Written by: James Fitzgerald
Our trip to Angama Mara was planned over eighteen months ago and was to be a full scale learning experience for a group of keen amateur photographers with an expert photographic guide. The fact that construction at Angama Mara had not yet commenced did not deter us would-be enthusiasts one bit.
So six intrepid photographers with our guide Marius Coetzee of Oryx Photographic Expeditions headed to the Mara. One vehicle of people all focused on getting great wildlife shots. We had heard that the migration was in town and were welcomed by thousands of wildebeest on the plains of the Mara Triangle contentedly moving slowly in one direction. Then, just one animal would move in the opposite direction and the mass would follow. Logic doesn’t appear to be part of the wildebeest make-up but then perhaps we just don’t understand.
We knew that the real drama of the migration happens when the animals cross through the Mara River from one bank to the other. We had seen those images before and naturally we also wanted to get those iconic shots.
On day one, after seeing a myriad of wonderful non-migration game, we ended up at the river where a number of wildebeest appeared to be getting ready to cross. We jostled with the other vehicles but eventually we were in position with our big lenses poised. After an hour of waiting, the wildebeest moved away, slowly at first and then at a canter! So we moved to a second crossing point and wasted another hour waiting for nothing to happen. That night we decided to change our strategy – take books and wait.
Day two, and armed with books we found a great spot and waited for the crossing. Two hours later, there is still no action but we hear that a crossing is about to happen some three kilometres down stream. We charge there. As an aside, one young Argentinian photographer had never seen a lion before. As we hot footed it to the next crossing point we sped right past a beautiful male lion on a termite mound 10 metres from the road and had to explain to our friend that we would come back after the crossing to do justice to this amazing beast.
The crossing never happened. And of course the lion was gone by the time we got back. To rub salt in our wounds, a young Australian at the lodge had captured amazing crossing pictures that day – with his iPad. Another change of strategy – getting good crossing pictures was clearly a matter of luck.
So for the next few days we focused on the abundant game everywhere and shunned the migration and crossings. What a feast of photography is on offer in the lovely Mara Triangle.
Happily on our second last day we came upon a mass of wildebeest who looked like they wanted to cross from the opposite bank towards us. We were in prime position. It happened within an hour, took six minutes from start to end and we had our classic crossing shots with all the drama and heartbreak perfectly captured.
Finally, when it was all over we retreated for a desperately needed comfort break and a Tusker celebration.