Tag Archives: serengeti

The Great Migration – everything you need to know about calving in the southern Serengeti, Tanzania

The Great Migration of wildebeest, zebra and other plains game  in search of fresh grazing between Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara is the largest overland migration in the world involving over 1.5 million animals.

Migration TZCatching up with the Great Migration is a spectacle on many people’s bucket list. The first image that comes to mind for many may be the river crossings, particularly the dramatic crossing of the Mara River, the last obstacle before reaching the Masai Mara (July-September time). However, being on the Serengeti’s southern plains in the early part of the year for calving is another excellent time to see the migration .

The migration is not one super herd but a collection of herds moving in different directions and at different speeds. The herds move in search of fresh grazing and so their progress is dictated by rainfall. With rainfall becoming increasingly erratic the path and timings of the migration has become a little more unpredictable in recent years but you can expect to see the migration in Tanzania for around 75% of the year and in Kenya for 25%.

The annual cycle is punctuated by a number of key events – calving being one of them.

Calving season on the Serengeti’s southern plainssLIDER DSC_8606

The migration arrives and stays on the Serengeti’s southern plains and on the edges of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area between January and March annually.

During these first few months of the year the wildebeest are grazing on the nutrient rich short grass following the short rains in November. This is the perfect arena for giving birth to their young – the grass is still low enabling them to see predators more easily, and the new shoots are soft and full of goodness, thanks to the fertility of the volcanic soil in this region.

Remarkably virtually all the wildebeest calve within a 3 week window which usually falls between late January and late February. Around 8,000 calves are born each day at the peak of the calving season.

WWshutterstock_139534196shutterstock_128317355Compared to the rest of the year, the herds are fairly sedentary while they feast and calve so this is an excellent time to observe them.

Predator density at this time on the southern plains is said to be higher than anywhere else in the world. Many predators also raise their young at this time, with  young wildebeest the perfect target for young cubs learning survival skills.

What to expect

-Epic views – short-grassy savannah studded with rocky ‘kopje’ outcrops – sometimes punctuated by the occasional Serengeti leopard or cheetah.

-Noise! Wildebeest have the nickname ‘gnu’ and this is the sound you will hear.

-Fabulous wildlife sightings with the chance to see predators and predator/prey interaction – short grass means good visibility.

When should I book if I want to visit during calving season?

If you have your heart set on a  specific week, particularly in February and around school half term,  then you should try and book a year in advance – camps are small and it is high season offering good weather and excellent wildlife sightings so the earlier you book the more likely you are to secure your dates and preferred camp.

If you are flexible then 6-9 months in advance is ideal.

Where to stay and for how longKusini your-private-serengeti

Ewanjan18We recommend lodges around the Ndutu area in the first three months of the year.

There are a number of excellent mobile camps including the Serian Mobile, Lemala Ndutu and the Asilia mobile camps.  Sanctuary Kusini, Lake Masek Tented Camp, Ndutu Lodge and the new Ndutu Kati Kati tented camp are permanent options in this area. Depending on the position of the herds and the timing of your visit we also recommend the high quality Lemala Ewanjan and the excellent Elewana Pioneer Camp in the south-central area.

2-3 nights at one camp is the minimum amount of time we recommend – you could easily stay longer. It is great to combine a stay in Ndutu with a camp in the south/central or central area of the Serengeti for a contrast (these areas have excellent resident wildlife), or how about combining your Serengeti experience with a visit to other parks on the Northern Circuit? (Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire).

Tented camps are very comfortable offering walk-in tents,  ensuite bathroom and an outdoor seating area. Camps vary in size, luxury and budget.

You can expect a 7 or 8 day safari trip to Tanzania including the Serengeti to cost anything from £2,040 per person plus international flights (Small Group Escorted Tour) to over £4,500 for a luxury private safari. (Please note: during the migration months these prices rise).

What will the safari day look like?13fac_lemala-1

Custom safari 4×4 vehicles are used to view the migration. You rise just before dawn, and have a snack before heading out with your professional guide on your morning safari for 2-3 hours before returning for a hearty breakfast in camp. In private concessions you may head out with a picnic breakfast.

