All posts by sara@realafrica.co.uk

Twenty of the BEST safaris for 2020

Zambezi Expeditions

In 2020 Real Africa is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

In that time we’ve amassed a vast amount of knowledge and first-hand experience. We’ve also built up an extensive and reliable network of contacts to ensure our clients are looked after every step of the way.

Here we look at twenty different ways to explore the magnificent continent of Africa from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Cape of Good Hope.

Safari First-Timers

A classic East Africa safari to Kenya or Tanzania, or a malaria-free safari in South Africa would be our top picks for a first safari experience. With both options you can enjoy a taste of safari within a longer holiday.

South Africa Cape self-drive and malaria-free safari

This trip has a lot going for it – you can fly direct to Cape Town and the exchange rate with the Rand ensures your Pounds go a long way. Start your journey in one of the world’s most beautiful cities: Cape Town before exploring the nearby winelands and glorious Garden Route – a coastal self-drive of 200km linking the Western and Eastern Cape. Stop along the way depending on how much time you have and end your holiday with a superb safari stay in one of the Eastern Cape Game Reserves – 3 nights on safari would be ideal. Fly home, via Johannesburg, from nearby Port Elizabeth.

Now we know what you may be thinking: we can book this ourselves online.

Think again. By booking the whole thing with a specialist you can tap into knowledge and advice, take advantage of special tour operator rates and you’ll have a support network and financial protection through our ATOL bonding should anything go wrong. Holidays are meant to be relaxing – let us do the hard work for you.

Family Caper

Cape Town, Garden Route Self Drive with Safari Extension

Classic Northern Circuit in Tanzania, plus beaches of Zanzibar

This is the perfect combination – first a safari full of excitement and adventure and then time to rest on the white sand beaches of Zanzibar. The Northern Circuit in Tanzania combines iconic destinations: Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. The best way to explore the wider region and to get a feel for the country is to travel in a private 4×4 vehicle with a driver/guide. This means you can explore at a pace which suits you. If you would prefer to spend less time in the vehicle getting from A to B then it is also possible to enjoy a fly-in safari or to substitute some of the longer journeys with a flight – just ask for details.

Tanzania Wildlife Week with Zanzibar

Zanzibar

Safari on a Shoestring

If you’re keen to experience a safari holiday but are scared off by the price then you might be interested in some of these tips! It’s worth remembering before you look at any quotes that the nightly cost includes your guided activities, your accommodation and very often all meals and drinks too. Sometimes it even includes your laundry. It is usual to pay a conservation fee per person per night which goes to maintain the land and wildlife.

Travelling out of peak season is a great way to maximise your budget and still enjoy a fabulous safari. The off-peak or Green Season in East Africa is March – May and in Southern Africa it is November – March (apart from the Eastern Cape of South Africa which is May-August). This is when the camps/lodges are quieter and tend to offer excellent stay/pay special offers (when you get one free night) or reduced rates. You may not get the optimum conditions but wildlife will still be good with many young animals about and migratory birds.

We’d also recommend joining small group tours – these are really competitively priced – we run these in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia and South Africa and they stay at some very characterful small properties. Alternatively in South Africa and Namibia you can combine self-drive and self-catering to reduce and control your overall spend. Distances can be vast in Africa and transfer costs add up quickly so staying in one place – for example 5 nights in the Masai Mara, Kenya or in South Luangwa , Zambia will also help you to reduce the overall cost of the trip – in our experience people often try to cram too much in to their holiday, asking to combine lots of diverse regions and not appreciating he cost of getting between them all. Sometimes it is better to stay in one place and really get to know it and enjoy it – you’ll also give yourself the best opportunity of seeing a wide variety of wildlife.

Self-drive

Classic Uganda Small Group Tour with gorilla trek

Tanzania Trails – small group Northern Circuit safari

Zambia Express

Family Holidays and Multi-Generational Journeys

Simple is usually the best way forward if you are travelling as a large/family group. We would recommend safari (and beach) houses in East Africa or Zambia as the ideal fix. South Africa also works well with a great choice of self catering apartments, hotels and lodges. Most safari vehicles can accommodate 6, up to a maximum of 7 people so this is worth bearing in mind. Some camps offer exclusive use vehicles for smaller family groups. If you have a young or elderly generation to consider in your plans then a malaria free safari reserve such as Madikwe, the Eastern Cape, or the Waterberg/Pilanesberg would be ideal in South Africa.

