitor lizards swimming along the river picking up scraps.
The crossing lasted for well over 4hours and was stilling going by the time we had to make our way back to camp. Once home we were welcomed by a roaring fire, glass of wine and a steaming hot shower!
Every day in the Serengeti was just as amazing as the next, from spotting the big five to witnessing hunting cheetahs and mating lions! No two days are the same in Tanzania!
As with all wildlife trips they can be unpredictable as you never know what you might see. Even if we hadn’t witnessed the wildebeest migration or any wildlife for that matter we still would have had an amazing time simply because of the people, the amazing camps and the adventure they brought!
I know I sound like I'm reciting words from the Lion King but witnessing the circle of life and the rawness of mother nature is an experience I want to relive over and over again! This year we were hoping to head back to Africa to explore Zimbabwe but sadly the Covid-19 pandemic hit, so, for now, our plans are on hold ready to start again next year!
We split our trip between two Asilia Camps, Dunia (run and managed by an all-female team! Go girls!) and Olakira as we wanted to have the best of both worlds, Dunia’s semi-permanent location offered classic safaris along the major wildebeest migration corridor, with a chance of cheetah spotting whilst Olakira is pitched right on the Mara River for the best migration and river crossing viewings. My camping experience with Asilia is one I will never forget! From the excitement of staying out in the bush to the lions roaring outside your tent! You can find out more on all the Asilia camps here. We normally plan and book all of our trips ourselves, however, as we had previously used Africa Travel Resource for our very first safari we decided to put our trust in them again for this once in a life time trip and so glad we did! Watching thousands of wildebeest cross the Mara river for over four hours has to be one of the most spectacular holiday moments I have ever had and will stay with me forever!
This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.