If you fly-in to your camp, camp vehicles are usually shared with other guests (there are a few exceptions). If you are enjoying a drive-in safari with a private vehicle and driver/guide then you have the luxury of your own space.

You have the day to relax at camp, enjoy lunch and view wildlife as it comes and goes. Some camps offer additional activities during the day.

After a light afternoon tea you depart on the afternoon game drive, usually at about 330pm until sundown around 6/630pm. In private concessions your vehicle can stay out beyond sundown and you can night drive. It is also possible to off-road in the private concessions of the Serengeti.

Can I combine a migration trip with the beach?Breezes beach NCP7775

Yes – December to March offers lovely weather for the beach, and good water visibility for diving/snorkelling. Zanzibar is the most easily accessible destination from the Serengeti and offers a wide range of lodges.

Here’s an example luxury bush and beach combination.

Sample trips

See our Tanzania page for inspiration.

For Migration safari inspiration specifically please click here>>

WWKusini SR001411By March the plains have usually started to dry out and food is depleted so the herds start to move north and west on their epic journey to Kenya, pausing only as they reach the rivers that block their path.

This is the next phase of the migration…

If you are thinking of a wildlife holiday to Africa please contact us on 01603 964 730 or email enquiries@realafrica.co.uk

You can find further information about the sub-Saharan destinations we visit on our website. 

The 2019 wish-list (continued): Tanzania’s time to shine

‘Beests, beaches & natural bounty

Tanzania epitomises ‘safari’ Africa. Whether it’s a herd of elephant crossing in front of you, a stampede of wildebeest or a perfectly framed giraffe and acacia in the sunset, the scale of the place,  and the sheer beauty of its natural bounty cannot fail to impress.

For a holiday, Tanzania is a smart option – there is very little time change (GMT+3hrs) so you don’t spend all your time off feeling scrambled,  it’s accessible for much of the year, depending on what you want to do and where you want to visit, and there’s great variety – you can climb a mountain, enjoy safari on foot, bicycle and by 4WD, spend nights under canvas or in luxury lodges,  head for the beaches or escape to the hills.

elephants- julianPicture 073Dhow on ZNZ beachThe Northern Circuit parks (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara and Tarangire) are a great destination for families  and first-time visitors. Your journey includes descending steep crater walls to the floor of the iconic Ngorongoro Crater. Our tip – don’t try to do too much if short on time and if budget allows – fly back from the Serengeti (…and on to the beaches of Zanzibar!)  The south offers vast reserves (Selous and Ruaha) where traffic density is very low and wildlife encounters are hugely rewarding. We also organise fly-in safaris to the remote western area of Tanzania (Mahale and Gombe) for adventurous chimp trekking  or if adventure is what you seek – how about  climbing Kilimanjaro?

Tanzania has been out of the spotlight for the last couple of years –  the governments decision to impose 18% tourism tax on services previously exempt from tax, with only a few weeks notice back in July 2016,  was undoubtedly damaging to visitor numbers.

However, a couple of years on and things have settled. Tanzania has seen new camps/lodges open, there are some competitive airfares, with airlines like Qatar flying into Kilimanjaro (Arusha) and Zanzibar, there’s a new online visa system and efforts continue to safeguard migration corridors and protect wildlife.

25% of Tanzania’s land is protected and the growth and success of eco-tourism is hugely important to not only the wildlife, but to local communities.

With such an undeniable bounty of natural riches, we see Tanzania coming back strong in 2019.

Here are five reasons to include this spectacular country on your travel radar:

WWshutterstock_1395341961.The Wildlife IMG_2192Tanzania has the largest concentration of animals in Africa – we’re talking 4 million wild animals. The Serengeti is a must-visit for a dizzying diversity of species, including an impressive list of predators. Rhino remain hard to see but they are there – you may be lucky and get a glimpse in the  Moro Kopjes area, or in the neighbouring Ngorongoro.

