Monday, 27 April 2015

W is for Wildebeest — an illustrated letter

That black line in the middle-ground... Not trees... Wildebeest

Zebra accompany the wildebeest on their migration

Dear Wildebeest
I've always thought you were kind of weird looking, and to be honest, having met you in person, I still do, but I have to thank you for your gift to me, a profound experience. You may not be pretty, but you are amazing and I will forever think of you with fondness and awe.

Observing the part of your astounding migration cycle where you traverse the Masai Mara and the Serengeti was one of the most exciting and humbling events in my small life. We humans tend to be such vainglorious creatures. You... you are truly glorious. You embody the connectedness of Life, the interdependence of land, beast and vegetation—put it this way, you make me want to bust out my own off-key version of The Circle of Life

And there they were... thousands of them...
We'd been in Kenya five days and seen skeletons, proof that you'd been through the area ahead of us and that some of you had not survived but I guess you were just building the suspense, tantalising me for the big reveal, because the way we met will forever be right up there in my top 10 memories.

I'd never been in a hot air balloon before, so that in itself was pretty sensational. Just floating above the Mara at dawn would have been enough for me, but then the captain of the balloon got a radio message, turned us in a different direction and announced, "OK people, it's your lucky day." And there you were. Thousands of you. Streaming in a river over the landscape with your friends the zebra. Breathtaking.

For the next two weeks, wherever we drove, for hundreds of miles, you were with us, dotting the lines of our vision. Endlessly restless. I watched as you responded to the scent of predators, crocodiles hidden in the mud, lions almost invisible through the grasses. From my perch atop a 4-wheel drive, I cheered you on silently as you huddled nervously together along the river bank then surged as a single thrashing beast to the other side. I was so engrossed I didn't take a photo — I couldn't bear to take my eyes off you.

Collective gasp as flamingo take flight in the pink of dawn

You were with me that chilling morning at the bottom of the Ngorongoro Crater when I saw a lake pink with flamingos and watched a lion, exhausted and muddy having just taken down a buffalo, defend it from a mob of thieving hyena. You with your oddly sloping back and serious grey-bearded face.

My dear Wildebeest, you are my David Attenborough. You led me through the wildlife documentary world of Kenya and Tanzania to the base of Kilimanjaro. Because of you, I have watched baboons play, seen a lioness defend her young, come to appreciate the diversity and beauty of birds, been raced by a crazy warthog and awoken by elephants eating our thatched roof. I have witnessed the mating dance of an ostrich and been both fascinated and repulsed by vultures cleaning a carcass. You took me on a journey like none other, via dusty villages where tiny children herded animals, past young Masai warriors, and along roads where the air was filled with Sunday song as locals celebrated their faith in churches without walls.

Wildebeest of Africa I love you, and am forever in your gratitude.
I had permission to take this beautiful shot.
As ever,

 A tiny lilac-breasted roller with an elephant backdrop

Being this handsome gets boring

Yep... A tree-climbing lion

 Mmmmm ...sun! (I call the little guy on the right Dopey because he reminds me of the Disney dwarf.)
A sunset shuffle

She had to fold herself up to get down and eat acacia pods

I could go on forever but will stop here. All of these photographs were taken by me with my trusty Nikon Coolpix P510. They have not been photoshopped.

Song of the Day:  The Gnu Song (written by Flanders and Swann) as performed in Episode 519 of The Muppet Show.


Question of the Day: Have you had a life-changing experience with animals? 

  These photos all belong to me. Please do not steal them. 

If you'd like to see some more, there are a few here.


  1. Hello there.
    Hot air ballooning in Kenya...oh how I wish...what a dream! You managed to get some awesome shots! Fantastic photos. I'm a huge cat lover and the lion cubs are just too cute. Looks like you had a wonderful time.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Entrepreneurial Goddess

    1. I though I was going to pee my pants the first time we got up close to big cats. They are every bit as magnificent as I hoped they would be.

  2. Fantastic shots. Especially loved the one with the cubs and the sun. Thanks for sharing. :)
    *Shantala @ ShanayaTales*

    1. The next shot was of their mother snarling at another female that got too close to them,... we sat an watched them for about 30 minutes of magic...

  3. Well, no, I certainly haven't had an animal experience like that.
    Reading your post and looking at the photos just reinforces a giant question mark I have in my head about why anyone would feel the slightest bit motivated to go over and shoot these animals as trophies. Why?
    Wonderful post.

  4. GREAT photos. Photo journalism at its best.
    Hot Air balloon? You are a braver woman that I.

    1. Oh you'd LOVE it Mary-Anne... bot the wildlife and the hot air ballooning...
      Travel photography fascinates me... not as much as travel does though ;-)

  5. What a place to be in a hot air balloon! Any place would be nice, but how lucky you were. Gorgeous pictures!!

    Scribbles From Jenn - Visiting from the A to Z Challenge

  6. So pretty pictures! :) I have never been to Africa (the closest I got was the Canaries). Must have been a stunning experience!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks... It's not hard when the subject matter is so sensational

  8. What a wonderful experience you had Wendy. The photos are stunning. I loved the flamingoes and the lions! Some beautiful memories there to treasure.

  9. ...the flamingos were a highlight for me... but the elephants were my absolute faves...

  10. Just breathtaking. I loved your pictures and your story.