Serengeti: Migration & Tented Camps Update

Old Jan 25th, 2007, 06:52 PM
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Serengeti: Migration & Tented Camps Update

Link to pictures to follow.

Just before Christmas, Carol and I took off from Wilson Airport to rendezvous in the Serengeti with Hosea, a younger brother of Wilbert my Maasai brother in Tanzania.

Our objectives were three-fold:

- Educate Hosea – when not working he is studying at Mweka Wildlife College to become a safari guide. I wanted to show him the locations of the special camp sites in the Serengeti and NCA at Ndutu.

- Find the migrating herds! The migration is my passion.

- Photograph the new breed of tented camps in the Serengeti for a film project of mine.

We knew that Seronera had been closed by the Airport Safety board so we were worried about our transfers to Sayari South camp at Moru kopjes. We were scheduled to land at 5pm at Ikoma which gave us little more than 2 hours or so to make it to Moru – near impossible.

We landed in an inch of water and with storm clouds building. Hosea got a txt from Sayari to say that the camp just closed. Several of their cars were stuck and the track to the camp was impassable.

My heart sank and I knew that our long-awaited week in the Serengeti just became a week of survival.

I reset the GPS and pointed it to the Wildlife Lodge – a cheap option for the night.

The drive from Ikoma via the gate to Seronera was just like the previous 10 times I drive that road – very few animals.

Seronera was wet, very wet. The Grumeti River was overflowing its banks and there were rivers of water everywhere. Near the Wildlife Lodge we saw rows of safari vehicles – with animated drivers and perplexed looking clients! Wildlife Lodge was overbooked because the roads north to Mbuze Mawe, Migration Camp and Lobo were closed and all those clients were looking for rooms in Seronera! My heart sank!

I immediately called the Serena and got a room thanks to a dear contact at the hotel. Off we went in the completely the opposite direction with a convoy of cars behind us. A few drivers were maniacs on the wet roads as they were trying to get to the Serena before the others to find room!

It was pitch dark when we pulled in at the Serena. We were disappointed but happy to have a room.

The Serena was the same as always. It was very hot in our hobbit room and despite having mossie nets we did not want to open the patio doors because of all the bugs. Buffet dinner, buffet breakfast and we were out of there.

We took the main road to Seronera. Saw a few baboons, gazelles and zebras. Then we were stopped in our tracks by a river of water across the road. Several cars were parked on both sides of the blockade. I pulled out the GPS and told Hosea to follow my directions! We took a game track and continued in different directions until we were in an area I saw only once before – tracks were washed away and the tsetse flies were horrible! With the windows closed and the air-conditioner running we navigated our way through clouds of tsetses and knee-deep water pools. Carol and I were very nervous. Imagine getting stuck in the midst of these tsetses with no other car for miles to help us! I prayed that my GPS was accurate – These were my own tracks from a few years ago.

We popped out in the general area where the balloons land and we were safe – phew! From there it was an easy drive to Naabi Hill. At Seronera we ran into the CCAfrica Under Canvas supply car. The driver told us that CCA were operating 2 camps near Seronera but the camp at Turner Springs was inaccessible. I was surprised to learn that they were not at Ndutu where their competition was enjoying the migration – they were missing the boat a bit (pun intended).

From Seronera to Naabi Hill we saw no animals. I was restless in anticipation! Just before Naabi Hill I looked up and saw zebras as far as the eyes can see! We stopped the car and I climbed on the roof to look around – we were in the midst of the Great Wildebeest Migration! The migrating zebras were spearheading the movements in the south.

Next: Olakira Camp and the Migration part one
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 06:13 AM
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A few comments about Seronera and we saw there:

It was surprising to see so many vehicles trying to go north in mid-December. Nature’s greatest show was taking place in the south, yet so many people were booked at Lobo, Kleins Camp, Migration Camp and Mbuze Mawe! As a result of our unexpected stopover at the Serena we talked to several people who were detoured and they were all disappointed to see the herds from the road near Naabi Hill but they could not stop as their drivers had to push to reach Seronera and the northern lodges before the late afternoon rain storms.

One couple was confused about their safari! Some agent booked their trip and they had a beautiful brochure with a very colorful itinerary highlighting the Serengeti as the home of the wildebeest migration. The migration was to be the highlight of their 7-day Serengeti fly-in safari and the reason for their trip but they had 2 nights at the Seronera Serena, 2 nights at Mbalageti, and 2 nights at Migration Camp! They flew to Seronera (Ikoma actually) and would miss the migration due to bad advice! They were very disappointed.

