THE EAST AFRICAN SERIES, DAY 22 & 23
Masai Mara Conservancy – Masai Mara Nature Reserve
The great migration. This trip was arranged for 3 reasons, the visit a few more countries, trek with gorillas and see the great migration.
THERE WAS SO MUCH CONFUSION AS TO WHERE THE CROSSING WOULD BE AND THE ANIMALS WERE IN A CONSTANT STATE OF UNCERTAINTY.
However seeing the wilderbeasts and zebras migrate was only the half of it. What I really wanted to see was the water crossing.
DAILY INFO… DAY 22&23
- HOTEL – Karen Blixen Camp
- ATTRACTIONS – Safari, Masai Mara Nature Reserve
- STEPS – 12,300 & 11,500
- MILES – 67 miles
We arrived at our camps breakfast spot and my days what a place it was. With views across the entire Conservancy we all could have stayed for a very long time, not to mention the food; cereal, yogurt, hot food, eggs any way you want, juice and hot drinks! This was an experience in itself.
The Great Migration
We then made the drive, about 30mins, to the public nature reserve for our first glimpse of the wildebeests. For the record I will never trust TV again. Rather than migrating as part of one group of 1.4m they often move in much smaller groups, it’s still huge numbers but not how the BBC made it look. It is still amazing to see the numbers and often walking in single file as they make their way up north.
The Great Migration
You can learn and see an awful lot when you have a great guide and today was a perfect example when we drove past the newest couple on the Mara. When an alpha male takes over a pride he takes the female lion away from the group for 2 weeks. These are called honeymoon lions who sit, mate, sleep and eat for the entire time. Sounds like a dream!
As we were heading further away from the camp, we decided to stay out all day rather than doing a morning and evening drive so we had a packed lunch. The rules when eating lunch out here is that any tree is a suitable eating spot and similar to breakfast it could not have been better. Don’t get me wrong, the flies are an abolsute bollocks but that comes with the wildebeests.
RIVER CROSSING POINTS
Eventually we arrived at the river crossing points and could tell there was going to be very little activity but you could still see what happens during the crossings. It felt as if I had been here many times before, just by watching it all on TV. Unfortunately it seems like the crossings will have to wait.
GIRAFFE SCUFFLE (Day 23)
The following day we headed straight back to the nature reserve in the hope of seeing a river crossing, however our expectations were truly set after seeing such little activity yesterday.
Our first experience was seeing a little tussle between 2 giraffes settling a dispute. Giraffes use their neck to attack each other and if used correctly can be a wild weapon. I don’t know the weight but I we could feel each impact from 200yards away.
The Great Migration
RIVER CROSSING HOPES
Making sure to see if there was anything happening early on, we headed back to the river crossings in the hope that some wildebeests had congregated near the edge. But as soon as we arrived we found a lion chilling in the open area, not something that is going to entice any wildebeests to even come close!
Before heading to the other points we stopped off at a public toilet right beside a group of hippos. It was great how close we could get. Hippos are one of the most dangerous and territorial animals and I have always wanted to know how close you could get before getting chased.
The Great Migration
We immediately returned to the river crossings and got positive feelings that something might happen. Quite often it is just a case of waiting it out. Wildebeests know this part of their journey is the riskiest and the moment almost needs to be perfect but in essence all they really want is for one to make the first jump and then the others are more than happy to follow.
You could see the many vehicles either side of the river giving space to the animals (100m back from the bank), making sure not to scare them and once there is a crossing everyone moves in.
However you do get jeeps that just don’t give the animals enough space. Wildebeests are quite often very unaware but it’s at this point there are so many threats; crocodiles in the water, lions in the bushes and a vast number of vehicles. So naturally their awareness spikes and if they don’t feel it they will move away from the water and onto the next point or wait another day.
The wildebeests were spread about and the groups were quite small which leads to more indecision and less chance of having that 1 who is happy to take the plunge.
We noticed a group on the far side which we’re getting close enough to the edge to assume they will cross today so we sat and waited.
- HIGHLIGHT – Seeings thousands of wilder-beasts make their way in groups to the Mara river.
- LOWLIGHT – The indecisiveness of the wilder-beasts.
It’s amazing how many times they went up to the waters edge and back again. We were only in sight thanks to our binoculars but one second they were all heading in formation to the water and the next they were all running away. It seems like they were well aware of the risk that awaited them.
I was mid way through a conversation with our guide when he threw his sandwich down, turned on the ignition and bolted towards the group of wildebeests. Unfortunately it was a false alarm and we were back to square one or arguably even worse as once the animals are sacred it can be more difficult for them to go again in the same day. In the end I heard a rogue jeep had scared them.
Good thing at this stage was that they then moved on to form a larger group with those at the last crossing point so we followed, kept our distance and parked up again.
Looking back towards the crossing point that we spotted the lion at this morning we could see another group considering jumping so we headed back.
We were convinced one of the jeeps was too close and the wildebeests didn’t look like they were even going to consider crossing but they headed to the larger group and again merged. However, it’s worth noting that a small number only made it part way and turned around.
We could see the large group all coming together, heading and going past the crossing point, these animals are hella stupid! Eventually something spooked them on the far side and they ran away and came back to the point they had missed.
Just when things were looking positive we noticed a jeep making its way through the large herd and couldn’t help think what the f**k is this group at? But then we quickly figured they were heading to a crossing that was underway; the small group who had turned away from the main group just before. This is it!
Unfortunately due to their small group size and unorthodox crossing point we couldn’t see it, it wasn’t a main crossing point and was only accessed through heavy vegetation.
However, as said before, when one crosses they all cross. So looking back at the large herd we noticed a number of them sprinting over to the same area and we were sure of seeing it now.
Unfortunately we didn’t know where the crossing points were and didn’t know if we would be in their way or not. Once they arrived they looked as confused as we did and they just stopped as soon as they got to the bank. The jeeps scattering about probably didn’t help either. So they swiftly made they way back again.
We then headed back to the large group and got the worst news of all, they had dispersed, something had clearly scared them.
After moving in we could see there were 2 lions in the area and being the last crossing point, meant our chances were all but over today. An absolute gutter since we had such high hopes but you just never know with nature I suppose.
The Great Migration
I’m not sure a crossing day would have been as eventually but this gives me an excuse to return. But now I’ll head to YouTube and watch the crossing points from there instead.
Off to country 158, Tanzania and the Serengeti, 7 times bigger than the Masai Mara!! Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
This post is part of The East African Series, for the entire series click here or for episode 1, click here.
To watch the video of my trip, head to my highlights on my Instagram.
- Is it a dream to watch the Great Migration?
- How important would it be to see the river crossing?
Let me know in the comments below . . .