Five weeks in Masai Mara National Reserve – Week 2

Week 2

The weekends in Masai Mara were “rest days” for us. One of our groups would leave on the Saturday and the next one would come to the camp either on Sunday evening or on Monday evening. They were great days as we had the camp all to ourselves. On Saturday mornings I would back up and edit my images, deep clean our gear & tent, catch up with the personal work and do other chores not related to wildlife or photography. After lunch we would be out with the cameras. This afternoon I went for the Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo). They are close relatives of the Meerkat and not easy to photograph as its tough to get a nice angle on them. We got lucky.

"Banded Mongoose masai mara"

Banded mongoose live in colonies and often use termite mounds as nests

We saw a great sunset in the evening just before the camp – a large yellow orb being pushed by the dark clouds above. We knew it was going to rain soon. There were spectacular thundershowers in the night – complete with thunder and lightning. This rain settled the dust and light was amazing the next morning. The rain also “turbo charged” the migration.

"Masai Giraffe in Maasai Mara"

Masai Giraffe at sunrise near the Mara River

"Zebra in Masai Mara"

Black and White at the end of the rainbow

Occasional thundershowers are common between July and September in the Masai Mara. The rain comes down hard but usually does not last for a long time. These rains and the resultant growth of grasses attract the wildebeests, zebra and the other migrants into the Masai Mara. Rains are the generator that runs the migration. The wildebeests were quick to respond and they came running in long single files. Thousands and thousands of them.

"Migration in the Masai Mara"

Wildebeests are designed for long distance running. It’s common to see large herds come running over the horizon

"Migration in the Masai Mara"

Once they reach an obstacle like the Mara River they gather to build up their numbers, rest, eat and then cross

By Monday morning many groups of herds had gathered on our side of the river and were waiting to cross the Mara River. During the next seven days I saw more than a few river crossings every day. By the end of the week I had seen over 25 crossings, so big and some small but all spectacular. For the first two days they were crossing from our side of the river to the other side and we had to cross the Mara bridge, to the other (Narok) side. By the second of third day they were crossing the river on both sides and we were getting them coming head on towards us a few times a day.

"Migration river crossing"

The wildebeests prefer to cross at points where the currents are not strong and there is little or no vegetation on the other side

"River crossing in the migration at Masai Mara"

The herd waits at the edge of the water till one “leader” decides to take the plunge in the river. Once this is done there is no looking back and almost the entire herd just follows the leader

"Migration river crossing in the Masai Mara"

During the river crossing the wildebeest jump in the river – high on adrenaline, nostrils all flared up and raring to go.

"vulture in Masai Mara"

During a river crossing many animals die of drowning, trampling and a few are killed by predatory crocodiles. There are floating corpses all over the river and the vultures and other scavengers have a feast

There was a lot of action besides the spectacular river crossings and many of our guests had some great moments away from the river. I, for one, was totally focused on the river crossings and had little time for anything else. Shoot, edit, back up was the mantra to be repeated over and over again.