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This Week At Angama #183

Migration Season is in full swing, with some of the biggest herds ever witnessed stretching as far as the eye can see. While the focus is mainly on the wildebeests and zebras, there is a lot going on with the Triangle’s year-round resident wildlife
Above: The greatest show on earth on centre stage

As the Great Migration intensifies and the herds flow into this magnificent ecosystem, each day contains a spectacle to behold. Looking around, it’s easy to understand why the Migration is referred to as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ or the 8th Wonder of the world – surprises wait to be discovered around each corner.

It may seem hard to imagine but everyone, including these little babies, benefit from the migration
It must be a very busy world for this little one to arrive into f.6.3, 1/250, ISO 200

When the wildebeests arrive, they have a positive impact that cascades through the entire ecosystem. This ranges from providing food for all the Mara’s predators, to fertilising the vast lands they occupy during their treacherous journey. The Migration acts as a cornerstone upon which new life is built.

It was probably empty stomachs that gave them the courage to cross f.8, 1/1000, ISO 1000

Being herd-oriented animals, it is common to witness chaos ensue as the wildebeest approach rivers. Patience and perseverance are required for one to witness a crossing. The herds often stand at the banks for a prolonged period, waiting for that one courageous individual who can successfully lead them to greener pastures. Confusion fills the atmosphere, fuelling a myriad of attempts, back and forth. Eventually, hunger trumps fear and one individual takes the plunge, triggering a response from the rest of the herd.

Being smart is not a characteristic often given to the gnu, but they do have 'swarm intelligence' f.8, 1/1000, ISO 1000

Wildebeests possess what is referred to as ‘swarm intelligence', allowing them to tackle a range of challenges collectively – from river crossings to predator defence, they work as a unit. Strangely enough, most of the crossings we have witnessed this week have been led by the zebras who seemed to be the most courageous of the bunch.

Maybe it's the bold print or the spunky hair-do, but either way the zebra have incredible courage f.10, 1/2000, ISO 400

Luck seems to be on their side as the Mara River is unusually low making it easier for wildebeests and zebras to make it across with ease. Attempt after attempt, we have witnessed crocodiles desperately trying to make a kill without success. With most crossing points being shallow, we haven’t witnessed massive drowning events or animals being carried away by strong river currents.

Imagine dashing across the river only to find the Purrungat pride male waiting for you f.6, 1/640, ISO 200
Rest in peace Mama Kali Photo: Eric Averdung
The welcome party was not kind to this zebra f.16, 1/80, ISO 160

Crossing one point safely is just one of the many survival tests that await, as the river meanders across the plains presenting numerous challenges for the migrating herds. As if that weren't enough, predators on land lie in wait, picking off the stragglers. However, the few successful killings by crocodiles and other predators do nothing to dwindle their numbers. Just down the escarpment, about 30 minutes from Angama Mara, the mega herds total hundreds of thousands scattered far and wide across the plains, mowing grass as they move. It’s difficult to capture the sheer number and scale from the ground in the images we took.

F 5.6, ISO 200 | Photo: Eric Averdung

The abundance of food for the predators has seen even the most elusive cats come out to feast. This is Shujaa, a 10-year-old male leopard, who commands a huge territory covering part of the Mara Triangle and Greater Mara. Our guides know that his territory overlaps with that of another formidable male, known as the Shepherd Male. We saw Shujaa at 14:00 in the afternoon walking assuredly along the bank of the river before lying down to cool off from the heat of the day.

If one looks closely, you'll find that wildebeest are emotionally intelligent creatures f.7.1, 1/2000, ISO 640

Despite mostly following the herds, it was a moving experience to watch some wildebeests turn back, even after crossing successfully, to reunite with their young or mothers. Contrary to popular belief, these animals truly display a high degree of emotional intelligence when observed closely.

This Week One Year Ago

Clement Kiragu, Mutua Matheka, Trevor Maingi, and Josh Kisamwa

How time flies, this week a year ago we had the pleasure of meeting and hosting four Kenyan photographers and documentary filmmakers who came to stay at Angama Mara and capture the Great Migration.

This Week Two Years Ago

The herds march on, like an approaching army

Two years ago we were also marveling at the danger that follows the Great Migration along the way.

Filed under: This Week at Angama

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Maasai Mara , This Week At Angama , Wildlife Photography

About: Eric Averdung

Born and raised in Nairobi, Eric is a self-taught photographer with a passion for wildlife. Growing up just 15 minutes away from the city's National Park, regular visits sparked his interest from a young age, and lead him to complete his degree in Sustainability and Environmental Management with a focus on conservation.

Browse all articles by Eric Averdung Meet the angama team

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