Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Africa & the Middle East
Reload this Page > Where is the best place to see the Wildebeest Migration?

Where is the best place to see the Wildebeest Migration?

Reply

Mar 29th, 2003, 09:27 AM
  #1
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Where is the best place to see the Wildebeest Migration?

I am in a quandry. Most of you probably have guessed that I cancelled my dream safari to Botwana/Namibia scheduled for the exact middle of the War. Or perhaps didn't notice, but I did learn one thing that I didn't realize had happened after 9/11 in the US, you cannot plan a trip a year ahead and then forget about it. I will probably never see Mombo, as I will never plan a year in advance, but since the cancellation was done in February, I am recovering and thinking about where we will go next in Africa.
I strongly think it will be chasing the Wildebeest migration and while we have King and SusanLynne onboard, I would like some discussion on the best place to do this. I saw the migration one time when I was in the central Serengeti in December many years ago. I have never chanced a meeting on the Mara. So do I go in August to the Mara or February when they are birthing near Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation area?
Next if I go to the Mara, do I opt for the classy Governor's camp, or to my first camp on the Mara, the Mara River Tented Camp? I have long wanted to hot air balloon ride over the migration and it seems the thing that is pulling me now. Providing the world situation lets me dash over for 10 days, I would spend it ALL among the migration.
If you would be so kind as to post your feelings I would be most honored. Thanks guys. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 10:09 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 165
Liz

One of the things that you don't want to miss about the migration is the wildbeest/zebra river crossing. The problem is you can never know when this will take place. A couple of years ago the migration arrived late in the Mara as the rains had been heavy in Tanzania and the grazing pastures excellent as a result. So my advice would be to be in the Mara somewhere between end July/mid August. For the migration I could spend nearly 12 days in the Mara. This would be at various camps/lodges and not just one . The migration will cross the Mara River first, followed by the Talek river and the crossings will be frequent initally in both directions. You want to stay somewhere where you have easy access to the Mara and Talek Rivers. Serena Lodge is one, Governor's is another and Intrepids Camp is the third one. I would spend 3 to 4 nts at each place to increase the chances of observing the river crossing. You must have a very good guide who is constantly monitoring the migration. Usually the driver, who are also guides, are pretty good. You also want to ensure that your game drives are not restricted to 2 per day -one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During the migration time you want the flexibility of going out for the whole day and perhaps wait by the river where a possible crossing may take place. If you want to do walks as well then I recommend Kicheche Mara Camp for 3 nts. Mara River Camp is a great place but the migration arrives there much laster than the places I have mentioned.

I am not sure if you have 12 days available but 6 to 8 may do as well. Yes you must do the balloon at the time of the migration and I recommend you do it out of Governor's.

Wildebeest in Serengeti - Frebruary is birth time near the Ndutu area of Serengeti. This is a brilliant time to be in Serengeti as there is so much predator action plus there is the added bonus of viewing so many young wildebeest trying to survive in the wild. I would definitely recommend at least 5 to 6 days at Ndutu Lodge. It is rather basic but has a great setting and is very friendly. In fact I wouldn't bother going elsewhere in Serengeti at that time of the year. David Attenborough stays thee for his wildlife documentaries. You may want to visit Ngorongoro too, which is very near Ndutu, as the wildebeest also migrate into the crater.

king is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 10:50 AM
  #3
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thanks King-
Very good advice about the Mara. I had wanted to stay at Governor's Il Moran, and they say that you can arrange a car and driver for the day from them (for a fee). Also you would need to be there for the hot air balloon, I agree. We were at Mara River Tented Camp and had to get up at 3am and drive over a terrible route to get there at daybreak. Never again for that part. I wanted to spend 10 days at Governors, is that too long? We can stay as long as we desire as we are retired and if we don't rent a car and driver in Nairobi, the expense isn't a question. In fact I hadn't even considered getting our own car there, I know you must in Tanzania, but I thought if we stayed exclusively at Governors we could get my without one. I do want the entire trip devoted to the Migration though, as it might be our last time with them. We are older and I do still love Botswana, etc.
As for Ndutu, I have emailed many times with Louise and would spend the entire time with them except for a night at the Serengeti Sopa for a hot air balloon ride there over the Serengeti. Can't do both trips, so must decide which would be BEST. Reason for the thread.
I agree the crossings are something we must see and haven't, but can't you see them from Governor's? They mention in their newsletters that folks do. I don't want to leave too much to chance as we went to the Ndutu area and camped one year, and you guessed it, the Wildebeest skipped and went to the central Serengeti and there we sat. Thanks again, Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 11:53 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 165
Liz

