Tourists flock to the Maasai Mara every August for the great migration. Tens of thousands of animals migrate across the plains of the Serengeti of Tanzania to the grasslands of Kenya with the prime area being the Maasai Mara. Although the predominant species are the Wildebeest, Zebras, Elands, Impalas, Thompson’s Gazelles, Topi’s and others join the herds. The highlight of this migration is the crossing of the Mara river. The crossing is where thousands of animals pour over the river bank, jumping down the steep sides into crocodile infested waters, all for the purpose of gaining access to the grasslands on the other side.
A group pushes forward to the edge of the river bank – high above the dangerous waters. Here they draw straws, the one with the short straw makes his way down the bank to lead the group across the water. The others tentatively follow until the herd is in motion.
It takes courage (or plain stupidity) to jump into a river when you know you or one of your mates may not make it. Perhaps, you have calculated the odds and determined that the first across has the best chance so you go for it. Or not. Getting cold feet is more common than you might think. Over and over, the leader reaches the edge of the water only to turn and run back up the bank. The group disperses for a while, and then the cycle starts again.
Very much like our last visit in 2015, we went to the river to wait. Would today be the day?
There is movement, a surge in the herd, they are coming. The herd swells at the edge of a tributary and it begins. The herds are running across the fields, across the tributary towards the main river. The dust flies, there is chaos.
But they stop short of the main river.
It is the next day and we wait again. We dose in the vehicle in the midday sun. There is not much movement at the river’s edge or in our vehicle.
Zebras start barking. The ones on the far bank move to the edge and beckon those near us to come across.
We pick up our cameras, check the settings, and move into position. It is not the Wildebeest, but it is a crossing and who knows what might happen. The zebras make their way down the slope to the water on our side.
A minute later his buddy, enters the water at full speed. His odds are not as good and he knows it. The waters swirl.
Seeing the near miss, the remaining zebras do not cross. Instead they head back up the bank, barking forlornly as their friends move away to greener pastures.
Maybe next time we will see a true crossing.