The Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt reinforced his status as the world’s fastest man at the 2012 London Olympics by covering the distance of 100 meters in 9.63 seconds, the second fastest timing ever. He also holds the world record of 9.58 seconds which he set in 2009 in Berlin. But Bolt’s speed pales in comparison to the pace of the fastest land based species. The Cheetah can reach 100 meters in 6.13 seconds! Bolt has a stride of 2.7 to 3 meters to enable him to cover 100 meters in about 40 strides while the Cheetah would bound 6.6 meters at a time at full speed, usually when chasing a prey for its survival. The gold medal in the Cheetah world is their favorite prey, the Thompson Gazelle.
As people from all over the world congregated in London for the Olympic Games held in July/August 2012, I was back in Kenya to witness the Great Annual Migration of Wildebeest, an Olympics of sorts in the animal world.
I arrived in Nairobi on the 9th of August and stayed the night there before the safari began the next day. I was able to experience first-hand the euphoric celebrations in Nairobi when Kenyan David Rudisha won gold in an epic race in the men’s 800 meter final in London, shattering his own world record in an incredible time of 1 minute 40.91 seconds.
On this trip, I went by road to Masai Mara from Nairobi. It is about a 5 hour drive. I stayed at the Mara Serena Lodge for the first two nights. This Lodge is built on a hillock overlooking the Mara River and the beautiful savannahs of the Mara Serena Conservation.
In the afternoon of the day of arrival at Masai Mara, I went straight to a known crossing location of the Mara River at around 3.30 pm. Large numbers of Wildebeest and Zebras converged to a point on the riverbank to cross the river but they did not take the plunge. The lure of greener pastures spurs them on, but not without trepidation. These animals are aware that predators are lurking in the water in the form of crocodiles and the big cats on land on the other side of the river, to make a kill. This time of the year is a feast for the predator community and Wildebeest is on top of the menu. Those of us who come to watch this phenomenon, have to be patient.
Later, we moved on to another location on the riverbank and it was around 6 pm when a Zebra gave the lead and waded across the water followed by hundreds more as well of thousands of Wildebeest. I have no doubt that the large number of wildlife enthusiasts who were at the site to witness this race for survival had camera equipment no less sophisticated than those deployed at the London Olympics.
On the 12th August, I had to be ready by 5 am to take a one-hour, hot air balloon ride followed by champagne breakfast in the bush. The flight path was initially parallel to the Mara River and later moved towards the Tanzania boundary with a fantastic aerial view of the Masai Mara savannahs where I could see the migration of wildebeests in their thousands. Lion, Hyena, Zebra and several types of antelopes were sighted during the balloon ride.
Thereafter I stayed at Little Governor’s for one night, which is one hour drive from Mara Serena and two more nights at the Main Governor’s which is located on the other side of the Mara River. During my stay at the Main Governor’s, I made a further visit to the Mara River, which was about a 30 minute drive from the camp. Once again we waited for almost three hours in the morning when, finally, close to noon, the race commenced. Some were unfortunate. I saw a Zebra being attacked and killed by a Crocodile.
There were three new cubs added to the Marsh Pride. These three cubs we saw were only a few weeks old at the time. We also had a Leopard sighting on a tree and the cat remained at that location for most of that day.
On the 15th August I returned to Nairobi after witnessing the wild Olympics in Masai Mara. Later in the evening I boarded a flight to Harare to continue my safari in search of Wild Dogs in Zimbabwe.