March 6, 2013
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, when is the best time to see the Great Migration? Since the giant herds consisting of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle are constantly on the move in a year-round circuit, there really isn’t one definitive answer.
The migration is driven by rainfall patterns and the subsequent grazing potential on the nutrient-rich green grasses it produces. Each month of this circuit offers visitors a look at one of the unique and dynamic facets of the migration, whether it is calving season, the rut, or river crossings – there is always something interesting to see!
Read on as our safari consultants, Bryan, Emily and Andrew reveal their perspectives on the migration and share their experiences, photos and favorite times of the year to witness what has been called Nature’s Greatest Show on Earth.
Although the dry season river crossings have been well documented on many nature films and are touted as being the highlight of the migration, I much prefer seeing the herds together in the largest groups during the calving season from January through March. During this time, the wildebeest are clearly in a “safety in numbers” mode as they birth their babies and graze on the grasses of the southern Serengeti. As they follow the light rains, about 2 million wildebeest move together in herds with almost 200,000 zebras mixed in. The first time I witnessed this, it was like the animals had melted together in a sea of brown – it took a minute for my brain to fully process the amount of animals I was actually looking at! The most amazing part is that they can sense where the rains are falling and seem to move in a hypnotic trance in that direction. This is an ideal time for predators too and the potential for action is high. Spring in the Serengeti was a definite highlight for me and, I think, a great time for safari travelers to visit Tanzania.
Click to enlarge Bryan’s photos
I find it extremely difficult to pick a favorite time of year to see the migration, but I do love visiting the Serengeti in May and June as the migration makes its way to the western corridor through the central Serengeti and collides with the big cat populations that reside in this region year round. The opportunity for a big cat kill is at its peak during this time. The best part is that our central Serengeti camp is right in the heart of this area. During my Signature Safari in May, I had the opportunity to stay in this camp; the proximity to the wildlife and the Great Migration was incredible. We would drive a mere mile away from camp and the wildebeest and zebras were everywhere!
May and June is also a time of year known as the rut when the wildebeest mate. To add to the drama of this period, males try to attract the attention of the females with various displays of aggressive behavior. Guests often capture incredible photos of male wildebeest sparing and fighting to win the affection of the nearby females. Some of my best photos of the migration were a result of the many drawn out fights that took place.
I wouldn’t hesitate to travel back to Tanzania in May again to experience the rut, the mega-herds, and of course, all of the amazing permanent wildlife that resides in the Serengeti year round!
Click to enlarge Emily’s photos
I was on my most recent safari back in November and had an unbelievable time with my guide Casmir. Many folks will read that November is a month when the “short rains” return to Tanzania and so they will opt not to visit at this time. Well, they are missing out! November is an absolutely gorgeous time to be on safari. If anything, the little bit of rain I encountered added to the experience. After all, water is life in the Serengeti!
November is one of the only months on the calendar when travelers can enjoy both dry season and green season wildlife viewing on the same trip. The predators are active, the herds are vast and you (and the wildebeest) will also enjoy the first green grasses and wildflowers of the season. I was lucky to catch the migration in both the northern and central Serengeti at this time of year. So, if you are considering a safari to Tanzania and you are available to make the trip in November, go for it. You’ll enjoy unbelievable scenery and wildlife viewing and you’ll have most of the bush all to yourself. (Flight prices are also at their lowest in November!!)
I always say that anytime is the best time when you travel with a company like Thomson Safaris who makes it a priority to always use seasonal camps. Whether you go in the summer or fall when we bring guests to our camp in the northern Serengeti to catch the migration during the peak of the dry season, or the winter and spring when our guests have the opportunity to see the migration in the Southern plains, our guests will have the opportunity to see all of the great facets of the migration because we make sure they have the best access to it all.
Click to enlarge Andrew’s photos
February 25, 2013
We are excited to share the launch of our new website with you – that’s right, Thomson Safaris has a new look! Visit our site and escape to Tanzania via beautiful photographs and videos from our safari and Kilimanjaro guests. We hope you enjoy the site’s new features including Kilimanjaro trekking maps, a photos & videos section and testimonials from Thomson Safaris’ travelers.
