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While 3G coverage in the Masai Mara is surprisingly good, it is patchy and doesn’t offer the reliable bandwidth needed to stream live video. Discover Africa turned to the idea of satellite communications and approached one of Inmarsat’s global partners – Applied Satellite Technology, South Africa (AST SA), and their local re-seller Sat4Rent, to understand if there was a dependable satellite connectivity solution to stream live footage.

Discover Africa Group use Inmarsat BGAN HDR to share the unforgettable experience of wildebeest migration with the world, by streaming live footage from the Masai Mara.

Since 2002, Discover Africa Group and its co-founder and Marketing Director, Andre Van Kets, have been helping travellers to discover the magic of Africa; its beauty and diverse wildlife attract millions of eager tourists every year.  For those people yet to experience all that Africa has to offer, they developed ‘HerdTracker’; a web app which allows users to see the great wildebeest migration unfold in real time, on a Google map, and featuring a Twitter-style timeline.

In recent years the Kenyan travel and tourism industry has been declining. Make It Kenya, an initiative run by the Kenyan Tourism Authorities promotes Kenya’s rich and diverse culture for visitors. They saw HerdTracker and realised that it afforded an opportunity to encourage holidaymakers to choose Kenya as their ideal holiday destination.  Make It Kenya then approached Discover Africa and gave the tour operator a brief to use the app as the centrepiece of a ‘good news’ story to promote Kenyan tourism, the primary objective of their campaign.

In their response to brief, Discover Africa wanted to do something different. Rather than simply publishing content on HerdTracker, they wanted to provide an unparalleled insight into some of the unique experiences Kenya has to offer.  Aiming to offer their client a ‘world first’ they explored how best to share with potential holidaymakers one of the most immense and awe-inspiring movements of animals on the planet – the wildebeest migration.  As the migration has been filmed, photographed and documented many times over, they came up with an idea that would bring the migration to people, wherever they are located – by streaming live footage of this incredible spectacular.

The connectivity challenge

While 3G coverage in the Masai Mara is surprisingly good, it is patchy and doesn’t offer the reliable bandwidth needed to stream live video. Discover Africa turned to the idea of satellite communications and approached one of Inmarsat’s global partners – Applied Satellite Technology, South Africa (AST SA), and their local re-seller Sat4Rent, to understand if there was a dependable satellite connectivity solution to stream live footage.    

Having Inmarsat BGAN HDR was a real deal-breaker for this campaign as without it, we would not be able to stream live footage of this incredible spectacle to people all over the world. It was so easy to set up, when we needed to we just whipped out the terminal, and were online ready to stream in minutes, right from the middle of the Masai Mara’.  Andre Van Kets – Discover Africa

Discover Africa chose Inmarsat’s BGAN HDR service, with its diverse range of streaming options, deciding that the asymmetric half-channel rate accessed through a Cobham SATCOM EXPLORER 710 offered them the optimum balance of image quality. And, because Inmarsat’s BGAN HDR is a global service, Discover Africa could rest assured that wherever they needed to stream live footage, their connectivity was covered.    

The quality of AST South Africa’s technical support soon made Discover Africa a satcomms convert. They quickly understood how easy it was to set up a streaming connection, in minutes, using a terminal the size of a laptop. They tested Periscope – the streaming application of choice, which can be accessed and controlled through a smartphone - and were all good to go. So, packing up their cameras, iPhones, tablets and satellite terminal, they set out for the wilderness to capture the wildebeest migration live and in real time for the world to see. 

The migration

Over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya during July through to October. The annual wildebeest migration is truly one of the world’s most breath taking and spectacular sights, filled with chaotic scenes of this impressive animal thundering through the bush – and this was the spirit that Discover Africa wanted to capture. 

Make It Kenya promoted this event by issuing a global press release and both parties undertook successful social media campaigns, building up interest and momentum in the run-up to the migration.  When the Wildebeest made their move, for a week period, viewers were taken on journey to experience the thrill of the migration with two daily live broadcasts, powered by BGAN HDR, and streamed to YouTube Live Streaming and the HerdTracker website via Periscope’s smartphone app.

Enthralled viewers from all over the world joined the team on their game drives, witnessed the phenomenon of river crossings and learned about the wildlife of Kenya, and thanks to BGAN HDR, were able to ask questions in real time to the rangers in their game drive vehicles, right on the plains of the Masai Mara.

The results

They successfully completed the world’s first live streaming of the Wildebeest Migration, and as far Make It Kenya were concerned, the live feeds from Inmarsat’s BGAN HDR really helped increase awareness of what Kenya has to offer and delivered their good news story, with the results speaking for themselves:

  • CNN heard about the world attempt and joined the crew and delivered two broadcasts
  • 247 articles online - including CNN, Time.com
  • Over 5 radio interviews conducted with BBC, Australia’s AW3, and European radio stations
  • Extensive coverage in newspapers and print articles
  • 1.7m people reached with 140k engaged via social media channels
  • 58 live web broadcasts on Periscope with an average of 200 viewers per broadcast - 8h34m of live streaming video - 46,000+hearts/likes
  • 25,000+ views on YouTube

The week-long coverage of the migration can be viewed at www.discoverafrica.com/herdtrackerlive

Discover Africa are only uncovering the tip of the iceberg on how satellite communications can play a fundamental role in bringing unique footage live to people around the world and are already working on their next endeavour.