Skittish Wildebeest Dispel a Few Myths about Crossings! …

Brendon Reports from the Masai Mara Migration Photo Safari:

When we left the Lodge in the early dawn our priority was to photograph the animals as they undertook the hazardous river crossings. Shortly after we left the Lodge we spotted a lioness. She lay there with the first shards of golden light full on her – a beautiful picture to start the day.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast out in the bush … and later our lunch was also served out there, under a spreading tree. During the day we saw plenty of wildebeest again, plus zebra, giraffe, Topi, elephants, buffalo, Thomson’s Gazelle, Dik-diks, jackals – there are animals everywhere here!

We could hear male lions calling very close by. We followed the sound that led us to two large male lions. They walked around, sniffed, called, and examined the area. They were most impressive specimens and we collected some great images. Then one of the lions spotted the lioness and started to make his way toward her. But when the duo rather settled in the shade of a bush we left them.

We checked a few possible crossing points at the Mara River, and caught up with a herd of wildebeest that kept us there for a while. They approached the river, dashed back again, returned to the river, ran back, went to the river’s edge, dashed back again – and again! Each time we thought that they would risk the crossing, but not yet! This never-ending story continues until one brave animal takes the plunge. Each time something or other spooked the skittish wildebeest and they fled. Although some people believe that the animals arrive at the river and simply swim across, no!  The actual facts are very different. It is quite a process. The cautious animals do eventually make the crossing but not before they have approached the water countless times. This is not surprising as the crush of animals when they make the crossing, the steep banks, and the predators that lurk both in and around the water present an ever-present and very real danger. Lives are lost regularly!

When something frightened the wildebeest yet again they moved quite a distance back from the river and we left them to check another crossing point.

As we arrived at that point we caught the tail end of a fairly large herd of wildebeest and zebra as they braved the river. We managed some great photographs as the animals leaped in, swam across and then scrambled up the far bank of the river.

When the last wildebeest disappeared over the ridge we moved on and found a large herd as it arrived at a crossing point. Almost six thousand wildebeest gathered there, trying to pluck up the courage to be the first to jump into the water. They approached the river’s edge, and then moved to a  different spot, and then another and another. So it went, with the timid mass not daring to leap in into the river. After all, what awaited them beneath the surface.

Eventually they arrived at a promising spot, but once again they were spooked. Each time they dashed back they created a lot of dust and the hectic, frantic action created perfect scenes for dramatic photography. We included panning shots, dusty shots with light penetrating through in a golden haze, close-up shots – you name it, we probably did it!

We thought they were spooked by lions when they dashed away from some bushes. We checked, and found nothing there. The rustling leaves had been enough to frighten the timid wildebeest and the sound of a distant thunderstorm warned them to stay well away from the river.

Soon they all moved far from the water, and as night approached, we returned to the lodge, determined to catch up with the huge herd at first light …