Late August, Ten Years Ago! Part I
On August 20, 2006, I arrived in Kenya to join a two-week, photo safari to photograph the annual Great Migration of wildebeest. The migration, called one of the World's Great Wonders, involves the movement of 1.5 million wildebeest as they search for water and better grasses. In August each year, they cross from Tanzania into Kenya crossing the Mara river that separates the two countries.
Even after witnessing it, I find it impossible to describe the scene with all those animals foraging in the grasses, but here's one photographic attempt. Each of those dark spots in this limited view is a wildebeest.
The remainder of the photographs shown in this two-part post were taken on just one day ... day 12 of the trip. On that day, most of our group (a total of 10) had decided to take an early morning, hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara. Those who didn't opt for the balloons would go out as normal with a driver in one of the four-wheel drive vehicles. As luck would have it, I got a rare treat ... a driver and vehicle all to myself for the morning.
The purpose of the trip was to photograph wildlife so it was understandable that most of the photogs were not into taking landscape images ... so my first treat of the day began with this stop:
The shot doesn't do justice to the feeling I had of the immense space devoid of any human artifacts ... something pretty rare in our modern society. And, those Acacia trees ... they are often the only thing sticking up on those wide open plains. To me, they symbolize this part of Africa! As the Sun rose, I zoomed in:
After this stop, we went off to find some wildlife. I would say to the driver: "Hey, let's go over there" ... and over there we would go! It was great freedom from the norm. At a point, we came across a mother and three Cheetah cubs surveying their World from the top of a ridge:
As an aside, one of the things I noticed was how frequently many of the animals (the hunters as well as the hunted) used whatever was available to get a higher. clearer view of their surroundings. They would climb up on a a rock, an ant hill, or like this cheetah, a ridge to gain some height. This next shot is a different Cheetah family taken on a different day illustrates the point. The group is standing on an ant hill ... yep, I always wondered where that expression came from ... now I know!
While those cubs were pretty cute, I liked this next shot of the mother better. She's beautiful and I got the sense watching her that she's trying to figure out her next move.
Off in the distance, I noticed a line of wildebeest and asked the driver to make our way over to the line ... as an aside, when traveling (as opposed to grazing) wildebeest travel in very orderly lines ... sometimes miles in length. I wanted to get a picture of that. As we got near, I noticed a strange behavior from wildebeest line ... as they started to cross the track we were driving on, they suddenly began panicking, jumping high, etc.
Then I spotted the reason lying in the tire track of the path. "OMG," she's going for a kill!
Because of the big telephoto lens I had on the camera, keeping both the wildebeest and lion in sharp focus at the same time wouldn't be possible. I decided to keep the focus on the lion and time my shutter releases as the wildebeest realized the danger they were in. That way I would be ready to capture the lion's strike:
The line of wildebeest started to catch on to the danger and began changing the direction of the line. At about the same time, the lion decided to move into the grass but was too late. I call this image "I thot I saw a putty cat". Can you imagine what walking through these grasses must be like? Scary!
In disgust, she got up and walked by the vehicle; stopped for a moment and stared directly at me! I involuntarily flinched causing the driver to laugh. I caught this last image of her staring wistfully at the wildebeest line in its new location:
Wow, what a day! I need a break ... its time for breakfast. But, wait, it gets even better.
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