House in the Wild – Wild Villa Kenya

Alfajiri Beach Houses, Kenyan Coast

Robin’s House, Zambia and Chongwe River Camp & River House, Zambia

Chongwe River House

Luxury Safaris

If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just prefer the finer things in life then Africa has no shortage of superb luxury camps, lodges and experiences. Choosing a stay in a private conservancy would be our recommendation as you have access to far more activities, including walking and bush dining, and you can off-road allowing you to get closer to the action. These things can really elevate your experience to a whole new level. Botswana in particular excels at offering high quality exclusive safaris with an incredible choice of iconic lodges including Mombo and Zarafa among others. In Kenya, hospitality is excellent and there are many unusual activities to make your trip unique – you can go black rhino tracking on foot from Saruni Rhino, breakfast with giraffes at Giraffe Manor, or go horse riding across the savannah with a view of Mount Kilimanjaro from Ol Donyo. In Mana Pools in Zimbabwe you can get off the beaten track while still enjoying top notch service in a virtually pristine wilderness for instance Nyamatusi Camp, Chikwenya or the new Sapi Explorers Camp are three new properties catering for top-end clients. On our bucket list is a stay at Tswalu in South Africa which perfectly combines luxury with a top level conservation experience and the chance to see some truly rare species. For beach lovers, we have private island stays – our favourites are in the Seychelles, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Ultimate Botswana

Black Rhino Tracking and Conservation Safari Fly-In Kenya

Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Tswalu, South Africa

Tswalu

Off-the-beaten track

You’ve safaried in the Serengeti, or seen the migration in the Mara and now you’re looking for a new adventure – well the good news is there are plenty of options to visit some really exciting wilderness areas from Akagera in Rwanda and Zakouma in Chad to more familiar destinations such as Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia where new conservancies or camps offer different experiences , such as Chuylu Hills in Kenya, Mahale and Katavi in Tanzania, Kidepo in Uganda, Majete in Malawi or Kafue in Zambia. Each of these is incredibly rewarding. Our experience of off the beaten track destinations is that you should allow more time to explore them. Many of these areas have regenerated in recent years thanks to conservation efforts so although wildlife density may not be as great as in other regions there will be other attractions from the landscape, the local culture and learning about the conservation process to the activities you can do – these aren’t generally places where just a night or two will cut it.

Victoria Falls and Kafue, Zambia

Northern Explorer – Kidepo & Murchison Falls – Uganda

Bush & Beach

It doesn’t get much better than this – a week on safari followed by a week relaxing on a white sand beach. For us this is the ultimate combo. East Africa works well with the Kenyan Coast or Tanzania’s Spice Islands easily accessible for a post safari break. You’ll find best value on Zanzibar or around Mombasa down to Diani in Kenya. We love Mafia Island and Pemba for rustic simplicity. Mnemba Island costs a pretty penny but has wow-factor in return. In South Africa, a safari in Kruger combines well with Mozambique or Mauritius. We also love Africa’s glorious lake shores and river retreats. Try Lake Malawi for an idyllic break, Tongabezi on the Zambezi River, or Wild Waters on the Nile. For the ultimate beach retreat it has to be the Seychelles – pure bliss for beach lovers. Swap your land safari for marine safari and head to one of the private islands for the best marine life – take your pick depending on your budget – Denis, Bird, Fregate, Felicite, North and Desroche are among your choices.

Madikwe Safari and Mauritius

Lemala Tented Safari with Zanzibar, Tanzania

Safari and Lake, Malawi

Kaya Mawa, Lake Malawi

Active Holidays

Climb Kilimanjaro, trek mountain gorillas or chimps in the forest, paddle your way down the Zambezi, camp on deserted beaches and navigate by kayak and dhow around Mozambique’s islands, walk the dry river beds of South Luangwa tracking big cats as you go, canter across the savannah, raft the rapids – for lovers of adventure and activity from walking to mountain biking, there are plenty of opportunities. Victoria Falls offers a good variety and is often a big hit with teenagers/families with ziplines and rafting among the attractions. Whatever you’re interested in, please do ask us and we can recommend the best places.

