As wildebeests embark on their daunting annual migration, a lion eyes a timely opportunity for dinner, highlighting nature’s relentless cycle of survival and predation

The prowling beast is hoping to take advantage of Tanzania’s annual wildebeest migration.

For the wildebeest of the Serengeti National Park the journey is a must to ensure they reach rich grazing pastures on the other side of the river and avoid starvation.

On the hunt: A lion preys on nervous-looking wildebeest on the planes of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania

Fight for survival: Wildebeest jump over a cliff as they battle to escape from predators

But in order to reach the promised land, they first need to run a gauntlet of lions, giant crocodiles and a deep swollen river.

Nature photographer Lee Whittam captured the electrifying spectacle in October when five thousand wildebeest gathered close to the Kenyan border to cross the Mara River.

Mr Whittam, who runs guided photography safari, Essential Africa, said the animals had to contend with a prowling lioness and 18ft crocodiles waiting patiently for the arrival of their next meal.

‘It’s the most high-energy, charged and suspenseful wildlife situation I have ever experienced in my life, and I have been doing this for 18 years,’ he said.

Meal: A lion gets its dinner after catching a wildebeest

Big swim: Wildebeest cross the Mara River but need to be careful of giant crocodiles

‘The wildebeest gathered on the edge of the bank a few metres up.

‘They can wait there for an hour, several hours or a day before making the crossing.

‘When they are about to make a move they start braying – and when there are thousands of them it is really loud.’

Lee’s incredible images capture the moment when the herd begins to charge over the edge of the bank and into the muddy waters.

‘Often they break their legs and drown in the river, but when you realise what is waiting for them you can see why they wait to cross,’ said the 37-year-old from Cape Town.

Attacked: A swimming wildebeest is caught by a crocodile

Paradise: Hundreds of wildebeest graze after successfully crossing the Mara River

‘On this occasion none of the wildebeest broke their legs but there were some big 18ft crocodiles waiting for them.

‘With the noise and the dust, it’s the most amazing spectacle you can imagine.’

No sooner had the herd began to make its decent than a lioness appeared from a rocky area and pulled down a young wildebeest causing additional panic.

“The Crossing” as it is referred to in wildlife circles is one of the highlights of any safari goers career and a happening that is difficult to top in terms of action, energy and sheer volume of game.

The desperation to cross the river and make it to grazing grounds which have sufficient grass is the driving force behind the annual migration.


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