I thought it would be interesting to share a collection of safari photos mainly from the Serengeti National Park showing just how close one can get to the big game (lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and giraffe) in Tanzania. Sometimes a large zoom or telephoto lens is not at all necessary and a small pocket size camera is actually more advantageous.
Greetings from Arusha, Tanzania. I have just finished my most recent safari with two guests Katherine and Karen who are from Chicago Illinois, USA. While in the bush we had a wonderful time together with some spectacular wildlife viewing especially with great migration crossing the Mara River and for the predators including lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena.
Jambo! This ADS guide Russell Temu from Arusha, Tanzania with a short report and a few pictures to share with you. I’ve recently returned from a lengthy safari this past September totaling 16 days in duration. My guests and I enjoyed 3 nights in the Ngorongoro Crater and 12 nights in the Serengeti National Park split between 4 different camps in the Central and Northern Serengeti. Overall, the wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities were amazing. Please enjoy the selection of pictures below taken while on this incredible adventure. One of the dominant male Lions of the Sametu pride around Sametu plains in the Central Serengeti.
Hi all again! This is Russell Temu, an ADS professional guide based in Tanzania, East Africa. I just finished my most recent safari with a group of five guests from the USA. The end of the green season including March, April and May is one of my favorite seasons to be out on safari in the famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Ecosystems. The wildlife viewing is usually amazing during this time of year and this safari certainly did not disappoint.
(Lioness and cubs at Gorigor Swamp in the Ngorongoro Crater)
Jambo and good morning from a warm and sunny Arusha! I’ve just completed guiding my most recent safari with 2 couples from California and Oregon, USA. We enjoyed 7 nights together in the bush with 5 nights in the Serengeti National Park at Lake Masek Tented Lodge along with 2 nights in the Ngorongoro Crater at the spectacular Ngorongoro Manor Lodge.
Well, it’s not really a unicorn but they might as well be considering how rare this particular antelope species has become in Northern Tanzania. It’s been several years since any of our guests on safari have spotted a fringe-eared oryx in either the Serengeti or Tarangire National Parks. Needless to say, we were all delighted here at ADS when we heard a small group of oryx had been spotted in Tarangire. A big thanks to Peter A. who just returned from Tarangire and sent us these pictures as proof this rare antelope still persists in the Tarangire ecosystem.
The unusually dense herds of migratory wildebeest and zebra that had flooded into the heart of the Seronera River Valley as discussed in our last posting have splintered into several groups now. The biggest group is currently located around the Hembe Campsites at the beginning of the Western Corridor of the Serengeti approximately 5 kms to the east of the famous Musabi Plains. This herd is quickly moving west down the Corridor and we anticipate there will be some great migration sightings in the Musabi Plains in the days to come.
In addition to this aforementioned herd entering the Western Corridor, large herds of migratory wildebeest still remain throughout the Central Serengeti making Seronera Valley the current # 1 wildlife viewing destination for all our African Safaris in Tanzania. Our guests out on safari at the moment in Seronera are being delighted with not only great migration sightings but also with regular sightings of Seronera’s big cats. Several safaris out yesterday had nice experiences with all 3 species: lion, leopard and cheetah!
Migration sightings including both zebra and wildebeest have been recorded in the Central Serengeti at the base of Oldoinyo Rongai (near the Prince Charles campsites) and in the woodlands between Kubukubu and Retina Hippo Pool. We also have reports of scattered herds still stubbornly clinging to the edge of the Southern Plains around Kusini Camp and the Simiyu/Soito Kopjes. Furthermore, one of our safaris yesterday spotted another large herd of wildebeest in the Tagora Plains just northwest of Mbuzi Mawe Camp where the new Bilila Lodge is located. Today this same herd was spotted moving further north towards Lobo Valley.
It’s quite unusual to have the migration so dispersed at the end of May with herds scattered all the way from Kusini in the South to almost Lobo in the North while the traditional May ranging areas around Grumeti, Kirawira and Mbalageti in the Western Serengeti remain strangely empty. Despite the absence of the migratory wildebeest and zebra, the Western Serengeti is still delivering great game viewing for resident animals including elephant, giraffe and hippo.
