Thursday, October 3, 2013

Our Migration Safari, Masai Mara - Kenya

Several thousand wildebeest gathered on the bank of the Mara River, nervously milling around, pacing forward and backwards.  Slowly they moved closer to the rivers edge and then quickly retreated upon getting spooked by something in the water.  This cycle replayed over and over as the herd built up and the anticipation of a crossing heightened. Eventually two zebras without any hesitation marched into the muddy water and began to swim to the other side.  My heart raced.... will the others follow? Will the zebras survive? Phew, they made it, but the others didn’t follow.  The cycle started again and while we patiently waited we watched as crocodiles well camouflaged in the water swam closer into position.  After more than two hours of waiting, it came without warning that one wildebeest waded deeper and deeper into the river.  This time the others followed. Mayhem ensued!!

The start of the first river crossing we witnessed.

Driving through the Masa Mara National Reserve there were tens of thousands of wildebeest as far as the eye could see.  The migration was evident all around us, but what we really wanted to see was a river crossing.  I had no idea what to expect.  I had seen it on television many times but it didn’t prepare me for the real thing.  From the moment the first wildebeest entered the water and others followed, my heart raced. Soon after, I was overcome with emotion.  The sounds, the dust, the splashes, the cries, the chaos caused tears to flood down my face.  I found myself rooting for every animal to make it across even knowing that their death is life for the crocodiles.  I witnessed death before my eyes and it was hard.  The wildebeest driven by instinct, by life, by greener pastures.  No matter what I write here I can’t explain the power of witnessing this event.  I feel truly blessed for being able to witness it and recommend the opportunity to everyone that has the chance.  The migration truly is the greatest outdoor show on the planet!  The scene of a young wildebeest wandering on the banks after a crossing, looking and crying out for its mother, a lion dragging a young wildebeest it has just killed to the other members of its pride to eat, these scenes are real and a reminder of the circle of life.  Death is essential for life to carry on.  It is everything that the Great Migration is about.

The Mara River

A procession of wildebeest

River crossing

River crossing

River crossing

River crossing

River crossing

River crossing

A lioness dragging her wildebeest kill in the early morning after a river crossing

There was wildebeest as far as the eye could see across the plains of the Masai Mara

Over a hundred wildebeest taking shade under a tree in the heat of the midday sun

Wildebeest everywhere

A compilation video featuring three of the five river crossings that we were witness to.

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