AFRICA - LAST DAY AT SERENGETI - Nov. 15th, 2009
Prior to leaving for today’s game drive we went to the Serengeti visitor’s center and learned more about the “Great Migration.” The zebras always lead the migration and the wildebeest follow. We were told this was because the wildebeest do not have very good eyesight so they stay behind the zebra and use them as guides. The name Serengeti comes from the Maasai word “Siringet” referring to the “endless plain.” As you stand on the southern grass plains, you experience the vastness and are able to witness one of the greatest concentrations of animals left on earth, yet the Serengeti is much more – nearly 2/3 of the park is bush or woodland. It was declared a Game Reserve in 1929. The park is also the center of the Serengeti ecosystem. It is roughly defined by the annual wildebeest migration. The ecosystem encompasses an area of 25-3000 square kilometers. It is the combination of Serengeti National Park along with Ngorongoro Conservation Area, four Game Reserves, one Game Controlled Area and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. These parks protect the largest single movement of wildlife on earth.
At the visitors center we saw adorable Rock Hydrax, now they are really cute! They kind of look like rabbits without ears or bunny tails. There are beautiful rocks named Kopjes (pronounced at “copy” from the Dutch meaning “little head”). The intriguing, rounded shapes of these ancient granite rocks are the result of cracking and erosion and exposure to sun, wind, and rain. They appear to sit on edge jutting straight up from the ground. They provide shelter and capture water for a wealth of wildlife and plants. Without these rocks the large animals would be unable to survive the dry season on the plains. The Moru Kopjes are outstanding for their large size and profusion of resident wildlife including lions, leopards, rhinoceros and elephants.
The Serengeti stretches almost to the shores of Lake Victoria. We were only two hours or so from Lake Victoria but it was not on our tour agenda. We tried desperately to talk our driver in to losing the other vans and head for Lake Victoria, but he wouldn’t be bribed.
The Serengeti is so overwhelming. No matter how tired I was I wanted to see more. It truly is a photographer’s paradise. On the 4-6 p.m. game drive we saw lakes with loads of hippos all squeezed together and on top of each other. The babies were in the center of the mass. This is how they protect their young and each other from the crocodiles. We saw lions, leopards, and cheetahs everywhere. We also saw several more dik-dik. They are named for the sound they make when alarmed and they look like small antelope and have an elongated snout and a soft coat that is grey or brownish above and white below. The hair on the crown of their head forms an upright tuft that sometimes partially conceals the short, ringed horns of the male. Very cute!
The “Great Migration” moves through the northern woodland plains from June-December in order to feed on the lush grass that persist in this area. Their range during this time extends north into Maasai Mara. The short rains come in November and the wildebeest move south from the northern woodlands. They move to exploit the short grass plains, where the grasses are rich in minerals so they can rear their young. In February/March one of the wildlife’s most amazing spectacles occurs. Over a 3-4 week period, the female wildebeest give birth, flooding the plains with thousands of newborn calves each day. When the rains stop, the plains dry out rapidly forcing the herds to migrate west and north once again. Their departure in May/June marks another great spectacle.
The Tsetse flies are everywhere, but I did not see any mosquitoes during the day, and only a few at night. The hotels did supply some packets of bug repellent and I make sure I put it on before I go on safari. Tomorrow we leave for Lake Manyara. MORE TO FOLLOW…