October 5, 2009
Recent sporadic thunder showers have been falling throughout the Northern, Western and Central areas of the Serengeti (the Southern and Eastern Serengeti remain very dry). Though the sporadic showers have remained small (about 1 inch over the past month), they have been just enough to pull the great herds of migratory wildebeest and zebra south to areas we usually don’t see the migration occupying until well into October.
As of today, we estimate that at least 80% of the migration is currently ranging south of the Mara River given that the Lamai Triangle in the Serengeti and Masai Mara in Kenya (both watershed areas north of the Mara River) retain only scattered herds at the moment. Our guides are reporting seeing large herds throughout the North Serengeti with the largest concentrations of accessible wildebeest for tourists being located in the Wogakuria Plains. We also have reports from our scouts of massive concentrations of wildebeest ranging in the Ikorongo Game Reserve, which is adjacent to the Northern Serengeti along its western flank. There also a few scattered herds in the Western Serengeti (see lodge map of Serengeti) near Kirawira Tented Lodge though the lodge closest to herds at the moment remains Lemala Serengeti Camp, which is just south of the Mara River near the concentrations of wildebeest at Wogakuria.
The other three migratory species (zebra, gazelle and eland) that make up the migration are on completely different trajectories so to speak. Zebras traditionally move both south and north first. With the southward migration beginning, the zebra herds are (as predicted) much further south of the wildebeest with significant concentrations at Lobo Valley in the North Serengeti, Ruwana Plains in the West Serengeti and we are even seeing are first zebra herds in the Seronera Valley of the Central Serengeti. As for the large herds of gazelles that never do migrate very far off the plains in the dry season, we are seeing large concentrations in the Central Serengeti (especially at Simba Kopjes). By no coincidence our guests and guides have been reporting the majority of their cheetah sightings in these central areas, as well.
We anticipate that the southward migration will be well under way as long as the scattered showers continue to attract the great herds south. It should be a great October and November in the Seronera Valley of the Central Serengeti as the migration (both the wildebeest and zebra herds) tend to stall here during these months before making their final southward leap to the plains in December. As with all migration predictions, they are completely dependent upon rainfall patterns. If the scattered rains stop, the migration could very well march back up north and recross the Mara River this month! And, that is certainly what keeps all of us at ADS on our toes out here in the unpredictable environment of the Serengeti.
Big cat viewing remains superb with especially good leopard sightings being reported in the North Serengeti and cheetah sightings in the Central Serengeti. Lions, as described in detail in our last posting, continue to dominate the Serengeti. We had a couple rare sightings last month of black rhinos in the Moru Kopjes area. Moru is a good place to be at the moment even if you are not lucky enough to see the rhinos as we have had tremendous elephant and giraffe sightings (very large family groups) at Moru Kopjes along with some other interesting species including serval cats, bat eared foxes, plenty of waterbuck and even an elusive caracal. But, it’s tough to beat seeing the Moru lion pride lounging on one the of the those beautiful kopjes that adorn the Moru area. They do seem to pose intentionally for our photography groups!
A special thanks to Mark Deutch who recently sent in this great shot of a stream of wildebeest threading through one of the isolated plains that make up the Wogakuria area. The Wogakuria plains are truly remote and it’s quite special to see a herd of wildebeest traversing this isolated and beautiful area of the african safari.