We flew from the small airport in Arusha into the Northern Serengeti on a tiny little plane, landing on a dirt air strip (Kogatende) in the middle of nowhere. It was quite thrilling.
Our permanent guide met us there, having driven up with our suitcases, and we immediately headed out to the Mara River, the dividing point between Kenya and Tanzania, where the Great Migration takes place.
We were seeing animals right away – We had to laugh. As excited as we were to see a few animals at a distance in Arusha National Park, it was just awe-inspiring to see many, many more up close!
Impala were first, followed by zebra…
The migration of the wildebeests from Kenya to Tanzania was our primary reason for choosing Tanzania, and although we were towards the end of the migration, it didn’t disappoint. The first 2 days we saw smaller migrations, just a few thousand at a time. Day 3 we saw many, many thousands.
One of the more interesting parts of it was that frequently, the wildebeests waited for the zebra, who have a good memory for the crossing points to go, then they follow. In the absence of the zebras we couldn’t tell what the tipping point was that took them from milling around to taking the plunge.
Although the river looks pretty calm, there is quite a current, and for the younger animals, the crossing is treacherous. Many get separated from the herd, and these are waiting to pick them off…
We only saw one get taken down, but there were many we were afraid would drown.
Mothers and babies would get separated in the river. Once the mothers got across, they would begin calling out to their babies. It was heart-warming to see them connect up. Some of the animals were so exhausted when they reached shore, they’d collapse to rest for a few minutes before continuing their journey.
Also in the river were large groups of hippos. They stay mostly in the river during the day, then move onto shore at night to graze.
We also saw giraffes and lions.
And elephants. Lots of elephants.
Late afternoon the first day we saw cheetahs hunting. They just casually sauntered by the herd of wildebeests, trying to act like they weren’t interested. We’d been there for quite awhile, and it didn’t look like they were going to attack, so we left. Minutes later our guide got word they’d made a kill so we went back. It was gross, but part of the circle of life we knew we’d see.
I swear, if this was ALL we’d seen it would have been fabulous. But there was so much more. I think I’ll probably need to add some more photos from the Northern Serengeti tomorrow. And then there’s still 4 more places!!!