The new, seven-episode National Geographic Channel special is a breathtaking visual treat

If the wildebeest of Africa don’t follow the rain, they’ll likely die. The imposing animals need to hydrate at least every other day, and spend their years chasing the water sources that give them life. Their journey isn’t easy, however: Predators such as crocodiles and cheetahs plague the creatures, preying on the young and feeble.

While it’s not always a pretty sight, the journey of the wildebeest is amazing to watch, and documented in the breathtaking new mini-series Great Migrations, airing Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel. Narrated by Alec Baldwin, the seven-episode event follows the little-known migratory patterns of the wildebeest, red crab, monarch butterfly and sperm whale, among others, showing them in vivid detail.

The series took more than three years to make, as cameramen traveled to 20 countries on all seven continents, shooting over the course of 800 days. Cameraman Bob Poole was among that globetrotting staff, filming the journey of the wildebeest as well as of the Mali elephant.

“You’re going to see things you’ve never seen before,” he tells of the series. “Some of the stories we’ve told have never been told.”

Poole was especially taken with the tale of the Mali elephants, seen in a later episode. To film them, he traveled to a remote area just south of the Sahara desert, where the animals migrate over a 34,000-sq. km. area. “These aren’t like elephants you’d see on safari in Kenya or Tanzania,” Poole says. “They don’t tolerate cars or people.”

To really get into the elephants’ lives, which are sadly marred by tragedy, Poole had to follow the creatures on foot, without ever making them aware of his presence. “I’ve spent a lot of my life filming elephants,” he says, “but they’re big, they’re dangerous, they smell really well and they hear really well. I just had to hide myself with the wind and move closely with them.”

To see more of Poole’s adventures, check out the clip above, and tune in to Great Migrations Sunday nights on National Geographic.