It rained heavily all through the night and we woke to a very muddy world. Shortly after leaving the camp we found the same pride of lions that we have seen every day. The seven lionesses and youngsters were accompanied by the large dominant male and his brother. They were not all together and rather chose scattered spots for their rest.
We positioned our vehicles to photograph the lions at eye level. This turned out really well as the big cats started to move around.
While we photographed the lions we noticed that a group of a few hundred wildebeest had formed and the column was walking steadily towards the Mara River. They progressed steadily, but without speed.
We decided to follow the group in case they decided to cross the river. We watched expectantly as they approached the river, grouped tightly, then retreated. We waited patiently, hoping that the group would finally pluck up the courage to brave the multiple hazards of those treacherous crossings. Steep banks, large rocks, lurking crocodiles, and the pressure from other animals together create a fearsome challenge for the crossing animals – and the risk of waiting predators as they emerge from the river is a added peril.
We waited, knowing that eventually the crossing would be attempted. And sure enough! The first animal to enter the water was a zebra, and as it entered the water, three or four crocodiles were onto it. The zebra tried valiantly to swim across the wide river, and the crocodiles seemed to approach like torpedoes. They swam rapidly and directly to their swimming prey, and unfortunately the plucky zebra was soon grabbed and disappeared from view.
Soon after, a couple of wildebeest entered the river with a small calf and small zebra foal. The foal and calf were grabbed by crocodiles almost immediately. The adult wildebeest saw what happened and turned around to swim back to the shore they came from rather that risk the long swim across to the far bank. There they stood for a while and stared at the river together.
Suddenly the two wildebeest dived into the river and actually led the way across the river, with the remainder of the group following right behind them. It was exciting, chaotic, filled with action. They leaped from a rock, created an arc through the air before they hit the water and started their frantic swim. Zebras and wildebeest leaped and swam, and the tension as each animal made the crossing was incredible. This really is a scene that needs to be experienced to be believed. Words simply cannot create that sense of awe, terror, wonder, and a marvelling at nature …
At one stage there was a long line of animals in the water and we were a little anxious that there could be a bottleneck at the exit from the river, but they had chosen an easy slope and there were no fatalities at the exit point.
After that excitement it was lunchtime, and we took a break to settle down and to enjoy a very welcome meal.
During lunch we received a message that a passing vehicle had noticed another bunching of wildebeest, so we jumped back onto our vehicles and went to find the group.
As we arrived at the river about a hundred wildebeest were already crossing. This crossing was right next to the road and it felt as though we were right there in the mayhem, just a few meters away.
As the last of the animals group completed its crossing another group arrived and bunched and nudged towards the river. We thought that they would attempt the crossing at any moment, but after many advances and tight bunches they stared at the river and suddenly dispersed.
It was late afternoon by now and we decided to return to the lions for those golden evening shots. What a good idea that was! The lions were restless, and moved about, roaring and interacting continually.
In the morning we may return to the river to check whether that group of wildebeest and zebras decide to make the crossing …