Tarangire is the best place for huge impressive herds of elephants while the west of the country is where you can search for primates in the beautiful Mahale Mountains or world-famous Gombe National Park, where Dr Jane Goodall has been so influential in the conservation of chimpanzees.

Long beaked common dolphins shutterstock_527159677Marine reserves around the Spice Islands offer safe haven for turtles, rays, dolphins, whales and other species. Whether you want a Robinson Crusoe meets Jacques Cousteau experience at somewhere like Pemba or Mafia Island, or to relax on the soft sands of Zanzibar watching the dhows sail by plus a night or two in atmospheric Stone Town, Tanzania offers plenty of opportunity to dip your toes in the Indian Ocean.

2.The Great Migration

WWshutterstock_221791825For 75% of the year, the annual Wildebeest Migration roams the Serengeti and Greater Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is the world’s longest overland migration and involves 1.5 million animals. The river crossings in the northern Serengeti mark the pinnacle of the migration rewarding visitors with dramatic scenes akin to television documentaries. This experience is sure to get the heart thumping. Find out more>>>


DSC_00863.The Roof of Africa – Kilimanjaro

Majestic Kili at 5,895m is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest walkable mountain. Gaze in awe at its snow-capped peak or become one of the 25,000 trekkers scaling its slippery slopes annually.

4.The Spice Islands 

mnemba-island-lodge-51.jpg.950x0Safari and beach is a dream holiday combo and in Tanzania you are truly spoilt for choice. For those exploring the northern circuit safari parks (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, Tarangire), a few days on Zanzibar or Pemba pre or post safari works a dream. For those further south in the Selous or Ruaha, opt for Mafia Island, or stay on the beautiful mainland coast at somewhere like Ras Kutani. Find out more>>>

RA fleet & drivers Kenya DSC_71105.The People

There are over 160 different tribes living in Tanzania. Getting to know a bit about the local customs and culture is a major part of a trip to Tanzania – you’ll find the people warm and incredibly hospitable. The best way to get to grips with the Northern Circuit parks is to head off in your own private 4WD with a driver/guide. All our guides are local and take great pride in introducing you to their country.

Thinking of a holiday to Tanzania? It couldn’t be easier – just give us a ring on 01603 964 730 or email your enquiry to paul@realafrica.co.uk

To find out more about holidays to Tanzania you may like to browse the information pages on our website.

The Northern Circuit Three Ways:

On a Shoestring ?  See Small Group Escorted Safari here.

Looking for luxury? See sample Tanzania in Luxury Safari here.

For the Ultimate Tanzania Safari please click here.



Tanzania now offers an easy online visa application service – single entry visas are $50USD and can be paid online with a credit card.

Find out more here.

  • New for 2019

There has been a crop of new camps and lodges open in Tanzania, strengthening the offering and increasing choice for visitors. You may be interested in the following:


Lemala Mpingo Ridge Tented Camp –

We are very excited about this addition to the Lemala portfolio allowing guests to combine Lemala properties in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangire.  Each of the 15 spacious tented suites have been carefully positioned to maximize  views over Tarangire. All offer en-suite bathrooms, private decks, sunken outside lounges that convert to afternoon siesta beds and one of the suites has two bedrooms, perfect for families.
The elevated main lodge has a large lounge and bar, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a spa and swimming pool. Sundowners, early morning walks and game drives in new custom-designed vehicles accompanied by Lemala’s highly-knowledgeable and experienced guides are some of the activities guests can look forward to during their stay.
Lemala Nanyukie Camp opened to guests in October 2018 and is located a 45-minute drive east of the Seronera Airstrip in the park’s central region, and is superbly located with outstanding views across the plains. The camp itself sits on a grassy savanna dotted with rocky kopjes and shaded by ancient giant acacia trees. There are just 15 guest tents.
Melia Serengeti Lodge – this is the first state-of-the-art sustainable hotel by MHI, and the hotel of around 50 rooms offers ‘off the grid’ living and a great viewpoint for the annual migration. This new -ish property suits people not keen on tented camps and after a few more facilities. It’s a lot bigger than most of the properties we tend to offer but we like the commitment to sustainability.
Kati Kati galeria_KT_3Kati Kati Mara/Ndutu camps are solar-powered stripped back ‘explorer style’ mobile camps complete with safari bucket showers. The camps are positioned to get you to the heart of the action and move seasonally for the Great Migration. Kati Kati Mara is located in northern Serengeti for the river crossings (Jun – Oct/Nov) and Ndutu is in the southern Serengeti for wildebeest calving season (Dec – Mar). There are 11 tents plus one family tent.
Zuri 2018-07-19-02-56-03-d4faa8f0e1c1273dfe6f57055dba72ff Zuri Beach 2018-07-19-02-58-22-19865dd2e9da80604e2e30d2a475c65bZanzibar
Zuri Zanzibar opened in summer 2018 and offers guests access to one of the most beautiful (and non tidal) beaches on Zanzibar, Kendwa Beach.  Zuri sits on the north-west shore around 50km from Stone Town. There are 55 suites, villas and bungalows with sunset views. This would be great for a few days after a safari or as a week long holiday in its own right.
Yes please!
>>>Up next…Botswana



