Africa's Not-So-Wild Side

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007; P03

Q. My sons and I have long wanted to see some of the great animal migrations in Africa, but they are in their 20s and I'm 56. Can you recommend a tour that would suit all of us?

S. Kidd, Washington

A. First, the bad news. You're not going to be able to use your age as an excuse to bow out of this one. But we'll get to that in a moment. First, let's pause to consider what you have the chance to witness. The migrations to which you refer, involving roughly 1.5 million wildebeests, 500,000 gazelles, 200,000 zebras and more, are among the greatest events in the natural world. (For more information, see the Kenya Wildlife Service site at At least a portion of the migrations, in which animals travel en masse northward from the Serengeti Plain and back again, are visible any month of the year. But keep in mind that the time you visit will absolutely determine where to set up camp in Kenya or Tanzania. Of course, "camp" is something of a misnomer, especially as envisioned by CC Africa (888-882-3742,, which operates lodges in both countries. You may well stay in a "tent," but one with its own ceiling fan, bathroom and access to a nearby bar.

"We have safaris that are comfortable for someone of any age," said Sharleen Landsman of CC Africa. "That shouldn't be a barrier." Another common misconception, she says, is that "August is the only time you can see something." In January, you can watch the animals give birth on the Serengeti, then retire to the company's Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, where your mud-and-thatch suite will have its own fireplace and butler. June could mean dinner under the stars after a long day of rooting for the wildebeests as they attempt to evade crocodiles on the Grumeti River. September means the herds pouring into Kenya's Masai Mara and you pouring yourself into a lap pool at CC Africa's Kichwa Tembo. Even April and May, the so-called rainy season, can be a good time to visit, Landsman said: "It's a lot like Florida's rains; it comes down in the afternoons. People think it rains the whole day, like in Seattle or London, but it's one of the best times to be in the Serengeti. There are so few other people around."

But regardless of the month you choose, when it comes to African migrations, there's no excuse for your herd leaving you behind. After all, no other creature is staying put. Why should you?