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This Week At Angama #180

On the one year anniversary of Kenya’s borders reopening, it’s not only guests that are making their way back to the Mara – the first mega herds of the Great Migration have also made their appearance
Above: The Great Migration has begun its annual procession into the Mara

It was exactly a year ago that President Kenyatta made the decision to ‘unlock’ Kenya. Like many other countries, Kenya closed its borders and for nearly four months almost no one visited Africa’s most famous reserve. I will never forget the day when the tourists returned, as it was perfectly timed to the arrival of the wildebeest herds into the Maasai Mara. Sitting in a vehicle, on the banks of the Sand River near to the confluence with the Mara River, I watched as tens of thousands of gnus slowly marched north. That day we were treated to one of the first big groupings to cross into the country. 

Sand River crossing photograph taken at the same point (slightly different angle) on the 19th July 2020 f. 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200, -0.67

This year, on almost the same day, the wildebeest began to pour across the border yet again. While the world may still be somewhat in limbo, nature continues to beat to its own continuous rhythm. Despite the unpredictability of the events that have taken place across the planet over the last year, there is stability in the fact that the Great Migration has well and truly arrived. 

Prologue: Sand River crossings seen on 13 and 14 July 2021

This will be my fourth Migration Season here at Angama, and I still experience the butterflies deep in my stomach when I think about the scenes that are about to unfold: A crackling voice on the radio announcing that the herds are gathering along the riverbank. The sound of the engine revving to get down to the river quickly. How many wildebeest will there be? How close to the water’s edge will they get? Will there be massive crocodiles? Glancing at the camera settings, visualising the perfect photograph, hoping the sun will come out from behind the cloud and that the sneaky hyenas will stay away.

Then there is often ‘The Big Wait’ – sitting in the vehicle waiting for the wildebeests to decide whether or not they want to cross. Confusion, as the grass simply doesn’t seem any greener on the other side. James Hendry summed it up so wonderfully in a piece he wrote a few seasons ago. 

The migration is a game of patience

Those of you who have visited the Mara over this period will know ‘The Big Wait’ is as much a part of the Migration experience as the actual crossing itself. Sometimes, you may get lucky and wait just a few minutes, but on other days this can turn into a test of endurance. The reward is always worth it – and there is always something interesting to watch along the way.

There is always something interesting going on while you wait for the herds to take the plunge

At this stage, the wildebeest are crossing the Sand River, but if all goes to plan in a few days or weeks, they will keep driving north towards the Mara River. This is where the most epic scenes await.

Of course, the Mara isn’t just about the crossings, and even at this time of the year, there are so many other sightings to appreciate and unexplored areas to traverse. In the Triangle, you can easily take a full-day safari in the opposite direction and tally more than 30 different lions along the way. 

This male lion, Slit Lip, has all the makings of becoming the next ‘Scarface’ of the Maasai Mara f. 4.0, 1/400, ISO 1600, +0.33
This male is the least sighted of the five Inselberg Males, whereas Mama Kali's presence is near-constant in the grasslands below Angama
Chongo was probably the most seen of the Bila Shaka males this week f. 11.0, 1/125, ISO 640

While the next few weeks of This Week At Angama may seem to favour the wildebeest, we will do our best to showcase all the other creatures that call this landscape home.

The giraffe continue to throw punches f. 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400, +0.33
The burnt areas will start turning green just in time for the mega herds to enjoy f. 6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, -1.0
F. 5.6, 1/500, ISO 1000, -0.33 | Photo: Adam Bannister
Myles Turner Hill taken in January 2021
Myles Turner Hill taken in July 2021

This Week One Year Ago

The Bila Shaka males have taken over two prides in the Triangle already: Mugoro and Paradise f 2.8, 1/640, ISO 1600, -0.67

The Bila Shaka males have firmly been in control of both sides of the Mara River banks, north of Serena, for the last year. They have enjoyed what it means to be the top dog for a year now.

This Week Two Years Ago

The wildebeest have begun crossing the Mara River f 6.3, 1/2000, ISO 400, -0.33

Back in 2019, the Migration arrived much earlier than usual. By this stage, we were already seeing big Mara River crossings.

This Week Three Years Ago

An impala tries to defend her baby from two hungry jackals f 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 1250, +0.33

I will never forget this sighting from three years ago when a pair of jackals chased down a baby impala. Motherly instincts took over and the baby’s mother desperately tried to fend them off but to no avail.

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Lions of the Mara , Wildebeest Migration , Wildlife Photography

About: Adam Bannister

A South African-trained biologist, safari guide, author, filmmaker and photographer, Adam is, above all else, a gifted storyteller. After spending the past 10 years working in some of the world’s most beautiful wild places – the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, Rajasthan in India, Brazil’s Pantanal, and the rainforests of Manu National Park in Peru – he is delighted to share his stories of one of the loveliest game reserves of them all, the Maasai Mara.

Browse all articles by Adam Bannister Meet the angama team

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