Tourists looking to witness the great wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania can now track them through a new web application called HerdTracker.
The app is created by Discover Africa, a tailor-made safari operator based in Cape Town. It 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 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 close to 10 years.
Between 2003 and 2011, Verhoef led over 300 migration safaris, and developed a deep understanding of and appreciation for the annual wildebeest migration.
Co-founder of Discover Africa Andre Van Kets said: “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.”
HerdTracker is just the usual Google Map that is modified with little pins stamped with a wildebeest. Each pin is clickable and displays a message by the person who has sent the update.
The app is designed for smartphones rather than desktops, says Van Kets, adding that “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.”
Discover Africa is considering building and designing an Android app that would send updates to its users without having to visit the website.