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The Great Migration in Masai Mara


The struggle of survival and the never-ending circle of life - The Great Migration

A flock of vultures swooped in and perched nearby. Cackling and preening themselves, they seemed not to have a care in the world, but their  nonchalance masked a wait for the inevitable. The inanimate crocs sunbathing on the riverbank below didn’t fool me either. 

After hours of waiting and batting away buzzing flies, hoping and peering across the Mara River, many others became despondent and returned to camp. In spite of the tension that hung in the afternoon heat, the silence coaxed me into a hypnotic state and I dozed off several times only to be jarred awake by the occasional grinding of a nearby jeep’s ignition. 

It had been at least two hours and my mates began to murmur about packing up, but I knew better. In Africa, patience is the name of the game.The zebras were itching to cross and approached the water several times only to retreat. Then, as if on cue, a sudden calling prompted the spectacle of a lifetime. It had begun!

I heard the thunder and felt my vehicle shake underfoot. Something vast, breathtaking, and seemingly out of control unfolded right before my eyes. Several score of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle gathered at the bank, and the sheer press of heaving bodies pushed the lead animals to take the leap. The river crossing unstoppable now, the animals moved as one unit, driven by a frantic survival instinct. In the electric energy, I had all but abandoned my camera for the visual treat. 

The lazy crocs, planet earth’s most ancient hunters, also sprung into action. Just as I thought the herd had crossed safely, I saw a wildebeest thrashing as it struggled to free itself from the frightening jaws of the hunter––its final curtain call. My heart went out to the wildebeest when I heard its pained bleating as the croc inexorably dragged its lifeless body into deeper waters. I prayed for the rest. 

As the last of the herd made it across, I heaved with relief. Overcome with emotion; I shed a not-so-silent tear. The gathered crowd had watched the crossing with bated breath and awe.

And that’s what the Great Migration is all about–patience, the struggle of survival and the never-ending circle of life. It is time for the herbivores to find new, greener pastures. And with it, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and other carnivores follow the herds in stealthy pursuit. So it’s never over for the herbivores–every day, every minute is a challenge. More than 2 million animals move north from the Serengeti deep into the Mara Reserve to graze, only to turn back south in a few months to begin this reverse journey all over again. July through October marks the peak of the world’s largest land migration.

Carnage and beauty, drama and glory, certain death for some and blessed survival for most–this is what I had come so far to see. In the end, I realize that the majesty and mystery of Africa are impossible to convey in prose.

Most fall under its spell–a raw, overwhelming and unforgettable experience that touches the soul.