Gorilla trekking and wildlife safari fly-in Uganda

Luangwa Bush Camping Walking Safari, Zambia

Robin Pope Safaris – Sundowners in Luangwa

Call us on 01603 964 730 to plan your safari or email enquiries@realafrica.co.uk

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Safari by the Seasons

What’s the best time to go on a safari? This is undoubtedly the most asked question we receive. The answer? You can safari year-round in Africa but undeniably some places are better than others at certain times of year.
 
shutterstock_78023380When you should go on a safari depends on many factors including  what you are hoping to see and your budget as well as wildlife movements and weather patterns .
 
We recommend speaking to the team for advice based on your individual circumstances,  but to give you some ideas of what we like to do when and why,  please read our quick safari by the seasons guide below!
 
You can see detailed information about sub-Saharan safari destinations in our country guides here. 
 
 

UK SPRING (March – May)

 
 autumn vineyard cape townSouth Africa is a good option during these months of the year – it is autumn in the southern hemisphere which means South Africa’s Cape is usually beautiful during the Easter holidays enjoying mild dry weather which can continue right throughout May. Temperatures tend to hover around 20 degrees which is perfect for self -drive and sight-seeing. It’s still warm enough to eat alfresco and walk the beach.
 
This time of year offers other substantial benefits too – as well as being cooler, it is much quieter and accommodation rates are lower then during the peak months of November to February. However, if you’re hoping to see whales, they don’t tend to arrive in their masses until July time although you may be lucky…
 
 
Rhino DSC_1693Coral Lodge Kayaking on lagoonGreater Kruger, South Africa’s most famous safari destination is entering its prime time,  which stretches from  April/May until October  –   rainfall subsides, the bush starts to die back and wildlife is usually more prolific/easier to find as it congregates around known water sources.
 
Combine your Kruger safari with time on the beach in neighbouring Mozambique (also good from April/May onwards), or with the Cape coast.
 
WWDSC_6125Looking for a beach escape? The Seychelles are glorious March – May. This time of year marks the end of the north-west monsoon and Manta Rays start to gather in the channels around the islands.
 
The shores of Lake Malawi would be another excellent choice  from April onwards as the weather becomes increasingly clear and warm. Days on the lake and nights beneath the stars can be combined with a safari in Majete and/or Liwonde. 
 
We also like bush and beach combinations during the Easter holidays in East Africa – for example, the Masai Mara and Diani Beach. This choice is not governed by the weather however which can be changeable at this time. Rates are very competitive March-May with many special offers, which reflects the unpredictability of the aforementioned weather –  the long rains can arrive at any time from March onwards and usually last well into May. Downpours can be sudden and heavy but often clear to bright sunshine. The long rains start in the west and sweep towards the Indian Ocean coast, often not arriving on the coast until early May. Rates are as low as they go at this time of year on safari. Baby animals are everywhere and the landscape is increasingly lush and green.  Elephants love to play in the rain. A Samburu day in  late May/early June, after the rains, is a truly wonderful thing.
 
Nxai Pan AldKBs_r.jpegZambia 1In Southern Africa the rains come earlier, from November to March leaving the parched Kalahari Salt Pans in Botswana refreshed. Easter is one of our favourite times to visit this area.
 
Victoria Falls is also resplendent following the rains and you can see it in Full Flood at this time of year – the sheer volume and power of water surging over the Falls means the view is often obscured by spray and walking the Rainforest trails is a very wet activity!  You can try your luck at seeing a Lunar Rainbow if full moon occurs at the time of your visit. This is a dramatic time to visit the Falls.
 
 

UK SUMMER June to August

Migration TZFor the majority of safari destinations, this is the optimum time to be in Africa, with the exception of Cape Town and the Cape coast.
 
You really are spoilt for choice! June is our secret season when conditions are excellent but visitor numbers (and airfares/lodge prices) are not at their maximum until July/August.
 
600UgandaGo gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda, see dramatic river crossings in Kenya/Tanzania as the Great Migration moves from northern Serengeti to the Masia Mara, stake out a waterhole in Namibia’s Etosha, enjoy walking safaris in Zambia or Zimbabwe’s legendary Mana Pools,  or float down the serene channels of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The trademark weather pattern of this season is cool, dry and clear.
 
For beach lovers, the Indian Ocean coast offers good visibility for diving and snorkelling and the southern ‘Kusi’ breeze helps to cool you down. Humpback whales start to migrate along the Kenyan coast from July/August.
 
