Witnessing East Africa’s Great Migration

A trip to Kenya’s Masai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti gives families the chance to see millions of wild animals on the move.

By Bethany Phillips


There is nothing like seeing a hundred thousand animals running for their lives.

An estimated 1.7 million wildebeest, 470,000 gazelles, and 260,000 zebra spend most of the year migrating to find the best grazing.  These herds move in a loop from Tanzania through the Serengeti and into Masai Mara in Kenya. 

About 250,000 wildebeest die every year during this journey – with river crossings like this making the animals especially susceptible to injury and crocodile attack.


Our family visited in Tanzania in 2016, traveling with Ecological Wilderness Adventure and our amazing guide, Ameeri. In order to see the migration, we stayed at the Serengeti Savannah Mara River Camp in early August.

The event was even more amazing than we expected! We were so grateful to have had great timing and to have been able to see 7 major crossings in the course of 48 hours.


The scale of the crossing was incredible. Thousands of wildebeest crowd along the bluff above the river. And there is a lot of other wildlife in the river, too, like elephants and hippos, as well as vultures and crocodiles drawn to victims of the crossing. 


We spent the entire day watching each crossing – hundreds of animals jumping in and swimming through the water. Sometimes, the crocodiles tried to attack the smaller wildebeest.  Our family would cheer, “Swim faster, baby!” and “Oh no, he’s got ‘em.”


Maybe the most surprising part was the sound.  In fact, on our second day we woke to a strange noise. It sounded like radio static or buzzing bugs. But it was actually a massive herd on the move in a dust cloud on the Kenya side of the river. We all skipped breakfast and just hopped in the Jeep to get over to see this massive crossing. We took a lot of video so that we could remember not only the sights but the sounds. 

Not that remembering it will be a problem: Seeing the Great Migration is an experience our family will never forget.


Bethany Phillips  – January 2018

ROAM Contributor   

Originally from Pennsylvania, Bethany is a doctor who applies professional rigor to her family-travel planning (and writes under a pseudonym). Her adventures extend around the world, from U.S. national parks to European capitals to the African savannah.

© ROAM Family Travel 2020 – All rights reserved


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