Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Watching the migration in the Maasai Mara

It's hard to tell from the President Kibaki story how much he really saw of the drama of the migration itself. Kicheche Camp's always readable Spot of the Week this week reminded us what a truly sobering, numbing experience it can be to witness one of the river crossings, where dozens of animals die in a natural, chaotic, cacophonous event - while you watch. You almost want to go down there and shoo them back. Watching the deer in Richmond Park it ain't. . .

"Despite their determination to cross, the logistics of getting 20,000 animals across a raging river, each animal seemingly intent on taking the same route as the animal in front of it, means a large amount of patience will be required from those wildebeest bringing up the rear. Patience is a virtue wildebeest have in only limited amounts and once the first animal launches into the muddy depths of the Mara the word soon gets back to 19,999 and 20,000 in the queue and then the push is really on! The first 200 wildebeest perish immediately. Choosing a fatal course across the river they fall victim to the awesome power of the Mara's current and are drowned downstream. The leader of the next throng chooses more carefully but just when it seems his inbuilt radar has found a safe passage, the Mara river deals another killer blow, this time in the form of its most brutal resident - the crocodile. Seeing a kill is brutal regardless of which predator is doing the killing. With big cats there can be moments of finesse and majesty leading up to the gore of the kill itself. However with crocodiles the unadulterated brute force on display possesses a malevolence that is blood chilling. The vehicle is silent except for the occasional whir of the shutter release."

"Tourist Number One" (President Kibaki) gets down with the crowds

The annual wildebeest migration through the Maasai Mara National Reserve has had more than its usual publicity this year. President Mwai Kibaki made an unusually informal publicity trip, which can only have done his image good.