5 Reasons people miss the Great Wildebeest… | Discover Africa Safaris
Blog article

5 Reasons people miss the Great Wildebeest Migration and how to avoid it happening to you

03 April 2014
Part of the Tanzania Safari Collection
Back to the Blog

Ever wondered how people miss the Great Wildebeest Migration? Here's how to prevent it happening to you.

Discover Africa Safaris

Imagine travelling hundreds of miles to see and experience the spectacular herds of the Great Wildebeest Migration, only to arrive at your destination and find out that you’ve missed it by one week.

How disappointing!

Luckily for you, we’re here to help. Here are five reasons people miss the Great Wildebeest Migration and how to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.

1. Wrong place, wrong time

After months of preparation and waiting for your for your safari to begin you arrive at the lodge with no wildebeest in sight. For whatever reason, the herd decided to change its route and can’t be viewed from your accommodation, or reached by safari vehicle. You’re at the wrong place at the wrong time.

How to prevent this:

Operating daily scenic flights over the Serengeti, Captain Joel Fernandes from Coastal Aviation offered a great suggestion on how to prevent the disappointment of just missing the herds.

"We drop off clients and pick them up again on a daily basis and have done this for many years. Some clients are disappointed because they did not see the migration just because they were not informed where to go and didn’t know who to ask. If you are going to come all the way to East Africa then you might as well give yourself the best chance to come see this wonderful phenomenon. We want to be part of helping people see the migration, that’s why we provide up-to-date migration location information to clients out there in real time. We do this in hope of getting more people to be at the right place at the right time.", says Fernandes.

To see where the wildebeests are right now or will be at a future date, check out our interactive wildebeest migration map.

2. Staying in one lodge

When you stay in one lodge for your entire safari holiday you take a big risk of missing the migratory herds. When booking your getaway, you can’t be 100% certain the herds will be in the area where your lodge is located for the duration of your stay.

How to prevent this:

Carel Verhoef, an East Africa expert working for Discover Africa, offered some advice on booking accommodation for your safari.

Book two or three lodges in the neighbouring areas, for maybe two nights each. This way you increase your game drive area and chances of seeing the migration. Besides that, it can also improve your total safari experience. Every wilderness area is slightly different, with vegetation and landscapes that vary. Every lodge has a different ambience too, and it’s great to experience more than one”, says Verhoef.

3. Booking too late

The wildebeest migration is a popular, once in a lifetime experience. With limited accommodation in the areas that give you a front-row seat to migratory herds, you’ll find most lodges are sold out a year in advance. This leaves you to choose from lodges that are further away from the action, lowering your chances of seeing the migration. Don’t forget about busy holiday seasons too - they play a big role in the accommodation availability.

How to prevent this:

Knowing everything there is to know about the availability of rooms and when to book accommodation, Sales Manager of Asilia Africa, Adele Roux sheds some light on the matter.

When our mobile camps are at Ndutu or the Mara River, rooms are easily sold out more than a year in advance. We cannot add more beds because there is just not enough water and capacity for more guests, especially in the south. Mobile camps are dependent on water and that is the Serengeti’s biggest limiting factor. My advice is, book early to have options.”, says Roux.

4. Cheap tour operator

There are some tour operators that are not real Africa enthusiasts. They are working for the money and will not do everything in their power to make your safari experience unforgettable. These operators will simply say that the herd is not in the area instead of driving the extra kilometers, to ensure you get your sighting. It’s operations like these that often use inexperienced guides and trackers who don’t know where they can find the herds or where the best viewing spots are.

How to prevent this:

Godfrey Kimaro is a ranger in Tanzania National Park and knows every tour operator in the area. Kimaro offers advice on how to decipher between a cheap operator and an authentic one.

Kimaro says, “It can be very difficult to find out which tour operators are reliable and which aren’t. Every operator will have a nice website with beautiful images, but still, you will only really experience it when you are at the lodge and on a game drive. A reliable source to use for more information on an operator is Tripadvisor. Here you can find lots of reviews from recent travellers on all lodges, tour operators and what they experienced.

5. Too crowded for comfort

Peak season is usually very busy, especially around the time of river crossings and when calves are born. This time of year it’s not uncommon for guests to struggle to take a photograph without another safari vehicle in the shot.

How to prevent this:

Having the pleasure of experiencing the wildebeest migration twice, Richard Davies shares the vast difference of his safari experience based on the time of year he went.

The first time we went to the Masai Mara was during September 2010, and the river crossings were crowded by minibusses. We visited the “Mara Triangle” just because that was what we were told to do. However, for the 2012 migration season, we went a little earlier - at the beginning of August -  to catch the start of the crossings. We spent half the time on the Serengeti side and the other half on the Mara River close to the Mara / Talek River confluence. The experience was magical. What a difference it makes when you are well informed.”, says Davies.

If you want to see what it looks like, here's a one-year photo journey of the great wildebeest migration. If you're keen to get up close and personal with the animals, we also have a variety of unique migration safaris to choose from.

Images by New African Territories and Pablo Necochea

Our African Travel Expert

Free safari planning advice from destination experts

Get Travel Deals & News to your Inbox

We have the best safari and Africa travel news around & we even have the occasional mind blowing travel deals.
Sign up and get our monthly newsletter.