The 2015 season of Wild Eye’s Great Migration safari season has just ended…and what a year it was for all the guests joining us! Do keep your eyes peeled for the much anticipated blog of 100 images from the season’s safaris to come…but in the meantime here is a short recap of the dramatic week our guests experienced. I was fortunate to be able to co-host this safari with Andrew and Jono.
We arrived on a hot day in the Mara Triangle. It was an all South African week as far as guests go – usually there’s a fair mix of worldwide citizens on our trips, so this was an interesting change-up. As our transfer flight from Wilson airport touched down in the Mara, we were greeted by the familiar faces (for me at least) of Andrew and the Wild Eye East Africa guides. I actually find myself looking forward to seeing the guides and camp staff again each year, almost more than seeing the spectacle of the migration. This does in no way diminish the magnificence of the migration, but it should tell you something of how amazing this team of people is. Any of our guests who’ve joined us in the past few years will be able to attest to that!
We boarded the Land Cruisers and were ready to be taken to our quaint camp on the banks of the Mara river – but Andrew and the guys had other plans in mind. We went straight to one of the prominent river crossing points along the Mara river, where a herd had been building up all morning. Our timing couldn’t have been better, as a large dust-filled crossing started minutes after we arrived at the scene. Shutters went crazy, and our guests were beaming! This safari was off to the perfect start!
After settling into our tents, and introducing the guests to the camp-based staff – we had a hearty lunch and set out as soon as possible again to enjoy our first afternoon exploring the plains of the Mara. A storm front was building and our guests were amazed at the beautiful scenes that enfolded in front of them as elephants moved between the migratory herds under the purple skies of a stormy Mara afternoon.
After practicing our panning skills on the running wildebeest herds, our afternoon ended on a high when we witnessed a massive, dusty crossing close to our camp in near-darkness – with a leopard moving in next to our vehicle as well to try and chance a quick meal from the crossing herds. It was safe to say that our guests had an amazing first day in the field!
From there on in it just seemed that this safari had “dramatic dusty crossing” written all over it. In total our group must have witnessed 10 or 11 (we lost count at one stage) crossings, of which only 2 or 3 were meek and docile in terms of number of animals and urgency of movement through the river. The crocodiles seemed to have been quite full by this time, but the stunningly dramatic and moody images our guests obtained at the crossings more than made up for the lack of crocodile action.
We even witnessed a very brutal interaction between a lone Spotted Hyaena and an injured wildebeest after an early morning crossing – an interaction that ended badly for the wildebeest as it was eaten alive by the opportunistic predator. The drama of the circle of life in full force during the Migration never fails to grip at the hearts of our guests.
The variety of photographic opportunities and general wildlife sightings that the Mara Triangle dishes up year after year continues to amaze me. Whether you have a penchant for action photography and capturing interesting moments of behaviour or interaction, or you have a desire to capture more artistic, wall-hanger types of nostalgic images, or a combination of both, this destination has something for every kind of photographer.
Besides all this – through the course of the seven days, our group was treated to sightings of cheetahs hunting, lions on kills, lions being lazy, leopards moving stealthily through the grasslands, leopards lounging in trees, bat-eared foxes, black rhinos, as well as the obligatory elephant herds and masses of migrating herds.
On most days we would stay out in the field for the biggest part, enjoy our breakfast out on the plains under a tree – and only shortly returning to camp for a lunch break before heading back out for our afternoon sessions.
Each day was perfectly rounded off by iconic Mara sunsets, and great discussions around the dinner table and fireside on the banks of the Mara river.
The great thing about these safaris is that it ends up being about much more than photography for the majority of our guests. They all get amazing images, improve their photography immensely, and relish in the opportunity to focus wholeheartedly on their photography in the company of like-minded individuals…but consistently, year after year, the feedback is that the hospitality and intimacy of the Wild Eye East Africa staff and camp setup blows them away. These guys really round off the experience in a way words can’t describe…
It was with a heavy heart that everyone said their goodbyes, and quite a few tears were shed when the camp staff hugged all the guests as we left for the airstrip. Memories are not made only be photographic opportunities. Memories are made by an immersive experience that gives you a glimpse into a world you only ever dreamed about. I believe that is what our Great Migration safaris offer our guests.
Keep well, friends!
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