All photographs copyright Richard Pye
On the morning of the 6th August the waiting game finally came to an end – after months of excited anticipation, the dense black front line of the Great Migration seeped slowly over the southern horizon and crept closer and closer until finally Mara Plains camp was engulfed by thousands upon thousands of wildebeest, surrounding us on every side. The scale of this cannot be captured in one image, but as far as the eye can see the land is peppered for tens of miles with animals everywhere. Sitting in camp with gin and tonic in hand is perhaps the golden ticket in the front row of one of Nature’s finest spectacles, filing past against the backdrop of the setting African sun.
These bizarre and fascinating creatures have traveled tirelessly for hundreds of kms to arrive here in the Olare Orok Conservancy, following the rains which supply them with the unmeasurable amount of grass required to sustain 1.6 million mouths.
Despite their extremely questionable intelligence, wildebeest do command deep respect for their endurance and perseverance as they run a constant gauntlet of river crossings riddled with insatiable crocodiles and crafty cats lying in wait to ambush at every opportunity.
Creatures of all shapes and sizes welcome the seasonal arrival of this species, which bring fertilizer to the soil, cut the grass for those to short to see over the top of it, and take the attention of the predators off the other herbivores.
It has been magical to be lulled to sleep once more by the rhythmic and relentless chorus of “gnu, gnu, gnu!”. The plains in front of and behind camp are black with beests – males charging around after females and screeching to a halt when they reach the invisible boundaries of their fiercely defended territories. February’s calves are also making up the numbers and those that have survived this long are having to stay on their toes if they have any chance of winning the fight for life against such intense competition.
The predators are absolutely stuffed, beached like whales with gorged bellies. The very many lions in the conservancy are piled up in their prides letting out gluttenous groans while the leopards, cheetah and scavengers also have more food than they know what to do with. This surely is a time of plenty and we hope that the copious amounts of grass in the OOC will keep the wildebeest on our doorstep for months to come.