NatGeo Wild’s ‘Safari Live: The Gauntlet’ Puts Viewers Right in the Action

Maasia Mara, Kenya - The wildebeest make the dangerous swim across the Mara River (James Hendry)
James Hendry

Friday nights don’t get any wilder! As two million African wildebeest face deadly dangers on their annual migration, viewers experience the action in real time on Safari Live: The Gauntlet.

“We call our show ‘the biggest safari vehicle on Earth,'” executive producer Graham Wallington says. Here’s how his team of 54 does it.

Bright and early, a quartet of Land Rover Defenders, each carrying a safari guide and camera operator, fan out across the Maasai Mara/Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya. These duos track the herd as it follows rain patterns toward greener pastures. The squeeze point: the Mara River, where the wildebeest navigate steep banks and crocodile-infested waters.

To get the best material, the guides radio other safari vehicles for animal sightings. “Watching a lion pride hunt and kill is exciting,” Wallington says. “But so is seeing a wildebeest give birth.” Back in the production studio at South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a director decides which feed to air — but, Wallington adds, “Mother Nature is driving the story.”

Safari Live: The Gauntlet, Season Premiere, Friday, July 27, 11/10c, Nat Geo Wild