Following on from my last blog and latest Into the Wild release, I thought I would explore the story behind one of my favourite photos.
If I could bottle up the emotion of seeing my first river crossing I would do so in a heart beat. I have been lucky enough to witness some incredible things during my time as a guide and subsequent safaris, but seeing a river crossing blew me away and left me speechless.
The Great Wildebeest Migration is without doubt one of the world’s most incredible natural phenomena. Over one and a half million wildebeest undertake an annual pilgrimage throughout the Serengeti in search of greener pastures.
I escaped the UK in October to visit numerous safari camps and create content about the migration. It had always been a dream to see the famous river crossings that feature in the various documentaries narrated by Sir David, and my trip did not disappoint. The crossings tend to start by the end of July and finish by the start of November, yet the herds don’t just cross once , instead they criss-cross the Mara River, following the weather patterns. Contrary to popular belief, only about twenty to twenty-five percent of the wildebeest actually head into Kenya's Masai Mara during those months.
Take a look at these incredible crossings.
My last visit to the Serengeti was during May and although just being amongst the migration was spectacular, this time exploring the meandering Mara River in the hope of seeing a wildebeest crossing was tantalising.
As luck would have it, I spotted a potential crossing as I began my descent into Kogatende Airstrip and no later than two hours after landing, I was witnessing my first ever crossing. Trying to put into words the feeling of seeing such a spectacle is no easy feat, and nothing could do such a sighting justice.
Three days and three thunderstorms later thousands of wildebeest began congregating on the Lamai wedge looking to cross the Mara, heading South in the direction of the latest downpour. I had been lucky enough to witness three other crossings in that time, yet none were as big as this potential crossing. As we waited, more and more of the ungulates piled onto the banks. They seemed to be coming from every side and after a couple of hours, around five thousand were grunting and shuffling on the opposite bank.
Nervously the first individuals made their way to the water’s edge, checking for any signs of a lurking crocodile or other dangers. Some started to drink and then one brave individual made the plunge.
As soon as the first entered the water, the rest followed. The thundering of hooves as thousands of wildebeest descended onto the Mara river was deafening. Their grunts filled the air and as the front row reached the middle of the river, they paused and tried to tur back in panic. The weight of those behind pushed them on. Unable to turn, they surged through the current, fighting hoof and nail not to be swept onto the razor sharp rocks that lay a couple of hundred metres down river.
Once the first few survivors made it across, they exploded up the bank in front of us.
What the documentaries don't tell you is that the herds carry thousands upon thousands of flies. So whilst you are enjoying one of nature's most incredible spectacles, you are joined by hundreds of buzzing flies landing on your face.
Out of all the pictures I took from the river crossings, ‘The Rain Dance’ is my favourite. Not only does it demonstrate the magnitude of the sighting, but it also conveys the true madness of the scene. Trying to take an image that does justice to the spectacle was not easy, but I hope you agree that by capturing those waiting on the banks, those rushing towards the river and those fighting the Mara’s waters, I have managed to do so.
The magnificence of this piece is of course best seen printed and placed on your wall at home! Check it out on the online store.
Thanks for looking.