Great Wildebeest Migration

Posted August 6th, 2011 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

Each time we go to Tanzania, one of our main goals is to photograph the great migration. Literally, millions of animals participate in this spectacle that brings them through the Serengeti and through the two great East African nations of Tanzania and Kenya.

This is the image people think of when they imagine the wildebeest migration. Millions of animals for as far as the eye can see. Nikon D300, 70-200mm f2.8.

This is the image people think of when they imagine the wildebeest migration. Millions of animals for as far as the eye can see. Nikon D300, 200-400mm f4.

The difficult part of planning trips to Tanzania is that you never know exactly where the herds will be. The Serengeti is a massive area and the animals always follow the rains. If the rain doesn’t fall in the plains, then the animals stay in the Northern areas in the higher woodlands. While the animals are in the northern forests, you don’t see the massive herds because the animals are scattered throughout the woodlands.

The herds are streaming out of the woodlands and heading for the open plains. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm, five image panorama.

The herds are streaming out of the woodlands and heading for the open plains. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm, five image panorama.

You know the animals are all around you, but you don’t get the grand sense of scale you normally see in the plains.

Some years the rains don't fall in the plains, so the wildebeest stay in the woodlands. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4.

Some years the rains don't fall in the plains, so the wildebeest stay in the woodlands. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4.

Once the rains begin to fall, there’s a massive movement to the open plains where you can see wildebeest from horizon to horizon. The sight is quite something to behold. So are the flies!

Falling rains mean green grass. The wildebeest follow the rains simply to live. There were over 200,000 wildebeest in front of me when I took this image! Nikon D700, 70-200mm f2.8.

Falling rains mean green grass. The wildebeest follow the rains simply to live. There were over 200,000 wildebeest in front of me when I took this image! Nikon D700, 70-200mm f2.8.

Wildebeest live all throughout the Tanzanian national parks. They are scattered throughout the country, so you don’t necessarily need to track down the migrating herds to find them. In fact, you’ll see more wildebeest than almost any other animal on Safari. Some people love photographing them since they have such interesting faces and horns. Other people take one pic and that’s enough.

Wildebeest are everywhere in Tanzanian national parks. This group is not a part of the great migration and is located further south in Tarangire NP. Nikon D90, 24-70mm f2.8

Wildebeest are everywhere in Tanzanian national parks. This group is not a part of the great migration and is located further south in Tarangire NP. Nikon D90, 24-70mm f2.8

On our November safari, we photograph the herds as they are leaving the Mara River and headed to the grasslands. During the May safari, we photograph the wildebeest rut on the central plains. Both trips offer great opportunities for migration photography.





Life on the Mara River, Tanzania

Posted January 13th, 2011 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

At the northern end of the Serengeti in Tanzania lies the Mara River. The annual wildebeest migration crosses over the Mara river as it heads to the Southern grasslands in Tanzania. The Mara River is an intriguing place because over 1 million animals have to cross the river, and there is a huge predator population lying in wait for tmeals. In November 2010, there was drought in the Southern Serengeti, so many of the wildebeest and zebra were still north near the Mara river. In fact, there were large herds of wildebeest that still hadn’t crossed the river.

It is incredibly fascinating to watch a herd of wildebeest survey the crossing and decide whether or not it should cross. We watched a large herd for quite a few hours and finally gave up since it never decided to cross. They were looking for crocodiles!

Crocodile on the Mara River, Tanzania. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Crocodile on the Mara River, Tanzania. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

When the urge to cross becomes too great, one wildebeest will jump and then the rest of the herd will come surging through. Most make it, but a few unlucky animals don’t.

Wildebeest skull. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Wildebeest skull. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Below are a number of other photographs from the Mara River. The captions tell the rest of the story.

Zebra looking for an opportunity to cross the river. Hippos don't worry about the crocodiles. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Zebra looking for an opportunity to cross the river. Hippos don't worry about the crocodiles. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Wildebeest and zebra mill about, waiting for one of the animals to muster up enough courage to cross the river. Nikon D700, 70-200mm f2.8.

Wildebeest and zebra mill about, waiting for one of the animals to muster up enough courage to cross the river. Nikon D700, 70-200mm f2.8.

The Mara region is beautiful. Blue skies for as far as the eye can see. The river is murky and brown and hides all kinds of hidden dangers. Nikon D700, 24-70mm f2.8.

The Mara region is beautiful. Blue skies for as far as the eye can see. The river is murky and brown and hides all kinds of hidden dangers. Nikon D700, 24-70mm f2.8.

Hippos are always fighting and arguing with each other. Nikon D700, 70-200mm f2.8.

Hippos are always fighting and arguing with each other. Nikon D700, 70-200mm f2.8.

Predators are everywhere in the Serengeti. After the wildebeest cross the river, lions are waiting for them to cross their territory. Nikon D700, 200-400mm f4.

Predators are everywhere in the Serengeti. After the wildebeest cross the river, lions are waiting for them to cross their territory. Nikon D700, 200-400mm f4.

This young male lion was with a pride of 15 - 20 other lions. He poked his head out of the bushes to look around, then went right back into the shade for a nap. Nikon D700, 200-400mm f4.

This young male lion was with a pride of 15 - 20 other lions. He poked his head out of the bushes to look around, then went right back into the shade for a nap. Nikon D700, 200-400mm f4.

Jackals hang around the lion prides, looking for leftover scraps. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Jackals hang around the lion prides, looking for leftover scraps. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Baby ostriches with their father. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.

Baby ostriches with their father. Nikon D300s, 200-400mm f4, 1.4x TC.





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