The Serengeti has 2 seasons-wet and dry. During the dry season over 1 million wildebeest and thousands of zebras migrate north into Kenya in search of grass. As the rain returns to the Serengeti they return to Tanzania. As they move many of their predators and accompanying scavengers follow them. This is referred to as the Great Migration. The rain had started in the northern part of the Serengeti, and it was beginning to turn green, so the migration has begun. We left camp at 6:00 a.m. to head to the Mara River to see the Great Migration. Not far from camp we came upon a pride of at least 10 lions with 2 males and a cute cub. We drove near them and got some great pictures. Further down the road was a freshly-killed wildebeest. We found the offending lion under a big bush, resting before she ate dinner. She was keeping an eye on her lunch, so that no one else could take it from her. Driving on we saw thousands of wildebeest who had already made the journey back across the river. The land was littered with skeletons and wildebeest horns. When we arrived at the Mara River
Breakfast along the way
It was early morning and a little chilly!
there were thousands of wildebeest waiting on the other side. They were very indecisive. A few brave ones would come down the embankment to a spit of land at the river's edge. Others would follow, but the leaders would see the waiting crocodiles in the water and head back up the embankment. Little by little, they would come down, check out the water, and go back. Meanwhile lots of hippos were bathing nearby and crocodiles were making lunch plans. We went to two other crossing spots a few miles upstream, and the same thing was happening. Francis explained that the zebras are the leaders of the migration, because they remember the way. At this point they were just as intimidated by the crocs as were the wildebeests. As they were all milling around they sounded like a huge cattle herd with lots of bellowing and snorting. As we were driving from one spot to the next we had to cross several small streams. We didn't see any bridges in Tanzania, even on the paved highway. Instead, they just cross through the water, and if it's too high you just don't go! The safari vehicles have exhaust tubes that go up
and off the top of the cab in order to keep from drowning out in the water. As we were coming up an embankment after one of these crossings, we spotted a lion with a fresh kill just a few yards from us. She had killed a topi and what appeared to be a newborn calf. This was the second fresh kill we had seen that day, and we noticed that each of them had been ripped open on the lower belly and disemboweled. Gross, but interesting!
After 5 hours of watching the wildebeests from several locations, we were about to give up for the day. Right on cue a few began to brave the water and start across. It caused a chain reaction as many others also plunged into the river. The water didn't appear to be more than 4 feet deep with a few big boulders here and there. It didn't take long for the crocodiles to move in and 2 wildebeests began to bellow and be pulled under. The other wildebeests who were in the water made it to the opposite side, but no more were willing to try it as they saw the crocodiles drown the
2 unlucky ones. It took several minutes of struggle before the wildebeests were still and the crocs slowly swam off with lunch. Waiting to see this took a lot of patience, but it was worth it to see this annual migration. On our way back to the camp we saw the wildebeest that was killed by the lion that morning. Now it was surrounded by vultures who had just finished it off, and the only thing left was the head and the hide. Very efficient! As we were pulling into our camp we saw some baboons nearby. After dinner we were joined at the campfire by two other couples while Francis told the history of the Serengeti. His talk was interrupted by the roar of a male lion estimated to be about 150 yards away. He roared several more times within the next hour, and we were guaranteed that our armed ranger would be patrolling the area all night. At about 5:30 a.m. we were awakened by what sounded like a gunshot. After discussing it, we agreed that it must have been something else, because our guard probably didn't even have bullets, and he certainly wouldn't shoot an animal anyway!
A little later when we got up and emerged from our tent, Len talked to the ranger about the noise. Apparently he did have bullets! Three lions came into our camp and he fired into the air to scare them away. It must have worked!
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