Special thanks to our very own Lynn Newby-Fraser who took this fantastic migration shot in the Seronera Valley on May 16th.
How do over a million wildebeest go missing? This was the million dollar question being asked by many guests on their African Safaris in the Serengeti National Park for the first half of this week. The massive herds of wildebeest and zebra that had besieged the Moru Kopjes area (referred to as the ‘Moru Crush’) in our last post, departed just as quickly as they had arrived. Then, yesterday when all the tour companies were scrambling to locate the migration it was our very own African Dream Safaris guide (Reginald Matemu) who spotted dust plumes on the backside of Makoma Hill. This is the western side of Makoma Hill that faces away from the main tourist routes in Seronera. And sure enough after traversing to the back side of Makoma Hill, he discovered a plain completely choked black with wildebeest that lay completely hidden from the main tourist routes.
Last night this massive herd made its way around the base of Makoma Hill and flooded out onto to the Makoma Plain. This morning large herds of wildebeest streamed to the Seronera River. One of our senior guides commented that he had never seen such a huge herd of wildebeest in Seronera before. Incredible! All day long wildebeest continued to poor across the Makoma plain on their way to drink at the Seronera River. One of our guests out on safari waited for 42 minutes (yes…he timed it with his stopwatch) while a continuous column of wildebeest crossed the road in front of their vehicle enroot to the Seronera River.
Dozens of hunting attempts (only one successful one was reported) were seen all day long along the Seronerea River by the large prides of lions that inhabit the western edge of the Seronera Valley including the Makoma pride. One of our Africa Dream Safaris guides screeched in excitement over the radio: ‘these lions are hunting like crazy’! Even our seasoned safari guides still get overwhelmed with excitement at times and loose their ‘cool’.
On another interesting note, we had a group out on safari spot 6 cheetahs today (in 3 different groupings) at the Gol Kopjes on just a 2-hour game drive enroot from the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater. Tens of thousands of both Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles have moved into the Gol Kopjes area and the East Serengeti in the wake of the wildebeest of and zebra herds moving off (called successional grazing).
The northward migration is accelerating quickly and we anticipate the herds to push into the Western Corridor of the Serengeti shortly. We will likely start seeing significant herds of wildebeest start appearing in the Musabi Plains (the first open plain in the West) in about a week before moving down the corridor. The entire Western Serengeti is green and lush at the moment as there have been good rains in this area all throughout the green season. This will no doubt attract the migration here shortly as Seronera and the Central Serengeti begin drying out. Seronera is still a bit green at the moment and we had some brief thundershowers last night so scattered herds of wildebeest will likely remain in the valley for quite some time after the core of the migration moves west. Safari Njema!
The northward wildebeest migration is currently in full swing. The wildebeest and zebra herds are departing the plains earlier then we had anticipated in our last post. The eastern plains around gol kopjes, which were lush green and packed with wildebeest (see picture in the April 22nd posting), are now mostly dry and dusty with only a few scattered herds of hearty gazelles remaining.
The migration is currently split into 2 main groups with the biggest herd at Moru Kopjes and a slightly smaller herd at Hidden Valley plus a ‘spattering’ at Simba Kopjes. All this week large columns of wildebeest were seen marching off the plains heading in the general direction of Moru Kopjes. Today the ‘Moru Crush’ was well underway as we saw massive herds of wildebeest entering the beginning of the Mbalageti River Valley at Moru Kopjes and Lake Magadi. The Mbalageti River forms a natural corridor that the wildebeest and zebra follow in May. Both Moru Kopjes and Hidden Valley (the 2 main current locations of the migration) form the headwaters to the Mbalageti River and it is here the migration usually gathers at the end of the green season. Accordingly, we anticipate this general northwest movement to continue as the dry season sets in and the herds follow the Mbalageti River all the way off the plains and into the Western Serengeti. As to when the main wildebeest and zebra herds will arrive into the Western Serengeti around the lodges of Mbalageti, Kirawira and Grumeti is uncertain at the moment and will depend upon the quality (salinity levels) of the water along the plains woodland border. Salinity levels gradually decrease as the Mbalageti River flows northwest and eventually empties into Lake Victoria. And, some scientists hypothesize that its the high salinity levels at the end of the green season that trigger the northward migration to begin in May.
