Ariadne van Zandbergen
South Africa ZA

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

Category: Amazing Wildlife Encounters

I was doing some general photography in Serengeti National Park, when I heard that the migration was late that year and hadn’t crossed into the Masai Mara yet.  I took my chances and changed my travel plans to get to the Northern Serengeti in the hope to catch the last of the wildebeest crossing the Mara River. 

I was lucky as one group had crossed, but was building up to cross back into Tanzania. The wildebeest are not the most decisive of animals and they often cross a few times backwards and forwards. It was extremely hot and there wasn’t a tree in site, so we parked the car in the open sun a few hundred meters away from the river so we wouldn’t disturb the wildebeest and put them off crossing.

Swarms of flies and tsetse flies, which migrate with all the other animals had found us and were determined to stay with us. After 5 hours of waiting our patience was rewarded and the bravest of wildebeest jumped.  While all the animals had been standing there all day bleating, once that first one made the leap, they all wanted to leap at the same time and they started their stampede and swim across the river.

As they start to move they get into a trance and we were able to approach without disturbing their motion.  We got out of the car and the wildebeest were completely oblivious to us.  I was worried they would run into us, but they just streamed passed us like a school of sardines – opening in front of us and closing back behind us.  It was the biggest adrenaline rush ever. This went on for about 10 minutes and 15 minutes later there was no sign left of any of the thousands of wildebeest that had just past us aside from a thick cloud of dust.