Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration: 50 Hyenas Feeding Frenzy

Wim’s News from the Wildebeest Migration Safari: 
50 Hyenas Feeding Frenzy

Last night the plains next to the river were teeming with game, ready to make the crossing, but reluctant to do so in the rain. It rained quite a bit during the night, and we expected to find hundreds, if not thousands of animals close to the river, but a little to our surprise there were not many at all – they were all back on the vast plains.

A little further on we found seven young lion cubs. We looked around and for just a moment we could not see any adults. Then we spotted them … about a kilometre away. Two lionesses and one large male were relaxing peacefully away from their boisterous youngsters. (Any parent can sympathise …)

The cubs meanwhile, climbed on termite mounds, looked around, stalked each other, and climbed more termite mounds, sometimes trying to dislodge another from its perch. 

Cub on ™ Wim van den Heever-058-4

We remained with the cubs for about an hour before they joined the adults and we decided to check on the activity at river again.

Wet Lions Wim van den Heever-1152-2


At Kaburu we could see thousands of animals converging close to the river, but sadly a large number of vehicles arrived jockeyed for position, sending the easily spooked animals into a rapid retreat yet again to the ‘safety’ of the plains. This proved to be hugely advantageous to us later …

We realised that there would be no crossing soon, and returned to the Lodge for lunch.

While we were at lunch, a massive storm blew up and the heavens opened. When we returned to the river, we confirmed that the animals had indeed retreated to a distance of 3 – 4km … and so had the vehicles – disappeared, that is. We were almost alone with only one or possibly two other hardy adventures, quite a distance away from us. 

We hunkered down, and decided to wait quietly, understanding that the pressure to cross the river would be assuming urgent proportions.

And there they came! We saw the animals start to approach and after about an hour the hordes came closer and closer until suddenly the rush was on! 

Mayhem! Chaos!Turmoil! I don’t even know what word to attach to the havoc that erupted.

WB down Cliff-423-1

Tens of thousands of animals, now desperately anxious to make the crossing, charged up the the river, launched themselves down the precipitous embankments, –

WB Leap Wim van den Heever-139-5

 

– swam the river, and then scrambled up the precarious opposite bank – to face even more danger.

More danger? Yes! The dash to the river often separated calves and foals from their mothers. The stampede also claimed a few casualties. Then the leap down the bank resulted in more injuries and deaths. The perilous swim across the river through rapids that swept the weaker animals away to certain drowning (we witnessed quite a number), and the ever present crocodiles, –

Lurking Croc Wim van den Heever-1356-3

– waiting to select a victim – it all added up to a treacherous time for the wildebeest and zebras, and an anguishing time for onlookers – and some of the best photographic opportunities imaginable.

Having reached the opposite bank and having made that climb to level ground now brought the wildebeest and zebras face to face with new dangers. Today they faced a huge hyena clan. About fifty hyenas that live close to Kaburu waited for the arrival of the migrating animals, and they ran in to literally mow them down. 

As always the predators preyed on the most vulnerable – either those that were exhausted from the exertion of coming so far, or young foals and calves. We witnessed a wildebeest calf being taken and then two more kills in rapid succession.

The feeding frenzy that ensued was something that defies description! The action, agitation, grabbing of food, pulling a carcass this way and that – the sheer hysteria as the animals ran around and devoured their food was mind boggling!

On the way back to the lodge we photographed a number of animals in the rain, with the reddening clouds behind them. Elephants, giraffe, gazelles …

After these incredible days we have decided to go in search of cheetahs tomorrow …