Migration - Masai Mars - Il Moran trip report

Old Aug 30th, 2007, 07:21 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,396
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Migration - Masai Mars - Il Moran trip report

I’m recently back from a trip to Kenya: eight days split between Masai Mara (staying at Governor’s Il Moran) and Shompole in the Rift Valley. I went to the Mara especially in hopes of seeing the Great Migration, and to Shompole especially to chill out for a few days.

This post has some random thoughts about the trip in general and wildlife in the Mara and Rift Valley. I will create a separate post for the Shompole Camp itself.

You can find some photos of beasts in http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-legh40 . Most are from the Mara, but a few are from Shompole.

(I also have a little bit of video, but I need to find a decent way to show it. When I uploaded one to YouTube, it looked awful. The video is in QuickTime format; suggestions on how to make them available would be welcome.)


Migration

The migration is late this year, Joshua, my guide and driver at Il Moran, tells me on our first drive. But that means only that we’ll see fewer wildebeest and zebra on their march. Joshua points out a darkish bar on the horizon: it is a line of wildebeest.

I loved just sitting among the wildebeest, as they grazed, moseyed along, then grazed some more. As they marched with a purpose, as they trotted. A few leaders would encourage them along, running back and forth among the herd, grunting in a special way that only a wildebeest will grunt.

I was fascinated to see how their lines formed. There would be a line of wildebeest on the march, and one by one the grazers would join the line, in perfect timing. Then maybe one or two grazers would start to march on a slightly different course, all the while as other wildebeest joined the main line. Then two or four wildebeest would follow the renegades, and the two or four would become 20 or 40, and a new line of wildebeest had begun. The two lines might meet up and merge, or not. A line would stop and the marchers would again become grazers, until another line began.

On the first day, we were in a herd of about 200 wildebeest. On the third day, the herd numbered about 5,000. At the height of the Migration, I am told that the herds can be in the hundreds of thousands.

This is the migration.

I am very glad that I had arranged for a private vehicle. I was able to sit for hours on end among the creatures, just watching wildebeest be wildebeest. They are not the most stunningly beautiful of animals: they have long dark faces, a hump on their backs, and a running style that is not nearly so graceful as that of a giraffe or cheetah or antelope. But these noble beasts have a mellow disposition and the wisdom to be able to survive with a home, moving in a 500-mile circuit every year.

Death

Joshua spotted activity: some hyenas had taken down a wildebeest. Six or eight hyenas are at the scene, as well as dozens of vultures, a few marabou stork, and 2 jackals. The hyenas will pull the wildebeest apart and take the best parts for themselves. The vultures will wait, not especially patiently, for the remains. The storks and jackals are hopeful, but won’t get anything until the hyenas are full.

The hyena will even eat the bones. The outside of the bones will become soft enough for the hyenas teeth to gnaw, until eventually the entire bone structure (except skull) is gone. Nothing will be wasted.

River Crossing

The Mara River looks to be 50-60 yards wide. The banks are rocky, with cliffs and vegetation. The current is strong, with plenty of rapids. And along the river’s edge lies the occasional crocodile.

I am staggered by the size of the crocodile. It is enormous. Joshua tells me that the croc we see is probably 700-800kg (1500-1700lb).

I had wrongly assumed that “the crossing” meant that each migrating wildebeest or zebra would cross the Mara once. But no. Many will go back and forth – or at least try to go back and forth – several times. Joshua believes that some of the wildebeest or zebra will get to one side of the river, spend a few days, then decide that the grass is actually tastier on the other side.

Swimming across the river is not a simple feat. The current is strong, and the alligators are menacing. But it is one thing for the wildebeest or zebra to make it to the other side of the river, and very much another thing to make it up to safety on top of the river bank. After the first few animals have crossed, the rocks on the river’s edge become wet and slippery: it’s all to easy for the next creature to slip and break a leg. If so, he is helpless and will drown.

A group of 10 zebra make their way down to the river. They are no longer relaxed, as when they are grazing: their eyes are open wide, and their tails wag furiously. The tension is palpable as 3 or 4 line up at the water’s edge. A hoof is tentatively placed in the fast-moving water, and they are going to cross. No, they’re not: one zebra jumps back 3 steps and the rest instantly follow suit. This goes on interminably.

Finally, after dozens of false starts, one zebra jumps in, followed by a second and a third and another then another. They’re trying to swim straight across, but the strong current carries them downstream. The first reaches the other side and clambers up on the rocks, as do all the rest. The smallest zebra has trouble jumping up on the rocks, but eventually makes it.

The wildebeest then jump in, 15 or 20 of them, while a few hundred stay behind. The wildebeest all make it, as well. A line of vultures, meanwhile, stand in grim watch on the riverbank above.

I saw no zebra or wildebeest perish during their crossing, and I’m happy for that.

The Migration, redux

The migration, I learn, is not something to be seen. It is something to be experienced.

To spend hours among the wildebeest, the unending herd of wildebeest as they graze and march and graze some more and run and escape death – or not – all while on a never-ending journey. To be among these noble creatures who have no homes. For me it defies description.

The Masai Mara
The Migration is, by far, the most amazing natural spectacle that I have ever witnessed. To be able to experience the Migration is, for me, reason enough to go to the Mara.

You also can see an incredible volume of animals in the Mara; finding large mammals there is as challenging as finding cows in Wisconsin. Off the top of my head, I recall, in addition to the beasts mentioned earlier, Thompson’s gazelle, impala, mongoose, hippos, giraffe, great gazelle, warthogs, baboons, hartebeest, cheetah, topi, and surely many more, to say nothing of all the birds.

