Serengeti Migration Camping in Tanzania
It was early January when we drove through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the Nabi Gate of the Serengeti. By mid morning and we decided to have a break and a cold drink before continuing. I had never seen so many bees before! They came in a huge smoke like cloud, which descended upon the picnic area. We quickly finished our drinks and elected to flee.
As we drove on I began to see a the huge plains unfolding before me. The grass was a lush green and there were numerous gazelles (Thomson's and Grants) right beside the road. We headed into the Seronera planes. Here there were simply thousands of Zebra and Wildebesste. The Gnus walked in their characteristic straight lines making strange nasal 'rrrngh' sounds. Our guide explained the reasons for the annual movement. There are several reasons for the Zebra's stripes , camoflage, blending into a group making it difficult for predatory lion and apparently, according to our guide, to set up heat exchange convection currents over their backs hence keeping them cool. This last reason seems a little far fetched but I suppose that the black areas would absorb radiation and the white reflect it, however if this were and evolutionary adaption then it begs the question why then are cape buffalo black?
We continued we came upon a pride of 7 lions right next to the road. There were 4 adult females and 3 subadults, 2 of which were males. They looked sleek and lazy, well fed from the abundance of game. These lions were so habituated that they hardly looked up when we stopped our safari Landrover next to them. It seemed a shame that some of the wildness was gone from this place but I was still in no doubt that these were killers and that exiting the vehicle would have meant certain death.
On arrival at our special camp-site in amongst some Acacia scrub to the East of the Seronera planes we got out to stretch our legs and look at the numerous animal tracks. Our guide Ami identified several species including hyena and leopard. He also spotted a smooth area on the trunk of one the trees at about shoulder height. A buffalo rubbing post where they scratch to sooth the ravages of the numerous parasites which afflict them. Higher up the same trunk there was another area of smoothed bark, an elephant rubbing post.
We also saw numerous side striped skinks and a puff adder. The later we kept well away from. Our camp was quickly erected and we settled in for the night. We had lanterns and a large fire to keep the animals away. After a sumptuos roast chicken dinner we shared some beers around the fire and told stories under a glittering sky. We told stories puntuated by the calls of varios animals notable the gutteral lion and the clamorous yelping of the Heyena. Our guide explained a KiSwahili proverb which states that : 'the lion always walks with his uncle' ('simba anatembea na iijumba yake), we laughed and carried on listening. We retired late after watching hundreds of shooting stars and slept like the dead.
The daw light was steely grey when we awakened to the sizzling of bacon and sausages. We had only just washed our faces in the hot water provided before and a superb full breakfast soon materialised. Then it was time to hit the bush again. We saw 35 lions, 4 cheetahs inummerable wildebeest and Zebra and many many antelope. The number of the animals was staggering and what made it even better was our excellent guide keeping us out of the more crowded areas and explaing much of the natural history of the various species we encountered as well as humerous anecdotes. We also saw aroud 50 species of birds and several herps.
We had a picnic lunch of salad and smoked fish by a pool with hippo and crocodiles and after returned via a wooded belt where we were luck enough to see a leopard in a tree. The is was made even more spectacular by the presence of some lions prowling below.
The were virtually no Tetse flies to cause us pain and potentially sleeping sickness. This was mainly due to the presence of the Robertson Trap. This is basically a large purple blanket soaked in insecticide in the be the side of the roads. This mimics a buffalo and initiates the fly/bite reflex of the Tetse. Anyway it has worked well!
After another superb evening meal, this time a beef casserole we had a magical night listening to lions and watching shooting stars. Our cook Paul made fresh bread beside the fire as we watched.
We kept the fire burning bright as the lions were close by.
Sunrise over the planes was spectacular. Over aromatic coffee we watched a fiery orb rise and burn off the morning mist. The dawn chorus of birdsong in the Serengeti is absolutely magical. Our guide was able to identify many of the calls before we spotted them. I cannot stress enough how much the quality of our guide and cook affected our safari. We were well looked after by knowledgable and experienced professionals who made us feel safe and secure. After another exemplary breakfast we headed for the airstrip where we would fly from Serengeti to Zanzibar for the next par of our adventure. On the way to Seronera we were rewarded with a the site of vultures circling greatview of a feeding pride of 10 lions. The had brought down a wildebeest and we still feeding. We watched other predators (Jackles and a Serval) and vultures watching jealously but not daring to come too close.
Our plane arrived on time and had to scare off some Zebra from the airstrip before landing. We were sorry to leave the Serengeti this great wilderness with its teaming game. However I was certainly looking forward to the aerial view on our departure. We boarded our plane and left for Zanzibar but that is another story!
visit Wild Things Tanzania Safaris for more information on visiting the Serengeti.
About the Author: Roy J Hinde is a former biodiversity researcher who now operates http://www.wildthingsafaris.com.