Northern Circuit Safari
We begin with views of Kilimanjaro, one of the seven summits of the world, learning about the varied tribal communities that make up the rich tapestry of life in Tanzania. In Tarangire, massive herds of elephants congregate and the riverside forest is interspersed with gigantic baobab trees. Witness the largest intact, imploded crater in the world and incredible animal sanctuary at Ngorongoro Crater. In the famous Serengeti, home to the world's largest annual migration of mammals and varied predators, we bask in the sights and sounds of the land and its many, constantly-moving animal residents. Our trained guides are deeply passionate about the region. Their knowledge of Eastern Africa, its culture and its wildlife is a pivotal part of our immersion into this remarkable destination.
Serengeti National Park
Tanzania’s most famous reserve
Plenty of permanent plains game
Intense predator action
Site of the annual wildebeest migration (Southern and eastern Serengeti from November to May, moving towards the western corridor towards June) (From July to September, the herds head north into Kenya’s Maasai Mara) (In October, the heavens open once more)
Excellent classic and luxury safari camps
Maasai cultural experiences
Opportunities to hot air balloon over the landscape
about Wildebeests Migration
The wildebeest migration is often punted as the “greatest show on earth”. Also known as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. It doesn’t have a simple start or end, just a dynamic cycle of wild movement throughout the year. It’s never the same each year either. Not very predictable but easy enough to witness if you plan around some key points. People usually refer to this as the Serengeti migration, but you can also see it on the Masai Mara in Kenya.
December: The migration leaves the Mara. It moves quickly down the Loliondo boundary. Rains have started. Fresh grass covers the plains.
January: Settled in the short grasslands on the southern plains. The Game moves into the Ngorongoro Crater. Zebra are foaling.
February: Over 2 million wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, eland and predators are in the Serengeti plains. Wildebeest are dropping foals.
March: The heavy rains are approaching and the short grass plains are starting to take the strain.
April: The migration starts moving slowly through woodlands towards the western corridor as the long or heavy rains set in.
May: The migration follows the Mbalageti river towards the Grumeti. Long grass plains and woodlands provide food.
June: Rains are ending as the dry season approaches. The Grumeti crocodiles enjoy their annual feast.
July: The migration moves north east through the Grumeti towards the Ikorongo . Some move towards the Lobo area.
August: Most of the migration is in the Ikorongo area where the Mara is crossed.
September: The migration moves into the Mara in search of water and fresh grazing.
October: The Serengeti is near the end of the dry season, water is available in the Masai Mara.
November: The migration starts moving south as the new season of rain started.
The migration itself involves around 1.5 million wildebeest, gazelle and zebra, always on the move. Generally in a great clockwise sweep around the larger Serengeti ecosystem. Resident game (predators and other mammals) are generally fixed to territorial areas. Predators don’t follow the great herds much beyond their home ranges.
If you’re interested in seeing specific resident game species (eg, elephant, wild dog, leopard, etc) then destinations other than the Mara or Serengeti could be better.
When the migration is “on” during high season, you’ll find that the best space gets sold out quickly, so book early to get the best availability and reasonable prices.
How the migration really works!
The theory is simple. Seasonal rains and the availability of grazing determines the “clockwise” movement of the migration. The larger eco-system includes Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara. A few physical barriers like the Simiti and Lobo hills, the Grumeti and Mara rivers hinder and alter this “circular” path. Well in reality it’s not quite that simple!
Here’re some notes gleaned from Richard Knocker. One of the original Nomad Guides in East Africa.
Between the short and long rains – November to April
The wildebeest want to be in the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti. That’s near Ndutu, Gol and Southern Loliondo, but the water and grazing cannot support them all year round. This is where they choose to give birth to their young with rich grass to support them. That’s usually February and March. Within a short space of time, perhaps 4 to 6 weeks, several hundred thousand calves are born. This is where and when we see much of the dramatic predator action.
