12 Day East Africa Migration Safari
It’s an epic journey of close to two million Wildebeests, Zebras, and Gazelles from the southern Serengeti to greener, wetter grass on the northern plains. Our East Africa Migration Safari is a once in a lifetime experience.
As the dry season turns to wet, they travel full circle back south. Year after year, governed by the seasons as they evolve from wet to dry and back again, this cycle repeats itself. Great travelers that they are, these migrants encounter dangerous predators and the kaleidoscope of wildlife on the African savannah along the way, from Lions and Leopards to Elephants, Dik-diks, and Dung Beetles. This East Africa Migration Safari will take you to Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania.
Next departure date: 7 September 2020
This Expert Guided Safari can also be booked as a Private Safari for any date as per your planned travel dates.
Full Itinerary – East Africa Migration Safari
Start of safari in Nairobi, Kenya
Welcome to east Africa! Your fantastic migration safari will start as soon as you touch down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport just outside Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, the “safari capital of the world”. You will be transferred to your hotel, and depending on your time of arrival there might be a chance for an optional excursion to one or more of the nearby attractions.
Situated along the Nairobi river (the name actually comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to “cool water”, in reference to the river), the capital is east Africa’s most cosmopolitan city. It serves as an excellent starting point for African safari trips around Kenya. It is Africa’s 4th largest city (with a population of over 4 million) and is a vibrant and exciting place, and although it has developed a reputation which keeps tourist visits brief, there are some fascinating attractions.
Nairobi, sometimes called the “green city in the sun”, is a hub for international companies, with many having established their international headquarters in the city. It is also undergoing a construction boom, and interestingly The Pinnacle Towers is nearing completion; when finished it will be the tallest building in Africa, at 320 metres (1,050 feet) tall.
Nairobi is a major tourist destination, not just for its proximity to east Africa’s superb game reserves, but also for its cafe culture, huge range of restaurants, Benga music, unbridled nightlife, 6 golf courses, the National Museum, the Karen Blixen Museum and its many parks and open spaces.
Most notably just 20 minutes from the city centre, wild Lions and African Buffalo roam in the world’s only urban game reserve, the Nairobi National Park. This 117 km2 (45 sq mi) reserve was opened in 1946, and contains a diverse range of habitats and species.
We will have dinner at the hotel tonight and get to know each other. We will also discuss our plans and the target fauna and flora species for the exciting safari ahead. We will then retreat to our rooms for our first night in Africa!
Nairobi to Maasai Mara National Reserve
After an early breakfast at the hotel we will depart for the Maasai Mara, about 5 to 6 hours away in a westerly direction. We will stop along the way to enjoy our packed lunch and will arrive at our accommodation mid-afternoon. After checking in we will enjoy some drinks before setting off on our first game drive!
Situated in the southwest of Kenya, about 270 km (170 mi) from the capital Nairobi and about 5 to 6 hours by road or 45 minutes by plane, is the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve. It is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in the northern Mara Region of neighbouring Tanzania, and is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi) in Tanzania and Kenya. It is named in honour of the Maasai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from afar. “Mara,” which is Maa (Maasai language) for “spotted,” is an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area.
The image of acacia trees dotting endless grass plains epitomises Africa for many; then add a Maasai warrior and some cattle to the picture and the conversation need go no further. This is the Africa we love!
Our lodge is perfectly situated to explore this great African game reserve. This is the best area in the Mara to see big game up close and some of the many mammals we hope to see here include African Elephant, African Buffalo, rhinoceros, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Hippopotamus, Giraffe (Maasai or tippelskirchi subspecies), Common Eland, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle, Black-backed Jackal, Bat-eared Fox, Serval, and of course hundreds of thousands of zebras and wildebeest.
Around July of each year, these animals migrate north from the Serengeti plains towards the Maasai Mara in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south again around October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s Gazelles, 97,000 Topi (a subspecies of Tsessebe), 18,000 Common Eland and 200,000 zebras. Astoundingly, about 250,000 wildebeest and other mammals die during the journey from Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Death is usually from thirst, hunger, exhaustion, or predation.
After our exciting first game drive we will return to our lodge to freshen up and have dinner. Remember to look up at the sky tonight before settling in to your room – the stars are truly remarkable out here!