We heard several operators on the radio including Micato who just arrived at the Sopa we believed and I was wondering if we would see them at Ndutu in the coming days! We never did!

If any Fodorite was on a Micato trip in the Serengeti in mid-late December please post here to correct me! Their clients pay a premium for their safaris yet I think they missed the migration except for what they could briefly see from the road on the way to Seronera.

SOAP BOX - Why would anyone pay so much money for a Micato safari to stay at Sopa lodges? For the same amount of money (or less actually) one can stay at the best luxury mobile camps!

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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 07:04 AM
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We were on Safari in February 2006 staying at all the wrong places. Lobo, Mbalageti and 1 night Serengeti Sopa. The two places that we did not see any wildebeest were Ndutu and Seronera.

For all great planing luck plays a part.
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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net_warrior, true but I think you are missing a point that I will make clearer later!

If you book lodges you are at the mercy of nature. If you book mobile camps you increase your chances to be closer to nature.
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 08:36 AM
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No I got your point in Jan 2006 when booking the safari. I can read a brochure, a map and your excellent web site. I was making another point.

re: second paragraph, my 70 odd year old Mother might disagree with you on that!

re: Soapbox, can't comment on Micato but A&K have got nice seat covers

Cheers,
Great travelog.
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 09:54 AM
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Olakira Camp - http://www.go-safari.com/Serengeti/Olakira.htm

After 30 glorious minutes in the midst of the zebras just west of Naabi Hill, and a 20 minute paperwork stop at Naabi Gate, we turned south towards Ndutu. The vista was green as far as we could see. The Serengeti plains are so big – one can almost see the curvature of earth.

Unfortunately, it was cloudy and we had a hard time capturing the scenery on digital film. No images could really do justice to the 360 degree views.

About half-way to Ndutu we started to see individual wildebeests amongst the zebras. We were getting closer. The road tracks were slippery but posed no problems.

As we entered the tree line at Ndutu, I could hear the wildebeests. It was a bit strange – we could not see them yet but they were clearly amongst the trees towards the southern and eastern Ndutu.

Olakira Camp was having an interesting time – they were moving quite frequently (I think because all camp sites were booked they could not stay in one place for any length of time). So instead of the camp being at Mbweha, we actually found them at Kakakuoni which was fine because the migration was more to the east anyway – see map here: http://www.go-safari.com/images/SerengetiSouthNdutu.jpg

As we drove into camp we saw a large group of giraffes and several zebras behind the tents! Picture - http://www.go-safari.com/images/Olakira31.jpg

Our welcome was warm and friendly. Olakira is generally regarded to be a very good mobile camp and we immediately felt at home, especially because the drive-in guides could join us for drinks and dinner.
Our Notes:

The camp moves often so its exact location in our pictures should be of lesser importance! Nevertheless it was good to know that the camp owners actually move the camp often to optimize the game viewing experience.

The mess tent lacked nothing and h set up looks much like the permanent tented camps in the Masai Mara! We could even charge our devices right there in the lounge area. They had a fridge to keep drinks cool, a comfortable seating area with nice couches and two dinner tables were set to accommodate two groups of clients and their guides.

Meals were excellent – drinks are included and that makes it easier for everyone around the table to share bottles of wine and it creates a more festive atmosphere. We were all ears as the other guests related their stories of the each day! Carol and I had a set schedule and did not have the time to look for cats and wildlife action so we enjoyed the tales of cheetahs running down grown Wildebeests and lions stalking zebra just behind camp.

Our tent was very comfortable. The tents were far apart allowing for privacy even when there are no trees as in this camp site!

Several minor things were wrong in our tent. Our light-lamps were not connected to the batteries outside, our flashlight batteries were weak and our sink drain-pipe was loose thereby spilling waste water all over the floor. I fixed the drain and the crew eventually fixed our lights late on night one. But we understood that they were moving the camp often and I appreciated their efforts to do so – it is no easy task.

Carol thought the vanity area had enough room for her to spread out her things especially the luggage rack and she like the copper-style basin with hand-towels and soaps.

The bucket-shower was a bit smaller than expected so we quickly learned to optimize our showers even more than in the Masai Mara. I must add that they warned us about the shower and told us to ask for more water if we needed longer showers (such as when washing long hair).

