Tag Archive: Great Migration



We came to Africa for the Great Migration of wildebeests, zebras and other wildlife from Serengeti Plains of Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The Migration is an annual spectacle following a cycle where animals search for greener grass, risk lives and limbs crossing the Mara River where their predators lurk to spot the weakest among them. It’s a “food trip” for all of them migrants and predators. So Ngorongoro is a breath of fresh air as we spotted happy, fatter wildlife who seem like they found their “happy place”. A Paradise. No one is moving from here. No migration. The animals co-exist, seem playful and no kidding, they’re fatter!

The ancient name of Africa is Alkebulan which translates to “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden”. The Egyptian word “Afru-ika” literally means “motherland”. There is a conservation area in this important prehistoric site where the discovered fossils are claimed to be earliest known evidence of the human species. After the discovery of human footprints here, it’s plausible that humanity was born here! I leave it to you to debate in your mind if this is likely the Garden of Eden. But there are more interesting facts to consider. Ngorongoro Crater is in Northern Tanzania where lies the Eastern Great Rift Valley. The area is actually an extinct volcanic caldera — the largest in the world — resulting from a volcanic eruption πŸŒ‹ where the cone collapsed some 2.5 million years ago. It is believed that the former volcano was as big as Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest in Africa — before the implosion. Today, it is a mosaic of grassy plains, swamplands, forest, and lakes which act as one big playground for an assortment of wildebeests, rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, flamingos, Egyptian geese, gazelles, hyenas, warthogs, waterbucks, elands, zebras, elephants, vultures and many species of migratory birds. Birders would love it here. Maybe they can name the countless birds we found. There are no giraffes as they can’t enter from the steep sides down to the crater lake, but they litter the volcanic rim.

If you’ve watched the epic film “Out of Africa”, you’d recall the scene where Denys (Robert Redford) flies over the Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater. That breathtaking scene from the air while the soundtrack of Out of Africa was playing — remember? Unlike the Maasai Mara and Serengeti Plains, wild animals here are in plain view. As we drove from the rim down to the crater lake, we found so many things going on it’s almost insane. Wildebeests at play, mommy and baby ellies out for a leisurely stroll, hippos grunting and snorting, some zebras playing “dead” on the sun-kissed ground, the cape buffaloes don’t seem as threatening, ostriches a-strutting, impalas, gazelles and other antelopes looking like they’re just waiting to be photographed by strangers. The area sure looks like some Membership Club or playground. If you’re only visiting one park and limited to one safari drive in as little time as possible, try Ngorongoro. The Big 5 is here. There are rare black rhinos here. And the densest population of lions in the world is here. It may not even require as much effort to find these cats. Besides, it’s cooler and less dusty here!

A permit is required to enter the crater and gorge. Mercifully, responsible tourism is observed here. Is it the Eight Wonder of the World? Frankly, I still couldn’t grasp the idea that a mighty volcano the size of Kilimanjaro once stood here. Even mind boggling is the fact that the volcano erupted and collapsed inward! Do volcanoes do that? And what were the animals that may have gone extinct with that volcanic eruption 2.5 million years ago? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeah, we’re both thinking dinosaurs. They did find some Dino bones here, along with stone tools used by humans. Now, I’m thinking Fred and Wilma. You guessed it. The Flintstones. On a more serious note, the beauty of Ngorongoro is truly remarkable. But even more intriguing is the mystery it held. For now though, I’m content with what I’ve seen and experienced. I’m happy the animals are happy. I’m hopeful the Tanzanian government maintain the “sanctity” of this site and not compromise for the sake of tourism bucks. God bless Africa!


Here you are, way too giddy with excitement in the vastness of the Savannah plains. Then your camera jammed, wasted after all that zooming in for close up shots. Must be dust in the lens. What do you do? You fish out your iPhone and try your best not to lose your calm. These animal sightings have been your Safari dreams and NO ONE, and NOTHING can ruin this holiday for moΓ­. Seriously. Then, I found a solution. It was my good fortune to be traveling with a hobby photographer. And I did push my luck by unashamedly asking if I could grab some of his photos. Master Photographer Ernie Albano, you saved the day for me! Even if my camera didn’t conk out on me, I couldn’t have taken these lovely, stunning closeups of the safari animals we met and experienced. And just so you know, your dear wife takes pretty neat photos too with her tablet! 😊

Simba and his Queen both make good profiles but admittedly, the Lion King looks more impressive with his royal mane. Ernie caught him with his mane blown by the wind in the vastness of the golden savannah. And don’t you agree he snapped a good impression of the lioness with keen hunter’s eyes? Or have a look at the Mommy and Baby Ellie out on a stroll, or this cheetah with spots so clear you’d want to run your fingers on its fur…..until it sticks out its tongue! Those zoom lens are good but obviously, Ernie has mastered these shots. I’d be afraid to have him take my closeup — warts, wrinkles and all. 😱