Maasai Mara National Reserve
We have our first full day on safari in the wonderful “Mara”, as the locals call it. We will enjoy a scrumptious breakfast, which will be followed by a morning game drive.
Covering an area of 1,510 square km (583 square miles) and rising from 1,550 to 2,100 metres above sea level, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is a place of breathtaking vistas, abundant wildlife and endless plains. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland with seasonal riverlets. In the southeast region are clumps of the distinctive acacia tree. The western border is the Esoit (Siria) Escarpment of the East African Rift, which is a system of rifts some 5,600 km (3,500 mi) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique.
We will revel in the sights as we drive around in our comfortable safari vehicle, and should see some unforgettable sightings, definitely not limited to the migrating mass of mammals. There is always something else going on during the migration, be it predators following the animals, birds soaring on the thermals above us, or smaller creatures on the ground around us. Our guides will keep you informed about all the diverse fauna and flora around you.
We will return to our lodge for lunch and a short siesta in the heat of the day. We will go out on another game drive in the afternoon, hoping to see some more spectacular fauna and flora, along with some predator-prey interaction that the Mara is famous for.
The Maasai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing areas and one of the world’s greatest wildlife reserves. As in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Nowhere in Africa is wildlife more abundant, and we are almost guaranteed seeing the Big Five (buffalo, elephant, Leopard, Lion and rhino). Another 90 species of mammals have been recorded in the reserve, along with over 500 species of birds and many amphibians, reptiles and other fascinating creatures.
We will return to our lodge in the early evening, have dinner and enjoy being out in the African bush – a truly special experience that we will savour forever!
Maasai Mara National Reserve
This morning after breakfast we will go out on another game drive, looking for mammals and birds we may have missed out on during our earlier excursions into the reserve.
Speaking of birds, we will also focus on finding some of the Mara’s special species. More than 500 species of birds have been identified in the park, with almost 60 species of raptors. Birds that we will look for during our time here include several species of vultures, Saddle-billed, Woolly-necked and Marabou Stork, Secretarybird, many hornbill species, D’arnaud’s Barbet, 7 species of kingfisher, Ross’s and Schalow’s Turaco, Kori and Denham’s Bustard, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, aptly named Long-crested Eagle and Superb Starling, Grey Crowned Crane, the cute Pygmy Falcon, Sooty Chat, Jackson’s Widowbird, Kenya Sparrow, Southern Grosbeak-canary, Rufous-bellied and Malagasy Pond Heron, Lesser Kestrel, Yellow-billed Oxpecker and the beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller, the national bird of Kenya. It is easy to see over 200 species on a 3 day trip in the Mara!
Something else to look out for are the absolutely monstrous Nile Crocodiles we will see both here in the Mara river, as well as in the Grumeti later on the safari. These ancient reptiles (some of them over 5 metres/16 feet long!) lie in wait for the migrating mammals and seeing one of them catch a zebra and consume it is a scary reminder of how fragile us humans are in the greater scheme of things.
We will once again return to our lodge for lunch and some down time, before we head out again on an afternoon game drive.
Remember to bring extra batteries for your camera, because the reserve is also a photographer’s paradise destination, with abundant wildlife, birds, incredible African landscapes, and excellent weather. The BBC Television show titled “Big Cat Diary” was filmed in both the Reserve and Conservation areas of the Maasai Mara.
After another fantastic day in the Mara, we will return to the lodge for our final dinner here. We will sit under the African sky and reminisce about our wonderful time here before heading to bed and a good night’s rest. Tomorrow we go to the Serengeti!
Maasai Mara to Northern Serengeti (Tanzania)
After an early breakfast we will cross over into Tanzania at the Isebania border and straight into the famous Serengeti Game Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), one of the best-known reserves in Africa, and probably the world.
We will enjoy a packed lunch en route, as to not cut into our game viewing time in this part of the Serengeti.
We will reach our camp in the Northern Serengeti late in the afternoon and spend one night here in this part of the Serengeti. There is nothing more exotic than staying in the wilds of Africa and being one with nature yet not compromising comfort and relaxation. Our intimate migration camp is a semi-permanent mobile tented camp perfect for anticipating movements of the great migration. It offers splendid views and features first-class amenities that guarantees luxury accommodation even in the midst of the wild. Listen to the sounds of nature and simply take in this once-in-a-lifetime experience of being in this perfect wildlife setting of Africa.
