The Royal Migration Camp 2021 – Ndutu

Our Little jewel in the Serengeti!

The camp has come up beautifully, hats of to my wife for the interiors and the staff for working overtime to get it all together. Sarah, our manager operations has been an absolute delight to work with. The rains have made it difficult for large trucks to traverse the black cotton lands but there is no problem for our Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4’s to move around freely.

I daresay this is one of the most delicious places to visit the world over. The interiors, service and the location are so amazing that I truly wish each of you who read this could have been here. Apart from reveling in the sheer magnificence of where we are, it’s the challenges that I really look forward to. As these are best described in a story, I will start that from tomorrow. For now, let me introduce you to our little jewel in the Serengeti.

The ‘Lounge’ is the central fulcrum of your stay with us. It’s got the Bar / Pool Table tent on one side and the Dining flanking it on the side. Its designed for comfort and for extended stay.

Then you hit the bar which stands alone, forever inviting, next to the lounge. We have a pool table and a table for bridge for those that like to keep their spirits up.

When you are not on safari, you should in the bar. Thats what any wild human would do. You will love the bar for it even has a pool table with a mind of its own. You need to curry favour if you want to win. It’s only after you are a few whiskies and a couple of tequila shots down that the soul of the table seeps into your pores and you start to play to the table. We have a bridge table on which you can play board games if rubbers don’t interest you. The soft music gently wafts from the turn table and is hurriedly switched off when the lions start to roar. Lots more happens here than I can explain on paper. Its best suggested that you come and spend time with us in the bush as soon as you possibly can. Till then take care.

Let the best bartender in town make you some amazing cocktails. Whatever you do, be sure you let the moment take over. You see, we at Royal Migration Camp believe that a perfect safari experience should last 24 hours, not just the drive in the park. See you soon.

26 January 2021 – Departure for Africa

Hello all,
I had returned to India to update certain family matters in Bhopal and Hyderabad and got locked down. I am off to the Serengeti again on the weekly Ethiopian flight out of Mumbai.
The latest for travel out of India to Kilimanjaro is:
Qatar flies daily out of most major cities to JRO
Ethiopian departs from Mumbai every Friday and out of Delhi every Saturday to JRO.
Air Tanzania has linked up with Air India and will take you up to Dar es Salaam. You can hop onto a local flight from there.

The challenge with this set up unless you live in Mumbai or Delhi is taking a local flight with carry on luggage. I am flying Vistara in the hope they will empathise with me. Will update you how that goes.

I will also update on the various airports that I will be flying into.

Am taking my Covid19 test now – result will come in the evening and will be perfect for the flight out.

I will get to Tanzania and send photos of the COVID Testing facilities and protocol. Will also update daily on our wildlife and the camp itself. The staff are working hard setting up camp. We are getting for friends visiting us soon.

If I was you I would get out of the city and get to the Serengeti.

See you there soon!

Covid19 Protocol at Camp

Dear Guests,
It has been a difficult year and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted, directly and indirectly, by this pandemic. Whilst we in Tanzania have been spared the horrors of the virus, as we strive towards some semblance of normalcy the world over, it is vital that we respect the new-normal. At Royal Migration Camp we believe it is imperative to emerge from this pandemic as a stronger and wiser entity; our priority being the safeguard of our guests, camp staff, the officials and the local community.

COVID19 TESTING PROTOCOL
Most airlines are demanding a Covid19 test 72 hours prior to travel and we at The Royal Migration Camp have devised a unique seamless adventure to make sure that your safari carries on smoothly without having to spend three nights at Arusha waiting for the test results to come.

The Covid19 test can be taken at Arusha or Karatu. We will prebook your test online with the center in advance. We will transfer you to your testing location and get you tested. We will then return you to our camp. The test results will be collected by us and handed over to you at your time of departure at Kilimanjaro International Airport.

If we were to assume that you are on a 5 night stay with us and we do recommend that you stay longer at a camp whose Covid19 protocol practices you are comfortable with, then this is what we are presently doing:
Day 1 Arrive at camp for lunch. Game Drives and stay at Camp
Day 2 Full day game drive along – stay at camp.
Our Operation Manager will login and book your Covid19 test at FAME
Hospital, Karatu
Day 3 We will transfer you to the Covid19 Center at Karatu by road
After the test we will transfer you to Manyara Airstrip
You will take the flight back to Ndutu. We will pick you up at the Ndutu Airstrip and
we will proceed on the game drive with packed lunch.
Day 4 Game drives and stay at camp
Day 5 Game drives and stay at camp
Day 6 We will transfer you to Ndutu Airstrip and you will take the flight back to
Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Our runner will meet you at the airport with your results.

