Saturday August 21, 2010 Part I

MAASAI MARA, KENYA – Here’s where this gets intense. In the Maasai Mara we find ourselves in the middle of the Wildebeest migration. Here’s some info on the Wildebeest (also known as the Gnu): jWildebeest entry. Quoting from the Wikipedia entry:

“Wildebeest are known for their annual migration to new pastures. Many documentaries feature wildebeest crossing rivers, or being eaten by crocodiles or drowning in the attempt. Although it is assumed that this migration is a frenzy and that the wildebeest cross blindly, recent research has shown that a herd of gnu possesses what is known as a “swarm intelligence”, whereby the animals systematically explore and overcome the obstacle as one.”

Official estimates place the wildebeest population on the greater Serengeti at 2 million; knowledgeable NGOs suggest that its more like 1.2 million. The migration brings with it teaming game of all species. I’m breaking today’s entry into two parts because of the wealth of images.

Dirt airstrip at Chyulu Hills as we prepare to depart for the Maasai Mara.

Airstrip at Chyulu Hills

Our greeting when we arrive at Maasai Mara. Poaching is a serious problem throughout Kenya and Tanzania – these animals are killed for their ivory.

An elephant gives us the full Monte

On our drive from the airstrip to the Mara Plains Camp (a fairly simple tented camp where we will spend three days) we pass these hippos. Hippos are nocturnal herbavors, grazing on the plains at night. In the daytime the stay in the water as a strategy to regulate their body heat and as protection from the sun. A large group of hippos have found this watering hole. The crud on the surface is hippo excrement – they aren’t too selective about where they hang out. They are noted for their bad tempers and can move surprisingly quickly.

Hippos

A lion killing a wildebeest.

Another take on the lion and the wildebeest.

Lion and Wildebeest

A lion cub.

Lion Cub