EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Entries in serengeti (3)

Monday
May202013

Under African Skies

In the major metropolises where many of us dwell, the primordial beauty of the stars is shut out by light from skyscrapers, stadiums, and advertisements. Luckily, much of Africa remains the world's most pristine wilderness, making it the perfect place to rediscover and experience firsthand the amazing power of the night sky. Here are some of Epic Road's favorite African locations to do just that. 

MoroccoZagora & M'hamid, Dunes of Erg Chigaga

Travelers to the Dunes of Erg Chigaga report a sky more thickly laced with stars than any they’ve ever seen. The dunes, southwest of Marrakesh, are located sixty miles from the nearest trafficked road. This is true desert. Enjoy a delicious tajine dinner on a moonlit sand dune and then absorb the awesome power of the fiery sky.

Namibia: Namib Desert

In this nearly lunar landscape, one of the world’s oldest, it makes sense that the universe should feel so close and almost palpable. The low and flat desert horizon frames and accentuates the dome of earth’s atmosphere. According to NASA, Namibia boasts one of the planet's darkest night skies, creating a spectacular showcase for shooting stars, constellations, and the Milky Way.

Serengeti: Lamai Wedge

Sleeping beneath the enormous, glittering Lamai sky is a singular experience. The stars seem almost to descend and kiss the ground. Lay back and search for Scorpio, Cygnus the Swan, and Taurus. You may even be joined by star-gazing companions, like hyenas, wildebeest, and elephants.

Malawi: Likoma Island, Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi is a truly magical spot to view the celestial landscape. At night, fishermen use lanterns on their canoes, dotting the lake like stars in the night sky. Above, the stars twinkle like diamonds in velvet, creating a 360-degree sparkling panorama. 

Mozambique: Quilalea Island

Where better to star-gaze than from the isolation of a private island? At Quilalea, only the gentle sound of the surf can interrupt what may be one of the most romantic, stellar nights of your life. The pink and blue cloud of the Milky Way is visible overhead almost every night.

Botswana: Duba Plains, Okavango Delta The Southern Hemisphere offers a completely different view of the universe than the Northern. On a clear winter’s night (June-September), with a strong telescope, there’s a possibility of glimpsing Mars, Jupiter with its four Galilean moons, and the ever-stunning ringed Saturn.  

Friday
May172013

Rebuilding the Circle: Africa's Conservation Success Stories

Africa conservation of animals

The African continent is one of the few remaining places where we can witness the breath-taking range of nature’s diversity. Although 45 percent of the world’s wilderness lies in Africa, the human population is growing at nearly twice the global rate. With a growing population come serious threats to the natural majesty of the continent. From the windy crucible of the Cape to the steaming jungle of the Congo, from the red moonscape of the Kalahari to the blizzards of the Atlas Mountains—totally unique biospheres are disappearing before our eyes.

But the future isn’t hopeless. The tireless efforts of individuals across the continent to turn back the tide of environmental degradation make a difference every day. Here are some inspiring examples of conservation efforts in Africa that are succeeding.

Gorongosa National Park: Gorongosa National Park lies at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley, in the heart of central Mozambique. Known as “Africa’s lost Eden,” Gorongosa was recently and miraculously brought back from the brink of disappearance. Years of civil war in the country decimated the large mammal population (including hippos, elephants, buffalo, zebra, and lions) by over ninety percent, and ravaged the natural landscape.

But in 2004, the American-based Carr Foundation and the Government of Mozambique teamed up to restore the park. They reintroduced both large mammals and tiny critters, like ants, essential to rebuilding a complete ecosystem, and refurbished Chitengo Safari Camp. Since then, Gorongosa has emerged as one of Africa’s greatest success stories—wildlife is thriving and the park is once again beginning to function as a wonderful place to experience African safari. As E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s most celebrated biodiversity scientists, said, Gorongosa gives us the rare opportunity to “see earth as it looked and felt before the coming of humanity.”

Vamizi Turtle Preservation:

Mozambique’s Vamizi Island is famous for its private resort, its simple luxury, and its unspoilt beaches—but it’s also home to a large population of green and hawksbill turtles, who lay their eggs on the same pristine beaches where we tan and swim. When baby turtles hatch each winter, they immediately begin an arduous trek down to the water’s edge. Turtle survival is already one of nature’s greatest lotteries, made much more difficult by the intervention of humans who poach them for their shells or catch them in fishermen’s nets.

Since 2012, the WWF has been working with Vamizi to stabilize the turtle population. A fulltime staff of nine protects the nests, nurtures hatchlings, spreads the turtle news throughout the local community, and encourages the island’s guests to get involved hands-on.

The plight of the turtles is one of the most compelling and accessible conservation stories on Earth, and as a result, success stories are multiplying. Why not combine a world-class luxury retreat in Vamizi with the life-changing opportunity to watch hatchlings emerge from shells, and nudge them towards survival?

Singita Grumeti Anti-Poaching Unit

Before 2002, illegal poaching across Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, west of the Serengeti, was a daily occurrence. Poaching undermined the tourist potential of the reserves and, in doing so, undermined the ability of local communities to reap sustainable benefits from the area’s rich natural resources.

In 2002, Singita Grumeti Lodge, alongside the Tanzanian Wildlife Division, created an anti-poaching unit to patrol the area, consisting of 120 rangers (many of them ex-poachers) and resulting in unprecedented success. Since the creating of the unit, illegal poaching within Singita Grumeti has been virtually eradicated, and ecotourism is thriving.

Recently, Singita Grumeti has reintroduced black rhino into the reserve, as part of the “Save the Rhino” repatriation initiative, in the hope of revitalizing the population’s numbers and genetic diversity.  

Big Life Foundation

Singita Grumeti isn’t the organization that’s successfully tackling poaching in East Africa. The Big Life Foundation, founded in 2010 by photographer Nick Brandt and conservationist Richard Bonham, is dedicated to coordinated cross-border poaching prevention. In its first 22 months of existence, Big Life made 627 arrests and confiscated 1639 weapons in the Amboseli ecosystem across Kenya and Tanzania where Big Life operates. They are successfully protecting 2 million acres on a daily basis with a team of more than 250 rangers—all of whom are hired from local communities.

Since its inception, Big Life has branched out into other, innovative conservation efforts, such as GPS rhino tracking, doggy rangers, a compensation fund for livestock killed by endangered predators, and a Maasai Olympics.

The efforts of these committed conservationists are keeping certain species afloat. But much of their success depends on continued interest in the region, which spurs demand for conservation and makes it financially viable. Tourism is essential to keeping Africa’s biodiversity alive.

By choosing an African safari that engages and explores these issues, you’re choosing to keep the efforts to solve them alive.  

Thursday
Apr252013

The Great Migration: Epic Road's Recs

The great migration is one of Earth’s most thrilling spectacles—and one of Africa’s most consistent draws. Every year, millions of zebra, Thomson’s gazelles, giraffe, and wildebeest move northwards across Africa from Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of food and water. As the grazers move, so do the predators, in anticipation of the massive herds of prey. In fact, it’s the greatest migration of mammals on the planet. The arduous journey covers 18000 miles in a clockwise circle, and every year, many animals don’t finish it.

Whether you’re watching it from an open vehicle, on foot, or in a hot air balloon (yes, really) the great migration is a seriously spectacular sight. Stand witness to the natural majesty of lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, wildebeest and more as the move across the African plain, interacting at close quarters. Watch crocodiles as they hunt their prey in the Grumeti and Mara Rivers. Watch lions stalking antelope. Watch massive herds of wildebeest and zebra graze peacefully together on the flat, green plains.

The great migration in its totality lasts the whole year, meaning that there’s a wide variety of places and times to view the action. Here’s a rundown of some of our favorites, by season. 

January, February, March: Ndutu (southern Serengeti)

In the southern Serengeti, the herds birth their calves—almost all are born during a three-week period. When the herds and the newborns are strong enough they restart the migration north. Wildebeest babies are born to run, and can run alongside their mothers almost immediately after birth.

ER recommended lodges: Kusini Tented Camp, Olakira Ndutu

April, May: Seronera (central Serengeti)

In late spring, the herds move north into the Central Serengeti for rainy season. Seronera, in the Serengeti National Park, can be a taxing place to watch the migration, due to a high volume of tourists and restrictions for off-road safaris, but with the rainy season, it’s off peak with many camps closed. So in summary not our favorite time but it can have its own charm if the camps are open.

ER Recommended Lodges: Dunia, Serengeti Under Canvas, Four Seasons Serengeti

June, July: Grumeti River (western Serengeti)

The Grumeti River, in the northwest Serengeti, is the first major obstacle facing the herds. While attempting to cross the river, herds are exposed to hunting crocodiles, hoping to take advantage of distressed zebra and wildebeest.

The Grumeti River crossing is one of our favorite moments and places to see the migration, because of the stunning natural beauty of the region and the high quality of its luxury lodges.

ER Recommended Lodges: Faru Faru, Sabora Tented Camp, Singita Explore

August, September, October: Lamai Wedge, Mara River and Maasai Mara

As fall arrives, the herds move northeast towards the Mara River and eventually into the Maasai Mara. The rolling hills and endless plains of the region make for a beautiful, unforgettable backdrop to the migration. It's a picturesque, remote and unspoiled part of the Serengeti. The Mara River too, is filled with chomping crocs.

ER Recommended Lodges: Sayari Mara Camp, Lamai Serengeti, Singita Mara River Camp, Serengeti Bushtops, Governors Camp

November, December: Lobo and Seronera

The herds move south in winter, crossing back into the Serengeti National Park to birth their young and begin the cycle anew.

ER Recommended Lodges: &Beyond Klein's Camp and Serengeti Under Canvas

 

Visit Epic Road to learn more about the Great Migration