Besides the incredible migration sightings, our recent guests have been delighted and entertained with dozens of lion cubs. There are 5 lion prides with young cubs being seen right now including the areas of Ndutu (11 cubs), Makoma Hill (12 cubs), Sametu Kopjes (2 cubs), Simba Kopjes (6 cubs) and Gol Kopjes (3 cubs).
We are now entering peak season though you wouldn’t know it by game driving the usually busy Ngorongoro Crater. Yesterday, there were only 8 total vehicles game driving the floor of the Crater! Here at African Dream Safaris we have 7 vehicles out in the Serengeti at the moment but by this time next week we will have over 20! Needless to say we are all busy gearing up for peak season and looking forward to all the wonderful wildlife sightings that will surely transpire in the weeks to come. With the migration just departing the african safari plains, it’s going to be an incredible May/June season in the Serengeti. Just for comparison, this exact time last year the migration was already crossing the Grumeti River 30 miles to the northwest of its current location at Moru Kopjes.
The rains have diminished considerably but there have been a few showers over the last couple days. These scattered showers continue to keep the great herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle content to graze on the short grass plains of the Serengeti where there is plenty of potable water and fresh green grass.
The massive herd mentioned in our last post that had been dominating the landscape of the Eastern Plains has finally fragmented. There still remains a large herd in the East Serengeti between Gol Kopjes and Lemuta Hill but an equally large herd is has split off and is now ranging between Matiti and Kusini and out on the plains surrounding the Ndutu woodlands. We have reports of some fantastic wildebeest crossings at Lake Ndutu as well as great game viewing with one group of our clients that just returned from their african safari reporting 11 cheetah sightings at Ndutu and Hidden Valley, 2 cheetahs at Gol Kopjes and over 70 lions including lots of small cubs.
We estimate that based on the current standing water and grazing conditions in the Serengeti, the herds will remain at least 1 – 2 weeks longer out on the Southern and Eastern Serengeti Plains before they begin their much anticipated northward migration to the northern and western woodlands of the Serengeti. We are all eagerly awaiting the famous ‘Moru Crush’ where the wildebeest funnel through the narrow pass at Moru Kopjes in the Central Serengeti as they march off the plains on their way north to the woodlands.
Thanks again Joyce and Jeff Nott who have submitted another great african safari photo of that unusual double lion hunt and kill in the Central Serengeti pictured below.
The wildebeest migration continues to be concentrated on the new grass growth areas of the Eastern Plains. There are large herds of wildebeest and gazelle stretching east from Naabi Hill to Gol Kopjes and even further to the extreme eastern edge of the Serengeti Ecosystem around Lemuta Hill and Nasera Rock. As promised in our last post, below are some recent pictures submitted by our very own Dawn Anderson who has just returned from the african safari field. Make sure to double click on the each photo to expand to full screen.
The wildebeest migration photo above was taken on April 10th in the Gol Kopjes of the Eastern Serengeti. CAN YOU SPOT THE SOLITARY ELAND IN THE PHOTO ABOVE? The lion shot below was taken on the small plain in front of Makoma Hill in the Seronera Valley of the Central Serengeti on April 7th.
The end of April is traditionally our slowest period for safaris here at Africa Dream Safaris before our peak season begins in early May. However, we are fortunate to have quite a few vehicles in the bush right now. Our clients out on their African Safaris are even more fortunate as the Serengeti, which is virtually empty of tourists at the moment, is providing phenomenal wildlife viewing opportunities including the great migration and all the attendant predators.
There is an old adage in the Serengeti that “rain means game” and this couldn’t be more on point at this very moment. Over the last five days both the Southern and Eastern plains of the Serengeti have exploded with life as the thundershowers mentioned in our last post have continued and intensified. The vast herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle have finally marched out of their drought refuge in the Central Serengeti woodlands and onto the short grass plains. They are home at last!
