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Honeyguide Newsletters: Spring 2000

About Africa

Reflecting on the joys of the day and anticipating the adventures of tomorrow.

The Honeyguide: Spring 2000
The Migration

Yes, the herd migration in Tanzania confuses a lot of people. Many people ask "When does it happen?" and "What will I see?" Well, here is the Tanzanian migration in a nut shell.

Herd migrations are not like bird migrations. Birds, like many humans, tend to have a summer home and a winter home with two major migrating periods each year. The herd, namely wildebeest and zebra, is always moving. Thus, the migration happens all year round. It is based on the rains, which fill the temporary watering holes and bring life to the grasses on the plains. There are two rainy seasons*. The long rains usually happen between mid-March and mid-May (not the best time for 4 wheel drive safaris). The short rains usually occur between mid October and mid December (a relatively pleasant time to travel). When it rains, the herds are on the plains. When it is dry, the herds are in forested areas with permanent watering holes, such as Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and the Northwest section of the Serengeti. (Animals also migrate in the southern parks).

Now, besides migratory animals, there are non-migratory animals. For example, elephants, giraffe, the cats (for the most part), and some populations of wildebeest and zebra do not migrate. In other words, there is not a bad time in Tanzania to see animals. If you are travelling during the dry season, you will see plenty of non-migratory animals in addition to seeing the animals at permanent watering holes. If you are travelling during the rainy seasons (the short rains preferably), you will find the non-migratory animals, just like in the dry season, and the herd on the plains.

Yet, there tend to be two times of the year when the herd activity is of great interest:
1) Mid-May to Mid-July. The advent of the long dry season quickly dries up the grass and temporary watering holes. The migratory herd in the Serengeti is rapidly moving westward, where there are permanent rivers. This tends to be the most dramatic movement of the yearly migration.
2) February to Mid-March. This is baby season. 90% of the female wildebeest give birth within a 3-week period. Zebra also tend to give birth during this time period.

*Please note that nature is unpredictable and varies from year to year. These are averages.

About The Honeyguide

The Honeyguide - a monthly email newsletter - is named after the Greater Honey Guide, a bird that has developed the remarkable habit of leading tribespeople to wild bees' nests, with the promise of honeycomb and grubs once the humans have opened the nest and taken the honey. The complementary relationship shared by bird and human represents the newsletter's goal - to periodically lead readers to new and timely bits of information about East African wildlife, culture, and travel.

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