One of the seven natural wonders of Africa, as well as one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world, the Serengeti ecosystem in Northern Tanzania is one of the oldest and most scientifically significant ecosystems on the planet. Its weather patterns, fauna and flora are believed to have changed very little for as long as a million years or more, giving the area an incredible prehistoric presence.
The Serengeti has become world famous for its annual wildebeest migration, an iconic and dramatic scene in wildlife documentaries for decades, and a true bucket list experience, and the main reason we are here!
We will enjoy dinner around a classic African camp fire tonight, and enjoy our time under the vast east African sky.
This morning we will enjoy a full morning game drive in the northern section of the Serengeti. We will return to our camp for lunch. After lunch we will make our way to the Central part of the Serengeti where we will spend the next two nights.
Situated in the heart of Tanzania, the Central Serengeti encompasses the world-famous Seronera Valley which is known for its prime wildlife-viewing opportunities. This picture-perfect landscape is characterised by endless stretches of savannah-covered open plains, interspersed by rocky outcrops of granite, scattered with acacia woodlands and covered in a network of rivers and streams.
The Central Serengeti forms an integral part of the great wildebeest and zebra migration, and even though one can get fully mesmerized by watching the wildebeest and zebra, the Serengeti has a prolific array of other wildlife; and big game at that. Approximately 70 large mammal and 500 bird species are found there. This high diversity is a function of diverse habitats, including riverine forests, swamps, kopjes (small hills), grasslands, and woodlands. Packs of African Wild Dog, prides of Lion (the population here is over 3,000), Cheetah, Leopard (over 1,000) and Spotted Hyaena (almost 8,000 in number) are often seen tailing the herds of wildebeest, Plains Zebra and Thompson’s Gazelle. The Serengeti is also home to a diversity of grazers, including African Buffalo, African Elephant, Common Warthog, Common Eland, Waterbuck, and Topi. With so much on the go, it’s not hard to see a full spectrum of African wildlife whilst on our safari.
We will return to our camp for some relaxation time and dinner. Our camp offers you the perfect blend of old African charm and elegance in the heart of Serengeti. The intimate camp has breathtaking views of the surrounding savannah plains. If the weather is good we will once again relax around the fire before settling into bed.
We have another full day in the central Serengeti today. We will enjoy breakfast and lunch at the camp, with morning and afternoon game drives included.
The local Maasai people have a name for the Serengeti; ‘Siringet’ or ‘the land that goes on forever’. Great stretches of grassland dotted with flat-topped Acacia trees give the Serengeti that classic “Out of Africa” feel. Many people claim that the sunsets in the Serengeti are the most spectacular on earth, with the sky turning a palette of pinks, purples and oranges before disappearing over the horizon. The dust that had been kicked up from the migrating wildebeest and the threatening rain clouds sometimes even add to the whole scene. Truly magical!
We will once again not let our feathered friends feel left out, so in between gasping at the phenomenal migration scenes around us, we will make some time to tick off some of the Serengeti’s star birds. These include Fischer’s Lovebird, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Hildebrandt’s Starling, Southern Ground Hornbill, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill, Red-throated Tit, Karamoja Apalis, Abyssinian Wheatear, Swahili Sparrow, Verreaux’s and Martial Eagle, Silverbird, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse and Ruppell’s Vulture, among many others.
Reptiles in Serengeti that we will look out for include the massive and numerous Nile Crocodile, Leopard Tortoise, East African Serrated Mud Turtle, Common Agama, Nile Monitor, many species of chameleons, African Rock Python, Black Mamba, Black-necked Spitting Cobra, Puff Adder and many others.
We will again return to camp after our game drive to relax and have dinner. Afterwards we will retire to our beds for a good night’s rest, listening to the magical African bush sounds as we drift off peacefully.
Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater
After breakfast we will do a longer morning game drive and return to camp for lunch. We set off late afternoon further southeast, to Ngorongoro, for the next part of our adventure.
En route we will have time to visit an authentic Maasai Village and learn a lot about their fascinating culture and everyday way of life. The name Ngorongoro actually comes from the Maasai; the Maasai pastoralists named the area after the sound produced by the cowbell (ngoro ngoro)!
