This Week At Angama #86 - Angama Mara

This Week At Angama #86

27 September 2019 | This Week At Angama |

Reading Time: 5 minutes

An action-packed crossing in one of the Mara’s most infamous crossing sites, and an abundance of lion made this another exciting week in the Mara.

Drama unfolds on a daily basis in the Mara, but never more so than when the zebra start to congregate at the infamous crocodile-infested crossing known as ‘Cul-de-sac’. It is at this exact site that I have had a number of extremely dramatic sightings this migration season. Regardless of the fact that the majority of the large herds have started their migration south again, there is still plenty of action in the Mara Triangle.

I wanted to post a sequence of photographs, taken over a duration of a few minutes, that show the intensity of a crossing. As if watching gladiators battle it out in the colosseum, the stomach churns as you watch the events that take place. It is hard to know which way to look, and it is hard to know which emotions to feel. Enjoy a rather graphic This Week At Angama. [f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 250]

Zebra crossing river

After more than an hour’s wait on the banks of the Mara River, one zebra decides to enter the water – there always has to be a leader. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebra deep in the river

In an instant, the first crocodile is in the water and swimming. The chase is on. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebras crossing

As if exhibiting infectious behaviour, the rest of the zebra follow. More crocodiles enter the water. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Crocodile chasing zebra

It seems to happen so slowly at times. You can see a crocodile has identified a lone zebra and now it is simply a matter of who can swim faster. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebras and crocodile

Usually you don’t see the impact; it happens under water. Watching the faces of the zebra you can usually tell what is going on. This one got away. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebra escaping crocodile

The crocodile chooses its next victim. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Crocodile catching zebra

This time the attack happens above water. Jaws wide open… [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebra kicks crocodile

Incredibly, instincts take over and the zebra kicks. A perfectly timed kick sends the crocodile flying. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebra kicks crocodile backwards

It is desperate. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebra fighting crocodile

Swim zebra swim. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

zebras vs crocs

Whilst one zebra is swimming for its life, the rest of the herd wade into the waters. By now, news has travelled along this stretch of the river and the river is teeming with crocodile. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebras fighting for their lives

Everywhere you look there are shadows. [f 6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, -0.33]

More crocodiles and zebra

This specific crossing is difficult as jagged rocks make it near impossible for the zebras to get out. By now crocodiles are launching attacks from all directions. The water is churning. [f 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebras escaping

Forced into a deep channel, the zebra must now swim. The odds are heavily stacked against them. [f 6.3, 1/400, ISO 500, -0.33]

Zebra loses battle to crocodiles

Some that make it to the other side sadly never make it out. But they never stop fighting for their lives. It is this part that is often this most difficult to watch. [f 6.3, 1/400, ISO 500, -0.33]

Crocodiles take down zebra

Immense power…jaws locked…nature at its most cruel. [f 6.3, 1/400, ISO 500, -0.33]

zebra take down

I often put down my camera at this stage. The battle is seemingly pointless. Now, all that is left is for the crocodile to pull the zebra into the deeper waters where it will drown. [f 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.33]

crocodile drowns zebra

The fighting is now over. [f 6.3, 1/320, ISO 800, -0.33]

crocodile wins

A dinosaur swims away with his prize. [f 6.3, 1/640, ISO 500]

Now, an entire week in the Mara could not possibly be portrayed in one sequence of photographs, especially when the lion-viewing has been so sensational. As busy as things have been at the lodge, I did manage to get out for two short drives and these were just some of the highlights.

Short-Tail male from the Kichwa

The Short-Tail male from the Kichwa coalition; in my opinion the prettiest male lion currently in the Mara Triangle. [f 6.3, 1/640, ISO 500]

side on of male lion

A side-on view of the king. [f 4.5, 1/5000, ISO 400, -0.33]

side on of fang

And for comparison sake, a side on view of his coalition partner: Fang [f 4.5, 1/5000, ISO 400, -0.33]

male lion hunting

Whilst watching these magnificent males moving through the grass, a young wildebeest suddenly ran into the area. It is incredible to watch a lethargic lion ready himself for action in mere seconds. The stalk was on, and I was in the prime position to capture the scene. [f 4.5, 1/5000, ISO 500, -0.33]

wildebeest

Incredibly, the two male lions opted against the chase. Look closely in the background and you will see Fang’s golden mane in the grass. Why lion sometimes decide not to attack baffles me. If ever there was an opportunity for an easy kill, this was it. [f 4.5, 1/5000, ISO 500, -0.33]