Liz my advice still is to split up the lodges or camps. I have another great camp for you. Only 6 tents and superb guides - Rekero Tented Camp (www.rekero.com). Ensure it is the tented camp and not Rekero Farm that you choose. It is on the banks of Talek River in a secluded area. The tents are not as palatial as Il Moran's but the ambience is so much better. The camp is run by a Masai who is brilliant and has a great sense of humour. It is a much sought after camp so you need to book now literally. They may be prepared to be more flexible regarding use of vehicle for full day. They are slightly more expensive than Il Moran but include all drinks. Definitely check them out!

I would suggest 5nights at Il Moran and 5 nights at Rekero tented Camp (they do walks as well). Yes you must let them know that you intend to follow the migration all day. With Il Moran Governor's try to get a private vehicle for free - they may succumb if you are spending 5nts + doing the balloon. Let them know other camps are offering one, but they know it is the peak season so may not be too willing.

Yes definitely 5nts Rekero Tented Camp and 5nts Il Moran or Governor's both of which overlook the Mara River. You can fly from Nairobi to these camps and one camp will collect you from the other (but check directly with the camps).

Regarding the crossings - wildebeest may not cross at the same place every year so one year they may not turn up near Governor's at all. Governor's has a great position by the Mara River though and so does Rekero by the Talek River. Your chances therefore are greater at spotting the crossing than if you were at other camps.
king is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 12:24 PM
  #5
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
King-
Invaluable advice and just what I had dared to hope for. I will immediately check on Rekero Camp. I hadn't heard of it yet. I chose Il Moran over Little Governor's because others have warned about the raft trip and the steep hill to get to LG. Governor's proper seems too large for us and Il Moran would not be the first choice because we don't really require all of the luxury, but just once-----maybe.
Will post more when I've checked out the other camp but this is such valuable stuff to me. Again thank you. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 01:59 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 723
Hi Liz!!!

Well, I don't think I can beat the previous post, but I can certainly put my two cents in.

Sept. 23, 2002 was a day in my life that I will never forget. We saw a crossing of the Mara River - only wildebeests crossed that day. Zebra congregated along the riverbank with the wildebeests, and ventured to the river for a drink of water, but they did not go in and cross. Despite the fact that there were 20 or so zebras on the other side of the river calling to them. King is absolutely right, there is no guarantee of witnessing a crossing. We had a fantastic guide who was in constant contact with other guides all over the park. That day our guide got word that animals were congregating along a section of the Mara. We made our way to the area, and sure enough ... they were. But we waited almost three hours to see if anything would happen, which it finally did. The huge herds would walk about 1/4 mile up river, then back down. Then back up river, then back down. We were lucky to see what we did.

As far as the Mara River Camp, it is my favorite. We met documentary filmmakers and a National Geographic photographer during our stay. They stay there because of the quality of the Mara River Camp guides. Chit-chats with those people made our stay there all the more memorable. You have been there, so you know the ride to and from the park gate is an adventure unto itself. The guides at the Mara River Camp are known as some of the best anywhere in Africa.

Perhaps the road to and from the camp has improved since your last visit, because we were not up at 3 a.m. to go to the park. We averaged 5:30 a.m. wake up calls, made sure we had our picnic breakfasts and lunches, and were inside the park gates by 6:10 a.m.

