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This Week at Angama #193

Even those that have spent months in the Mara can be surprised by a new perspective — which is exactly what happened to Eric this week as he took to the skies for the first time
Above: The Mara has once again proved its beauty and this time from the air

There’s been more wet weather this week in the Mara, triggering a total shift in the landscape. The plains have undergone quite the transformation and the previously yellow grasslands are bursting with life, reflected in the renewed shade of bright green.

From emerald to electric, there are endless shades of green in the Mara

It’s a joy to watch how the environment responds to a change in weather and it helps to paint a bigger picture of just how connected everything is. The lush plains are now home to mega herds of buffalo, moving around in groups of up to 100, all making the most of the long grass in the wetter areas of the Triangle.

The buffalo are completely unconcerned, having gotten used to this by now f 5.3, 1/1000, ISO 320
It's the time of the buffalo as they take over happily munching the long grass f 6.3, 1/250, ISO 320

Along with the rains came many wonderful sightings, and we were treated to yet another glimpse of a very familiar leopard, this time in a totally different location. It was none other than the Salt Lick cub, but this time we encountered her by Army Drift along the border and her mother was probably tucked away in the bushes nearby. It’s absolutely mind-boggling just how much terrain these two leopards cover. My first sighting of this pair was at Laga ya Ndovu; some weeks later we encountered them at Picnic Trees around Egyptian Goose area and now by the border. The two have also been spotted as far afield as Kampi ya Mungu. Inhabiting an area this large is very rare but there’s always a sense of anticipation now as you could bump into this dynamic duo just about anywhere.

A map of the Mara Triangle with the red circles indicating Eric's leopard sightings and how large their territory is
This cub is growing quickly and will leave her mother at around 12-18 months old f 6.3, 1/320, ISO 500
Already a confident young leopard, we hope to see more of her as she matures f 6.3, 1/320, ISO 500

Sadly, while we were at the sighting we heard some unsettling news on the radio. Something horrible had just happened by the Mara River; the leopard cub documented by Robert in last week’s This Week at Angama was killed by Shujaa, the dominant male within that area. It’s always heartbreaking to hear such news, but we mustn’t forget that it’s all part of nature. 

Now for some good news: for me, this week was unlike any other as I got to experience the Mara from above, giving me a whole new perspective on this phenomenal ecosystem. With this being my first ever hot-air balloon ride, I had no idea what to expect. Overwhelmed with excitement and thrilled by the prospect of a new experience, I woke up well before my 04h20 alarm. 

The beginning of the most memorable experience f 4.0, 1/1000, ISO 3200

They say a mind stretched by a new experience cannot go back to its previous dimensions. This held true on that early morning. As we began our ascent into the sky at first light, I knew that sheer beauty would follow. Breaking above the tree line and slowly drifting over the Mara River was spectacular.

It was a flight that engaged all my senses, the golden rays accentuated the landscape — this, coupled with hippos grunting below and the smell of the diverse vegetation, made for an immersive experience. The mighty crocodiles and hippos were dwarfed by the Mara River. A powerful force which meanders through the landscape ever so gracefully. Cutting corners as if it was sculpted by the world’s finest artists.  Only from the sky, can one fully comprehend the beauty of this landscape.

The twists and turns of the river, while somewhat familiar on land, are extraordinary from above f 4.0, 1/250, ISO 160
Likewise, hippos take on a new dimension when seen from the balloon f 4.0, 1/400, ISO 160

Slowly hovering over the swamps allowed me to observe the complex and beautiful patterns below, created by the flow of water through the vegetation.  An incredible network of channels, almost like the blood vessels of the ecosystem.

Overlooking the swamp and the water pumping through the veins of the Mara f 10, 1/160, ISO 250
The sun glinted off the watery landscape on a spectaular morning f 10, 1/160, ISO 250

The Triangle’s elephants have been loving the recent rains, which have brought large sections of the marsh to life, giving the Mara a whole new look, bearing a strong resemblance to the wetlands of Amboseli. Elephants enjoy a bit of water and have made themselves totally at home within these parts. Even giants get lost within these vast surroundings.

We spot three; are there more? f 4.5, 1/1000, ISO 500

Since my first Migration, I have always struggled to capture the true scale of the large herds. Even with the widest of lenses, being at ground limits just how much one can capture. However, from the skies I got to witness the Migration like never before, the wildebeest were dotted across the landscape like ants. I know this isn’t the first time I’ve used the phrase: ‘stretching as far as the eye can see’, but I had no idea what it truly meant, until I viewed the herds from a balloon.

F8, 1/500, ISO 250 | Eric Averdung
It's free landscaping with this crew f 8, 1/250, ISO 250
From the sky, one is able to see the patterns and shapes the herds make as they move f 10, 1/160, ISO 250

This Week Two Years Ago

A python and leopard fight to the end in an incredible sighting in 2019 Photographs by Mike Welton

Two years ago guests and Mara-regulars alike witnessed an extraordinary sighting of a leopard and a python battling it out to the death. After nearly being wrapped around by the five-meter long python, the leopard managed to wrangle free and in the end won the fight. It then proceeded to eat the python as a victory feast.

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Hot Air Balloon , Mara Triangle , 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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Comments (2):

Mike Stricker

15 October 2021

What a wonderful post Eric - as much as I love the detail of well captured animal shots, your wider landscape shots are just awesome !

    Charlotte Ross Stewart

    20 October 2021

    Hi Mike, I've passed your message on to Eric and he's so pleased you loved his photos this week. The balloons afford such a different and fun perspective for photographers and the fact that they take off at sunrise also helps with the lighting. It's a truly special experience for all, but I think for photographers especially.

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