THE WILDEBEEST MIGRATION IN TANZANIA.
Tanzania is the biggest country in East Africa and is best known for its vast wilderness that covers many reserves like the Serengeti. In some of these reserves you can find the largest population of elephants and the rare tree climbing lions. Tanzania is also the home of the highest mountain in Africa, the Kilimanjaro, standing at 19,000ft. You can also find the Olduvai Gorge, and the black wood which is the most expensive hardwood all in Tanzania which is also the birthplace of the unforgettable Freddy Mercury, lead of the band Queen.
This country, twice the size of California, is also the home of the wildebeest whose migration throughout the year is a spectacle. Christened the Great Wildebeest Migration, it happens all year round as the Wildebeest of the Serengeti National Reserve search for better pasture and drink. The wildebeest are often followed by zebras, gazelles, eland, impala and predators like lions and cheetahs. Their movement pattern is fairly predictable as they follow the rainfall pattern of the year. As many as 1.5million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras participate in the migration. The zebras follow the wildebeest because they eat a different part of the grass from their counterparts. The large numbers also help to protect some from the predators though as many as 250,000 wildebeest still die from exhaustion, starvation and predators like crocodiles that wait for them at river crossings. As many as 3000 lions track down the migration annually.
The wildebeest have been known to use swarm intelligence which helps them to overcome obstacles in their path. Serengeti, where most of the migrating happens, is the oldest ecosystem on earth with plant and animal species that can only be found in the Serengeti.
The migration starts in the late November till December when the wildebeest arrive in Serengeti following the start of the short rains. Wildebeest can be seen in all inches of the reserve feeding on the fresh grass. They stay there through to March, in which most of the calves are born, as many 300,000. They spread around all through the reserve until they start migrating north in around April. By May, all the wildebeest are moving north seeking more and fresh pasture and water. The scene becomes maddened and hectic as they form many travelling groups around the Moru area with a large herd of animals including zebras and gazelles.
The migrating herd is then halted at the Grumeri River in June, and they congregate in the Western side corridor building up a high concreteness before crossing over. Here the wildebeest encounter the crocodiles that lie in wait patiently awaiting to snatch them and drown them under water. The migration continues through July till August as the Wildebeest move northwards through Grumeri reserve and to Ikorongo and some branch off through the middle of Serengeti Park. September finds the herds widened out athwart the North Serengeti, someplace that the Mara River which gives the migration the most grave impediment. This river pours out through the northern Serengeti from Kenya’s neighboring Masai Mara Game Reserve. Watching the frenzied herds of wildebeests migrating whilst crossing the Mara River can be very magnificent; there are regularly scenes of immense panic and perplexity. It’s frequent to see the herds crossing the Mara River North on one day and then back south aonly some days later.
In October, Wildebeest have less panic as they all with one accord start migrating south just as the short rains are about to start. They move all the way through the western Loliondo and Serengeti Park’s Lobo area going back toward the green shoots that are mushrooming. The sheer number and determination of the wildebeest to find unsullied pasture and water, and the obstacles they overcome every year is a spectacle for anyone.
THE THINGS TO SEE AND DO.
While in Serengeti, there are countless things you can do to have a good time.
Watch The Great Migration.
A visit to the Serengeti is not complete without watching the great migration which involves more than a million wildebeest and nearly half a million zebras and gazelles. The most spectacular point is the Mara River crossing where the ungulates herd up and create a density to cross the river. However nearly half of them, especially the young and weak do not make it past as they get eaten up by crocodiles in the water and lions that chase around the herd. It is things whose magnitude will leave you dumbfounded and the resilience of the wildebeest will astonish you. It will fill you with an appreciation for life.
Visit The Olduvai Gorge.
Located in the great rift valley of East Africa, the Olduvai Gorge is an important find for archeologists worldwide. It is the place that famous archeologists Louis Leaky discovered the oldest remains of man that widened our understanding of how our ancestors used to live. Their remains are said to have been more than two million years old. At the gorge, you can also enjoy a breathtaking view of the grassland that stretches out.
Experience the call of the wild.
In case you do not get jitters about sleeping in the open, sleeping in the reserve is a good way to experience the wild. In Serengeti, you will be provided with accommodation within the grassland. You will be provided a safari tent from which you will hear the nocturnal animals going about their nightly business. You will be able to hear jackals yelping, the cry of the African Eagle, elephants moving around and the thundering roar of the might elephant that will make your heart skip.
One of the classy ways to get a bird’s eye view of the Serengeti is flying over in hot air balloon. Though it will set you back a few dollars, since you will enjoy champagne and breakfast aboard, it is a majestic way to experience the wild. You will enjoy the rising sun which kisses the horizon in the early morning and watch most of the animals in their first movement as they each seek the first meal of the day in their own way.
Visit the Moru Kopjes.
Kopjes are like Miniature Mountains that rise up in a sea of grassland. The Moru Kopjes in central Serengeti are the most popular. Bushes, trees and vines rise out of them and offer a fantastic hideout for predators like cheetahs and lions to scan the expanse for their meal. As you behold the Miniature Mountains, you feel like a member of the audience that watched Simba get presented to his former kingdom by his father.
Another fantastic way is to catch sight of the animals in their day to day activities like hunting and feeding. It is also the best way to see the African Big Five which are the African Lion, the Cape buffalo, the African Elephant, African Leopard and the rhino. You can arrange with your guide and let him know which animals you need see since these guides are trained and experienced in tracking and spotting the animals. A good guide can turn a great drive into a spellbinding one.
Night time Game Drive.
However, if you want to catch a glimpse of the nocturnal animals that a rather unseen at night, you will need to arrange a night time drive. Mostly these are not allowed in the reserve though some outfitters are allowed to arrange them. With a night drive, you will be able to see rare creatures like the hyena, the jackal, the nightjar, the African Eagle, and a host of other night time animals.
Explore a Masai village.
Witness the lifestyle of East Africa’s most popular tribe which has had ties to the Serengeti for centuries. See them dressed in their unique attire that sets them apart. A typical visit will involve visiting a local school and some Masai dancing where the dancers jump until their heads touch the skies. The Masai are a welcoming people and you will have a good time hanging out with them.
Serengeti Visitor Center.
Visit the Serengeti Visitor Center which is a treasure trove of information. You will learn about the history of the Serengeti reserve, the oldest ecosystem on the planet. You will learn of its importance to the people near and around it, and whole lot of other information about the animals like the big five, the great migration, and so much more. The centre also has a walkway for those that would like to take walks of the reserve on their own. Explanatory signs are placed all around the walkway that teaches you a few things about the animals. Though visitor centers are usually neglected, they can be a fantastic place to learn about the places you are visiting. They can also be a cool hangout for those that are not into hunting down animals.