Grant Telfer, Regional Ranger Trianer at &Beyond, shares his experience of the Great Migration.
This morning I found it surprisingly easy to wake up. Still wrapped up warm in my huge bed, I could see the faint glow of the rising sun signalling the start of an exciting day and one of the most adventurous of my life. Fresh, hot filter coffee arrived and within 10 minutes I was wide awake, doing up my shoe laces, grabbing a light fleece, camera and binoculars. Time to get out there, with my guide Anthony and his Land Cruiser, to search for the mega herds of wildebeest and zebra that form the Great Migration – something that makes the Serengeti in Tanzania world famous and a life changing experience to explore.
The herds have been scattered for the last month or two, taking advantage of the rains and fresh grass but now as the rains have drawn to a close they have started shifting northwards, eventually gathering to cross the famous Mara River with its deep swirling water, steep banks and gigantic, prehistoric sized crocodiles in order to reach the plains of the Masai-Mara in Kenya.
Gravel and rocks crunching under the wheels of the cruiser signalled that we were off. The “dawn chorus” of birds, hyena, and distant lions roaring followed us for the first hour of the drive, and it was something special to feel the bush come alive after the dark night. Anthony shared a wealth of wisdom, and for me most memorable were his stories of his experiences in the bush, his knowledge and understanding of the migration, all the puzzle pieces that put it together and the build-up as he involved us in the search for the wildebeest. Tracks, old vs fresh dung and a knowledge of the land meant his gut feeling of where to find them was spot on.
I have been fortunate to visit many wild and remote areas of this continent, from central to southern Africa, and nothing quite prepared me for that feeling when you finally see hundreds and thousands of animals together. The noise of the wildebeest, that famous “gnu” sound they make, could be heard before we crested the hill and found the stragglers, heads bobbing up and down as they filed along in what looked like long ant trails across the savannah. Ahead of them the numbers swelled so that the lines all met, and gathered into one mega herd of flicking tails and tossing heads, relentlessly moving hooves broken up by the white and black stripes of the zebra navigating through the sea of wildebeest.
We sat in awe watching and soaking up this experience, golden morning light highlighting the dust that the hooves were churning up. The herd had been on the move over the course of the night and was starting to slow down, and gather in numbers for safety to take advantage of the new grass they had discovered. Once that too is finished they would move on, continually searching out and staying in tune with the rains.
With a packed breakfast and lunch on the vehicle, we spent the entire day exploring the herd. It was truly a photographers dream with so much to choose from, and the more patient we were, the more we started to watch and learn about the individuals that make up one of the most incredible natural experiences one can be fortunate to be immersed within.
This morning I had found it easy to wake up, and now I find it hard to fall asleep. The sights, sounds and smells still rushing through my mind, the feeling of being privileged to be one of only a few percent of people in our world that get to see this kept my brain ticking. I finally drifted off, excited that I have now changed my itinerary to include a further day and night at &Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas, and so tomorrow Anthony and I are off again during the Dawn Chorus to spend another day enjoying one of the most exciting adventures of my life.
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