Duration: 3 weeks
Mara River is a river that flows through Kenya and Tanzania. It is famous as a crossing site of antelopes, zebras and many species of large game that migrate through the region. It usually lasts for three weeks in September.
The beginning of migration is February, when offspring appear on the green plains of the Tanzanian Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks, offspring, zebras and gazelles. Clockwise along the Serengeti border, the giant herds begin their unhurried movement in order to complete it in the same place in a year - and start all over again almost immediately. The journey is full of dangers. Newborn babies are a welcome and easy prey for numerous predators migrating side by side with ungulates (they also move for food). By July, the herds, not without adventure, reach the border of Tanzania with Kenya, where they rest against the Mara River. The meeting of the herd with the waters of Mary is inevitable, like a change of day and night. For young animals, crossing is an initiation, initiation into adulthood, and for adults, it is a test of strength, reaching the next life cycle. The seemingly frivolous Mara (depth 1.5–2 meters, width maximum 20 meters) should not become a difficult obstacle, but when overcoming these two tens of meters, animals experience the most severe stress in their life - the river is teeming with crocodiles and hippos. Crossing. What does a large herd look like here? These are several tens of thousands of ungulates, which, stretching into a two-three-kilometer chain, slowly move along the savannah. Ahead are the leaders, old individuals, guarantors of herd safety, they know all the paths and are well acquainted with the habits of predators. At the core of the group are females with cubs, and adult strong males close it. Stopping for a vacation or overnight, the herd spreads around the savannah, filling all the visible space. If such a picture is observed on the approach to Mara from the side of Tanzania, then, most likely, the next day you can wait for the transition. There are only three to four main crossing points. The main requirements for them are more or less gentle banks on both sides of the river. They are stored in animals in animals, people - including photographers - mark these places on maps and drive their coordinates into navigators, so that, having arrived in the Serengeti, to capture the crossing - the culmination point of the Big Migration. The herd comes closer and closer to the river, a roar grows, dust rises in a column. It seems that a crowd of 25-30 thousand goals cannot be stopped. But there is a force that can erect an invisible barrier between the herd and the river. This power is fear. As a rule, those animals that jump into the water first, first and die. Nobody wants to become a victim - and now the herd is already scattered across the savannah. In uncertainty, several days may pass, but sooner or later the inevitable must happen. The transition is usually started not by the leaders, but by the most nervous and impatient of young individuals. Once someone decides to take the first jump - and, obeying the centuries-old instinct, the whole herd rushes after him, not paying attention to either predators or people. The middle of the group is in the greatest safety; those who are brought to the periphery are at the greatest risk. Animals move in a continuous mass, but there are failures in this stream. For example, females successfully crossed, and young growth hesitated in indecision. Negotiations begin across the river - desperate bleating or neighing. And now the group of distraught mothers is already moving in the opposite direction, towards the children. I happened to observe how zebras, despite the proximity of crocodiles, crossed back and forth through Mara five times, until they found their foals and brought them to the other side. Predators and prey. Crocodiles, who are so afraid of ungulates, also have a hard time. Yes, an abundance of food awaits them - but a deadly abundance. Antelopes and zebras, jumping, trample crocodiles to death - I have often seen the bodies of these predators with crushed skulls. However, experienced crocodiles are patient and in no hurry to climb into the thick of it. Any transition is accompanied by heavy losses: ungulates can trample not only the enemy, but also each other. If the transition begins after rain, there are problems with access to the slippery shore - and migrants create living steps, climbing up on the backs of each other. Someone breaks down and falls under the hooves of comrades. When the herd passes, two or three dozen animals with broken legs and backs remain on the site of this giant bloodbath. And in the sky it becomes crowded by a huge number of scavengers. The crossing takes place rather rapidly: a herd of 20 thousand heads crosses the river in half an hour and, leaving those who were unlucky this day, die in the river, it dissolves in the Kenyan savannah. The counter is reset - a new cycle has begun in the life of wildlife.