Crossing madness

31 05 2013

Every year, over two million wildebeest and zebra make their way around the Serengeti/Masai Mara ecosystem, following the rains and the green grass that follow.  The highlight of this dangerous journey (at least for wildlife photographers) is the crossing of the Mara River in Kenya.  This is probably one of the most documented wildlife spectacles in the world, and with good reason.

 

The wildebeest can gather for days on the banks of the river, plucking up the courage to make the crossing.  There is an ebb and flow; a back and forth as their bravery builds, which is quickly diminished when they get close to the water.  Everyone is waiting for the first wildebeest to jump in.  All this waiting only adds to the excitement.  Eventually, one brave fellow makes the move.  As soon as the first hoof touches the water a stampede begins, and up to twenty thousand wildebeest and a few hundred zebra start panicking and blindly follow the rump in front of them.  When the first wildebeest cross, they choose the best point to enter the river, but a point that also has a good exit (crocodiles aside, most animals perish at the exit).  Once the mega herd has entered the water, the current takes the herd downstream, often to a point in the river that doesn’t have an exit, leaving the animals swimming to their demise.  This is where the crocodiles come in.  They are smart animals, having played this game for many decades.  The crocodiles don’t waste their energy on fit and strong individuals that have just entered the river, they target the poor chaps that are swimming around aimlessly, getting more and more tired.

There are many great individual triumphs through all the commotion.  A very large percentage of the animals that cross the Mara River make it to the other side, and carry on the cycle.  It is extremely uplifting to watch a wildebeest or zebra fight the odds; the crocodiles, the current, the stampede and blocked exit points and make it out the other side, to fight another day.

All of this adds up to an experience that is actually quite difficult to explain, but the same comment keeps coming up when people try to describe it – you have to experience it!

 

To join me on safari click here!





A little teaser

17 10 2012

Having recently come back from Kenya, and having witnessed the most incredible wildlife spectacle first hand, I thought it was only fair to share with you some of the madness!

I will be leading The Great Migration Safari again next year, and am already looking forward to getting back amongst the tens of thousands of wildebeest as they gather on the banks of the Mara River waiting to cross, as well as all the predators that roam those beautiful, wide open plains.  The photographic opportunities are endless, as animals seem to constantly fill the viewfinder of your camera.  It really isn’t fair that one place on earth can have so many animals, with so much diversity!  It is a photographic safari like no other.

It does all come down to the famous crossing of the Mara River though. There is something about that experience which is quite difficult to explain – you can watch it on TV a hundred times, but you will never get the level of panic at each crossing.  The wildebeest herd is extremely sensitive, which seems odd given that they are not the sharpest animals around, and even the slightest disturbance will turn the mega herd around, delaying the crossings.  They seem to do their best not to cross, but the overwhelming instinctive drive eventually pushes them to do it. The tension that emulates from the herd is palpable, as they pluck up the courage to start the crossing. Eventually, one brave/stupid/pushed wildebeest makes the leap of faith, and is rapidly followed but the rest of the herd.  The tension climbs to a maximum in seconds as literally tens of thousands of wildebeest and a few hundred zebra hustle to get across the most daunting challenge that faces them on their yearly migration.  Add a crocodile to the mix, and the panic reaches melting point.  The wildebeest do their best, but many succumb to the strong current, and even stronger crocodiles.  The only way to truly understand what happens each year, and what has happened for millions of years, is to experience it.

Have a look at the little teaser I have posted for you, which should whet your appetite! If you would like to join me on next year’s safari, click here!