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This Week at Angama #230

Andrew savours some of the last quiet moments in the Mara before the arrival of the Great Migration
Above: A first-mover, this wildebeest is a sign of what's to come

The anticipation of the herds is unbearable… Roughly 400,000 zebras and 1.5 million wildebeest are currently on their way to the Triangle. While we wait patiently for the landscape to be painted with animals we have been able to take note of some of the more subtle creatures in the Mara that are here year-round.

f 5.6, 1/160, ISO 400 | Photo: Todd Marker Two white-fronted bee-eaters
f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 200 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes A Southern ground hornbill with breakfast
f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 200 | Photo: Titus Keteko A serval makes his move
f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 200 | Photo: Titus Keteko A 48% success rate makes them one of the most prolific hunters

In addition to the first groupings of wildebeest that have arrived here in Kenya at the Sand River are a few solo wildebeest known as “scouts”. They are the pioneers that come early to inspect the location and somehow let the rest know that there is an abundance of food waiting for them. 

f 8.0, 1/500, ISO 100 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes
f 6.3, 1/640, ISO 100 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes

Looking at the vast landscape allows one to ponder the fragile balance of wildlife and humans, something that has been countless generations in the making. Millions of years ago two tectonic plates split and created the Great Rift Valley. The Ololoolo escarpment is part of this, which spans thousands of kilometres through Tanzania and as far as Botswana. So many species call this place home. Between vegetation and wildlife, the Mara Triangle boasts one of the most versatile and diverse areas in the world. 

f 4.5, 1/125, ISO 400 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes
f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 125 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes
f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 125 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes White-faced whistling ducks

This week, Wilson, one of Angama's guides, caught something unusual as he and his guests were driving through the Mara. He first noticed a herd of buffalo chasing a single hyena. During the commotion, he could hear a very audible sound of a buffalo in distress. On closer inspection, he saw that six hyenas had somehow brought down a buffalo. If it had been a lion, a strong bite to the throat would have made a swift end to the buffalo but the hyenas were using their powerful jaws to quite literally pull the buffalo apart while it was still alive. Sometimes it is very difficult to watch nature unfold.

f 5.6, 1/40, ISO 500 | Photo: Wilson Naitoi
f 5.6, 1/40, ISO 500 | Photo: Wilson Naitoi

We came across the Egyptian pride several times this week. We have been lucky to witness this group of lions over the years and to see the complex family dynamic unfolding before our very eyes. When we spotted them, they were spread out just a few kilometres from the Tanzanian border. They even climbed up onto the signpost and used it as a vantage point — because of the flat plains of the Mara, anything that provides a better perspective is fair game.

f 5.6, 1/40, ISO 500 | Photo: Katie Sputh
f 5.6, 1/40, ISO 500 | Photo: Katie Sputh
f 6.3, 1/640, ISO 100 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes

As lions grow so does their responsibility. The Egyptian pride males that we saw were about one year old. Within the next year or two, they will begin to mature and live on their own, producing more hormones that allow them to mark their territories. The transition away from the pride is a difficult one and many struggle to adapt. We look forward to seeing how these young males adjust to life outside of their mothers' shadows. 

f 7.1, 1/800, ISO 100 | Photo: Austin Cook
f 6.3, 1/500, ISO 100 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes

Recent fires have cleared away the old grass and replaced it with new green shoots. This area is now bursting with life; we have seen many impala and Thomson's gazelle with young calves. Driving through this area, we noticed several vultures circling a kill. Curious about what they could see from their aerial perspective, we headed in that direction: it was a hyena with an impala in its jaws. Another difficult sighting as, just moments earlier, we had seen a one-day-old Thomson's gazelle enjoying its first moments on earth. We could see that the hyena was on edge and started running away.

f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 125 | Photo: Andrew Andrawes

Suddenly, a young male of the Egyptian pride (which we had seen earlier that day) came out of nowhere.  Only about 1-2 years old, he began sniffing and smelling the grass where the hyena and impala carcass had been. The young lion seemed agitated and was looking around at the collection of zebras, topi, and impalas who were now staring equally between the hyena and the lion. After several moments, the lion slowly retreated and the hyena disappeared into the distance with its prize. It was fascinating to watch how quickly this drama unfolded — and how quickly life went back to normal for the plains game.

f 6.3, 1/800, ISO 400 | Photo: Titus Keteko

We end this week with the two cheetah brothers Ruka and Rafiki, spotted with a scrub hare kill. Of late, cheetahs have been plentiful with regular sightings are being reported. It is a hard existence for cheetah in the Mara, not only do they have to compete with other predators but without the numbers of the migration, prey is few and far between. We are happy to see these brothers working together and successfully hunting in the triangle — you can watch the video here. As there are only 7,000 of these creatures in the wild, every moment with them is a treasure. We look forward to seeing how the arrival of the migration will affect their behaviour in the coming weeks. 

This Week a Year Ago:

f. 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 1250, +1.4 | Photo: Adam Bannister

This time last year we were witness to some of the most dramatic zebra and topi river crossings in years.

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Photographic Safari , Photography , Wildlife Photography

About: Andrew Andrawes

Born and raised in Nairobi to Egyptian parents, Andrew spent 15 years in the United States before returning to Kenya and joining Angama. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology and African Studies from the University of Virginia and an MFA in photography from San Jose State University —where he has also worked, along with various other studios and camera shops. Ask him about his leg tattoo.

Browse all articles by Andrew Andrawes Meet the angama team

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