Use our new website to book your next safari or Kilimanjaro trek or request a catalog to start planning your adventure to Tanzania!
February 5, 2013
Nainokanoka Village Celebrates Efforts of Thomson Safaris & FoTZC to Improve Education for Community
Maasai songs reverberated through the hills of Ngorongoro from the village of Nainokanoka during a recent celebration for the completion of teachers’ housing built by Thomson Safaris and Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FoTZC).
Judi Wineland, Director of Thomson Safaris and FoTZC Board Member, attended the celebration at Nainokanoka and said, “The ceremony was magnificent. The teachers’ house, which will house 2-3 teachers, is perched above the Nainokanoka valley, furnished by the village, and with teachers ready to move in. The village hosted an incredible celebration with village elders, the District Commissioner, the District Executive Director, and performances by Maasai students, Maasai warriors, and Maasai mamas. It was an honor to be part of this great day and to be thanked wholeheartedly by the entire village.”
The desire to educate children is strong throughout Tanzania – a country where the government mandates all children attend school – however many challenges still remain. Attracting teachers to remote locations where housing does not exist is the most serious challenge. Teachers’ housing has proven to be an integral component to the sustainability of education in Tanzania; if housing is made available, teachers will come to stay and educate the children.
The efficacy of teachers’ housing can be seen in the successes at the primary school in the remote, Maasai village of Sukenya, where FoTZC built housing for four teachers. In 2010, the school ranked 51 out of 59 schools in the district; following completion of teachers’ housing, and the arrival of a new headmaster and teachers, Sukenya Primary School’s ranking skyrocketed to 9 out of 59 within the year. We are also happy to report that more and more Maasai families in the Sukenya area send their children to school, including Maasai girls.
Students singing a song about how books will bring them out of poverty during the celebration of teachers’ housing at Nainokanoka Primary School. During the ceremony, Judi Wineland told the crowd, “Only education will allow you to make good choices in life, you will be able to bring about changes.”
Learn more about the teachers’ housing and other initiatives throughout northern Tanzania at Focus on Tanzanian Communities.
January 23, 2013
Thomson guest and talented beatboxer, Ben Mirin, shared a special cultural exchange with the Maasai during his safari earlier this month. The Maasai taught him their ceremonial dance and Ben introduced them to the sounds of beatboxing – music they have never heard before. To see how it all unfolded, watch the video below and then read our interview with Ben to learn more about beatboxing and his unique visit.
This musical experiment is impromptu, but it blends basic beatbox techniques with elements of Maasai traditional dance. Creating it with this amazing group of people was a wonderful experience.
How long have you been beatboxing? Do you beatbox professionally?
I’ve been beatboxing my entire life, or at least as long as I’ve been actively listening to music. My earliest memories of it come from watching cartoons around age seven or eight. I would listen to the theme songs of shows on TV, then repeat the drum and melody lines back to myself, often simultaneously. I can only imagine what my parents thought at the time.
I became a professional beatboxer when I returned to the US from Japan in August 2012. I’ve been performing since late high school, but I got my first paying gigs last fall at clubs in my native Boston. I also developed a curriculum reinforced with beatboxing for an education management startup called Degrees2Dreams in Boston, and am still in the process of refining that program.
How would you describe beatboxing to someone who has never heard it before?
Simply put, beatboxing interprets and reinvents traditional musical sounds through the creativity of the human voice. To say it’s “a person imitating drums” or a DJ might make more sense, but I think that’s too simplistic. I’ve heard beatboxers imitate a huge range of instruments—brass, synth, guitar, etc.—very well, as well as produce musical sounds unique to the human voice. It’s music with your mouth, and it’s a growing genre in Hip Hop and international music.
How did you explain beatboxing to the Maasai?
These Maasai had already shown me incredible kindness by giving a riveting dance performance, and subsequently by teaching me how to dance with them. I explained through a translator that I wanted to express my gratitude by sharing an authentically American musical tradition with them. As the video shows, I began with some very basic beatbox sounds (bass drum, high hat, snare) and asked them to mimic them. Mimicry is a touchstone in my own experience becoming a beatboxer, and I think it’s a natural starting point for anyone interested in trying to learn.