And all of my fellow tourists and safari-goers. At the river crossing, I counted 19 vehicles on our side of the river, and another 7 or 8 on the Kichwa Timbo side. It was not unusual to see 5 or 6 vehicles around a cat. However, it was also not a problem to enjoy places all by yourself – for example, relaxing in the midst of a wildebeest herd.

Il Moran

I really enjoyed Il Moran; it is a lovely camp. The lodge and all of the tents (there are 10, I believe) overlook the Mara River, where a group of hippos routinely spend their days relaxing and bathing on the other side.

My tent is beautiful and luxe, and it is enormous -- as large as most hotel suites. The tent has a queen-size bed, a writing desk, 2 comfortable chairs, a hanging closet, and clothes rack. The bathroom includes an open rain shower, toilet, bidet, double sinks, and towel rack. The verandah has 4 chairs. The furniture is made from exquisite wood – it is stunningly beautiful.

The staff are especially warm and gracious, always making themselves available.

Lunch is a spectacular affair, served at river-side tables. A homemade vegetable soup starts things off, followed by a buffet that typically includes a barbecued meat (chicken or lamb for example) plus 6 or 8 warm and cold dishes (salads, potatoes or rice, cold meats, etc.), as well as dessert. Dinners are more formal, served in the open-air dining area. They also begin with a homemade soup, followed by an appetizer, then a choice of two main dished. All of the food is absolutely fresh and delicious.
DonTopaz is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2007, 07:44 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 234
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Your report heightens my anticipation! We'll be there September 9-12, Little Governors. Thanks for sharing such beautiful details.
Samcat
samcat is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2007, 08:15 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 7,395
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
excellent telling of the migration rizzuto, thanks!
matnikstym is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2007, 09:47 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,406
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for your report and photos! Looking forward to hearing more about Shompole.
Patty is online now  
Old Aug 30th, 2007, 10:39 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,222
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Lots of feasting in the photos, I see; everybody's eating something! Looks like it was a great time to be in the Mara. I enjoyed your descriptions and your pics. Thanks for this, rizzuto! I'll keep my eye out for the Shompole post.
Leely is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2007, 05:54 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Your comments and observations will make us all want to go to the Mara. You mentioned numerous vehicles at the crossing. I hope none of them impeded the migration or blocked the path of any animals. How wonderful you could just hang out with the herd of wildebeests.

Not only is everyone feasting, most of the feasters could use a good after dinner washing up. I liked your picture of just the river. The speeding ostrich was a clever shot.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2007, 06:25 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 3,528
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Rizzuto,

What a nice well written report! thanks for sharing this.....i haven't been to East Africa since 2002 and i really want to start planning for 2009.

Your mention of cheetah in your report....was your sightings brief or were they nice long stay with the animal, kind of experiences?

Rgds,
Hari
HariS is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2007, 08:00 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,396
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hari,

We were able to stay with one cheetah for about 20 mins -- I've got some video of him, but haven't figured out how to post it without losing a huge level of quality.
DonTopaz is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2007, 01:10 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
FWIW, your photos on kodakgallery all have a strong cyan color cast.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2007, 01:29 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,396
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
FWIW, your photos on kodakgallery all have a strong cyan color cast.

I don't notice that, Tom -- anyone else see it?
DonTopaz is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2007, 01:35 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,406
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I noticed it too when I viewed them yesterday.
Patty is online now  
Old Aug 31st, 2007, 01:37 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 91
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Excellent detail of the migration/crossings and I felt like I was there.

Enjoyed your photos very much also - a few a little greenish/yellow, but hey they really were great anyway.

I'm leaving to go to the Mara on Monday for 17 nights (Kichwa Tembo) and hope to experience the same excitment as you did. It sure has been exciting for me on past visits.
DanaPhx is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2007, 05:03 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
rizzuto - I'm headed for South Africa in next few hours , so won't be much help about the maybe color problem.
My first suggestion would be this color thing of sRGB and Adobe RGB. I think kodakgallery will want your images in sRGB format. My monitor is expecting an sRGB color space from the web. Don't ask me to explain it. You perhaps might try uploading pictures using both and see the differences.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2007, 06:32 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 3,528
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Rizzuto,

I didnt see a problem on my monitor! I enjoyed your gallery. Thanks for the info on the cheetah....anyways, you had non-stop cheetah action on your 2006 safari

Cheers,
Hari
HariS is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2007, 09:49 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,309
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Rizzuto, thanks for your report and photos, especially the photo of a topi on a mound. I already knew I had to return to the Mara ASAP and your report didn’t make it less urgent.
Nyamera is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2007, 07:19 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you for sharing your wonderful photographs. What kind of camera and lens did you use to be able to get such amazing close-ups? Or were you able to be that close to the animals?
elizbuth is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2007, 09:19 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,396
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, Elizbuth. I used an ordinary point-and-shoot, Panasonic Lumix FZ-20.
DonTopaz is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
Amanda_Chicago
Africa & the Middle East
8
Sep 16th, 2007 11:16 AM
Leely
Africa & the Middle East
88
Jul 27th, 2006 06:16 AM
family5
Africa & the Middle East
15
Apr 19th, 2006 06:07 PM
JazzDrew
Africa & the Middle East
42
Aug 7th, 2005 03:45 PM
lisasc
Africa & the Middle East
11
Jan 17th, 2004 11:43 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -