The Maasai Of The Short Grass Plains


Photo by Shaaz jung

Theft of cattle has always been a crime and rustlers have been hung for thousands of years. This controlled rustling to a large extent but not in Sudan. The Nilotics believed that God has given them all the cows in the world. Then how can it be a crime when you take back that which has always belonged to you, they often ask?

Cattle raids by the well-built and handsome Nilotic warriors was common and it is from this region of cattle wars that a branch of the Nilotics stepped away from their fierce neighbours to find fresh graze. They would later come to be known as the Maasai, the Turkana and the Kalenjin as they moved south along the Eastern Rift Valley. The latter on their part divided into nine linguistically and culturally related clans: Ogiek, Pokots, Tugen, Terik, Sabaot, Marakwet, Keiyo, Kipsignis and the renowned Nandi. They speak Kalenjin and stayed on in Kenya.

Sit around a fire at night and speak to the Maasai and the elders will tell you that the Maasai came from a region North of Turkana, somewhere from the lower Nile valley. They began their southward drift around the 15th century AD and settled into a long trunk of land stretching from what is now northern Kenya to what is now central Tanzania between the 17th and late 18th century. Many ethnic groups were displaced by this migration as prime grasslands were taken over forcibly.

The Maasai are the ethnic people that you will see in the Ngorongoro and Serengeti eco-system. This tribe is fighting hard to retain its traditional ways of life, whilst the world is trying to educate the Maasai in its odd worldly ways. We at Royal Migration Camp will take you into the very heart of Maasai life, if you so desire, to spend time with these beautiful and God fearing people of Africa.


Photo by Shaaz jung

Migration 15 Nov 2020 – Advance Scout Report


We believe the great wildebeest herds could calve late Jan to end Feb 2021.

The Migration is close. Dust of a few thousand hoofs can be seen west of Naabi. The Migration is expected to be with us, in the short grass plains around Ndutu, in the next few weeks.

Waiting for the migration is the Marsh Lion Pride, with its new kings in place, cubs born will now be with a completely different gene.

Circa 1933 – Bhopal – The Earl of Willingdon – Visit of the Viceroy

Freemon – Freemon-Thomas, 1st Earl and Countess of Willingdon came to the subcontinent as “Viceroy of India” in 1931. They were in India for five years and in that period visited Bhopal State.

The Viceroy was received at the Bhopal Station by His Highness Hamidullah Khan The Ruler of Bhopal, who had ascended the throne in 1926 when his mother abdicated in his favor. The Ruler accompanied the Viceroy in his private horse buggy to Qasr-i-Sultani, Ahmedabad Palace where the Bhopal guard of honor presented itself in full regalia.

It was well understood that the Viceroy, the Countess and the Nawab loved a good hunt and they would work in the jungles, ensconced in the wilds, in plush comfort. Affairs of the State were dealt with in meetings held at Chiklod, our private hunting lodge around fifty kilometers from Bhopal.

The ‘whose-who’ of the State would push for a position on the viceregal table set and hosted by the Nawab. The position of each seat would indicate the power that person wielded in the running of the Colony. The dining tables were long and sit-down dinners more replete with more pomp and splendor then was seen back home. The Princes wasted no opportunity in impressing the crown with their grandeur, and the officers of the colony loved it to such an extent that they took it with them to British East, to Africa and other parts of the world.

The trio, The Viceroy, The Countess Willingdon and the Nawab of Bhopal got on well and spent many days in wild Bhopal, hunting big game. The men loved a good duck shoot and would disappear into their hides as flights of ducks flew past their reed hides.

Picnic lunches and bush dinner, sundownders and unscheduled meetings, to discuss matters of state between shoots, became the norm for the days they were together.

Needless to say that Bhopal State and the Crown of England remained close friends for centuries.

The album of the hunt is kept at camp and we will be delighted to show this to you when you come and stay with us in Ndutu.

We at camp deep in the heart of Africa know how it is to host royalty in the bush. We have been doing so for over two centuries and it feels wonderful to have the opportunity to host each of you in the true style of royalty, when you visit us at Ndutu to embrace the great migration of the Serengeti.

The Great Migration – Where It Is In November 2020

The migration is coming home again to the place where humanity was born, to the place where half a million female wildebeest will drop their calves in a short period of two weeks. And we will be there to receive it with open arms.

It’s called the migration because its moving most of the time and only when it comes down into the nutrient rich short grass plains of southern Serengeti around Ndutu, that it actually settles down for a few months. Its then that the calves are born, a veritable bonanza for predators or maybe not. The biggest threat to the migration are the large packs of hyenas and scientists noted that they hunt mainly at night. The wildebeest have known this for millions of years and drop their calves between 9 in the morning and five in the evening, when the hyenas are in their dens. The calf is up and running with the mother in less than an hour. Security in numbers was also understood by the migrating herds and most of the calves are dropped in a short period of 2 weeks. The predators can only eat that much and not more.

We move our Royal Migration Camp from Northern Serengeti to Ndutu in November for it’s in this month as the great migrating herds head south they are spread across a large area between lobo down to the Gol Kopjes, almost up to Naabi. For most of the time the migration is moving through thick bush and one fails to grasp its true grandeur.

The present position of the migration is as shown in the map. Its continually moving southwards and should be with us around Ndutu in a few weeks and we do hope to see you there.

Safari Tips – What To Pack On Safari And Other Suggestions

Packing on safari is an art that has changed with time. The earlier explorers went out on horseback with their small retinue of porters walking behind in a tight group. They had a vague idea where they would find water and shot whatever they could find for food. Their safari gear was chosen accordingly. Wine gave way to champagne on bouncy backs. Sundowners and the chota peg became a fixed routine on safari. Gin & tonic was drunk to keep malaria at bay. Then came the need for more comfort with the arrival of the safari vehicles. The number of porters and the luxury desired, increased dramatically. Safari gear packed on these safaris was catered for guests who preferred to change for each meal. Dinner was a formal affair befitting the evening, always a special moment, an end to a glorious day in the wilds, even as a campfire flickered nearby. Today with camps and lodges spread across the length and width of Africa, the safari goer needs less to enjoy the wilds yet it’s easy to overpack on safari when one has no idea of the conditions that await you. That is why it’s essential to have more information on your safari when you pack. Based on our experience, we have given a few tips that you could use for your packing. We do hope you will find these useful.

Important Warning: Do note that plastic bags are banned in Tanzania. It is best advised that you carry cloth zip bags in your luggage.

Documents – please keep the original, a hard copy and a digital copy of:

a. Valid Passport with a valid visa and payment receipt of the visa
b. Flight tickets
c. Health Insurance
d. Trip Itinerary with details

Dress Code – Whilst we request that our guests respect the local customs when you are transferring to us, at camp its easy dressing through the day, although we would love to see you in the traditional dress of your people at dinner. In case you are unable to wear your traditional dress then we would be extremely obliged if you came in smart casuals or even a blazer. We have Maasai clothes at the shop, if all else fails. We love the evenings spent around the campfire or at the bar and the dining to be memorable for every one.
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Soft vs Hard Luggage – Many international flights offer 23 kg’s of checked in baggage in economy with 7-8 kg’s as carry-on luggage. If you are taking internal flights then the baggage allowance drops to 15 kg’s. Soft-sided duffel bags should be used as they are easier to fit in both local flights and your safari vehicle. Hard-sided luggage becomes difficult to manage on safaris. Please read the baggage allowances of both your international and domestic flights before you start packing. In short, we strongly recommend soft safari bags.

Please lock all the zips of your checked in luggage.

Notebook / Diary and Pens – In all probability your safari will be a life defining moment with loads of information coming your way. This is best documented in a safari notebook or a diary. Pens are essential to fill forms and you must have one, if not two, of your own.

Currency – Its best advised that you convert your US$ to Tanzania Shillings. Of all international currencies, you normally get the best rates for US Dollars in Tanzania. It is advised that you convert your money at the airport or at a bank. Do remember that US$ bills must be of updated design issued in 2006 or later, free of any rip, tear or marking.

Cards – Master & Visa are accepted in most cities but not in towns. Camps that do not have good connectivity may not be able to accept your cards.

Tips – Though the suggested tip value is in US dollars, tips are best paid in Tanzania Shillings as staff find it extremely difficult to convert foreign currency into local currency. Tips suggested are the minimum that would be well appreciated but you may pay whatever your heart desires. A Safari Guide tip would normally start from USD 60 per day per vehicle seating two guests and a good tip for the camp staff in the tip box is around USD 50 per day per tent.

Water – Most camps use water from Ndutu Rangers Post, but we bring shower water for our guests from our upcoming lodge in Ngorongoro, which is 90 kilometers away. It’s a 180 km run to get 5000 liters of water. It’s sweet and clean and we believe you will enjoy it. Only in emergencies do we use local Ndutu water.

Vehicles – Please find below the vehicles at camp. You may book these on first come first serve basic. Please speak to your agent.
Duchess 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – Open safari vehicle
Baron 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – Open safari vehicle
Duke 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – Open safari vehicle
Contessa 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – Short Chassis – Closed Safari Vehicle
Baroness 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – Short Chassis – Closed Safari Vehicle
Princess 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – Short Chassis – Closed Safari Vehicle
Count 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – closed safari vehicle – especially designed windows
Nabob 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser – ½ open safari vehicle designed for safari
Duke 4×4 Land Rover – Short Chassis – old but gold. Reserved for Directors
Buffalo Joe Supply Truck – not for guests

Plugs & Electricity – At camp, we use solar power and generators. Do note that electricity in Tanzania is 220-240 volts / 50 hertz and the sockets are British-type three rectangular blade pins. A converter plug is essential for your mobiles, cameras and personal appliances. Our safari vehicles and your tents both have charging pins.