How did the Maasai receive beatboxing?
This I think it is clear in the video…the Maasai loved it! Beatboxing has its roots in New York City, but recently it has become a worldwide phenomenon. This was the first time any of these warriors or women, or the Tanzanians nearby, had heard beatboxing, and I hope a few of them might carry the music with them and help it reach new parts of the world.
What were your impressions of Maasai music?
From what I know about Maasai culture (and I hope to expand that knowledge base), it seems natural that their vocal music tradition should be incredibly robust. In the absence of instruments, which may be too expensive or cumbersome to carry around, they sing with a lot of percussive as well as melodic sounds, from rhythmic bass lines to hisses and loud yelps. It’s completely a product of their environment, and that’s what I love most about it.
How did this experience inspire you creatively and do you think it will inspire your music in the future?
The best thing about beatboxing in my opinion is its universality. It draws on the inherent creative potential of an instrument—the voice—that people use to speak thousands of unique languages across the world, let alone make music. This experience in Tanzania has really got me thinking about ways to explore beatboxing’s potential as a cross-cultural force, with applications both within and beyond music.
Do you have any additional thoughts about the experience?
It isn’t the last…
I want to extend a final thank you to Thomson Safaris! It’s fantastic that you are so engaged in helping local communities in Tanzania, and as someone who balks at being a tourist wherever and whenever possible, I am grateful for the chance to have done something similar. This wonderful experience couldn’t have happened without everyone involved in your program.
To learn more about Ben Mirin and his beatboxing, visit his website.
December 20, 2012
Looking for some last-minute gift ideas for a safari, trekking or travel-enthusiast?
The following 10 items are gifts we have loved receiving or are topping our lists this year…(hint, hint)!
You wouldn’t dream of going to Tanzania without a camera! Be sure to make yourself familiar with all of its features well before your departure. Stay tuned to our blog for safari-specific camera recommendations – coming soon!
Binoculars are a must for safari travelers. We like this pair by Bushnell, Bushnell Legend Ultra HD, for its image clarity, color fidelity and light weight. It also features a rain proof coating for inclement weather.
|Preload a Kindle with Travel Books
The Kindle offers a great way for readers to travel with multiple titles and minimal weight. Gift a Kindle to your favorite traveler; while you’re at it, load it with great books that inspire or educate them about their upcoming travels. Check our reading list to find trekking or safari-specific book suggestions like the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to African Wildlife and Peter Matthiessen‘s The Tree where Man was Born.
|Inreach Smartphone and GPS
Stay in touch with friends and family in remote places! This handy device transforms your smartphone or tablet into a GPS tracking system that not only locates your position but automatically keeps your friends and family up to date on your whereabouts. Learn more!
While an altimeter is not necessary for trekking Kilimanjaro, it sure is nice to watch the reading increase as you gain altitude and strive to reach 19,341′. A great gift for the Kilimanjaro trekker in your life!
|Songs of the Maasai Steppe by Loruvani
Put a soundtrack to the memories of your travels to Tanzania and watch/listen to the video above featuring spiritual and uplifting Maasai and Swahili gospel songs. Proceeds of the sale of this music go directly to the villages of the Maasai singers. Preview and purchase a CD or MP3s here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/loruvani
|Andy Biggs Photography
Iconic photography from Africa makes for a very special gift. You can purchase imagery from professional African wildlife photographer and Thomson trip leader, Andy Biggs. His photos are signed and printed on acid-free fine art papers. Visit Andy’s photo gallery.
Modern Travel Posters
|Map Travel Journal
These handcrafted journals by Kristin Crane can be customized with any map of your choosing. Beautifully assembled, these little pieces of art are sure to be a treat for the traveler on your gift list.
Tried and true, this crank flashlight will always provide illumination without having to worry about batteries. Great for travelers headed to remote destinations.
—–Be sure to check our Dear Santa board on Pinterest for more ideas.
December 17, 2012
This beautiful film was just released! Have a look to learn about projects and communities we are proudly supporting in Tanzania.