National Geographic’s Mindblowing Interactive Serengeti Lion Feature

National Geographic recently published an interactive Serengeti lion feature that has the internet swooning. Complementing the coverage of the lions in the August 2013 print issue of the magazine, the interactive feature allows users to get up close and personal with the Vumbi pride. Michael “Nick” Nichols, a photographer, and Nathan Williamson, a videographer, made several trips to the Serengeti between July 2011 and January 2013. The duo used cameras mounted on a robotic tank and a remote-control toy car to obtain images that had never before been taken of the lions from low angles and within close proximity. These images were paired with the ones they took by hand and in total, Nichols collected 242,000 images and Williamson recorded 200 hours of video during this time.This interactive feature allows users to sneak into the private lives of these lions, lives that seem to always strike a delicate balance between feast and famine. Explore the Serengeti lion feature here.

Lions in the Southern Serengeti Tanzania

Travel Tool: Interactive World Heritage Site Map

When it comes to planning my next trip, a pretty photo only inspires me half as much as a good map. I’m particularly partial to UNESCO‘s interactive World Heritage List map, which I spend more time clicking on than I’d care to admit. The map identifies the List’s 962 properties across the globe and provides information about each, including an array of photos for those who need the photographic impetus.

More than anything else, it’s a useful tool to find astonishing places beyond the Angkor Wats, Serengetis and Venices of the world. Did I know there were 100-meter-tall stone towers in northwestern Russia. Or that there’s a place called the Inaccessible Islands in the South Atlantic? I do now, and I want to go.

The map is also a great way to find less touristed sights in popular countries. The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex in Thailand gets short shrift from most visitors, for instance, but is a completely unique environment in Southeast Asia.

Don’t know where to start? The red points are World Heritage Sites in danger of being destroyed or permanently altered by man or nature, so they may not be around forever.

[Photo Credit: UNESCO/Google]

Tourists Amazed By Serengeti Wildebeest Calving

wildebeest, Serengeti
February is a special time on the Serengeti. Right now its population of some 1.5 million wildebeests are giving birth to an estimated 8,000 calves a day, the Tanzania Daily News reports.

The East African nation has seen some 16,500 tourists come to watch the event in Serengeti National Park, including 5,800 domestic visitors who are part of a growing African middle class that’s boosting tourism across the continent.

This mass calving happens every year. All the pregnant wildebeests give birth within the same period of a few weeks, a process called “synchronized calving.” The animals give birth while standing up or even moving around, and wildebeest calves are walking within a couple of minutes. Once all the pregnant wildebeest have calved, the whole herd heads out.

These adaptations help protect the calves from predators. You can bet that hyenas, lions and other sharp-toothed critters are flocking to the area along with the tourists. Wildebeests are also hunted by humans to make a kind of jerky called biltong. This is legal in some parts of Africa although, of course, not in the park. One Tanzanian scientist estimated that half the calves will get eaten or die from other causes during the wildebeest’s 600-mile migration.

[Photo courtesy user zheem via Flickr]

Want To Mountain Bike Down Kilimanjaro?

Mountain bike down Kilimanjaro in 2013At 19,340 feet in height, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in all of Africa. Over the years, it has become one of the top adventure travel destinations in the world, drawing in thousands of hikers on an annual basis. But next year, for the first time ever, a small group of travelers will actually get the unique opportunity to bike down the mountain thanks to a new itinerary offered by Trek Travel.

Having secured the first ever permit to mountain bike Kilimanjaro, Trek Travel will launch its inaugural WorldServe Kilimanjaro Bike Tour on February 22 of next year. The 12-day trip will include a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti to witness the Great Migration, a visit to a traditional Maasai village and, of course, a climb to the top of Kilimanjaro followed by a mountain bike descent.

The trip is limited to just 20 travelers, each of whom will be shipped a brand new mountain bike courtesy of Trek. That bike will come in handy while training prior to their departure for Tanzania and they’ll also use it on their ride down the slopes of Kili. On their return home after the trip, the bike is theirs to keep.

While this sounds like an amazing excursion, the trip isn’t being conducted simply for the adventure itself. Trek Travel’s goal is to raise funds for several projects designed to bring fresh drinking water to as many as 150,000 Tanzanians. With that expressed goal in mind, the prices for the trip range from $25,000 up to $85,000, with 90% of the funds going directly to one or more projects specifically focused on generating clean water. Those are steep price tags, of course, but this is a cause that an industrious traveler might be able to use to raise funds of their own.

For more information on the Kilimanjaro Bike Tour, check out the video below and visit the Trek Travel website.


KiliClimb Trek Bike Video from WorldServe International on Vimeo.

Soaring Over The Serengeti In A Hot Air Balloon


This video shows two of my lifelong dreams: I’ve always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and I’ve always wanted to take a balloon ride over the Serengeti.

Kym Elder has done both, and captured her experience in this beautiful video. She soars over zebra, giraffes, gazelles and many more animals. Flying over the herds on a near-silent balloon must be the best way to see them. You can get in close without bothering them or getting in any danger. There’s an especially nice shot of a herd of bathing hippos. When my wife and I spotted hippos on Lake Tana, Ethiopia, the boatman wouldn’t get in close for fear of getting capsized – a wise move.

Kym tells us that after the ride they sat down to a champagne breakfast in the bush. Nice!

Have you flown in a balloon over an awesome destination? Make me jealous by sharing your story in the comments section!