Torch & Multipurpose Knife Set – Although, at camp your Maasai guide will have his torch and will be keeping a watch, it is advised that you carry a strong torch to move around at night between the mess tent and your accommodation tent and a smaller torch for your use at night in case of any emergency. The camping knife is an amazing tool and its use can never be predicted on safari, it seems to come in handy from time to time.

Cameras and Binoculars – To carry a camera or not remains your personal choice as a few people of late have told us that they prefer to feel and enjoy each moment on safari and retain it in their minds rather than try and capture it on film. Whatever be the case, good binoculars are an absolute must. If you are carrying a camera then remember you will have to adhere to weight restrictions on your flights but having said that, it is our experience that many airlines, if you are lucky and request with a smile and a tear, give you leeway with cabin baggage when they realize you are coming to Africa on safari. Ideally, we would suggest that you get two camera bodies with three lenses. A telephoto 400 mm or upwards with a teleconverter, a 70-300 zoom fast lens and a wide angle to capture the infinite beauty of the landscapes. Camera equipment can be bought and leased in most cities in the developed world. If budget is a constraint, then stick with a good zoom lens. Remember to always carry extra camera battery and memory cards.

Clothing – Whenever you plan your safari please take into account the:
a. Weather – Winter or summer? Is it cold or hot in your months of travel? Are the mornings and evenings cold even in summer when you are on a game drive? The Ngorongoro Highlands have an average altitude of 2000 meters above sea level. A jacket is always advisable. The Serengeti too is a high plateau sloping westward from the Ngorongoro Highlands to Lake Victoria with an average altitude of around 1500 meters above sea level. Its normally cool in the mornings and evenings and gets nippy when it’s wet. Afternoons can get warm to hot in summer.
Short Rain – November & December
Big Rains – March to May
Warmer Months – October to January
Cooler months – May to September
b. Dust – A few places in the Serengeti has black cotton soil that dries out fast and becomes a flaky dust storm behind your vehicle. Our transfers are normally done in a closed vehicle but for game drives you could well be in an open 4×4. Find out from the agent about the vehicle blocked for you.
c. Insects – in fly country, it’s advised to wear loose long sleeve thick cotton shirts and thick cotton trousers on game drives. In the evenings and for dinner, most time I wear a long traditional bottom that covers my feet to the ankles and a loose white kurta that covers my skin to the wrists with a waistcoat.
d. Type of vehicle If you are in a closed vehicle then you can get away with a lot but if you are in an open vehicle on game drives, you must take into account the cold and the dust when you pack.

The most important thing on safari is to be comfortable. Its best advised to select your safari gear based on your personal choice keeping the above points in mind. A detailed suggested packing list is given below for your ready reckoning.

Laundry – We have regular laundry by hand at camp and if you would like your laundry machine washed then we could send your clothes to Karatu. Our supply vehicle does a weekly trip to Karatu for stores and laundry.

Medicine Bag – Your medicine bag should include antihistamine, aspirin, ibuprofen, Panadol, emergency medicine, anti diarrhea, band aid, insect repellant, antacid tablets, and anti bacterial and anti fungal cream.
Ladies we suggest that you carry extra tampons, pads and panty liners (for trickle drying after urinating in the bush). Though soaps and shampoo is available at camp, you could also carry your choice of hair shampoo and conditioner if you so choose.

When you are packing for your safari, do take the above points into consideration. Ideally its best to pack the following:
4 x Inner T Shirts
2 x Loose Long Sleeve Shirts
1 x Safari Jacket
1 x Scarf
1 x Hat/Camp
1 x Shorts
2 x Long Trousers
1 x night pajama
2 x night shirt
4 x Socks
6 x Underwear
1 x Safari Shoe
1 x Slippers – Best buy a Maasai slipper
1 x sunblock
2 x insect repellants
1 x powerful torch
1 x small torch
1 x binocular
1 x safari pen knife set
Camera equipment of your choice
Memory cards
Extra camera battery
Tooth paste
Tooth brush
Medicine box with all your medicines
Passport with visa
Health Insurance
Itinerary with inclusions and exclusions
Eye lens lotion
Extra eye lens cap
Medicine Bag – antihistamine, aspirin, ibuprofen, Panadol, emergency medicine, anti diarrhea, band aid, insect repellant, antacid tablets, anti bacterial and anti fungal cream.
Tampons & pads
Panty Liners (for trickle drying after urinating in the bush).
Shampoo & Conditioner – is available at camp but please carry your own in case its special.

