Great Migration is a blog post from the Miscellaneous category.

Great Migration

Posted by Will on

The annual wildebeest migration is well known as one of Africa’s most impressive spectacles. Over 1.5 million wildebeest migrate between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya, making this the largest mass-movement of land mammals anywhere on Earth. In order to find fresh grazing pastures, the wildebeest are forced to cross the Mara River.

Our trip took place in September, when the wildebeest were beginning to travel south into the Serengeti again. We have put together a simple migration map showing the route and approximate timings of the wildebeest’s 3,000km round trip.

Whenever we cover something that has already been well documented by other photographers, we try to come up with an original way to portray it. The result is the short film below which we hope conveys to you the magnitude and drama of this incredible migration.

This film is a combination of telephoto video clips and wide-angle time-lapse sequences that speed up the motion by around 25 times. Before this, we have never seen a time-lapse of a wildebeest river crossing – perhaps this is the first time it has been done. Among other things, the clips show the wildebeest being pulled downstream by the current and swarming up the far banks of the river.

Of course we also took plenty of photographs of the wildebeest river crossings (there are more than 70 in our wildebeest galleries). Below we have included a few of our favourites.

A herd of wildebeest dithering on the banks of the Mara River.
Wildebeest in the rain, waiting to cross the Mara River.

When the wildebeest reach the banks of the Mara River, they gather in vast herds as they summon up the courage to make the crossing. Eventually, it takes one brave individual to venture into the water and then all the other animals rush to follow. We often spent many frustrating hours waiting for a dithering herd to start crossing!

Wildebeest pour down the banks before leaping into the Mara River.
Ten thousand wildebeest crossed the Mara River in just half an hour.

A couple of the crossings we witnessed had upwards of 10,000 individuals swim across the river in just half an hour. It is hard to describe the mayhem and noise that accompanies one of these epic crossings.

Wildebeest emerging from the river.
Wildebeest starting their crossing of the Mara River.

The crossing is very perilous, with wildebeest frequently drowning, breaking legs after jumping down cliffs or falling victim to the river’s well-fed crocodiles.

A wildebeest jumps into the Mara River.
A slow shutter speed was used to emphasise the mayhem and chaos.

In order to capture the scale of one of the crossings, we took over 30 overlapping images which we then stitched together to create a 300 megapixel panorama. If you click on the preview below you can explore a high-resolution version of this panorama (it has been shrunk to around 50% of the original size but is still over 16 thousand pixels wide!).

Great Migration Panorama

The influx of animals into the region provides a valuable opportunity for predators and scavengers. We saw cheetahs, lions, hyenas and vultures all feasting on wildebeest kills.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the great migration has been one of the most incredible spectacles we’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing. On occasion we found it hard to hold our cameras steady as the adrenaline was making us shake so much!

For more of our wildebeest photographs, please checkout our Wildebeest Migration page. You may also want to read about the rare pink hippo that we photographed during the same trip.

23 Comments

  1. Richard Peters Photography said: March 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    A very enjoyable read with some lovely shots, my favourite being the final slow shutter image. The pano is also incredible and I bet would look amazing printed and framed somewhere, large!

    Top marks for the video too, love the little title sequence, really helps set the tone :D

  2. Will said: March 10, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Thanks Richard. Yes I would love to print the pano nice and large!

    We were interviewed by the BBC about our time-lapse footage. You can see the full interview here: http://www.vimeo.com/20853723

  3. PedroStephano said: March 10, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Imagine the noise…..

  4. luciaM_ said: March 10, 2011 at 3:38 am

    Congrats on this great post!
    The photos are great, the panoramic is just amazing, and so is the video, I’m sharing it right now with my friends!
    Keep up with this excellent work!
    I’m gonna watch the BBC interview now :)

  5. Peter Hammer said: March 10, 2011 at 9:23 am

    That video is stunning guys! Wish I had known you were coming to Australia s it would have been great to meet you both.

  6. wayan mawa said: March 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Stunning shots and video, i am glad i see this video!
    Lucky me. Thanks guys!

    Regards
    Mawa

  7. David Harper said: March 10, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Amazing stuff guys, you’ve captured every essence of one of the worlds most monumental natural events, well done! :-)
    Have shared it with all my friends, and makes me want to go back to Africa!!

  8. John Doyle said: March 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Fantastic…. and yes … still jealous

  9. Rithwik Virunnukandi said: March 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Amazing video…a new dimension to migration story. Really wonderful. Thanks for sharing

  10. Viki Herbert said: March 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Amazing footage. Love the music … I should imagine it was awesome to watch.
    Makes me wonder how do you stay safe in amongst such a large herd?

  11. Deborah Flowers said: March 11, 2011 at 1:39 am

    While the “circle of Life” can be cruel, it is also incredibly amazing!
    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Nigel said: March 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Simply stunning ….. photography and movies that really give you a sense of the mayhem that forms a large part of this migration – especially at key river crossings.

    With todays technology the ability to meld photos with video allows you to tell a much more vivid story … I must have watched that video about 10 times so far (the volume button at 10)

    Great work guys – instant RSS subscribe …. Can’t wait for your next project …

    Nigel

  13. Androgen said: March 17, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Wow, I wish to take images like this

  14. Uwe Skrzypczak said: March 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Congrats on this great post, stunning video. This is wildlife ….
    Best regards from Germany.

  15. DesignSuccessU said: April 4, 2011 at 5:04 am

    I like these images, So wonderful and meaningful.

  16. Squash Trainers said: April 6, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for this great post, stunning video. This is wildlife ….
    Best regards..

  17. Orrin said: May 12, 2011 at 9:45 am

    wow amazing work! well done!
    Am very jealous of your spectacular experience! I wish to do the same in the future

  18. Alex Walker said: June 22, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Excellent guys. You have a great sequence of time lapses love the way you got the wide angle to move too. Great powerful anthem to match the spectacle. Your slow shutter image is also one of my favourites. well done. Alex

  19. Mouse McConnell said: June 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Great footage, have spent so many hours sitting waiting for them to cross, sometimes you dream about a speeding up process, and there you have it!!

  20. Morkel Erasmus said: September 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Stunning work guys…really feeling the intensity with the video clip, and well done in making it a timescape-shortclip combo which works very well.

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