Ernest Sitta, one of our most veteran guides with almost 2 decades of experience in the Serengeti, commented that he has never seen such a dramatic mini-migration of sorts as the hundreds of thousands of wildebeest that were previously scattered at the edge of the woodlands instantly descended in droves onto the plains when the overdue rains finally materialized. Our guests staying at our private luxury camp at Naabi Hill (located at the heart of the Serengeti plains) received quite a show yesterday as the plain surrounding the campsite was full of thousands of wildebeest and zebra. Unfortunately, everyone had trouble sleeping at night as the sounds of over 100,000 animals surrounding the tents was a bit overwhelming!
The migration is dispersed throughout the entire Southern and Eastern african safari plains now but the epicenter seems to be at Naabi Hill and the beautiful Gol Kopjes, which are just a few miles to the east of Naabi Hill. Just one week ago, the infamous Gol Kopjes were strangely dry and desolate for this time of year. We were very worried about our adopted lion pride that inhabits the territory around Gol Kopjes as two of the adult females were looking emaciated. What a turn of events this last week has been as this lion pride now has a significant chunk of the wildebeest and zebra migration right in its back yard. Yesterday, the lion pride was spotted clinging to the top of the kopjes looking out over a sea of wildebeest. We will post a few pictures in our next update.
Our migration map happens to be right on target at the moment. Click on the month of April at the left side of the map to see a pretty accurate illustration of the current distribution of the migration. Naabi Hill (mentioned above) is located right where the central, south and east Serengeti areas all meet.
For those lucky ones on a Tanzania safari right now or for those arriving in the next week or so, you have really hit the safari jackpot! Game viewing is truly phenomenal right now with the wildebeest migration on the plains and all the predators (lion, cheetah and spotted hyena) in attendance.
The drought is over! On April 1st and 2nd there were quite a few scattered showers throughout the entire Seronera Valley in the Central Serengeti and even out to Sametu Kopjes at the beginning of the Eastern Plains.
Immense herds of wildebeest, numbering in the hundreds of thousands and spanning literally the entire horizon in thick black masses, flooded into Seronera Valley. What and incredible sight this was and one of our clients broke down in tears completely overwhelmed by the sheer power of the migration. To have this many wildebeest (and we’re talking hundreds of thousands) at the heart of the Central Serengeti is extremely unusual at the beginning of April.
As we say here at ADS that anytime is a great time for an african safari tour but right now seems especially good with the herds of wildebeest in Seronera interacting with the large resident lion prides. Thank You Joyce and Jeff Nott for sending in this incredible picture as evidence of this incredible phenomenon taking place right now in the Seronera Valley of the Central Serengeti.
Then, when it seemed things couldn’t possible get any better, they most certainly did. On April 6th the heavens really opened up and the first widespread rains of the entire green season finally hit the Serengeti (it even hailed in Seronera)! For the first time this green season, the rains finally spread out onto the short grass plains of the Eastern Serengeti at Barafu Kopjes, Lemuta Hill and Nasera Rock. This is the preferred grazing habitat of the wildebeest out on these short-grass, nutrient rich volcanic plains.
Within 24-hours, grasses that had lain dormant for months quickly sprouted and the wildebeest are now streaming out of the Central Serengeti and flooding onto these Eastern Plains which are now carpeted in fresh, green grass. What an incredible sight! Our game drives today out to the remote plains near Barafu Kopjes saw the first columns of wildebeest arriving to graze these nutritious pastures. Time will only tell but surely the rest of the migration will follow as long as the rain continues. This is green season game viewing at its finest!
The unusual drought (I think we can all no longer deny the inevitable use of this term) continues to persist in the Serengeti and most of the Tanzania Safari. Rain showers have been limited and widely scattered over the last 2 months. In fact, it seems the last decent amount of precipitation we received was way back in December. The brief rain showers received in mid March turned out not to be a signal of greener ‘things’ to come but rather just a few fleeting thundershowers.