How Grandeur & Pomp Crept Into The Safari

 

Royal Migration Camp  – A Royal Lounge in the Serengeti – Circa 2017

Royal Migration Camp is not just an ad-hoc dream of men setting up a camp in the wilds of Africa. Anyone can do that. It’s about recreating the romance of a forgotten era, where men were wild and the wilds were in your backyard, where turntables played a scratchy tune and champagne was served at breakfast as the wine turned sour on a rocking seat, where your valet prepared your hot water bath and the house maid tucked you into bed with a hot cup of cocoa.

Camp fit for a King – Nawab Vicar-ul-Umra Hosting Royalty at his Private Tented Camp – Circa 1890

To truly comprehend the soul of our camp, we would like to take you on a journey back in time, when the mad scramble for the world unfolded and countries tripped over each other as they painted the globe with colors of their flag.

One such country, with her magnificent people, set in the British way, had its flag flying on most parts of the world. From steamy jungles to vast deserts, from thriving ports to far flung trading posts, generations of Englishmen and women sailed to challenging posts and carried with them a part of their homeland that they treasured with utmost zeal. Whether they came as civil servants or through the army, whether they came for trade or to settle in plantations and farms, traditions of back home were religiously preserved. They worshipped in steeple churches with gothic windows, raised proper children, with proper nannies, they changed for dinner, drank tea at 4 pm and always had their evening drink that they called a sundowner.

Staff Quarters for Edward Prince of Wales Arrival at Camp in Bhopal State – Circa 1921

Though most adjusted to their country of residence with ease and even took on local traditions, their insistence to form, and nostalgia for home, remained sacrosanct. They adapted to the weather, that could be hot and humid, built bungalows that resembled of home with ivy running on walls and over time they accomplished making subtle differences to their life to such an extent, that the colonists resembled one another outside their country than at home.

So impressed by sub-continent royalty were the British, that they included and imbibed the splendor of the Raj into their lives. This pomp stayed with them even after they were posted out of India. The Anglo-Indian slang, Indian food, custom and traditions were exported through the world, especially to Africa and especially on Safari.

The saheb & mesaheb, both now travelled with a retinue of servants, they had Indian curry with a ‘chota peg’. A new language adopted from Indian dialects became their lingua franca. Their furnishings were adapted for a warmer tropical climate and Mughal Motifs came into their furniture and furnishings. They were familiar with spice, porcelain, ivory, and the myriad hue of textiles found all over India. Memsaheb had truly walked the streets in earnest, maids in tow. She had taken in the sheer grandeur of the palaces and households of the rich in India and took this with her wherever her husband was posted. Rich silks and satin draped the rooms. Oriental carpets, Japanese scrolls, hanging photographs, pictures and brackets to keep china, books and paper and a piano found pride of place in her house. But once you crossed the threshold, she, the impeccable British wife, ensured that the husband would be reminded of their home in Bath or Cambridge. It didn’t end with the fixtures and fittings in her house, in her attempt at making her family feel at home, she always ensured that the values of civilized behavior had to be followed, both by them as a family and their guests. As Indian staff worked at her house and Indian noblemen and gentry often visited her, they too absorbed her British ways. Over time the world changed. Religious and cultural boundaries were crossed. A social integration never seen before gripped the colonies in its open and permeating embrace.

Staff at Royal Migration Camp  – Preparing Your Bath As The Wilderness Drifts Past  – Circa 2018

Shops back home in London, understood this and started a line of products to meet with this booming market. In England, to ease reluctant passengers more gently into the unknown of their future, elaborate preparations were made before the colony officer even boarded the ship. By the 1880’s large stores were established that catered to every need of the traveller, no matter where in the world he or she was going. ‘The Army & Navy Store’ would supply and pack everything from the tent, to the furniture and fittings, a bathroom with a tub and more. Even verandahs were packed with care and shipped. The silver was kept separately as were the clothes. Burberry made a special sturdy cloth that would withstand the thornbush and khakhi safari suits and bush shirts with a military touch of flaps and buttons became the fashion of the day. 335 pounds of clothes were permitted on the ship. The trunks had to be lined with tin to protect against insects. Shipping the colony had become big business and the Indian royals too, grabbed every bit of item they could get hold off. Formal meals mimicked elaborate dining of back home with an oriental carpet, potted palms and cane chairs, silver and bone china crockery and Queens cutlery. Dinner always ended with a dance and you will be pleased to know that dinner at camp also ends with a dance.