 

UK AUTUMN September to November

September is one of our favourite times in East and Southern Africa – the short rains do not tend to arrive until November and with the migration on the plains of the Mara throughout September into October you are likely to be treated to some exceptional wildlife viewing both here and in the northern Serengeti in Tanzania.

Southern Right Whales  collect off the Cape coast of South Africa to calve with the Hermanus Whale Festival held in late September – while humpbacks can also be seen in Cape waters. Temperatures start to soar providing wonderful respite from the autumn chill in the UK. Outdoor concerts and picnics begin as the weather warms.

September is a plum month for Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. October sees the highest density of wildlife as water sources shrink.  Temperatures are at their peak in October – it can be very hot and dry – and Victoria Falls can be reduced to a trickle at this time of year before the long rains arrive in November so if you want to combine the Falls with a safari the optimum time to visit is really June to August.  Weather can be unpredictable in November, however many of the seasonal mobile camps stay open for the first week or so.

 
Looking for a beach break? We love Mauritius in September/October.

UK WINTER December to February

East Africa is the place to be. Catch up with calving on the Serengetis southern plains in Tanzania, enjoy the white sands of the Spice Islands and Kenyan coast with water visibility at its best for snorkelling and diving.

Uganda is also a good option in January/February time and is the next best time of year to go gorilla trekking after June-September, which is considered peak gorilla season.
 

If you’re looking for heat – South Africa’s Cape is celebrating the Southern Hemisphere’s summer sunshine, with January and February the hottest months of the year (expect the thermometer to sit around 30 degrees+). Safaris in the malaria-free Eastern Cape are fabulous but further north in Kruger you can expect very wet and difficult conditions with impassable roads – something to consider as safari vehicles tend to be open style with very little protection from the elements.

Don’t rule out Southern Africa –   like Kruger, it is in the grip of the wet and warm Green Season throughout the UK Winter (this means sudden downpours, dramatic skies and a lush landscape), however, in some areas such as Chobe, the Okavango and Hwange there are excellent permanent camps open year-round, offering very good deals.  On safari you’ll be rewarded by many migratory birds and this is the time for young animals to be born.
 

Garonga

World Giraffe Day – how do you move a giraffe? Q&A with Dr Sara Ferguson from Giraffe Conservation Foundation

This is a the second part of our blog celebrating World Giraffe Day.

World Giraffe Day is an exciting annual event initiated by Giraffe Conservation Foundation to celebrate the longest-necked animal on the longest day or night (depending on which hemisphere you live!) of the year – 21 June.

Not only is it a worldwide celebration of these amazing and much-loved animals, but an annual event to raise support, create awareness and shed light on the challenges giraffe face in the wild.

Here we focus specifically on one of the projects being supported by Explorers against Extinction 2019 – the translocation of critically endangered Nubian Giraffe from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe in Uganda this autumn. You can find out more about this project here.

shutterstock_112144487Travelling to Uganda  is one way to support conservation efforts in the country. We are delighted to also partner with Tourism Uganda this year and to highlight some of the amazing experiences Uganda offers, from visiting Murchison Falls (pictured) to trekking to see endangered mountain gorillas. Find out more about travelling to Uganda here.

 

HOW DO YOU MOVE A GIRAFFE?

Q&A with Dr Sara Ferguson, Conservation Researcher, Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).

Dr Ferguson is heading up the Nubian Giraffe Translocation from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe in Uganda this autumn. The translocation is a joint GCF / Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) operation.

  • How many Nubian giraffe are being moved?

Approximately 15 but ultimate decision on number will be decided by UWA as will the ratio of males/females to be moved.

  • How are these selected?

We look for a specific size and age – mainly smaller subadults, between the ages of 2-4. Smaller individuals are easier to immobilise and move, and young enough to be weaned from the dam (female) but not yet at sexual maturity.  Avoid any pregnant females is the goal. Individuals are usually selected during the translocation process. We go out with the UWA team and scan herds for individuals who would be suitable and make the choice out in the field.

  • Can you give us a broad summary of the key stages of the translocation process? Nubian MF

1.Identifying appropriate translocation environment/destination (includes habitat assessment; park/reserve analysis; looks at historical or current presence of giraffe; threat assessment; community awareness and sensitization, etc.)

boma22.Government approval of translocation

3.Route determination (road conditions, obstacles, duration)

4.Boma construction (corral to hold giraffe pre and post translocation)

5.Location determination and logistics (when is the best season to move the giraffe; how many individuals, what age/sex)

truck-in-landscape6.Logistical planning (transport truck assessment; chariot assessment; team organization; resource allocation and necessity).

