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!

Conservation victory: Serengeti highway plans cancelled

Serengeti
Plans to build a paved, two-lane highway through the Serengeti National Park have been canceled.

The road, which was supposed to bring better access to Lake Victoria, will possibly be rerouted further south to avoid having an impact on the Serengeti’s rich wildlife.

There’s already a gravel road across the park, but paving it would have attracted much more traffic and probably fencing. The U.S. government expressed concern, as did UNESCO, after a study showed the project would affect the annual migration of millions of animals that’s one of the wonders of the natural world.

This is a rare victory of common sense over unbridled “development.” It’s also an example of how being eco-friendly can be good for the economy. Tourism generates a major part of Tanzania’s income, and there’s no way a road cutting through the nation’s most valuable natural resource wouldn’t have had a negative impact.

[Photo courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson]

Study says Serengeti Highway will impact migration

A proposed Serengeti Highway could mean big problems for the Great MigrationThe annual migration of hundreds of thousands of animals across the Serengeti plains of East Africa is amongst the most spectacular natural wonders in the entire world. Each year, giant herds of wildebeests, zebras, antelopes, elephants, and more make a pilgrimage across those open landscapes in search of food and water. But a new study finds that a proposed highway through the region could have dire consequences for the Serengeti ecosystem and the animals that call it home.

The study, which was conducted by a team of biology and ecology professors from the U.S. and Canada, appeared recently in the scholarly journal PLoS ONE and predicts a dramatic impact on the Serengeti environment. The researchers came to the conclusion that wildebeest herds alone could be reduced by as much as 35%, with a similar impact possible for the other species in the region as well. Those predictions only take into account the increased traffic on the movements of the wildebeest herds and doesn’t factor in such other issues as car accidents and the potential for increased poaching.

One of the scientists who took part in the study, John Fryxell of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, has studied migration patterns for more than 30 years. He says that the proposed highway, which would cross a northern section of the Serengeti National Park, has the potential to completely transform the region. He cites the importance of the wildebeest migration to the entire ecosystem for his belief, saying “The wildebeest migration plays an important role in a number of key ecological processes, so this finding has important ramifications for ecosystem biodiversity, structure and function.”

We at Gadling have been closely following the developments of this highway for sometime, first sharing the story when the road was proposed last summer and then again when an alternate route was suggested this past fall. It seems that nearly everyone outside of the Tanzanian government believes this road is a bad idea, and yet it is still moving ahead with the plan none the less. We could be watching one of the last great, unspoiled places on the planet altered before our vary eyes, and it seems there is little we can do about it.

Scientists recommend alternate route for proposed Serengeti Highway

Back in July we posted a story about how the Tanzanian government had approved the construction of a new highway that would cut directly through the Serengeti National Park, which is home to a spectacular array of animal life. Officials explained how the new road was necessary in order to facilitate trade and continue economic development in the region, and that they expected the highway to have little impact on the Serengeti ecosystem. Unfortunately, the 290 scientists, from 32 different countries, who signed a recent petition, disagree with that sentiment.

Those scientists, who represent more than 50 different universities worldwide, are recommending that Tanzania find an alternate route around the Serengeti or face severe, negative, and irreversible damage to the environment there. Of most concern is how the increased traffic would impact the annual migration that takes place on the Serengeti plains during which time, millions of wildebeests, zebras, antelopes, and other animals travel across the region, playing an important role in helping the ecosystem to not only survive, but thrive. The fear is that if the migration is disrupted, it could lead to a complete collapse of that ecosystem.

The petition includes a survey of those same scientists in which they give their thoughts on a variety of topics in regards to the road. For instance, 85% of those surveyed said that they felt that it was either inevitable or very likely that the new highway would become a disruption or obstruction of the migration. Furthermore, 91% answered the same way when asked if they thought it would introduce invasive plants, animals, and diseases to the region.

The scientists join conservationists, international organizations, and the travel industry in condemning the plans to build the road. While all parties involved respect Tanzania’s desire to expand its economy, they also recognize that the Serengeti is a natural resource that is fragile and could easily be altered beyond repair.

While the local government is planning to move ahead with construction plans, the Save the Serengeti organization is still hoping to find an alternative solution. Personally, I hope they can too.

Wildebeest migration one of the natural wonders of the world

Every year during this season, millions of wildebeest migrate northwards from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. It’s part of their annual cycle of looking for green pastures and plentiful waters. Zebras, antelopes, and other animals come along too, with predators like lions and cheetahs hanging on the edges of the herds hoping to catch the slow or the weak.

The Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park are the two most popular places to see the migration, and the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reports hotels are already full, with even the Kenyan tourism minister saying he couldn’t find a room.

The annual migration is like a dream safari intensified, with the plains blackened by the herds. This National Geographic video shows just how big this mass movement of animals is. So if you want to see what ABC News has dubbed one of the new wonders of the world, you better book early for next year so you don’t get caught out. Sadly, there’s another reason to act soon. Observer Science Editor Robin McKie includes the migration in his list of ten natural wonders we can no longer take for granted due to global warming. McKie points out that if current trends continue, the plains will dry up and there won’t be enough pasture for the herds.


Image courtesy user Haplochromis via Wikimedia Commons.