MAK Nawab of Pataudi, my maternal uncle, former cricket captain of India leading one of our angling expeditions into the wilds – Circa 2006

The Victorians loved travel and they certainly loved adventure. Planters had to ride many miles to get to their plantations up in the hills and mountains. At the plantations, their bungalows stood on steep hillsides amongst swaying pine trees, so reminiscence of home. Come summer those who could afford to, would gather porters, servants, children and escaped to the hillside with their furniture and piano intact. Such touring on a large scale was established by the Moghuls in India and it was exacerbated by the likes of Lord Curzon. This would, in time become the norm for the safari as these habits were exported to Africa where the safari took on a fresh hue. With over a hundred porters in tow, each porter was given 56 pounds of gear, equipment and supplies to carry on his back. Outdoor cane chairs with white damask tablecloths, folding tables and cane baskets would be taken along at all times on safari. As wine did not travel well, champagne was used instead. Thus the orange juice and champagne became popular as a breakfast drink. Gin and Tonic was drunk more as a prophylactic against malaria as the tonic in earlier days had enough quinine to neutralize the malaria virus, making it a perfect drink in the tropical land of mosquitoes.

Our Mahseer Angling Camp on the banks of the River Cauvery. Camps were set up to mould in with the surroundings. This was a temporary camp that we moved when the water rose – Circa 1999

The officers of the Colony were extremely conscientious sportsmen and when they went on a hunt, they left no imprint behind. This was easier said than done as the camps were large. The saheb and the memsahib had a tent with an attached bath and toilet. The saheb always had a separate office tent where he worked and she a place to do her make up and keep her womanly things that she so treasured. The mess tent would have a separate kitchen and the lounge tent where the couple entertained was always large with enough seating, at times it even had a piano. The armoury tent was always guarded and stored the ammunition and the different weapons to be used by both the host and hostess and their guests. Staff quarters were set at the back with a separate kitchen. As only the host and his friends, those that sat on his dining table were allowed to shoot, the lower staff turned to fishing and in their free time would head for the nearest stream or lake. This is why there was a desperate lunge to get to sit on the table with Indian royalty and their colonial officers. Whilst books were written on hunts jungle lore, regaled the many battles that the staff fought with fish. Of these fish, the mahseer would be king and took on such mighty legends that in the end even the royalty and British nobility took to fishing for mahseer.

I am a child of a million such stories regaled of our family on safari, repeated over and over again till each took on a legendary tale of its own. It was not just about the tiger jumping over a jeep and pulling Ramzani, the head of armoury with him, it was also about the staff and how they fought monster fish as they were pulled them into raging rivers. Such stories tend to grow with time. A five-pound fish landed on a bamboo rod would become a fifty-pounder monster in a few decades. One Bhopali even told me about an ancestor who jumped from his jeep onto a man-eating leopard’s back and throttled it to death. I laughed hard with the rest of us. The one thing that you never do is stop a jungle man telling his story in mid stride. He will take that as a grave affront and maybe never speak to you again. You must let the story teller tell his tale and then applaud him the good old way by shaking your head vigorously and exclaiming “wah wah.. kya baat hai. What amazing strength. What a hero your ancestor was.” Knowing fully well that maybe his ancestor never even owned a jeep or saw a wild cat leave alone leap onto its back!

To relive my past, after I walked out of cricket, I took to the jungles. As I never liked to hunt, I took up the rod and ran a mahseer angling camp for many years landing many a hundred-pound leviathan. I daresay this size will grow with my grandchildren.

When exclusionary Indian laws started to throttle eco-tourism in India, I set sail for Africa bringing with me whatever subtle colours of the Raj I could muster, to Tanzania. This is where you will find me now, lost in a world that can only be recreated in Africa for unlike India, Tanzania is not embarrassed of her past.

Nawabzada Saad bin Jung

Why Does the Great Migration Come to Ndutu?

An Incredible Sight – The Great Migration Thundering Into Ndutu

It’s been happening since the beginning of time. Nothing has changed. Come December the great migratory herds make their way south into the short grass plains of southern Serengeti. The migration comes in waves. The advance is bravely led by the effervescent Thomson’s Gazelle feeding off the fresh grass shoots that sprout in the region, followed by the wildebeest, zebra and eland. Predators like Cheetah and nomadic lions follow the herds. This movement of these nomadic lions causes a stress on the indigenous lion prides of the region as these males are forever in quest of breeding prides and can wipe out entire generation of lion cubs after killing the dominant males of the region, if they ever get a chance. As far as lions go, it’s the survival of the fittest and the wariest. Lion prides have to be careful of the Maasai that stay in the region next to prime water sources, through the dry season. If a lion kills a Maasai cow, it’s at grave risk of being killed by the Moran. Though the NCAA is doing wonderful conservation in the region, and many Maasai clans have stopped the age old tradition of killing a cattle lifter, there is always that odd chance that a bunch of warriors intoxicated by tradition, can take the law in their hands. Lions are no fools and they have learnt, over time to stay well away from these pastorals. At the same time the dominant male lions of the region have to stay in the peak of their health for any weakness can invite the wrath of the nomads. So whilst the arrival of the herds brings with it an abundance of food, it has its danger too.

