Grassroots Vol 20 No 3 | Page 29

NEWS A SA company is live-streaming Africa’s spectacular ‘Great Migration’ to viewers around the world Andrew Thompson Current Address: E ven though inter-provincial travel is now allowed in South Africa, it’s still not possible to venture beyond the country’s borders for a casual holiday. And although some countries are starting to open up and travel once again, the appetite for long-haul international destinations may take some time to recover. The result is a sustained interest in online and virtual travel - and South African company WildEarth, which has been broadcasting live safaris for several years, has seen its viewer numbers skyrocket as a result. During the lockdown, WildEarth focused on broadcasting its twice-daily safaris from reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park, but quickly expanded to include both Phinda Private Game Reserve and Tswalu, in the Kalahari, as soon as conditions allowed. And starting this month, they will be broadcasting live from the Maasai Mara to an expected bumper local and international audience - on various streaming platforms and via a dedicated 24-hour channel on DSTV. “The Great Migration is probably the world's most iconic natural event and WildEarth are privileged to be able to share it with the world once again,” says Graham Wallington, CEO of WildEarth. “WildEarth has a camp in the Mara Triangle and will be broadcasting every day from the Mara even after the migration leaves in a month or two. It truly is a spectacular place with magnificent wildlife.” Maasai Mara - with much of the action taking place at river crossings. "Crossing the great Mara river is a very dangerous enterprise for these herds as the river is full of massive and hungry crocodiles who have been waiting a whole year for this feast,” says Wallington. It’s at these rivers that tourists often pay vast sums of money to sit and wait amongst dozens of fellow travellers, in anticipation of watching the often-harrowing crossings. But with international travel still not available to many around the world, these numbers are expected to be lower than in previous years - and many more will settle for the livestream courtesy of WildEarth. WildEarth currently has two safari vehicles going out into the Mara every day, led by guides Isaac Rotich and David Githu, and in a few weeks, they aim to increase this to three. And already the channel has broadcast a scene that shows just how dramatic the event can be. Navigating Covid-19 lockdowns One of the key appeals of these livestreamed safaris during the global pandemic has been the way in which they portray a sense of familiar normality of the outside world, during a time when the lives of most viewers are anything but. With a constantly changing parade of personable and knowledgeable guides lamenting about such simple pleasures as hatching grebes and suckling hyena cubs, it required a minimal suspension of disbelief to imagine the world as it is was before lockdown. As broadcast media, WildEarth was deemed an essential service - they were able to continue broadcasting during the strictest days of the lockdown and continue portraying this voyeuristic sense of normality. During the great migration almost 2 million wildebeest, Thompson's gazelles and zebra migrate from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park into Kenya's Figure 1: Africa’s spectacular ‘Great Migration’ Grassroots Vol 20 No 3 September 2020 28