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!

Caught between a rock and a hard place

27 09 2012

The famous river crossings in Kenya’s Masai Mara are usually filled with excess drama and action, but every so often, one individual’s story catches your attention. I was taking a photographic safari to witness these magnificent crossings, and found myself engrossed with the plight of one young wildebeest.

The crossing had a normal start to it; hours of back and froth from the mega herd of wildebeest, followed by more waiting. The herd had built up nicely, and we were in for a massive crossing – if, of course, the wildebeest decided to jump in and get started. As it turned out, the zebras, unusually, took the lead, but started crossing a little further downstream than usual. This meant that together with the fear, panic and strong river current, the wildebeest now had to contend with rocks! Most of them dealt with the new obstacle by simply jumping over them. In a fantastic display of athleticism (and action photography), all but one youngster cleared the rocks without any problem.
The young wildebeest had somehow managed to wedge his hips into the rocks underwater. I am not sure how he got that right, but he was firmly wedged in. He struggled bravely for a good half hour, before his struggles got the attention of a passing croc. The monster of a croc came right into the action to see what all the splashing was about, and found himself face to face with the trapped wildebeest. There was a cruel ten second stare down as the croc, with a huge weight advantage, sorted through the options, before it lunged out of the water and grabbed the young wildebeest by the horn. I don’t think the croc was fully aware of the wildebeest’s predicament, because he couldn’t get him out of the rocks. A second reset, and he was better prepared. The wildebeest, understandably panicked, was trying his best to get free from the rocks, but to no avail. The croc had come in for a second attempt at an easy meal, and pulled the wildebeest free from the rocks, and down into the water.

It is not always easy witnessing nature unfold, and I certainly felt for the young wildebeest. The whole situation made for some interesting images, ones that documented an unusual event.

For a day by day look at the safari, check out www.50safaris.wordpress.com!

A grizzly process

5 06 2012

No wildebeest ever wants to be the one who’s caught, the one that is a little slower than all the others… It does have to happen though, and when it does, the queue forms quickly at the dinner table.

Out on a morning safari, I came across a male lion, finishing off what his pride had started sometime in the night. A large male wildebeest had been taken down and mostly devoured before sunrise. The male lion, with his belly bulging, was making every effort to eat as much as he could. He was forcing down chunks of meat, but had clearly reached his huge capacity.
Not long after I arrived at the scene, a tawny eagle started flying overhead, seeing the available scraps with hungry eyes. The lion took little notice, and carried on gnawing away. What the lion didn’t notice was that a side-striped jackal had also seen the eagle circling above the kill, and came to investigate. He cleverly stayed just out of sight, watching the lion from a safe distance, waiting his turn…

The lion eventually accepted defeat, and moved off to get a drink of water. He had not yet been gone for a minute, when the eagle dropped down, and tried his first bite of the unlucky wildebeest. He only managed to try however, as the jackal wasted no time reminding the eagle of the appropriate pecking order. The jackal chased off the eagle, and fed as fast as he could, fully expecting the lion to return at any second. The jackal lost his nerve quite quickly though, and beat a hasty retreat into the nearby bushes, allowing the eagle a second stab at the kill.

All this commotion only added to the guest list. The bigger vultures started arriving en mass. The white backed vultures led the charge, with the smaller hooded vultures right in amongst them. They took their time sussing out the situation, which gave the now popular eagle enough time to get a few good mouthfuls in, before he was again chased off, for the final time.
It didn’t take the vultures long to clean up what little remained of the wildebeest, and when the lion returned from his drink he found a few scattered bones, and some satisfied vultures.