The Maasai have always known about this great movement of animals as their cattle are affected by the calves that transmit a killer virus. They move out of the short grass plains before the arrival of the calves.

The calving takes place anytime between January to April. Half a million wildebeest females time their calving to perfection. The biggest killers of the calves being hyenas, the calves are dropped within a short window of two weeks, between 9 am and 5 pm. There being security in numbers. The large packs of hyenas head for their burrows in those hours preferring to hunt in the darkness.

The wildebeest calve in these short grass plains because of the natural minerals present in the fresh grass that sprouts with the onset of the short rains. The grass ensures that the calves get the best of nutrition in their weakest and most vulnerable of moments, when the young calves start to graze and from their mothers nutrition rich milk. These nutritient rich endless grass plains are fed by the short rains that start in November and continue into December. Then because of a complex geographic phenomena caused by the winds, the great lake and the mountains, the rain continues sporadically till March when the big rains come. By May when the grass is too course to feed upon, the herds start to move again following the rains and the fresh graze. They head north by north west via Moru Kopjes and Seronera into the Western Corridor.

We at the Royal Migration Camp will be following them into the western corridor this year and then onto the Mara Region for the great river crossing later in the year in July.

Note: Every now and then you will see a wildebeest calve running against the wave of migrating herds. It might attach itself to your car. Do not try and help it. It’s been estranged from its mother and is trying to find her. If the lost calve runs along with the migration, the chances are great that he might never find his mother and die of hunger. The mother knows that’s its estranged calve will always run back and against the movement of other animals. She too does the same with a greater chance of reuniting with it again.

Wildebeest running past camp.

One of the greatest experiences in the world is to hear the constant thunder of these migrating herds and to smell the soil and revel in their dust as they run for the sheer joy of running.

 

 

Viceroy Lord Minto & Lady Minto Head for Tiger Country – Circa 1909

Lord & Lady Minto Inspecting Bhopal State in a Viceregal Buggy.

In the days of the Raj, one of the foremost challenges of the Crown was to take decisions in regards with its colonies, be they in Africa or India, that would either subjugate the colony by force and keep them uneducated and warring amongst themselves in order to govern them and plunder their resources or allow the colony to blossom in its own culture and celebrate their traditions. The second choice would augur well for the peoples as they would then have access to education and reform, even a transformation of their thinking that would ultimately lead to independence from the colony, paving possibly, a path to a progressive democracy.

Of the many Viceroys that came to India, each with his own plan and his diverse thinking and administrative prowess, Lord Minto believed in reform. Back home he had 14,000 acres of lands with a castle and a wife who was Queen Mary’s private secretary. He was the perfect choice of an educated and experienced gentry, who could run the British way across the world. He had served as the Governor General of Canada and recruited 400 Canadians to strengthen Sir Garnet Worsley’s force heading for Khartoum to rescue General Charles Gordon. He was the imperial choice for Viceroy of India, after Lord Curzon’s resignation.

It is universally believed that his reforms changed India and Indian thinking. He expanded the legislative councils in India and gave them the explicit right to debate on issues relating to the people. This meant that the British Government would now have firsthand knowledge of ground level reality in India and could take well informed decisions in time. It also meant that the people of India now had a representation in how they would be ruled. It would be their first step to independence. Minto’s decision to include the Indian into the British way also meant that emphasis on education was given greater weightage leading to a more robust middle class on the backbone of which Indian society would recover from social turmoil. When societies get fragmented and divided, they are either pulled deeper into the mire by their middle class or they recover from damage because of their middle class. Macaulay had a powerful following when he said that educating Indians would lead to them thinking they could be independent from the Crown of England. Christopher Lee, writes in his book, Viceroys, “Certainly in 19th-century India there were those British who could not imagine themselves being subjugated to jurisprudence exercised by, say, Indian magistrates. Thus Lord Rippon was effectively bowing to the insecurities of the British in their own Raj.” Lord Minto did not practice nor preach these thoughts.

Morley, the watchdog, was moved in place to keep an eye on Minto, it mattered little. “Morley saw India from the banks of the Thames; he believed India did not quite grasp the possibilities for the future. Minto saw India from where he stood every morning and believed, correctly, that London did not understand.” Christopher Lee – Viceroys.