Some animals really look lovely. Like the swans of the Savannah — the giraffes, looking so demure with soulful eyes generously endowed with thick, long lashes. So with the regal lions, exotic cheetahs, graceful gazelles and impalas, majestic elephants, tough looking rhinos, smart baboons, sexy zebras, serious-looking wildebeests. But I couldn’t find an adjective to describe the hippos. We found more of them in Lake Naivasha and in Ngorongoro, but the stinky ones we encountered in Maasai Mara look just the same. Non-descript smelly mammals who look fearsome and aggressive? I’m trying here. Or maybe I’m just biased against them after the mauling incidents and attacks in Lake Naivasha.

Ernie took very good photos of the birds too. The yellow weavers responsible for those nests we found in many trees grace many of Ernie’s frames. My favourite. And there were others — kingfishers, herons, egrets, vultures, cranes and many more species we couldn’t name. We stopped to let him take these impressive shots every so often until we grew tired and connived to refrain from alerting him of our spottings. My bad! 🀐

Thank you, Manong Ernie, for sharing all these Safari photos with me. So crisp and clear, and such depth. Very generous of you. And ohhhh, the last 2 photos I took. Not as crisp nor clear, but just so the readers see you “in action”. Hakuna Matata!😊

And here’s one for the birders. Photo Credits to Ernie Albano, of course.

https://youtu.be/0hHx6IOJscU


I’ve had Safari dreams. The Big 5, witnessing a “kill”, perhaps a mating, or even just watching the Great Migration. Every year, some 2 million wildebeests travel from the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. This annual spectacle in these animals’ search for grass , lasts from July through October covering nearly 3,000 kilometers. To see all these wildebeests with zebras as their likely travel companions from a hot air balloon sounds mind blowing. And for good measure, a champagne breakfast in the bush after that awesome ride won’t hurt. 😊

https://youtu.be/Pc07D7si6ts

πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano

We were a party of 12 pax. The 12-seater basket held all of us comfortably, 6 to each side, with Captain Peter right in the middle. Peter is a most amiable man who just happened to love his job taking tourists up in the air over the Maasai Mara National Park. He gently reminds us about the rules while acting as captain, spotter, narrator and even photographer. Every now and then, he’d point to the balloon shadow on the vast Savannah and the Safari cruisers following our flight on the ground as we drifted quietly over the plains. He navigated the balloon right up to the Tanzanian border and pointed out the animal tracks for the migrating animals, the rivers and even joined us briefly for the post-ride breakfast in the bush. He was gone before 9 am. He did warn us while up in the air that he’d make a quick, quiet leave in keeping with his “5 to 9 job” πŸ‘Œ

Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Wildlife viewing during the dry months when the wildebeests and zebras migrate from Serengeti to Maasai Mara starting in July is simply magical. Named after the Maasai tribe who lived in the region and using the Maasai word “Mara” which means “spotted”, this reserve is home to the Safari Big 5 as well as to many other wildlife animals. Up in the balloon, Capt. Peter spotted some zebras and wildebeests seemingly playing “follow the leader” as they either moved in a line or as a pack or herd. He likewise spotted a lion but only one of us saw it. I wasn’t quick enough. He lent us his binoculars but I just knew I couldn’t build a career as a spotter. Amazing how these animals expertly camouflage themselves on trees or in the vast wilderness of the Savannah fields. Zebras make a breathtaking sight too when spotted from the air — white animals with brown or black stripes. Yes Virginia, brown. We’re told young zebras have brown stripes which turn black as they mature. I know. I didn’t know that too before coming here. What a spectacle seeing these striped animals run along with their wildebeest buddies!

This experience is absolutely worth waking up to at 3 am. Cold and sleepless, we left our hotel like zombies by 4am for a bumpy one-hour ride towards the “take off” spot where several other balloons lay on their sides before being inflated. It was very cold. And very dark. I went back to the Safari van to keep myself warm while the sun began to peek out before rising. Then the hot air balloon was readied for flight. Take off and landing were smooth. And I do like the pilot’s calm demeanour and modulated voice as he gently prepped us for minor bumps upon landing. The excitement made us forget we’ve been without nourishment since we woke up at 3am. Bush breakfast came with flutes of champagne. We can’t complain. Even the loo with a view was literally “with a view” because there is a huge gap between the flaps so that one sees the vast fields while doing his/her business.

Hot air balloon rides don’t come cheap. But I’m glad I did this. Would have wished to see zebras or wildebeests running and crossing the Mara river while predator lions and crocs lurk, eyeing the weakest among them. But the Great Migration is all there, running or not. Truly G.R.E.A.T. This natural phenomenon is just magical. Fantastic memories stored forever in my heart and mind ❀️