Here’s a throwback…
Africa! The decision was made and we began to put our travel plans together. Our friends in Kenya had graciously agreed to be our hosts and weren’t we excited!
It was the best time to be in Africa – great weather, and a perfect time to get away from the searing desert heat of Abu Dhabi. And, most importantly, it was July – time for the great Wildebeest Migration.
The Wildebeest Migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” and undoubtedly so. Nowhere in the world is there this unbelievable mass migration animals, when reportedly over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
And so we flew into the Mara Serena on the last leg of our Kenya experience. We had had our fill of wildlife, including the Big 5, and as we landed on the dirt airstrip outside the camp, our fingers were crossed. We had two things left on our bucket list – a lion making a kill and the wildebeest migration.
That evening while on safari we chatted up our guide Simon – he seemed to think there was a possibility for the crossing; as he said, “they’re building” along the Mara river. From our lodge located strategically atop a little hill, we too had seen the herds massing up and moving towards the river. However, this was nature, and no one could really predict the moment.
The next morning as we drove out of the lodge, it was cold and misty, but we set out nonetheless, eager to be surprised. Our best that morning was a scary experience – a full grown male lion walked up to the side of our jeep, scratched his head on the sides and sauntered away. I just about managed to hold my camera steady. So close that I could see the fleas over his ears and smell his animal odor.
Great! But Simon, what about the migration?
“Patience” said Simon. We decided we’d play ‘Simon says,’ putting our trust in his experience as a ranger and guide. Across the river the herds were inching closer. “If anything happens” asked Simon, “would you be ready to pay for a special safari?”
Affirmative! That’s what we were there for.
Simon came for us at breakfast, and we ran out to the waiting jeep. There were already vehicles parked along the river, their passengers and guides excited, cameras at the ready. But Simon drove past… no questions please. Remember ‘Simon says’.
He perched us atop an embankment with no one close by, except the crocodiles lazing in the river below and the hippos on the far bank. They too were waiting, for the feast they were sure would come.
And suddenly it happened – a mother and calf jumped in and madness and mayhem followed. It was a dramatic, dust-filled spectacle, the air resounding with the sounds of the animals, and the smell of the wet earth and wet bodies permeating the air.
Exciting as it was, it was depressing too. In the frenzied melee many animals broke their limbs or fell prey to the waiting crocodiles. Other were trampled to death by their comrades while some became an easy meal for the big cats waiting patiently on the plateau above. And whatever was left was food for the vultures and the hyenas. With mixed emotions we watched it unfold, knowing it something we had no power to change. This is nature!
It never seemed to end… we were clicking continuously, watching as some animals foolishly tried to climb the steeper parts or the embankment or seemingly lost all sense of direction and swam back to where they had begun.
At times it was only a mass of wet and shiny black pushing itself up the bank to gradually spread out into thin lines as the exhausted herds climbed the bank and were content to graze on the rich green pastures ahead.
We dared not move – nobody in their senses would anyway. This was an experience of a lifetime and it was unwritten rule that the animals had right of way. This was their turf, we were only visitors.
And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. The crocodiles no longer cared – there were carcasses floating by in hundreds. On land, the cats didn’t give a damn too, they were stuffed with the easy pickings.
And we too were full – excited, happy, shocked, amazed.
As we got off at the lodge, cheerful Simon says, “If you guys are lucky, you may see one tomorrow too!”
We did. Not just one, but two!