River Crossing Time

I have been very blessed on my last three safaris to have seen and photographed river crossings along the Mara River.  All three crossings were differing in size, intensity, and actual location however, witnessing a crossing is still a bonus anyway you call it.  When one of my safaris ends up in the northern area, my senior guide and I start working the information network the day we arrive.  From this point on, we are in constant contact with other guides in the northern area keeping tabs on the wildebeest activity.  Once we arrive in the northern area, we always do our best to preposition ourselves for the best opportunity for viewing a crossing.  At the end of the day and with the best laid plans of mice and men, mother nature remains firmly in control and the crossing simply may or may not happen.  For our August safari, I briefed the clients the night before on what to except and warned them that this could turn out to be a hide and wait with the understanding that things simply might not happen.  We broke camp around 730 (really late for us) and started making our way along the banks of the Mara River.  Soon we were watching a large herd of wildebeest running along the opposite side of the river.  It was now up to us to guess which of the nine crossing locations they were likely to use.  Watching the herd behavior, Kelio and I settled on one location and instructed the other vehicles to conceal there positions to avoid spooking the animals.  Funny thing about these animals; while vehicles on the opposite side of the river from the herd could cause them to select another crossing point or abort the crossing all together, once they start across the river, nothing will stop them.  With one truck positioned high on the hill top as a lookout, the rest of us gathered behind a thicket of trees and scrub brush.  All of a sudden, I head a huge splash followed by the crack of the radio – “they are crossing”; then race to get to the edge of the river was on.  Funny thing, as I looked around some 15 other trucks were doing the same thing.  I felt like Mario Andriette for a moment as Kelio and the other guides raced to position our trucks for the best photographic positions.  As luck would have it, our efforts really paid off with a great crossing event.   As soon as the herd bolted into the river, the force of the current had them spread out into the classic “S” curve in no time flat.  Repositioning the truck allow me to capture the S curve, which had always eluded me before.

Nikon D3s, 200-400 f/4 @ 200, ISO 800, f/8.00 at 1/400 sec

Nikon D3s, 200-400 f/4 @ 200, ISO 800, f/9.00 at 1/400 sec

If you have Google Earth, these images were taken here.

Cheers and happy photo’ing