New web app tracks the great wildebeest migration in real-time

Want to know where the wildebeest herds are? People planning to travel to Kenya and Tanzania for the Great Migration can now track one of nature’s most spectacular events even before they get there – via a web application called HerdTracker.

Created by Discover Africa, a leading tailor-made safari operator based in Cape Town, HerdTracker plots the exact position of the wildebeest herds on a real-time Google map, using weekly updates sent in by pilots flying over Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, safari guides, Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) rangers and lodges in the area.

HerdTracker was designed and built by Discover Africa’s own web development team using open-source software in just two months, using the idea of their East Africa expert, Carel Verhoef, a qualified safari guide who has lived in the Serengeti for ten years.

Between 2003 and 2011 Verhoef led over 300 migration safaris, and developed a deep understanding of – and appreciation for the annual wildebeest migration. While living in Tanzania, Carel also climbed Kilimanjaro nine times. His 10th assent is scheduled for August 2014.

Co-founder of Discover Africa, Andre Van Kets says that the development of the app was not overly complex.

“We’ve used open source tools and Google Maps, which has an open API, although we used our own icons, not the standard set. We’ve combined that with the human element so we’re not just posting the GPS coordinates, but the comments of our guides too,” says Van Kets. He says that the main aim of HerdTracker is to help people choose the best accommodation to stay at and when to go to ensure that they don’t miss the Great Migration.

“A safari experience is a trip of a lifetime, which can be a complex process to plan for, especially for first timers.

“We’ve developed HerdTracker to help make the journey easier for our customers.

“It’s an incredible tool that allows you to not only track the great migration in real time, but predict where the herd will be at the time of your travel,” adds Van Kets.

How HerdTracker Works

HerdTracker is your usual Google Map, modified with little pins stamped with a wildebeest.  Each pin is clickable and displays a message by the person who has sent the update (Our sources listed above).

A recent update, sent in by Captain Joel J Fernandes, a pilot for Coastal Aviation in Tanzania and flies over the Serengeti daily reads: “Morning Carel, I’ve been back for 2 days now and you won’t believe the coincidence but I was planning to mail you right now. So, they are everywhere. The trailing end are at Kogatende airstrip and the leaders just went past Seronera. They are tonnes at Lobo and Fort Ikoma. I can’t believe it but these are what I saw personally in the 2 days of flying!!!‎ So good to be back. Pics attached. Have a good one’”

Another update, sourced by Lemala Camps, a company who owns a unique collection of Lodges, Permanent Tented Camps & Mobile Camps in Tanzania says: “Hi Carel, there was a small crossing, in that the beasts started to cross, but then the vulture activity on the far bank scared the remainder and the crossing stopped. The wildebeest then gathered for a few hours and around 16:30 they crossed. It was large and was about 45 min. We worked magic and your clients, Alex and partner, were there to see it so lovely timing. I don’t have pics of the big crossing because Tabby had to leave before they crossed. I can also inform you that right now there is another gathering of them at Makutano. Regards, Veronica.”

Van Kets says that they designed the app for browsing on your phone first, rather than for desktop computers.

“We designed it to be mobile first, because if you first build a desktop version and try to shrink it to mobile, it’s really difficult. It’s better to build it for a small screen and then scale it up,” says Van Kets.

Plans for the future? Discover Africa is considering building and designing an Android app that would send updates to its users without having to visit the website.

HerdTracker’s migration updates are available to see on https://www.discoverafrica.com/herdtracker.

They are also available on Twitter via the @HerdTracker handle.

For more information contact Andre Van Kets at andre@discoverafricagroup.com, or Carel Verhoef at carel@discoverafrica.com. Or call +27 21 422 3498

 

wildebeest1sm wildebeestsm

 

East Africa E-Tourism 2014 conference experience

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

I arrived at Nairobi airport greeted by bright yellow walls and friendly customs attendants shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’. I reminisced on my Kenya trip 9 years ago when we installed ResRequest at Governors’ Camps. At the time our greatest challenge was the modem dial up contending with at least 4 other voices shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’ as we tried desperately to get a data transfer through.

As my taxi driver tore through the streets of Nairobi pointing out this building and that one, I was totally gobsmacked at how much the city has changed. I asked him which buildings were new and, it turns out, almost all the buildings! I oo’ed and aa’ed about all that had been built over the last 9 years. Everything looked, well similar to home, except for the adrenalin junkies sailing out of the bus doors as they spun round the massive round-a-bouts, which the taxi driver assured me was rather unusual.

I was blown away by the high rises and apartment blocks in Nairobi, granted my taxi driver may have taken me the best routes, but in that case, the taxi drivers have got better at tourism then they were years before!

As I saw and experienced parts of Nairobi and caught up with customers, I wildly started hash-tagging #WhyILoveKenya, of course it helped that I’ll be heading home 2kg’s heavier thanks to my room attendant, Edith. Edith loaded my bathroom full of bottles of lemon grass conditioner, after I left her a reply to her welcome note which read: “Thanks for my conditioner Edith, I love it!”  For some weird reason I feel compelled to Pinterest my hair after Damian’s states that 94% of Pinterest users are women.

conditioner

Speaking of Damian and the reason for this post, Damian Cook and his wife, Elizabeth,  put on an intense, action packed and totally at-the-heart-of-things E-Tourism conference for East Africa. After attending the Cape Town conference last year, and receiving rave reviews from our marketing manager after this year’s CT session, I was really excited. Once again, Damian did not disappoint. The conference was packed and Damian’s Kenyan customers were totally absorbed in the programme from beginning to end.

I was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to present to the audience, which consisted of a number of our customers. What surprised me, and them, was how much rich functionality ResRequest has to offer. I was able to tell our story and was rewarded with several customers telling me that they’ll be heading back to their office to check out much of the functionality I mentioned.

Damian’s presentations were honest and right at the heart of the challenges we face. He paid particular attention to helping Kenyan customers understand, plan and implement a crisis management strategy around their current tourism crisis.

Of course I don’t know how long Edith’s conditioner supply will last so I sincerely hope that Damian plans the next E-Tourism conference soon.

Are you interested in a direct link to Africa’s finest properties?

Our interface product, ResConnect, offers you stock, rate and availability access to Africa’s most luxurious and remote destinations. This service is now available FREE.

ResConnect links Agents, Tour Operators and Online Travel Channels to ResRequest inventory, rates and bookings.

• Quick and Easy Setup
• View Availability & Rates
• Create Bookings Electronically

How to Connect:
When you are ready to start the technical connection we will send you our service agreement (NDA) and introduce your developers to our developers. Your developer will receive access to a test site and our technical documentation.

Once you have established commercial agreements with your property partners from our client list, our call centre will setup the links to connect you with your selected properties.

Connection Charges:
Use of our API is free.

Should you require our services to co-ordinate setup with our customers or development assistance this is billed at our annually published support and development rates.

For more details on how to get set up, contact us on:
Email: info@resrequest.com
Telephone: +27 (0) 35 772 5615
Website: www.resrequest.com

ResConnect is developed and supported by the ResRequest Group.