 

 

 

  • Can you outline the translocation process for us including capture and release? 

We will plan on darting at least two giraffe on the same day to move to the boma (likely three or four if we can manage).  Giraffe are social animals and will stress if left alone in the boma for an extended period of time.

We usually begin in the early morning when it is cool (around 7 am), drive to an area with giraffe (we scout this out the day before to identify some herds with good potential).

Once an individual is selected, it will be immobilised via a CO2 powered dart gun with etorphine HCl (M99), the drug usually takes about 3-6 minutes to take effect, then the ground team moves in to rope the darted giraffe and assist to the ground (this is quite an exciting process and it aids in reduction of injury to the giraffe).

The giraffe is then immediately reversed with the antidote naltraxone as a blindfold and ear plugs are placed and the giraffe is restrained with manpower on the neck and body.  All giraffe also receive prophylactic antibiotic and antiinflammatory injections to reduce the impact of immobilisations.

Ropes are placed to help guide the giraffe once up into the transport chariot which is pulled by a tractor. Once the giraffe is on the transport chariot, the guiding ropes are removed and  it is brought to the boma, the blindfold and ear plugs are removed and the giraffe is released into the boma where ample water and fresh browse are available.

Then the process is quickly repeated to have a companion as quickly as possible. Once there are at least two giraffe in the boma, we do not need to rush to get more giraffe so depending on temperature (if it is too hot) we may or may not continue that day.

Over the next few days we collect more individuals and add them to the boma (usually aiming to get 5 animals, maybe 10). There is always a rest day for the team and the giraffe to allow them to adjust to the boma and transport truck (situated where the giraffe can access it while in the boma).Chariot

5 individuals are loaded up onto the transport truck and driven to their new destination (Pian Upe is approximately a10-12 hour drive away from Murchison Falls).

There will be another boma at the reserve where the giraffe will be placed overnight to allow them to get a good drink of water, food, and recover from the drive. UWA will determine how long they would like the giraffe to remain in the boma prior to release into Pian Upe.

Then the process is repeated until we have the entire herd transported. UWA rangers will then monitor the giraffe closely, making sure they do not immediately try to leave the reserve and adjust well.
release

How many staff are involved?

A huge team from UWA and a moderate team from GCF — unsure on the actual number of individuals but usually enough to have two grounds teams (6-10 rangers each), three to four veterinarians, two drivers, 3-6 researches gathering biological data…

It is a huge process!

What does the project cost?

We estimate the whole operation to cost just over $100,000 USD. Each giraffe costs approximately $6, 700 to move.

 

SUPPORT THIS PROJECT

There are many ways to show your support – come along to one of our autumn exhibitions and events, shop at the Real World Store, buy a ticket for our ‘Win a Safari’ raffle or simply make a donation here – find out more here.

THANK YOU.

 

 

 

Giraffe – the gentle giants facing an uncertain future

With their long eyelashes and graceful gait, giraffe are an iconic symbol of Africa. It is impossible to imagine an African
landscape without them.

However in recent years giraffe have seen a decline in numbers. Two sub species, Nubian and Kordofan, are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.

In 2018 our conservation campaign Explorers against Extinction supported a project in Garamba National Park, DRC.  Garamba is home to one of these giraffe sub species – the Kordofan giraffe. The working dogs programme we assisted African Parks to establish in Garamba is helping the rangers to protect not only elephant but also the Kordofan giraffe.

This year we are partnering with Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF),  the only NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe. Our aim is to raise awareness about the plight of giraffe while also directly contributing to the conservation of the Nubian giraffe.

We want to cover the cost of moving a pair of Nubian Giraffe from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe, Uganda. This pair will be part of a group of 15 or so giraffe making the move from Murchison Falls. It is hoped  the group will go on to establish a viable, free-ranging population. Find out more about this project here.

WGDIn the first of a two-part blog celebrating World Giraffe Day on Friday 21 June, we take a closer look at the different species and the threats facing them.

Statistics

In the 1980s, the total number of giraffe in Africa was estimated at more than 155,000 individuals.

Today, GCF estimates the current Africa-wide giraffe population at approximately 111,000 individuals.