During our outings we passed some of the camps that King mentioned. The Serena, Governor's and Intrepids (yes, we were all over the place!). Intrepids has just under 30 tents so is considerably larger than the Mara River Camp. The Serena Lodge is, as the name implies, a lodge, so again, it loses some of the intimacy of the smaller camps.

On a daily basis going to and from the park, we passed Bateleur Camp at Kichwa Tembo. It looked fantastic and I would give serious thought to staying there. Very small, only 10 or so tents, and tucked away. You may want to check out that one. It, like the Mara River Camp, is outside the park, but closer to the Oloololo Gate.

Food for thought.

I wish I was going .... I have to wait until 2004!!
SusanLynne is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 03:00 PM
  #7
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Susan-
Thoroughly enjoyed your post. The time we got up at 3am was only for the hot air balloon ride. It was off across country to get to Little Governor's before sunrise to get prepared for ourflight. It seemed like we drove through a dry river bed. It was up on big rock and down the other. Coming home after our breakfast on the Mara way out away from anything was soooo exciting. A better time as we game drove back.
They remodeled the camp since we were there. I read they cut down on the number of tents and upgraded the ones there. They didn't have the reputation they have now. It was my first camp on the Mara as I have posted, and the hippos around my tent at night were thrilling at night. Scary at first but I grew to love them. I saw loads of animals a short distance away from camp, but Governor's Camp being where the balloon rides departs from and being on a part of the Mara River where Wildebeests cross sounds good too. I wanted to upgrade a bit, but I'd also like to see Mara River Tented Camp since its remodel.
Your reports have been at a time when I needed the reminder about Kenya. Kings' too. It is so incredible to see the expanse of the plains. As I recall you brought your own guide didn't you? I don't think they had anything like that at the Camp when we were there.
Nice post, thanks. If we don't make it this year because of the stuff going on, maybe we'll sit around after dinner one evening having a glass of wine or some such together. T'would be nice.
Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 03:01 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 165
Bateleur camp is near Little Gov's but still too far from the river. I really do like the location of Governor's. Mara River Camp is a bit too far from the real action for my liking. I can assure you that Rekero Tented Camp, which is probably double the price of Mara River Camp, will be well worth it.

Yes Susan is right in saying that Serena is a large lodge. But it offers magnificent views and the area it is in is one of the first areas to receive the migration in the Mara.

All the guides in the Mara are great, even the ones who drive in. Most keep in touch with each other so you should not encounter difficulties in finding the best location for the crossing. The first couple of day, you should devote to locating the best spots for possible river crossing so be prepared to be on the field rushing from one place to the next all day in the beginning.
king is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2003, 03:08 PM
  #9
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
King-
Checked out the website for Rekero. Sounds just like what we'd like. I read with fear for bucket showers and long drop loos. Something I don't go for at all after a horrible experience in Tanzania with them. Well, they added flushing loos, but I could put up with bucket showers if needed.
I emailed Rekero to ask about rates and explained our lack of advance planning ability. We will not even begin to reserve until it looks like we'd have 3 months window without terrorist activity to face. I know that may take some time but things are changing day by day and I am hoping for this Aug/Sept, but if not we'll have to wait for 2004. Drat! I could not imagine the hippos eating the Tommies, or the baboon doing that to his own. Nature never ceased to surprise one. I'll post as things look like clear sailing. I like the sound of the river crossings, but then if February clears up we may dash over then. I gotta see Wildebeests! Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 30th, 2003, 10:18 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,183
Liz
Can't contribute anything, but wanted you to know that I am sooo delighted you're planning your next trip to Africa, I know how hard it was for you to cancel the last one.
I will think of you sipping a drink, looking out over sunset and the migration and it will make me smile.
Kavey
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 30th, 2003, 11:49 AM
  #11
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thanks for the encouragement Kavey; however, looks like it won't be soon. Still won't reserve ahead, so it'll be iffy. I really wanted to catch King and SusanLynne while they were discussing the Migragion. Foxy, eh? Got lots of good stuff from them.
Anyone else with opinions about the migration are more than welcome to add here. Its been 10 years since we were in East Africa and longer since I saw the migration. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Apr 1st, 2003, 01:40 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,481
Liz - Thanks for bringing up this subject. I too want to see the wildebeest migration - preferably this year - and I'm learning alot.

