Friday, July 9, 2021

The Great Migration (continued) in Northern Serengeti, Tanzania: July 8, 2021


This morning Dan, I, and four others (Salva, Farhan, Dee, and Winn) got going very early because we were taking a hot air balloon ride. Before sunrise, we were driven to the lift off site where we met our pilot. He explained how to get into the basket and how to get out. The wicker basket had room for 10 passengers. There were only eight of us on this flight. The basket had dividers separating the passenger spaces.The basket very much resembled a basket used to carry wine bottles but on a much larger scale. We had belts around us and lanyard that would be attached to a loop inside each passenger compartment for the flight. As the balloon was being readied we were allowed to walk inside the balloon. The passenger basket was on its side so getting in seemed more like getting into a space capsule. Once hooked in we briefly waited while the balloon became full enough with hot air to lift us off the ground. 



Our pilot Mohammed was the first Tanzanian to be certified to fly. He kept the balloon at a low elevation so it felt like we were skimming over the Mara River and the animals below.



Passing over the Mara River and some of the places the migrating wildebeest will cross.




A hyena
Topi, also called Tsessebe, is a type of antelope
Two Frightened Springbok
Animal Trails
Buffalo

The landing isn't simply putting the balloon down in a spot. The balloon continues to drag across the ground until it stops. In this case, it was stopped by a tree. The pilot said that the tree stop was much better than a rock. Rocks camouflaged by grass dot the hilly landscape. Anyway, we landed and the basket stayed upright and we all had a great time.

The Landing
Our Pilot: Mohammed
Post Balloon Flight, we toasted with juice or sparkling wine and then were ferried to a spot in the savannah where we were served a beautiful breakfast and more sparkling wine with mango juice.

Post breakfast we were taken to meet up with one of our drivers to wait for/observe The Great Migration at the Mara River. The wildebeest weren't crossing, but the Nile Crocodiles were sunning themselves next to exposed sand bars, ready, and waiting for lunch.




We watched and waited, too.


The crossing of the Mara River is so perilous it's no wonder that it takes a long time for the wildebeest to make the plunge. There was a lot of indecisiveness. Finally when there was enough of a critical mass a group pushed on. 



Our vehicle wasn't in the best place to photograph the animals as they came up our side of the bank. When the wildebeest did get to the top they were so extremely worn out from that mad dash across the river and the climb up the hill. We saw some reach the top only to go back down to help out their 4-month old calves or vice versa. 

The first group of brave migrators wasn't very large. We moved to a better position and hoped for another wave of wildebeest. And there was another wave beginning with an orderly line. The line soon became a scrum with panicked animals madly working their way toward our bank.










I'm relieved to say that we didn't witness any loss of life or limbs to the Nile Crocodiles.

We waited for several more hours for another crossing. We watched the wildebeest gather on the other side, but as the light began to dim, they moved away, past a group of grazing elephants, and up the hill in an orderly line.

We saw the head of the migration and maybe part of the belly. It will continue into October and then return to the Mara River next July.



On our last night in the Serengeti there were more wildebeest lullabies with the sound of rain added. I'll miss the excitement of seeing animals so very close. Tomorrow, we fly to Zanzibar.

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