The wildebeest migration moves off in search of sustenance in response to periods of dry weather. They leave this sweet area as late as possible and come back as soon as they can. But the rains are unpredictable. So every year is different and, in fact, every week can be different.
The migration is also not a continually forward motion. They go forward, back and to the sides, they mill around, they split up, they join forces, they walk in a line, they spread out, they hang around. You can never predict with certainty where they will be.
So, soon after the short rains start we expect the migration to be in the sweet grass plains area around Naabi, Ndutu and Gol. That’s from December through to April. Depending on local rainfall, they might be anywhere from Moru Kopjes through to the slopes of Ngorongoro.
After the long rains into the dry season – May to October
From May, the rains stop and the herds gradually start moving. Usually, as the plains of the south and east dry out, there is a movement to the north and west. That’s because there are more grass and more dependable water.
Not all the wildebeest and zebra will follow the same route though. This means that while part of the migration will head to the western corridor and the Grumeti River before heading north, significant numbers may also go up through Loliondo, or via Seronera and Lobo.
In a dry year, the first wildebeest could be near the Mara River in early July as this is the only decent permanent water in the ecosystem. In a wet year, as late as mid-August. If conditions are very good, with plenty of grass and water the herds will be spread out all the way from Seronera to the Mara River.
The wildebeest migration as a whole need not all pass into Kenya. Many stay behind in Tanzania then cross and re-cross the border areas. This carries on through till October into November when they start thinking of heading back. Again this will be dependent on the rains.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Nature's Own Eden
The showpiece of the conservation area is undoubtedly the Ngorongoro Crater which was created when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and is the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world.
It measures about 16-19km in diameter, with walls of 400-610m in height. However you measure it, the Crater is a strong candidate for any list of the world's greatest natural wonders. It is renowned both for its geological splendor, and for being a natural reserve which is home to some of the densest large mammal populations found anywhere in Africa
A small but very scenic park south of the Serengeti ecosystem; Seasonal flamingo-viewing on the soda lake; Incredible birdlife all year round; Opportunities to observe unusual tree-climbing lions; Acacia forests filled with primates and antelope; Plains inhabited by wildebeest, giraffe and buffalo; A great hippo pool are what makes Lake Manyara worth your exploration.
Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Great Rift Valleys with 330 sq km (127 sq miles), of which up to 200 sq km (77 sq miles) is the lake when water levels are high; the alkaline Soda Lake of Manyara is home to an incredible array of bird life that thrives on its brackish waters. Its ground water forests, bush plains, baobab strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and incredible numbers of birds.
Lake Manyara’s famous tree-climbing lions are another reason to pay a visit to this park. The only kind of their species in the world, they make the ancient mahogany and elegant acacias their home during the rainy season, and are a well-known but rather rare feature of the northern park.
Tarangire National Park covers an undulating area of 2,600km2, between the plains of the Maasai Steppe to the south-east, and the lakes of the Great Rift Valley to the north and west. The northern part of Tarangire is dominated by the perennial Tarangire River, which flows through increasingly incised ravines until it leaves the north-western corner of the park to flow into Lake Burungi. In the south are a series of vast 'swamps' which dry into verdant plains during the dry season.
The park's most obvious features are the permanent Tarangire River, which runs the length of it, and the vast 'swamps' – which are, in fact, dry for most of the year. Despite the fact that Tarangire is drier than the Serengeti, its vegetation is generally much denser including densely packed elephant grass, large areas of mixed acacia woodlands and some lovely ribbons of riverine forest.
Think of Tarangire as part of a much larger ecosystem, and you'll understand why its game varies with the seasons. From November to May, some of the wildlife leaves the park, north-west to Lake Manyara, or east into the Maasai Steppe. From around June to October, when those regions are drier, the animals return to Tarangire's swamps, and especially, its river system. This is the best season for a game-viewing safari in Tarangire, which can be excellent.