Fang's face

After the unsuccessful hunt, the two males moved off into the thicket. Before disappearing for the day, they stopped for a drink from a small puddle. Excellent morning light and an up-close sighting resulted in some magical detail. [f 7.1, 1/1250, ISO 320, -0.67]

Two lions on mound

Same area, different day – the Kabarini Pride (aka: River Pride, Marsh Breakaway Pride, Oloololo Breakaway Pride) are looking fantastic. The bond between these two (male and female) is truly special to watch. [f 9.0, 1/200, ISO 500]

Two lions cuddle on mound

As the rain started to fall, they resisted the temptation to seek shelter under a bush, instead opting for a cuddle. [f 7.1, 1/200, ISO 1000, -0.33]

lion cub stalk

One of the lionesses in this pride has two relatively large cubs. I found them this week feasting on a warthog. Here, I managed to capture the moment one of the cubs stalked its sibling. [f 4.5, 1/160, ISO 640]

lion cub sitting

At this age, lion cubs are inquisitive and greatly entertaining to sit and watch. Instead of racing around the park I decided to spend three hours with this little pride – the results were fantastic. [f 4.0, 1/640, ISO 500]

male lion

Meanwhile in the deep south-eastern parts of the Mara Triangle, the Purungat males are as dominant as ever. There are apparently new cubs in this area, although I have yet to see them. Perhaps next week? I took this photograph directly into the morning light and from a very low angle – I love the gentle pastel tones. [f 5.6, 1/500 ISO 250]

rhino

Moving away from lions now. This rhino image was a treat, largely because it was so unexpected. It was taken in a part of the reserve which traditionally doesn’t have rhino. I asked the guiding team after the drive and they all said they had never seen a rhino in that area – wonderful news indeed. [f 4.5, 1/500 ISO 160]

Rhino and wildebeest

A different rhino sighting this week, and a very comical one at that. Three wildebeest squared up against two rhino. They postured at each other for a few minutes, and at one stage the wildebeest even dropped its head and charged at the rhino. Incredibly, the wildebeest won this battle. [f 4.5, 1/500 ISO 160]

This photograph was taken in near darkness. It was pouring with rain and a tiny elephant was seeking refuge from the raindrops by hiding underneath its mom. Meanwhile another elephant came behind and created the perfect ‘cocoon’ for this youngster. The lighting was difficult, but the moment magical. [f 2.8, 1/125 ISO 2000, -0.67]

Elephant under mom

Another shot from the same sequence. I was enjoying using the legs and trunks as parallel lines and frames. [f 2.8, 1/50 ISO 800, -0.67]

Baboon

I love the confidence and the swagger of a big male baboon. [f 6.3, 1/160 ISO 500]

sunrise

Daylight breaks in the Maasai Mara – the iconic standalone trees provide the perfect subjects. [f 4.0, 1/800 ISO 640]

Hot Air Balloon at sunrise

Mornings have so many different tones and feels. This particular morning had a misty blue hint. [f 5.0, 1/800 ISO 640]

wildebeest

Like soldiers marching to battle – well, maybe not. Only after I took this photograph did I realise that not a single wildebeest had its head up. The grass must be good. [f 5.0, 1/2000 ISO 640]

zebra drinking

As a wildlife photographer in the Mara I often switch to black and white in the middle of the day when the light gets harsh, especially with zebra. [f 5.6, 1/640 ISO 250, +0.67]

More zebra drinking

Hoping that they line up perfectly. [f 5.6, 1/400 ISO 250, +0.67]

This Week a Year Ago 

Baby topi feeding

Last year baby topi could be seen across the grasslands. Like clockwork the same has held true this year. Isn’t it incredible that exactly the same week each year, these animals know its time to give birth. The theory is that by all dropping their young at the same time there is an abundance of food for predators, and so the odds that your baby survives increase. [f 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 100]

AUTHOR: 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.

COMMENTS (2)
Francis C Bagbey
September 30, 2019

Fantastic photos! Thanks for all the back stories behind these photos. Always tough to see crocs win but as our guides tell us, it’s all part of the cycle of life in the Mara and Serengeti.

REPLY
    Nicky Fitzgerald
    October 1, 2019

    Thanks so much Francis – we greatly appreciate your support of our blog. Thank you so much.

    REPLY
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