Along the shores of Lake Victoria in the southeastern corner of Kenya is one of Africa’s greatest natural treasures, the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Stretching across 580 square miles of wilderness, the reserve is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Elephants stomp across the grasslands. Hippos bathe in the muddy banks of the Mara River, the park’s only year-round water source. And lions prowl the plains looking for prey. Between July and August, the park plays host to one of the largest annual animal migrations in the world. Known as the Great Migration, more than one million wildebeests, along with zebras and gazelles, travel from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in search of greener pastures during the dry season. The spectacle has been heralded as one of the seven wonders of the natural world.

Wildlife photographers flock to the park year-round hoping to capture a moment in the Maasai Mara animals’ lives. Whether it’s a lioness carrying her squirming cub in her mouth or a leopard having a nice long stretch, the perfect shot takes patience, an excellent guide, and a good bit of luck.

In recognition of that challenge, local tourism industry stakeholders crown a “Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year.” Selected from 50 finalists, this year’s winner was actually a duo: Kenyan photographers Preeti and Prashant Chacko. The pair earned the title for “Hallelujah,” their stunning black-and-white image of a giraffe and her calf on the windswept Kenyan grasslands. This photograph, along with the other finalists, paints a particularly poignant picture as a years-long drought continues to decimate wildlife in the park. To celebrate the resilience and majesty of these animals, Atlas Obscura selected some of our favorite images from the competition.

These two young male giraffes gently practice a bit of neck fighting. It’s a skill they’ll use when they’re older to fight for territories, mates, or social status.
These two young male giraffes gently practice a bit of neck fighting. It’s a skill they’ll use when they’re older to fight for territories, mates, or social status. Abderazak Tissoukai
These cubs are part of the Topi Pride, one of the largest prides in the Maasai Mara. The pride has around 20 adult lions, out of an estimated 500 in the entire park.
These cubs are part of the Topi Pride, one of the largest prides in the Maasai Mara. The pride has around 20 adult lions, out of an estimated 500 in the entire park. Ashish Ranjan
On the last day of her visit to the park, photographer Vicki Jauron captured this image of a lioness and her cub. Transporting cubs this way is common practice among big cats and many other mammals. Lionesses usually have a litter of two or three cubs, which the pride works together to raise.
On the last day of her visit to the park, photographer Vicki Jauron captured this image of a lioness and her cub. Transporting cubs this way is common practice among big cats and many other mammals. Lionesses usually have a litter of two or three cubs, which the pride works together to raise. Vicki Jauron
After successfully pouncing on an unsuspecting mouse, this satisfied serval basks in the morning sun. These lone hunters are incredibly skilled: More than half of their attempts to catch prey are successful, compared with a pride of lions, which bring down pursued prey only about 30 percent of the time.
After successfully pouncing on an unsuspecting mouse, this satisfied serval basks in the morning sun. These lone hunters are incredibly skilled: More than half of their attempts to catch prey are successful, compared with a pride of lions, which bring down pursued prey only about 30 percent of the time. Vrinda Bhatnagar
Preeti and Prashant Chacko’s award-winning photograph ‘Hallelujah’ shows a young giraffe calf’s reunion with its mother as oxpeckers fly in the background. The giraffes don’t mind the birds, who eat ticks and other parasites from their bodies. The birds also loudly chirp to alert their large friends to any threats.
Preeti and Prashant Chacko’s award-winning photograph ‘Hallelujah’ shows a young giraffe calf’s reunion with its mother as oxpeckers fly in the background. The giraffes don’t mind the birds, who eat ticks and other parasites from their bodies. The birds also loudly chirp to alert their large friends to any threats. Preeti and Prashant Chacko
Along the Mara River, photographer Silka Hullmann captured a group of wildebeests running from lionesses in the early hours of the morning. Lionesses do most of the hunting for their prides; when prey is abundant, they'll typically make a kill every three or four days.
Along the Mara River, photographer Silka Hullmann captured a group of wildebeests running from lionesses in the early hours of the morning. Lionesses do most of the hunting for their prides; when prey is abundant, they’ll typically make a kill every three or four days. Silka Hullmann
Just after sunset, this large male lion pauses during a drink from a seasonal puddle. Once these water sources dry up, the big cats may turn to eating plants to get the water they need.
Just after sunset, this large male lion pauses during a drink from a seasonal puddle. Once these water sources dry up, the big cats may turn to eating plants to get the water they need. Andrew Liu