Northern Tanzania at this time of year is simply stunning - the harshness of the long dry season has ended and the short grass plains of the Southern Serengeti are covered in a blanket of nutritious short grass.
With this grass comes the arrival of the wildebeest herds from their northern range as more than a million animals flood through the Serengeti to the south.
Depending when you go the herds may be ready to give birth, and half a million female wildebeest all prepare to drop their calves withing the space of a week. Other animals and birdlife abound, synchronising their life cycles to this extraordinary event. Young animals are numerous as are predators; cheetah stalk the plains, lion prides sprawl in the shade of trees, leopard, while illusive as ever, are never far away. Hyena and jackals compete daily for the spoils. This is quite a time to be in the Serengeti.
This itinerary is designed with one of our excellent private guides and a private vehicle, combining several varied and game-filled areas within the north in one mini-expedition.
Having your own private guide and vehicle brings an essential ingredient of flexibilty - expecially to our families. The safaris are highly personalised with guides that understand how to engage children at a deeper level. This means stopping as often as anyone likes (without having to wait while a stranger photographs small brown birds).
Natural High shines rays of adventurous light into some of the least explored, most exciting corners of the wider world.”
Start in Arusha and head west to the Ngorongoro Highlands for your first safari stop. While you could fly from Arusha to Manyara, then drive to the Crater, the journey overland from Arusha is wonderful in itself taking you across the short grass plains beneath a string of dormant volcanic hills. At Manyara you reach the Great Rift Valley escarpent and begin the climb up to the Crater rim at 7500 feet above sea level.
LIFE FROM THE CRATER RIM
Your camp is located on the remote Northwestern rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, the only camp from which you can look down to the Crater floor, then turn round and see down onto the short grass plains of the Eastern Serengeti.
This is a place you can easily spend time simply enjoying life on the rim, from the numerous giraffe that browse their way through the woodland infront of camp to every day Maasai life that goes on around you. This camp is staffed in large part by Maasai from the local area which allows for a fascinating insight into this culture.
THE CRATER ITSELF
Much is written about the Crater and the crowds which can be a feature of this extraordinary spot. But while it's worth being prepared to see others, its worth remembering quite where you are; the largest unbroken caldera in the world, filled with wild animals. At times you have to pinch yourself to remember it's all real.
Game viewing on the Crater floor is remarkable by any standards - lion, hyena, cheetah and leopard are regularly seen, as are elephant and rhino. However the landscape of this remarkable place is as much of a reason to visit in our view.
JOIN THE HERDS IN NDUTU
Leaving the Crater you'll head south and down onto the short grass plains of the Southern Serengeti. Not even the corrugated road that runs between Ngorongoro and Serengeti can detract from the fact that this is one of the world's great journeys on a road that joins two of the best-known wildlife areas.
Be prepared for some dust and a fair bit of rattling for an hour or two, then buckle up and enjoy the ride. If you're lucky - and as soon as the rains have hit the Southern Plains - you'll begin to see swathes of black against the green of the plains. As you get closer you'll see that these swathes are thousands upon thousands of wildebeest, massing on the plains in order to give birth in one mass event over the course of a week.
HEART OF THE ACTION
Home on the plains is the wonderful Serengeti Safari Camp - a seasonal tented camp in the finest tradition of safari camps and the first to come up with the idea of moving every few months to keep up with the migrating herds.
Many of the crew who run this superb little camp have been with Nomad (who own the camp) for decades and the service and hospility is both authentic and excellent. Expect large walk-in tents, comfortable beds and hot showers from safari bucket showers. Proper safari living.
After two days on the plains seeing the migration, it's time to head to northern Serengeti. From this point on you're heading into the quiet areas where few other tourists have cottoned on to the brilliance on offer at this time of year.
Landing in Kogatende airstrip you'll come in over the famous Mara River. A short journey by road will take you - game driving en route - through shallow rolling valleys to Lamai Serengeti where you'll be staying.
Sensational Serengeti Views
Lamai is almost invisible from any distance, built as it is into the side of a rock strewn kopje. Each of the rooms has been carefully incorporated into the hillside taking great care to avoid damaging the surrounding area. This lodge is a creative tour de force, built to combine full-screen Serengeti views with wonderful wildlife and superb food and service.
While at Lamai you'll head off for game drives in the surrounding area. A private guide is recommended here as it opens up total flexibilty to enjoy this remarkable area at your leisure.
Get up at crack of dawn taking a picnic breakfast and return in time for the excellent lunches on offer here. Or take the chance to enjoy the wonderful rooms at Lamai - sleep in and enjoy the bird and animal life that passes in front of your room. Dont pass up the chance to spend some time by the pool with a cold drink.
A NOTE FROM ALEX
INSPIRATION: GO AGAINST THE FLOW
The Serengeti Migration is one of the best known widlife phenomena in the world. As it circulates around the Serengeti National Park throughout the year it draws not only animals, but also - and not surprisingly - quite a few tourists. It's a sight well worth seeing whether you come to see the calving as in this itinerary or the river crossings that happen in the dry season.
However, I've always been amazed at how few people bother to look beyond the migration to other parts of this remarkable park that may - for want of a better word - be "out of season." The truth though is that MOST of the Serengeti is excellent for MOST of the year. This even goes for relatively extreme areas such as Ndutu where the woodland remains superb throughout the dry season, despite the surrounding plains appearing (at first glance) dry and deserted.
But nowhere is the year-round game viewing as good as the far north of the park. The gentle rolling valleys and river lines of this region are filled with resident wildlife from elephant to lion, leopard buffalo and even rhino. Cross the Mara River and you're into the sublime Lamai Wedge where wildlife viewings are exceptional.
Between December and March this area is one of my favourite parts of Northern Tanzania so it makes the perfect place to head to after the mayhem of the migration.
Once you cross the main road connecting Ngorongoro to the Serengeti gate, there are areas you can travel for days on end, surrounded by wildlife without seeing another car.
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It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary.
All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.