Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Serengeti: Calving Season, February 2012

Ever since my return from Botswana in September 2011, I had been constantly reliving memories of that wonderful experience: the beautiful landscapes of the Okavango Delta, the amazing wildlife roaming across the vast savannah, the smell of African wild sage lingering in the cool morning air and the occasional roar from a lion in the distance. How I longed to be there once more!

An opportunity arose in February 2012. Bill had been working long hours for the previous couple of months and was in need of a short break. Our initial plan was to visit somewhere ‘local’. Perhaps Bangkok, with its vibrant city lights, or the cultural ruins of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. However, although these places had their attractions, my heart lay elsewhere. Having dropped a couple of subtle hints to Bill, he finally relented and agreed to accompany me on yet another venture to my beloved Africa.

We hurriedly explored our options and within a matter of days, we had made the necessary arrangements. We would be setting off for our second expedition to the Serengeti, Tanzania. This was the destination for my first ever safari in 2009 and the place where my love affair with Africa began.


Our journey from Singapore to Tanzania took around 30 hours. Although it was long and arduous, I was not deterred - I knew that I was heading to my ‘Utopia’. By the time we finally arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport we were lethargic but, at the same time, elated. As we boarded the charter plane for the final leg of our journey to the Serengeti, my tiredness wore off and my heart began to beat with excitement. I could hardly wait!

Inside our charter plane.

During our flight from Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti we encountered a lot of turbulence and a couple of our fellow passengers suffered from air-sickness. To escape from this unpleasantness, I distracted myself by looking out of the aeroplane window. I was rewarded with some fantastic sights. Our journey took us over Africa’s tallest mountain: Mount Kilimanjaro…

The snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.

…the Great Rift Valley, the Ngorongoro Crater – the world’s largest volcanic caldera…

The Ngorongoro Crater.

…and, finally, the Serengeti.

The Serengeti, littered with Acacia trees. This picture fortuitously captures the shadow of our plane sweeping across the savannah.

Once the plane landed, I stepped out of the aircraft, took a deep breath, turned to Bill and said, “Darling, we’re back!”

Our camp was located in the Ndutu region, to the southeast of the Serengeti National Park. Mention the word ‘Serengeti’ to a seasoned Africa wildlife traveller and you will immediately conjure-up images of the wide-open plains, the vast herds of wildebeest and the abundance of predators. This is the venue for the ‘migration’, where over 2 million animals embark upon their annual trek around the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.

Map of Serengeti with Ndutu.

As we began to collect our belongings from the plane, we were approached by our new guide who introduced himself as Fidali. On our way towards the camp, we had our first sighting of a herd of wildebeest grazing. Following close to the wildebeest cows were the newly born calves.

Can you spot the tan coloured calves?

We were fortunate, or, shall I say, we went at the right time for the wildebeest calving season. During the month of February, the wildebeest congregate at the southeast of the Serengeti where they synchronise their births and ‘drop’ their calves simultaneously. The short grasses, which enable the animals to spot their predators, are also an excellent source of nutrients for lactating mothers and their new-borns.

It is, indeed, a paradise for the wildebeest as well as a wonderful location for us to be a part of nature’s process. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to witness the actual birthing of a wildebeest?”

Unfortunately, we did not get to see the ‘moment of birth’ but we were often there just moments afterwards. To watch the newly born calves make feeble attempts to stand up and then reach out towards their mothers was such a mind-blowing experience; something which I will never forget.


Mitch and Molly said...

What fabulous pictures from the plane!
We bet it would be quite the experience to see the calves being born!

Love ya lots,
Mitch and Molly

Sam said...

How exciting! I don't know if I will ever make it there but I love looking at your pictures!


Anonymous said...

Oh, what a trip that must have been - definitely on my wish list.

To answer your question, I use a Canon 500D with a zoom lens.