The Serengeti Migration
You’ve seen it on television and maybe even went to watch the IMAX version. You’ve read about it and probably dreamed of one day witnessing it firsthand. It is something that can still inspire wonder at the amazing planet we live on: THE MIGRATION. This extraordinary annual trek that wildebeest and other grazing herbivores embark on across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is one of the greatest spectacles in the natural world. Over two million wildebeest partake in this journey, with about 200 000 zebras behind the main players. To be on an endless plain with thousands of animals galloping around you while the red dust of Africa hangs in the air is a dramatic experience that you can only fully understand once you’ve been there yourself. It is the one thing that is much better in real life than on the big screen!
Our group of nineteen people met at the check-in counter of Kenya Airlines to check in and to prepare for our midnight flight via Nairobi to Kilimanjaro International Airport. We touched down in Nairobi and board another flight to Kilimanjaro where we were met by the friendly safari team who did our transfer to Ngare Sero Safari Lodge, east of Arusha, where we spent our first night in Tanzania. The next morning we made an en-route stop at a supermarket in Arusha for last minute shopping. We did an afternoon game drive in Lake Manyara National Park with the Rift Valley escarpment which looms on the eastern horizon forming an impressive backdrop to the lake. We stayed over at the Serene Manyara Lodge overlooking Lake Manyara.
After breakfast we drove to Ngorongoro Crater and descend 600 m into the magnificent crater for game drives. We witnessed an unforgettable spectacle of African wildlife – a world teeming with animals. Supported by a year round water supply and fodder, the park supports a vast variety of animals, which also includes the black rhino. Another big draw to this picturesque park is the dense population of predators, which include lions, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs and the ever elusive leopard. We also drove through the haunting forest and feast our eyes on some of the most spectacularly green vegetation you will ever see. Later in the afternoon, you ascent up to the crater rim where we overnight at the Serena Ngorongoro Lodge with breath taking views of the Ngorongoro Crater.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest unbroken volcanic caldera and is regarded as the 8th wonder of the world. It is one of the most diverse and fascinating areas of Tanzania and has been granted the prestigious status of a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. The fertile slopes and steep forest-covered walls are home to approximately 30,000 animals including the rare black rhino. The various ecosystems found within the 260 square kilometre crater floor sustain Cape buffalo, elephants, wildebeest, zebras, elands, gazelles, hippos, numerous bird species as well as a high concentration of predators. Although birdlife is good throughout the year, from November to April, migratory birds from Europe and Northern Africa are present, and many resident birds are in breeding plumage.
After breakfast we drove to the Serengeti National Park and en-route visited a Maasai Village before entering the endless plains of the Serengeti. We did afternoon game drives on our way to Serena Seronera Lodge where we stayed over for the night.
Grass plains framed by rocky hills and river courses, fringed with yellow barked acacia trees, define the region. The largest pride of resident lions and cheetahs are found in Central Serengeti and reside along the Seronera River year round. Kopjes (rock outcrops), home to many of the cats hence Central Serengeti is sometimes called Cat Central. The short grass of the central area is where you find the kopje outcrops, the small granite rock formations that loom out of the seas of grass to form a distinct habitat for several species. The kopje outcrops provide a perfect viewing point for the big cats that populate these predator-rich plains.
The next morning we left the central Serengeti, with its Maasai and Simba kopjes, behind and drove towards the beautiful northern Serengeti enjoying en-route game viewing and a picnic lunch.
We stayed over at Savannah Mara River Tented Camp for the next three nights.
The far north of the Serengeti National Park is where you’ll find the wildebeest migration between August and October. The Mara River – bristling with crocs – divides this wild part of the Serengeti from the Masai Mara in Kenya and its here that you’ll find the herds when the southern plains get too dry. The northern section of the Serengeti looks entirely different to the south and western areas. This is an area of gentle undulations cut by numerous streams, which reveal the underlying granites in the area. A good stretch of the Mara River cuts right through this northern area of the Serengeti, a stunning region of kopjes, open plains, sporadic woodland and riverine vegetation. One of the sights people mainly hope to see is the wildebeest crossing the Mara River, most likely between July and October, depending on weather, as the herds spend a good deal of time crossing the Mara back and forth in search of the best grazing. It’s an impressive sight to see hundreds of thousands of animals plunging into the fast flowing water and braving some gigantic crocodiles in the process. That said, actually finding a crossing is though and mostly a matter of both luck and patience as a herd may look as though they’re about to cross, only to decide on an apparent whim to turn around and go home.
The next morning we experienced another highlight of our safari, probably the most beautiful balloon flight in the world and the Ultimate Safari Experience!!! AT 5:00 am the Balloon Safaris Company collected us from the camp, and transferred us to the launch site near the Mara River. Here we met our pilot, received a briefing and watched the inflation of the balloon, one of the biggest in the world. At dawn we took off, rising as the sun rises. The pilot can precisely control the altitude of the balloon, sometimes flying at treetop height, sometimes lower, offering a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below. At other times he will ascend to 1000 feet or more to offer you a perfect view of the enormity and wonderful panorama of the Serengeti. The flight takes about one hour depending on wind conditions, and although you won’t want to, eventually you will have to land. We celebrated traditionally with sparkling wine before we sat down to a full English breakfast prepared and served in the bush in ‘Out of Africa’ style with bone china, linen table cloths, King’s silver, etc. After breakfast, we received our Serengeti Balloon certificates, and continue our day’s activities in search of river crossings. Our first crossing was a small one right at the place where we had our breakfast and then we were so lucky to witness another two big crossings before lunch time.
We spent the next two days doing game drives and birding along the banks of the Mara River and were fortunate to find two more massive river crossings with crocodiles feeding on the white bearded gnus. Watching two million wildebeest and zebra crossing the Serengeti and Mara Plains is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We just relax and enjoyed the vast beauty that Africa has to offer. The Serengeti is one of the few places in Africa where game sanctuaries have remained completely unspoiled.
The migration is rarely ever precisely the same regarding timing and direction, as local conditions influence grass growth. So it might happen that the wildebeest start moving off the open plains earlier in some years, and remain in the northern woodlands for longer in others. But as our guides say; we trust Serengeti. You can trust the Serengeti to open the treasure chests of Africa for you and show you transcendent beauty, and abundance like you will not experience anywhere else on earth.
ANDRE VAN VUUREN SAFARIS WILL TAKE CLIENTS TO WITTNESS THE WILDEBEEST MIGRATION IN THE NORTHERN SERENGETI AGAIN IN AUGUST 2020. INTERESTED PARTIES CAN SEND AN EMAIL TO andrevan [email protected] OR GIVE ANDRE A CALL ON 082 935 7405