JONATHAN SCOTT SHARES TOP MARA EXPERIENCES AS THE GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION RETURNS TO KENYA
To celebrate the return of the Great Wildebeest Migration to the Maasai Mara plains, Jonathan Scott, prolific wildlife photographer, safari guide, conservationist and TV presenter shares his top Mara experiences.
Jonathan Scott is the co-presenter of the BBC’s Big Cat Diary, Big Cat Week and Big Cat Live series which were watched by tens of millions of people around the world. Repeats of the programmes can still be seen on television to this day with hundreds of clips on YouTube. Scott first lived in the Maasai Mara in 1977 and here he has selected his top three experiences in the place that he and his wife Angela, who is also an award-winning wildlife photographer, call their second home:
Inspirational introduction to the Mara: ‘Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, where lions stand golden in the dawn, their breath raw and frosty. Mara, the Maasai’s ‘spotted land’, kingdom of all the predators. It was here during my first visit to Kenya in the early 1970s on a four month overland adventure through Africa that I had watched a pair of black-maned lions striding slowly across the windswept plains, their sharply-focused eyes turned skyward. Overhead, vultures wheeled effortlessly on outflung wings, pinpointing the position where other lions crouched flank to flank around a freshly killed zebra. The sight of those lions was to change my life.’ Jonathan Scott (Kingdom of Lions: Kyle Cathie. 1992)
Meeting the big cats: ‘We know the Marsh Lions better than we do many of our human friends. The pride is dominated by four magnificent pride males known as the four Musketeers. At night we lie in bed and listen to their thunderous roars echoing across the plains from Musiara Marsh – or from the Bila Shaka lugga (an intermittent water course) at the heart of their territory. Though Angie and I love the essence of these big cats it would be unwise to ever presume that they are our ‘friends’. Their lives are ruled by the threat of violence; they are wild creatures that play by their own rules and speak a language very different to ours. Their story has no ending. That is what keeps us wanting to set out early each morning to discover what new is happening in their feline world. Here in the Mara you can enjoy your very own ‘Big Cat Diary’.’
An unforgettable birds-eye view: ‘Only the far-ranging vultures can claim to know the secrets of the great migration. Only they know how far the herds travel, and where to find the vast armies from one day to the next. To solve the riddle of the migration’s whereabouts, you must fly. And if you are lucky enough to take a balloon ride over the Mara’s timeless grasslands during the dry season you may see for yourself the great herds on their annual pilgrimage through the living Eden called Mara. I married Angela my sweetheart in 1992 in a beautiful ceremony on the Siria Escarpment overlooking the Maasai Mara’s animal speckled plains and took a balloon ride to celebrate. There is no better way to round off an aerial adventure than to relax with a sumptuous breakfast and a glass of ‘bubbly’ – maybe even two as long as you aren’t driving!’
The great migration of wildebeest and zebras and the big cats that prey on them, known as the greatest wildlife spectacular on earth, can be witnessed in Kenya’s magnificent Maasai Mara National Reserve each year during the months of July to October. Often the herds arrive in June and tarry until November, but one thing you can always be sure of seeing whenever you visit the Mara are its fabled big cats.