Guide to the Best African Hot Air Balloon Safaris

Hot air ballooning is becoming a very popular option on safaris in Africa. A hot air balloon ride truly gives you a “once in a lifetime” experience that will never be forgotten. It is so completely different to anything else you may have experienced before in both sensation and spectacle. Combining this with the opportunity to explore the stunning African landscape and throw in some game viewing from close at hand and you have all the ingredients to a magical adventure.

The ride is so quiet that it gives you the perfect opportunity to see animals up close and en masse due to the overhead perspective you get from a balloon. You can truly see for miles and miles and soak up the vastness of the African plains. With the only noise being the gentle hiss of the gas burners the peace and quiet gives you the chance to just enjoy the moment and marvel at all you can see before you.

Most tour operators offer trips like this and they follow fairly similar schedules. They tend to start very early in the morning, usually before sunrise, when the air is at its coldest and therefore its calmest. You will be served tea or coffee while you wait and watch the balloonists prepare the hot air balloon for take-off. Once you take off up into the clear African sky you will gently drift across the plains with the prevailing winds. Your pilot will decide the height for flying as necessary and they will be able to drop lower for close up game viewing or rise up high over the tree canopies. The actual flight itself usually takes around an hour and when you land a ground crew will collect you and drive you back to the launch site where you will enjoy a full champagne breakfast. Then finally before heading back to your safari lodge or camp you will be awarded a certificate as a memento of your hot air balloon flight from the balloon pilot.

In Kenya balloon flights are usually over the magnificent Masai Mara National Reserve. The Mara is the northernmost part of the spectacular Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, and is famous for being home to the awe-inspiring annual migration where millions of animals are on the move at the same time. The migration is a great time to go on a balloon trip as it gives you a great perspective on the size and speed of the migration that you just can’t get from the ground. The rest of the year is equally as good with scores of other wildlife on view including lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, hippos, and crocodiles.

Also you can do hot air ballooning across Tanzania and the Serengeti and also South Africa; the Winelands, near Cape Town and over the Kruger National Park are some of the most popular options.

By Paul Hickey-Fry

Proposed Road through the Serengeti scrapped

Wildebeest in the Serengeti, Tanzania

The plan to build a tarmac road through the Northern Serengeti National Park in Tanzania has been axed by the Tanzanian Government after a barrage of criticism from Conservation organizations. The Governments aim had been to connect the remote towns and communities near Lake Victoria, in the North West of the country, with the countries ports on its Indian Ocean coast.

However the two lane highway was shown in studies to offer a serious threat to the indigenous wildlife, some estimates showing a reduction in wildebeest numbers from over 1 million to 300,000. This fall would have been caused by the creation of a tarmac barrier, as well as the volume of heavy vehicle expected to use the road. There was also the possibility of fences being erected which would have formed a physical block the animals could not have passed.

The wildebeest migration that happens every year between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, with over 1 and a half millions animals making the journey in search of fresh grazing. The migration is vital not only for the animals, but also for the landscape and grasslands which have been formed by the actions and movements of these animals for millennia.