COVID PROTOCOL AT CAMP
It is important to note that the Royal Migration Camp is a small and exclusive eco-friendly camp, situated deep in the heart of Africa in the Serengeti in Tanzania. With only 6 tents, the camp can occupy a maximum of 12 guests a night. Our low inventory maintains the ethos of an exclusive wildlife camp and strictly limits crowding. Our rooms are stand-alone tented units, which are at least twenty five meters apart as too are our common areas (Lounge, Bar/Games Room, Dining and the Massage tent) there is no crowding even whilst running on full capacity. Over and above this, we have implemented several new measures:
• Everyone (guests and staff) have easy access to two Health Stations at Camp with hand-
wipes, sanitisation and temperature readers.
• All guests are required to undergo temperature screening at check in and check out.
All luggage will require sanitisation.
• All staff members are required to undergo temperature screening every day to ensure a
healthy work environment.
• Staff will wear masks when dealing directly with guests and in close proximity of
clients
• A dedicated team will be specially assigned to cleaning ‘contact areas’ on a daily
basis. Fixtures and furnishings will be wiped down and sanitized prior to guests
arrival and throughout their stay with us.
• Transfer and Safari vehicles will be sanitised daily and aired out.
• Crockery and Cutlery will be washed as per Covid protocol.
• Linen and house keeping laundry too will be washed as per covid protocol
• We advise all guests to carry their own Masks and Sanitisation. The Camp will also
keep emergency stock.
• Other than the staff, only people with confirmed ‘Booking Vouchers’ will be allowed
inside the property.
• There will be minimal contact between the office and camp staff.
• Ongoing training is being provided to our staff everyday.
• The tents will be opened out and aired out completely between guests’ arrivals and
stays with us.
• The sun and fresh air add to the cleanliness.

Royal Migration Camp has always taken pride in being small and exclusive. Our spirit evokes the freedom to explore the unexplored, that for the past few years has formed the very ethos of our brand. Come spend time with us as we reconnect with nature. We are one!

Yours truly,
The Royal Migration Camp Management

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Finding Anania – Circa 2012

Anania manning the lounge!

How we found him, came by him, I am yet to learn but there he was standing in front of us and we didn’t recognize him. True. At first we had no clue who he was or just how talented and loyal he could be.

We were packing camp at Arusha on our way to Seronera, that’s when both Sangee and I first noticed him. He meant little to me then, till i saw the way he held himself. Proud and humble. Polite and confident. Ally Kea informed me that he would be part of our team at Seronera, working under Captain David. He was hired as outside help, a maintenance and setup man.

The advance truck left a day earlier to get the permits sorted and unload. We arrived the next day and started to set up camp.

That’s when i really noticed Anania in a service industry way. His demeanor was perfect to be out in front manning the lounge and the dining tents. His training started, not that he needed much as he was a natural.

Anania has become an integral part of our camp ever since. He was there when the buffalo rolled in uninvited and for the lion charge. He was there as the elephants drifted into camp and when the rhino tripped over a rope.

Finding trained staff that are used to the needs of the service industry is tough in both rural India and in far flung places of Tanzania. The “Colony” was always packaged to perfection in British East. For centuries it’s been the British way. Training was also moulded around that need. Tanzania was German East where the German’s had a small presence compared to the British in Kenya. The majority of the people in Tanzania never did have the opportunity of seeing a white man let alone meeting him. Never having the opportunity to move on with the new world, they stood with time in their own proud and unique manner.

Most of you will not know this but Tanzanian culture is very unique. It places huge emphasis on social graces and on respect. If you do not go to the funeral of your fellow villagers, or attend their weddings and ceremonies, you can be rest assured that you will walk alone in your time of need. If you do your bit for society, your fellow villagers will give all they have for you in return, including their lives. The people of Tanzania trust with abandon and its this one attribute that pulled me to spend the rest of my life amongst these beautiful people. Anania to me defined the Tanzanian. Proud and trustworthy. Respectful  and willing to give you your space yet being there for you when you need him. There really is no challenge in moulding a Tanzanian to the eco-tourism industry. He is born and bred to serve with dignity and respect. He will not be servile yet he will be a part of your life, a member of your staff, that you could never live without.

I am sure you will enjoy meeting Anania and speaking with him when you visit us in the Serengeti.  We are proud to have him as our core team member.