This is a drop by almost 30%. Unfortunately, in some areas traditionally regarded as prime giraffe habitat, numbers have dropped by 95% in the same period.

DSC_0353Threats

The combined impacts of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, human population growth, poaching, disease, war and civil unrest threaten the remaining giraffe numbers and their distribution throughout Africa.

Many threats arise from direct, indirect or perceived competition for resources with humans, their livestock and agricultural land. Habitat degradation and destruction is caused by an increasing human demand for agricultural land, pastoralism, and uncontrolled timber and fuel-wood harvesting.

Human-giraffe conflict can develop due to crop loss and damage, and potential disease transmission can result from habitat sharing with domestic livestock. Sadly, giraffe outside protected areas are sometimes also struck by vehicles and trains.

The fragmentation and loss of giraffe habitat caused by human encroachment often leads to the isolation of giraffe populations which, in turn, limits the flow and exchange of genetic diversity between populations.

Although there is very little evidence of species interbreeding in the wild, the translocation of one species of giraffe to an area already occupied by a different species could create the risk of hybridisation. Should they interbreed, the genetic uniqueness of each individual species would be lost.

Sw Giraffe DSC_6263Species

Giraffe occur in 21 countries in Africa. While the IUCN Red List currently recognises one species of giraffe and nine subspecies, new findings by GCF and partners clearly show four species and five confirmed subspecies of giraffe:

 

  • Masai (35,000): further studies required to see if Thornicroft giraffe is genetically identical to Masai giraffe, or a distinct sub species
  • Northern (5,600): Kordofan (2,000); Nubian (Rothschild’s giraffe has been identified as genetically identical to Nubian giraffe) (3,000); West African (600)
  • Reticulated (15,780)
  • Southern (54,750): Angolan (17,750); Southern African (37,000)

This updated species information is currently under further review and will hopefully soon be taken into consideration by the IUCN for future conservation assessments, giving each giraffe their own taxonomical status and mandate for increased conservation.

boma2Focus on Nubian Giraffe

At present, fewer than 200 Nubian Giraffe occur in western Ethiopia, 450 in eastern South Sudan, 800 in Kenya, and more than 1,550 in Uganda.

Based on the rate of decline, estimated at 95% in the last three decades, Nubian giraffe were, for the first time, added to the IUCN Red List and listed as Critically Endangered in 2018.

In 2010, the formerly known Rothschild’s subspecies was classified as Endangered and of high conservation importance on the IUCN Red List, but based on good conservation efforts of governments and partners, including GCF, the Rothschild’s giraffe was downlisted to Near Threatened as populations and numbers have increased. Once the IUCN recognises the two subspecies as one, the conservation status on the IUCN Red List for Nubian giraffe as a whole will most likely remain Critically Endangered, indicating an urgent need for increased conservation measures.

The Nubian giraffe’s patches are large, rectangular and chestnut-brown. The patches are surrounded by an off-white, creamy colour. There are no markings on their lower legs.

Statistics sourced from Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

Sunset DSC_8682

  • Did you know? The word giraffe is believed to come from the Arab word zarafa, which means fast walker.

 

 

Giraffing Around: 4 species, 4 ways.
Some of the best places to see Giraffe.
1.See Reticulated Giraffe in Samburu, Kenya, one of Samburu’s ‘Special Five’ (Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Somali Ostrich, Gerenuk and Grevy’s Zebra). You’ll also find Samburu’s famous herds of elephants here, usually by the river. Of course, if you’re visiting Kenya and love giraffe, don’t miss a visit to the AFEW Giraffe Centre in Karen, Nairobi where you can learn about efforts to save another species – the Nubian (Rothschild’s Giraffe) where you can feed them from a special platform. Next door you’ll find the famous Giraffe Manor hotel – find out more here.
2.See beautiful Nubian Giraffe (Rothschild’s), a sub species of Northern Giraffe at Murchison Falls, in Uganda – this is a giraffe conservation hot spot with the population increasing eightfold over 20 years – a fabulous success story.
3.Southern Africa’s giraffe population has nearly doubled in the past 20 years thanks to concerted conservation efforts – Etosha in Namibia is one of the best places to observe Southern Giraffe alongside big cats, rhino and elephant.
4.See huge herds of Masai giraffe against a Serengeti sunset in Tanzania. The giraffe is Tanzania’s national animal and both Tarangire and the Serengeti offer excellent opportunity to observe them.

 

 

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.