The Tanzanian Government changed their plans after a long campaign of pressure from many groups, including the World Heritage Centre. Their new plans, announced by their Tourism Minister Najib Balala, involve diverting the road into the south of the Park to the town of Mukoma to minimise the impact, while still creating
much needed access to an underdeveloped and poor area of the country. The Organisation that has led the campaign, Serengeti Watch, have said that “a battle has been won.”

Many arguments for the diversion of the road were based on the importance of the Serengeti in tourism, one of the most vital industries in Tanzania. A visit to the Serengeti is a highlight of most  Tanzanian safaris, its world-renown and excellent game-viewing based on its wide open grasslands and peaceful seclusion. The new road would threaten this and give poachers easy access to the main wildlife areas. To balance this, the Government argued that the North Western areas were some of the poorest in Tanzania and the road was vital to help develop them. The southern, diverted road will be longer, but seems a sensible compromise that will help preserve this wonderful wildlife wilderness.

Factfile: The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania

The Serengeti is famous worldwide for its wide-open savannas and stunning wildlife, in particular its spectacular yearly migration of wildebeest and zebra. The park is a UNESCO world heritage site, and was recently listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Only way to safariCovering 5,700 square miles, the park is the oldest reserve in Tanzania, having been established in 1951.The Serengeti National Park is located in northern Tanzania (near the border with Kenya) near Lake Manyara, Arusha, and Tarangire National Parks, as well as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – this group of five reserves makes up what is known as the “northern safari circuit.” Quite a bit of controversy has surrounded the park’s history, in particular the fact that the Masai people living in the Serengeti were moved to Ngorongoro. Despite this, the Tanzanian people feel an enormous amount of pride for this park, and it is one of the must-sees of the Tanzanian game parks.

The terrain of the Serengeti is wild and open – indeed, with the exception of Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) staff and researchers, no human habitation is allowed within the park. The park is a stunning mixture of savanna, grassland plains, and forests. Every year around October, millions of the park’s animals migrate to the Masai Mara in Kenya, making the return journey back to the Serengeti in April. The journey is an arduous one, exemplified by the fact that more than 200,000 wildebeests die while making the journey. Interestingly, the park remains home to one active volcano, called the Ol Doinyo Lengai – tree roots cannot penetrate the volcano’s ash, resulting in the treeless plains which stretch to the west of the volcano.Serengeti View

The animals of the Serengeti are what have drawn visitors and adventurers to the park year after year. The array of beasts is spectacular: gazelles, buffaloes, elephants and lions are just a few of the animals visitors will see when visiting the park. There is a clear distinction in the park between the Serengeti’s predators and preys. Some of these predators are the most stunning of East Africa’s large mammals – golden lions, speedy leopards, and mischievous cheetahs all roam the park, feeding on gazelles and wildebeests. Visitors will also have the chance to view the over 90 variations of dung beetles that populate the park, as well as over 500 different species of birds. There is never shortage to see, and Serengeti travelers will find themselves on sensory overload from the moment they enter this renowned game reserve.

Arriving at the Serengeti is not difficult; because of the park’s popularity, numerous safari tour operators are located in Arusha. Planes from Dar es Salaam to Arusha run daily. If you book with a safari operator before arriving in Tanzania, they can help you in making transportation arrangements. Arusha makes a great base for exploring both the Serengeti and a number of the other northern circuit parks. In order to see the great migrations, visit the park from December to July. However, if you are more interested in seeing predators, June to October is ideal.

Giraffe game-viewing passing visitors

A number of camping sites, lodges, and luxury tents are located within the Serengeti, and to truly take advantage of your safari experience it makes the most sense to stay within the park. After all, there is nothing like waking up early for a morning walk and seeing lions roaming through plains as the sun comes up. Work with your tour operator to find your perfect accommodation. Check out the recently opened Billa Lodge, located within the park, which offers some fantastic package rates. Discuss with your tour operator the type of accommodation you are interested in, as well are your budget restraints, and they will be able to find you exactly what you are looking for.