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers some 8,500 km2 (3,300 sq mi) adjacent to the Serengeti plains. It’s main feature is the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater, the largest unbroken volcanic caldera in the world. The caldera is surrounded by incredibly steep walls rising 600 m (2,000 feet) above the floor of the volcano. It’s a must-visit place on any tour to Tanzania or east Africa.
The grasslands within the crater are the permanent home to about 25,000 large mammals. The most numerous ungulates are Common Wildebeest, Hartebeest (Coke’s subspecies), African Buffalo, Plains Zebra, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle, and Common Eland. Other mammals that we will look for include Hippopotamus, African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, baboons, monkeys, and the rare Bohor Reedbuck. There are of course also predators present, with the crater boasting a sizeable Lion population, and some Spotted Hyaenas and Serval also.
We will have dinner and some relaxation time at our lodge on the eastern rim of the crater – its location offers awe-inspiring views and some of the most breathtaking sunsets to be seen in Tanzania. Enjoy!
We will spend the full day in the crater, enjoying a picnic lunch on the 260 square kilometre (100 square mile) crater floor and returning late afternoon to our lodge on the rim of the crater for dinner. Get ready to see some spectacular fauna and flora!
The Ngorongoro Crater, sometimes referred to as “the eighth wonder of the world”, is best known for its natural beauty and abundance of diverse wildlife, which makes it one of Africa’s most popular safari destinations. Surrounded by Tanzania’s highlands, this UNESCO-listed crater is truly something every naturalist and wildlife lover should witness.
While a major attraction is the mammals, birding within the crater and on the top of the crater rim is very good. A number of specialty bird species can be seen here, including Schalow’s Turaco, Hunter’s Cisticola, Ruppell’s Robin-Chat, Tacazze Sunbird, and the beautiful Golden-winged Sunbird.
Ngorongoro to Tarangire National Park
Today, after breakfast, we will proceed to Tarangire (about 5 hours away in a southeasterly direction, skirting Lake Manyara) for a game drive in that park. We will enjoy some wonderful scenery along the way.
Tarangire National Park is a lovely quiet park, off the beaten safari track, most famous for its elephant migration and named after the Tarangire river that crosses the park. The landscape of Tarangire is primarily open savanna dotted with Acacia woodland and large Baobab trees. The 2,850 km2 (1,100 sq mi) park is a dry season refuge when large numbers of migratory wildlife such as African Elephants, Plains Zebras, Common Wildebeest, Common Eland, African Buffalo and other antelope concentrate around permanent water sources. Elephants congregate in herds of up to 600 animals, and the large numbers of game animals attract numerous predator species, especially Lions.
We will again have a fantastic camping experience for the next two nights, with our camp offering deluxe tents under huge trees, with superb views of the surrounding savannah plains. We will enjoy dinner and sit around the camp fire, chatting about our stunning African safari so far.
Tarangire National Park
This morning we will do an exciting walking safari and afterwards do a game drive for the rest of the day.
Tarangire is one of our favourite parks in east Africa, partly because it is quieter than the other reserves, but also because of its incredible natural beauty. It really is an awe-inspiring place, comprising of granite ridges, river valleys, mixed vegetative landscapes, and swamps.
Tarangire is also the one place in Tanzania where dry-country antelope such as Beisa Oryx and Gerenuk are seen regularly. We will also look for Waterbuck, Giraffe, Impala, monkeys, Olive Baboon, Cheetah, Caracal, Honey Badger and African Wild Dog.
Another attraction of Tarangire is its many termite mounds that dot the beautiful landscape. The ones that have been abandoned by termites are often home to families of Common Dwarf Mongoose.
Over 550 species of birds have also been recorded in the park, and specials include Yellow-collared Lovebird, Red-throated Tit, Red-necked Spurfowl, Red-winged Prinia, Lazy Cisticola, Black Bishop, Pangani Longclaw, Northern Pied Babbler and Ashy Starling, along with a host of vultures, eagles and other raptors.
Tarangire to Arusha and Departure
And so an amazing east Africa migration safari, unfortunately, comes an end.
After breakfast, we will head to Arusha (about 3 hours away) and stop for lunch or some last-minute shopping. We will make our way to Kilimanjaro International Airport for our flight home.
*Please note: Extensions to Zanzibar, Diani beach, Mount Kenya or Mombasa can easily be arranged.
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