The lights in the toilet, shower and vanity were very dim so Carol had some problems with her contacts.

The tent crews did not understand English well enough to ask them anything. It was funny to see Carol with lamp in hand and loose wires hanging down trying to explain that it does not work , because - well it is not connected to anything! I think the poor guy was thinking that Carol wanted a new lamp and she just ripped it loose from its mountings! He looked at her with a face of utter amazement!

None of these things were serious to say the least. We just loved sitting in front of our tent and watch the giraffes and other wildlife walk by just a few hundred feet away as you can see in our pictures!

Every evening the staff would make a fire in front of the mess tent and all the guests (10 at most) would gather around to chat about the experiences of the day. This was always my favorite part of the day at camp. For anyone who has only experienced lodge safaris or manufactured tourist bomas, I highly recommend a mobile camp at least once during any safari.

After dinner, some people enjoyed drinks on the comfortable couches as the rain softly came down – it did rain nightly during our visit.

Once the camp went quiet and settled for the night, the area came alive. Lions roaring, zebra, wildebeests, elephants, hyena and impala all were doing their thing. We slept very well at Olakira while listening to the night sounds.

We saw a small part of the migration earlier in the day. The best was yet to come!
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 10:00 AM
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"Once the camp went quiet and settled for the night, the area came alive. Lions roaring, zebra, wildebeests, elephants, hyena and impala all were doing their thing."

Awesome. And the photo of the giraffes right by camp: a dream of mine.
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 10:29 AM
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Eben:

Should not your 1:54 pm posting be on your "Masai Mara Update: Lodges and Such" trip report thread instead?

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34932659

Please excuse my meddling.

However I for one have been closely reading your postings and would not want anyone interested to miss your insights (which we always appreciate)

Kevin
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Old Jan 28th, 2007, 07:27 PM
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While I'm eagerly waiting for more, this just in from the Serengeti:
Hi, I was in Serengeti for the last three days and it was not raining and it seems to slow down now. We stayed at Kirawira luxury camp and some places were not reachable because it was still too wet; Grumeti River was still flooded and there was no way to cross the bridge.
In the central part there was a little rain but it doesn't make game viewing difficult. As you know this time of the year the best place to do game drives is around the Gol Kopjes up to Ndutu area because of the migration so in the central area there is nothing to experience. I already saw the first babies born to the wildbeest and very soon they will be around Nabi Hill because they were split in small different groups.
BONIFACE



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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 01:11 AM
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Eben perhaps your opinion of Micato, Sopa and Serena etc is colored by your financial interest in Kiliwarriors
and after getting a room at Serena because of your contacts there rather than saying thanks you critize them
if they read what you wrote about them I be surprised if you got another room
also some people mightnt like the type of safari you like Some people like to stay in lodges and not canvas and Micato even though pricey does suit others
fortunately we are all different
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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 03:49 AM
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Geelong

Most here know who I am.

We have no idea who you are! Please tell us more about yourself. Where do you live for example? You tend to push one particular company in subtle ways.

Do you have pictures of your recent safari with that particular company?

I tell it like it is. The Serena room was hot - why should I lie about it? We had a buffet for dinner and for breakfast - no need to lie! And I thanked the staff at Serena by leaving big tips and thanking them for giving us a fan!

Micato and Sopa.As a poster who push certain Arusha-based companies, you should know what I meant. I am not critical of Sopa; please look back at my many posts regarding Sopa over the years.
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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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Eben
I would like to know which company I am pushing in "subtle ways" be more specific
and as a matter of interest however to other fodorites
including yourself
Geelong is a town in Australia and has a football team obviously called Geelong they last won the premiership the year JFK was assassinated now that is showing my age
I can still remember what the radio announcer said when they won
"the lights will be bright in Geelong tonight"
So I expect them to win the premiership in 2007 hence my name Geelong2007
So if you follow this through I guess you could say I live in Australia and afrigalah
from Adelaide if interested probably have guessed anyway
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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 02:23 PM
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I'm guessing Eben means EASTCO.
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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 03:45 PM
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Eben:

We are waiting to hear "the best yet to come" We are enjoying your report. Very informative.

P.S. Geelong2007: we have a nice little community of Fodorites here. There are several who are "in the business". However, they unselfishly are helpful to others and rarely, if ever, mention their business. Eben has been a great resource to us. His maps, Google earth items, and videos are especially helpful.