And so, it was, my grandmother would often tell us, when Minto arrived in Bhopal on the 12th of November 1909, he spent many hours with Her Highness Sultanjehan Begum the Ruler of Bhopal learning how ‘sharia-rule’ in a minority Muslim region could best be applied on a majority Hindu state.

 

Lord & Lady Minto with HH Sultanjehan Begum and the young Princes of Bhopal

My great grandmother explained to him how the Begum’s had taken control in a male dominated fundamental Islamic society. She narrated the story of the first Begum of Bhopal and her daughter, as they declared the start of the rule of the Begums, on their first day at court by removing their veil and proclaiming that in Bhopal, because of the diverse mix of cultures, no one religion or tradition will dictate what their subjects must do. Every subject would have a voice. Each subject must decide the right and wrong on their own, based on their own traditions.

Lord and Lady Minto were extremely impressed by the Begum’s outlook to governance and would discuss the many issues that plagued Indian society. This, later on, would have a substantial impression on Minto, and I daresay on the very history of India, for it was Minto as Viceroy who empathized with the plight of the Muslims and allowed them a free hand in the formation of the All India Muslim League. A brilliant move by the British if the intention was to fragment India forever, for that decision, along with his reforms, would lead to the independence and partition of India and consequent massacre of 1.5 million beautiful people in 1947. But he was not to know. He died in his beloved Minto Castle in 1947, believing what he had done was right, he had empowered the minority and bought a nation into the folds of education.

From what I have been told, our family too believed that Lord Minto meant well. He had no intention of fragmenting India by his decision to allow the Muslims a special status in India. He had always fought for the underdogs, that was the British way and he had believed that the minority would need protection. My family agreed with that.

Personally, I think, bringing the Muslim League into India was a huge mistake. Lord Minto should have worked at implementing policies that would unite India across both religion and caste. Had he done so, India would not have been partitioned and neither would we be a fragmented lot, divided by religion and caste. This, of course, is easier said than done as the Muslims were, and I daresay, are, still seeped in blind tradition of exclusivness in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This has always led to conflict. Asking the Indian Muslim to change tack and join the Indian ethos would have been a next to impossible task. Nonetheless, I believe he should have attempted the impossible for didn’t the Crown of England do just that, attempt the impossible and conquer the world?

  Laying the foundation of Minto Hall. 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Humans Really Know When Elephants Attack?

A friend driving us in the ‘Tarangire-Manyara’ Corridor where he owns a camp!

Do humans really know when or why elephants attack?

The answer is no. I have heard many an expert claim that he can read an elephant’s mind but I know, deep inside his heart is thudding, when the elephant charges. The truth is that no matter who or where, whether one is guiding in a vehicle or on foot, whether one has spent three weeks in the bush or three decades, the answer remains the same, No. Like human’s and every other animal in the world, elephants too, both in the distant and near past, have experiences that mould them, that effect their behavior and form their character. That is why when an elephant is subjected to a stimulus, it reacts in a manner unique to that individual. At the risk of repetition, it must be stated that every elephant has a character of its own and no human will ever know what that is. The one crucial aspect that trained guides take into consideration, when driving in the bush, is an exit plan. It’s inbuilt in our system to always have an exit plan, especially in elephant and buffalo country.

It’s true that the longer you spend with elephants the more you can guess what their reaction will be to a particular stimulus. With experience you tend to predict their reaction and take relevant action in time. Head up, head down, tail up, tail down, low rumble or shrill scream are all clues of the animal trying to tell us something. Subconsciously, guides put all these symptoms together and then take calculated action. Action which is always a calculated guess for one never knows when the animal will behave in an unexpected manner. Unexpected as it does not fit in with the normal mould of elephant behaviour. Once the guide is committed to his decision, he hopes that the percentages are with him. More often than not, they are. When I train our guides, I always insist that all animals be given respectful distance and that every guide have an exit plan when things go wrong and the animal does something different. The ways of the bush are quite amazingly unpredictable, they beat the odds in the long run and when the animal does something extra ordinary, the untrained guide often finds himself praying hard.

Add to this the need to please the guest, a photo of a charging a elephant dust flying or even an unarmed expert trying to impress the camera for social media, taking on a charging elephant on foot and we have a situation where more and more animals are subjected to uncalled for harassment and unnecassary risks are taken. We at Royal Migration Camp frown on such practices and believe that our imprint in the wilds must be minimal and the disturbance to wildlife as negligible as possible.

Between Ally, Shaaz, Sangeeta & I, and our guides we have a joint experience of over a hundred and fifty years handling ourselves in the wilderness. We often discuss these experiences and always end our training with two very clear unanimoius agreements; (a) Always respect the animal (b) Never take wildlife for granted.