King -

Thanks for all of this information you have provided. I read which camps you like for the migration/river crossing but I have another question. If you go in September for 5 or 6 days, would you give Mara River Camp a try? Or are the camps you mentioned still the best in both August and September.

I know there are some lucky people where time/money aren't an issue but I'm not one of them. Unless I can find someone interested in going, I will be going alone and I imagine the single supplements in the small camps will be high. (Haven't contacted anyone yet.) I have a quote from Bert with Fish Eagle Safaris that includes Mara River Camp and is also affordable.

SusanLynne -
I read that you saw the river crossing in Sep03 and were staying at Mara River Camp. I am jealous! How many days were you there?

Are you guys booking direct with operators in Africa or direct with the camps/lodges or using agents in US/UK? I don't want to get back home and wish I had done things differently.

Thanks all of you
~Cindy
sundowner is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 1st, 2003, 01:54 PM
  #13
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 723
Yes, I was very fortunate and lucky to see what I did. By the way, we were in the Mara September 2002, not 2003. Anyway ... We stayed at the Mara River Camp for four nights and loved every minute of it. It came recommended by a friend - Laura!!!!! We waited nearly three hours to see if the wildebeest would cross, which they eventually did. Patience is key if you hope to see a crossing. While we waited those three hours, at least six or seven other tourist vehicles came and went. They stayed less than five minutes. But when push came to shove (excuse the pun), our vehicle and a camera crew from Spain (who waited as long as us) were the only vehicles there when it happened.
SusanLynne is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 2nd, 2003, 09:11 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 165
Sundowner

Mara River camp has a delightful location but I feel you would still be better off near Governor's and Mara Intrepids. Mara River is almost at the base of an escarpment which acts as a barrier for the wildebeest to continue migrating northwards. Olanana Camp is also nearby and faces the same problem. However, there is no guarantee that you will see the crossing while staying at Gov's or Intrepids camps and with over 1 million wildebeest migrating you may just get lucky at Mara River Camp. The main thing is that you are there for sufficient no. of days and out full-day to increase you chances of seeing the river crossings. There is another problem with Mara River - the nearest balloon ride is nearly 90mins away at Little Governor's camp so you will have to leave Mara river at around 4.00am to get to little Gov's for the balloon.

Also try Serena Lodge. My advice is to use 2 different lodges/camps so you could spend time at Mara River camps and at another camp.

Hope this helps
king is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 2nd, 2003, 09:45 AM
  #15
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 723
Hi King!!

No, she is not likely to see a wildebeest crossing if she stays at Mara River Camp, but we did not see the crossing at camp. We were miles and miles and miles away from our camp as well as the Governor's and Mara Intrepids camps when we saw the crossing. I don't think that any of the camps in the Mara will offer a front row seat to a crossing, which, as you know, can take place at a wide array of areas along the Mara or Talek rivers. No matter where anyone stays, they will have to have some luck, a fantastic guide and a lot of patience to see a crossing. However, it's well worth the effort!!!
SusanLynne is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 2nd, 2003, 07:02 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 612
What a joy to read all this. I was always told that the top of the line is East Africa-the cadillac of all safaris.
pattysuericia is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 13th, 2003, 02:06 AM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,183
Does anyone have a contact email address for King?

Thanks, Kavey
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2003, 01:19 AM
  #18
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 314
I've been wondering about King myself. Do you suppose he's traveling?
mariacallas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2003, 01:47 AM
  #19
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,183
Probably. Hope he pops back and shares more info when he's back, if that's the case.
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 26th, 2003, 09:41 PM
  #20
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 81
we're leaving Aug 17 for two weeks including Mara Serena, Sarova Lion Hill, Mountain Lodge. Any advice or input? I would be fine with tented camps but it's a 3-generation family safari so I'm bowing to the family matriarch. : )
OffToAfrica is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:37 AM.