We look forward to your helping others in our little community.

I hope we can get back to the trip report.
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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 05:09 PM
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No problems from my side. Geelong and I both share a love for Tarangire so we found some common ground!

And I was one of the first people to "promote" his favorite lodge even before it was completed so we are in agreement there too!

I think it has always been clear where I stand in terms of East African safaris - tented camps out in the wild at special camp sites! I promote them all! Friend, foe or indifferent!

In Tanzania - Thomsons, Nomad, Asilia, Kirurumu, FireLight, TWC, Wildlife Explorer, Flycatcher, Amazing Tanzania, EMC, CCAfrica, Lions of Lobo, Wild Frontiers, and several others. If they operate a good camp they get my attention.

I talk less about lodges because so much information is readily available in books and online.

Anyway, back to my story.

The Great Wildebeest Migration

Olakira is a Full-Board camp and does not offer a Game Package. This means all the clients arrive in their own vehicles with their own driver/guides. This is different from Nomad or CCAfrica Under Canvas for example as these camps are Game Package camps – they provide the vehicles and guides.

At Olakira, the different cars all depart/arrive at different times so it is easy to time one’s breakfasts and lunches to be the only ones at the table! Carol and I enjoy having joint dinners but we prefer private breakfasts so Olakira is great in this respect. During breakfast we get a chance to talk to the camp staff and tap their knowledge of the regions where Olakira operates.

Our objective today was to find the core of the migrating herds! Along the way we planned to visit some of the other camps in the Ndutu region to see who is where and how they stack up in terms of equipment and locations.

The scenery pictures for this section are here: http://www.go-safari.com/Serengeti/serengetiimages.htm

We left camp and started to drive west in an anti-clockwise direction around the lake. There was a slight drizzle and the tracks were slippery but drivable. Just a few hundred meters down the road we saw two of the male lions who roared around our camp during the night! They were beautiful but looked a bit miserable in the wet!

The lake at Ndutu is always scenic but now it looked like a green oasis amidst the vast plains of the Serengeti. It was fun visiting the various camp sites on my map

The Millennium site has great views of the lake and here we visited a new camp called TWC Simiyu Mobile Camp. See pictures here: http://www.go-safari.com/Serengeti/TWCSimiyu.htm

TWC also operates a second camp “Hugo” at the camp site of the same name.

Near Ndutu Lodge we saw the nice-looking Kirurumu Serengeti Camp: http://www.go-safari.com/Serengeti/KirurumuSer.htm

By now we’ve seen several lions and hundreds of wildebeests and zebras in the woods. After completing the circle around Ndutu we still have not seen a really large concentration so we decided to work our way towards the north east using the main track to the Ngorongoro.

20 minutes later we were surrounded by wildebeests and zebras as far as the eyes can see! TWO HOURS later at Oldupai Gorge the herds were finally thinning out. Between Ndutu and Oldupai Gorge we’ve just been surrounded by the largest concentration of animals that I have ever seen.

Next: Migration thoughts and camp updates
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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 05:18 PM
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I'm really enjoying your reporting, Eben...heaps of valuable information and I appreciate how quickly you're getting the new info to your website. I was particularly interested in your mention of the Kirurumu Serengeti camp. I haven't been able to find much information about their camps other than on their website, but they seem to be a good option. I stayed at Kirurumu camp last year and hope to stay in their west Kili camp next year. Unfortunately the mobile Serengeti camp won't be operating when I'm there in June next year.

Keep the posts coming.

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Old Jan 29th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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Hello and welcome back Eben and Carol,
So far so good. Keep the information flowing, as it's always a privilage to hear from you. Glad to hear you found your way, as well as the migration - exciting stuff.

Who woulda thought that a GPS would come in so handy. Sounds like your glad you had that contraption with you.
Don't leave home without it!



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Old Jan 30th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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Interesting that Olakira doesn't offer a game package option. Thanks for clarifying. Is this the case with other Asilia camps in the Serengeti?
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Old Jan 30th, 2007, 12:59 PM
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Patty -

Sayari (north) offers GP as well as FB.

Info re the new Sayari South and Suyan Camps are on Eben's site.
 
Old Jan 30th, 2007, 02:24 PM
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Thanks, sandi! So it looks like only Sayari offers GP or FB and Olakira, Sayari South & Suyan are FB only. Someone correct if my understanding is wrong.
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