Thursday, July 8, 2021

Northern Serengeti and The Great Migration, Tanzania: July 7, 2021


Leaving Kubu Kubu in Central Serengeti, we drove north toward the Mara River hoping to see some of the great wildebeest migration. It didn't take long before we came across some of the lines of wildebeest headed north.

The Great Wildebeest Migration, the largest mammal migration on Earth, travels through Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. Over two million wildebeest accompanied by smaller numbers of zebras and antelope follow the rains looking for green grass and fresh water. Because it is instinct and weather driven, no one is able to give an exact date for the start. The migration is really a 1,000 mile, 12-month circle with no beginning or end.

In February in the highlands of Ngorongoro Crater 12,000 wildebeest babies a day are born over a 3-week period. Here the weakest, most vulnerable young are picked off by predators. 

April to June heavy rains drive wildebeest northwest through central Serengeti and past the hazards hiding among the Simba kopje. The males are in rut during this time.

July to October begins the dry season which triggers herds to attempt the perilous crossing (hungry crocodiles) of the Mara River on their way north to new grass in the Massai Mara in Kenya. 

November to December the herds leave the now over-grazed land of the Massai Mara and begin their journey south toward Ngorongoro where the females, now pregnant, will give birth and the migration cycle begins again. The females will even put off delivering their calves until they sense the coming rain.

Our driver explained that the migration has a head, a belly, and a tail. So far we've seen some of the head of the migration. We're hoping that when we get to the Mara River, we'll see some of the belly or a mass of wildebeest crossing the river.

Along the way we ran into more of the migration's head. There were thousands of wildebeest here. For some it was a speed dating event, for some they just followed in a line behind the wildebeest in front. There were many 4-month old babies with their short horns on their very first migration journey.

Four-month old wildebeest
After watching the group, I would say there are very indecisive. Although I couldn't see it, they were trying to cross a stream. The lines of wildebeest filed toward the stream and out of sight. Then, they rushed back. Repeat.

Going
Returning
Going again

Although interesting, we needed to get going. Not too far away we passed a "controlled" burn site with no person in sight. For a few days the air has been smokey as a result of these controlled burns. The Marabou Stork was happy to lunch on barbecued grasshoppers. In some of the earlier burned over areas, grass was already returning and grazers were taking advantage of the fresh blades.


Marabou Stork at the Barbecue
Flat tire #2 - no more spares
Tire fixed and we met up with the rest of our group for a picnic lunch at a river filled with hippos.




The rest of the day was spent getting the spare tires repaired and to our night's lodging. The tire shop took quite a while to fix the two flats, but the tire shop was across the street from the busiest corner in town. Customers came and went constantly from this shop that was selling grain.


We stayed at Mara Under Canvas. Our room was a large tent complete with bathroom and shower facilities. The tent camp is moved each year so no part of it was permanent. This year it was in the path of some of the migrating wildebeest who provided a lovely sonorous soundtrack to the evening. I found their deep-voiced lullaby so calming and sleep inducing. As long as the wildebeest were present, I knew there were no predators about.

No comments:

Post a Comment