As during all periods of low rainfall, the wildebeest respond instinctively by dispersing far and wide throughout the Serengeti Ecosystem. There just isn’t enough rainfall (as there usually is in March) and hence not enough green grass and potable water for the great herds to come together and unite on their traditional green season range on the southern and eastern Serengeti plains.
The good news is that the current dispersion of the wildebeest migration is located in very accessible areas throughout the Central and South Serengeti meaning that our guests have been inundated with wildebeest sightings over the course of their entire safaris and not just limited to the Southern/Eastern plains that we usually see during typical green season safaris.
The even better news is that the dispersion of the wildebeest especially in the Central Serengeti and Seronera Valley have meant great predatory action. Confused and scattered wildebeest in the Big Cat capital of Africa (Seronera) always equals action, pure and simple! And, reports have been flooding in from returning guests of both lion and cheetah hunts thought Seronera Valley.
The epicenter of the action at the moment in the Central Serengeti appears to be the Maasai Kopjes. In fact, just this yesterday morning, one of our groups witnessed an exciting cheetah kill with a mother and her four sub-adult cubs. About two weeks ago and also at the Maasai Kopjes, other guest witnessed several female lions taking down a wildebeest just feet from their vehicle. One group just returned with a great count of 62 lions, 30 cheetahs, 4 leopards and a ‘ton’ of wildebeest. Of course, we always stress quality sightings over quantity but needless to say these numbers are impressive.
In any event, the current ‘whereabouts’ of the migration are as follows:
Simiyu Ranger Post, which is located roughly 1/2 way between Moru Kopjes and Kusini Camp in the southwestern Serengeti. This seldom travelled track linking Moru and Simiyu is an ADS driver-guide favorite. As long as it’s relatively dry (the black cotton soil here can be treacherous in the rains), this track makes a great off the beaten path drive and is packed full of wildebeest at the moment.
Matiti – huge herds are being reported just southwest of Matiti and towards Makao. Access is about a 1-hour drive southwest of Ndutu deep within the southwestern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Though unverified, it’s more then likely that these herds stretch into the inaccessible Masawa Game Reserve.
Simba Kopjes – Just yesterday we received reports of another big herd of wildebeest on the southwest side of Simba Kopjes near the hippo pool.
Moru Kopjes – A medium size herd has been located along the western flank of these beautiful kopjes.
Maasai Kopjes – Scattered herds have been reported throughout the Maasai Kopjes complex and especially at the marsh just south of the kopjes.
The one obvious area missing from all of our reports is the entire Eastern Serengeti, which in some green seasons plays host to the majority of the migration. This year has been extremely unusual in that the eastern plains have received very little or no rainfall. Many of the areas in the east that were so great last green season are completely barren this year. Everything east of Naabi Hill including such famous spots as Gol Kopjes, Barafu Kopjes, Lemuta Hill and Nasera Rock is very dry at the moment.
Serengeti map links below to help put the above locations in perspective:
Welcome to the first post of our ‘Galloping Gnu News’ where we intend to communicate real time and factual reports on the whereabouts of great wildebeest migration. But first, let us introduce the star of this Serengeti drama, the white-bearded gnu or wildebeest.
Africans named it gnu (say “nu”) for the honking sounds gnus make as they migrate. Dutch settlers in South Africa named them wildebeest. They look peculiar, with skinny legs, big shoulders, a heavy shaggy head and hooked horns. It has been jokingly said gnus were “designed by a committee and assembled from spare parts”. But this ungainly looking creature has not only survived over the last 2 million yeas (as evidenced by fossil records at Olduvai Gorge), it has become the dominate herbivore in the Serengeti. Its survival on the african safari for such a long time must mean that the gnu is well designed for its job.
Take a close look at a gnu’s head: its face is long, its eyes are near the top of its head, so the gnu can see over long grass and all around to spot predators while grazing. Its long eyelashes keep the dust out of its eyes, its nostrils can be closed to keep out the dust. Its wide square mouth enables it to crop short grass incredibly efficiently. And most importantly, its migratory habits help the gnu to make the best use of an ever changing environment be it droughts or times of abundance. In its millions the gnu certainly makes the Serengeti the greatest wildlife viewing area in the world.