The Arrival of the Railways – Circa 1800

 The First Train Going to Bhopal

German East Africa (GEA) was far larger than Tanzania. It included present-day Barundi, Rwanda and the mainland of Tanzania. GEA’s was over 994,000 square kilometres, nearly three times the size of present-day Germany, and double the area of Germany then. Much like the East India Company, the German East Africa Company first took roots in the region and in the guise of expanding the German Empire in the Africa Great Lakes region, ostensibly to fight slavery and the slave trade. With this in mind the army was sent in to quell a revolt against the German East Africa Company in late 1880.  the German army was sent in to put down a revolt.

Slavery was never formally abolished, and most colonies preferred instead to curtail the production of new “recruits” and regulate the existing slaving business. It was a profitable venture and they would need fresh supply not just of slaves but also of white gold (ivory) and the immense minerals that lay in central Africa. Trade would benefit but only if they could get into the heart of Africa, to the great lakes, before the British. Gold mining in Tanzania dates back to the German colonial period, beginning with gold discoveries near Lake Victoria  in 1894. The Kironda-Goldminen-Gesellschaft established one of the first gold mines in the colony, theSekenke Gold Mine began operation in 1909 after the finding of gold there in 1907. The Germans knew that a railway was needed to feed the system.

It was around this time that the British too were planning to get to cut across inhospitable tribal lands and put a black snake through the very portals of Maasailand. They started to build the railroad from Mombasa, through Tsavo and up to Kisumu, on the banks of present day Lake Victoria. Whoever got to the great lake would control Central Africa and the German’s knew that.

GEA started the Usambara Railway in 1888 in the race to get to the heartland of Africa. The aim was to connect the Port of Tanga to Lake Victoria passing south of the Usambara Mountains. The 3 ft 3 38 inch gauge was chosen. Due to undercapitalization the company had to be taken over by the state in 1899. Thereafter the line was run by the Ostafrikanische Eisenbahngesellschaft (East African Railway Cooperation), a company which had been created to build and operate the Tanganyika Central Line from Dar-es-Salaam to Kigoma. The track reached Moshi on 26 September 1911 and traffic on the whole line commenced in October of  1911. The final link to the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika was completed in July 1914 and was cause for a huge and festive celebration in the capital. Within no time with absolute German precision, harbor facilities were built or improved with electrical cranes, with rail access and warehouses. Wharves were remodeled at Tanga, Bagamoyo, and Lindi.

Dar es Salaam became the showcase city of all of tropical Africa.

The Bhopal Station – Receiving the First Train on 18th of Nov. 1882

Meanwhile in Bhopal too, a railway was planned and implanted in the 1800’s.

Her Highness Qudsia Begum the Ruler of Bhopal (1819-37) negotiated a railway line through Bhopal in Central India and provided funds from her personal account as distinct from state funds for the construction of part of the railway.Her daughter HH Sikander Jehan Begum the Ruler of Bhopal (1847-68) took the idea forward, and conceived the building of a railway line that linked Bhopal to the national grid. Both the Begum’s had recognized the importance of the railway connection for their State and spent private sums of money to help build the railway. This was a far-sighted move, strongly supported by the Resident, Sir Henry Daly, as the railway junction was virtually a cross-road strategically placed in the center of an economically thriving colony. It would bring prosperity and importance to Bhopal. It would connect India from north to south and from east to west. Trade would flourish and it would ease the movement of troops. Sikander Jehan’s dream of a railway line in Bhopal was realized several years after her death and even Qudsia, the lean old dowager died two years before the first locomotive steamed into Bhopal on 18th November 1882, during the reign of Her Highness Begum Shahjehan the Ruler of Bhopal (1844-60 & 1868-1901).

The town of Bhopal expanded to receive the railway and became an important economic cross-road for India with the railway station becoming a hub of activity with engineers, maintenance crew, station masters and lines men, many of them Indian Christians, forming a colony of expatriates and adding color and variety to Bhopal’s ethnic and cultural kaleidoscope. Successive rulers of Bhopal enjoyed the privileges of the railways,

His Highness Hamidullah Khan the Nawab of Bhopal  (1894-1960) was provided with an additional compensation of Rs. five lakhs per annum from the Indian government to maintain his private train and the railway community in Bhopal.

As youngsters we would travel to Delhi in our train and at the wedding of my uncle, Nawab MAK Pataudi, part of the baraat, us included, stayed in the Bhopal train with its own kitchen and pantry and staff quarters. It was immensely luxurious and pleasurable.

To me it was fascinating to read the many challenges that the Railway faced in Tanzania and India. Both terrains were difficult, a vast wilderness filled with all kinds of predators took its toll yet in the end the need to connect the world of trade and to ensure quick transport of troops outweighed all other considerations and the railway was constructed with great speed.

Nawabzada Saad bin Jung