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Trip Report February vs March in Tanzania - Dueling Trip Reports

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A scientific study would compare Feb and March within the same year and make that comparison over numerous years. My anecdotal comparison looks at Feb of 2013 and March 2014.

The specific dates are:
2013 = 5 March -20 March. In Ndutu 15-20 March
2014 = 14 Feb – 22 March. In Ndutu 15-22 Feb

The focus of the comparison is Ndutu, south of the Serengeti, where the migration centers and where calving takes place.

In 2013 rains were somewhat late, but then were sufficient. In 2014 rains were pretty close to on-time (despite some concern the 3rd week of January when not much rain had yet fallen in the Serengeti).

There were at least as many wildebeest in March as Feb, but they had started to enter the woodlands so the horizon to horizon wildebeest awe inspiring spectacle was more pronounced in Feb than March.

Guide George said the latest he had ever seen a birth was the first week of March. I have heard of at least one birth seen as late as March 19. March is more likely to have an abundance of young wildebeests that may have been born in late Feb or early March. If birthing is late, then an early to mid-Feb trip might mean almost no calves. I saw no births or newborns in mid-March vs. 3 births and at least 8 newborns in mid-Feb. But it is all rain-dependent.

There were slightly more vehicles at predator sightings in Feb than March. In both months being able to stay out all day meant that during midday I usually had cheetahs to myself. I recall how impressed I was in March 2013 with the behavior of all the vehicles in Ndutu and how conscious they were of giving the predators ample room to observe the herds and hunt. I remember I had hoped that same attitude would prevail during the busier month of Feb. From what I saw it did. Guides would even call/motion to each other to move their vehicles so that the predators’ line of vision to their prey remained unobstructed at all times. All vehicles cooperated in respecting the predators’ space.

Dung beetles rolling their dung balls seemed easier to find in March than Feb.

Rain and sun—Certainly beyond the third week of March the potential for very heavy rain that can restrict access to some areas increases. But in general I think hours of sun or rain is just luck for Feb vs. the first half of March.

The low temps were not as low in Feb as March and it was less windy in Feb than March. So overall, warmer in Feb than March. In either month I found that rain produced damp, cool conditions, not hot sweltering tropical heat and humidity.

More cheetahs, especially families, had moved into Ndutu in March compared to Feb, which is the typical pattern. In fact, in an email exchange with George, received in March 2014 after I had gotten home, he informed me the pair of cheetah brothers I had seen the previous year in March had finally shown up in Ndutu. Also a mother with five cubs had arrived in March. The Ndutu cheetah count for the two trips was: 18 different cats during 5 nights/6 days in mid-March; 13 different cats in 7 nights/8 days in mid-Feb. Quality cheetah sightings each trip!

Pricing—March may offer a bit of a price break, especially mid-March, depending on the camp.

I’d gladly go back in either month! If both a Feb and a March trip, done in consecutive years, is in your future, do Trip #1 in March and get a multi-entry one-year visa—same cost as single entry—then do Trip #2 in Feb and complete it before the visa expires. That saved me $100 in visa costs this year by using the visa purchased last year.

The NDUTU Car Count.

In sum, more cars in Feb than March. Mid-day in both months, there were very few vehicles.

Lion
Feb
At several large sleeping lion prides where we stayed only a few minutes, the vehicles ranged from 6 to 18.

On our way out of Ndutu, a male and female sitting together brought 20 vehicles together.

Watching cubs play during 2 early mornings, there were 0 to 2 other vehicles.

A pride of grooming and playing lionesses cubs near a kill one afternoon had 3-4 other vehicles, then quickly dwindled to about 2 other vehicles.

We came upon lone lions or small groups about 3 times with 0 vehicles.


March
We saw a couple of females here and there, shared by maybe 2 other vehicles.

We followed a male who joined with 2 females who had killed an eland early one morning. We had the sighting to ourselves (0 vehicles) for most of the time until 1 other vehicle joined us at the end.

I happened to see few lions in March.


Leopard
Feb
We listened to a leopard gnawing bones for an hour with 1 other vehicle. We saw the leopard briefly with 0 other vehicles.

We watched that same leopard hide for hours, hunt and kill with 2 other vehicles.


March
No leopard


Cheetah
Feb
Two instances of cheetahs on a kill eating, there were approx 8 other vehicles.

Much of one day and several hours another day were spent with a mother and son cheetah; 0 vehicles for 90% of the time & 3-4 other vehicles 10% of the time.

We stayed with one cheetah all day and other vehicles would come and go, 0 vehicles for 80% of the time & 5-6 vehicles 20% of the time.

Mother and 2 young cubs had 2-3 other vehicles when we first encountered them running. When they hid in the thicket, up to 3 other vehicles joined us at times, sometimes 0 vehicles. When they emerged and headed out, there were 0 vehicles.

When a cheetah or a pair were found resting with herds in the background, so that they might hunt, there would be 5-6 vehicles for 20% of the time and 0 for 80%.

We encountered lone cheetahs a time or two with 0 vehicles.


March
We spent many days with various cheetah families for hours. Cars would come and go. 30% of the time 4-5 vehicles, 40% of the time 1-2 vehicles, 30% of the time 0 vehicles.

Waiting for hunting and watching the hunt and kill the first time, approx 5 other vehicles

Waiting for hunting and watching the hunt and kill the second time, 1 other vehicle and then eventually at the kill site a total of 2 other vehicles.


Hyenas
0 other vehicles in Feb or March, not a lot of hyena sightings

Jackals
Feb = 0 other vehicles

March = 0 other vehicles except at carcass with vultures, then it ranged from 5-12 vehicles

Bat Eared Foxes
Feb = A single, brief glimpse and 0 vehicles

March = For hours on at least 2 mornings we watched many bat eared foxes with 0 vehicles, 1 or 2 vehicles joined us at most

Wildebeest Births
Feb = 0 other vehicles

March = no births

Driving around/through wilde herds
Feb and March, we'd occasionally see another vehicle in the distance but usually 0

Watching wildes and zebras cross rivers/lakes
Feb = 25% of the time 0 other vehicles; 75% of the time 2-3 other vehicles, sometimes in the distance

March = no crossings

Elephants
Feb = 0 vehicles for the 3-4 ele sightings
March = saw no eles

Giraffe
Feb = Dozens of giraffe "neckling" and moving across the dried pans; 80% of the time 0 vehicles, 20% of the time 1-2 other vehicles.

March = not much giraffe activity

Steenbok
Feb = My best photo ever of a standing steenbok was shared with 0 other vehicles.

March = no steenbok photo ops.

Birds we had to ourselves with 0 vehicles in Feb and March

When the only Reedbuck of the trip was seen galloping with the wildes in Feb, there were 0 other witnesses. I believe March had been Reedbuck-less.

To reduce the # of other vehicles encountered it is important to have a guide who knows the entire Ndutu area and not just the "main drags."
---------------------------------

The whole trip report with embedded photos for February--including a weather overview, tips to locate calving wildebeests, Gol Mountains, and Lake Manyara--is here

http://safaritalk.net/topic/12456-the-circle-of-life-in-just-9-days-tanzania-mid-feb/


The whole trip report with embedded photos for March--including detailed weather, drive times, Arusha, Ngorongoro Crater, and Seronera, Serengeti, and Gol Kopjes-- is here

http://safaritalk.net/topic/10939-tanzania-mid-march-70-serengeti-100-sensational-includes-daily-weather/

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