An Early Dry Season Safari

June 2008

In May and June each year the same question pops up. Where are the wildebeest? It is tempting to just follow the crowds and take guests into the Western Corridor of the Serengeti, but these days this area is not only full of migrating herds but also migrating cars! I have always sought a quieter area to use as a base and then, if need be, drive those extra miles to see the herds.

Our safari started in Arusha National Park. This gem of a Park is a wonderful start, and I try to take first timers there if time allows. Together with a mum and her two daughters, we stayed at a new camp on the Ngorongoro Crater’s Rim called Lemala Camp. Owned by Grumeti Expeditions, a new Tanzanian Company, this 16 bedded camp was a pleasant surprise, and perhaps an answer to the accommodation problems we all face around Ngorongoro. Set in beautiful acacia trees, with elephants passing by, the camp looks out towards Olmoti Mountain and its forested slopes. Boy was it cold! The camp staff placed gas heaters in our tents and two hot water bottles in our beds- thankfully! Our day in the crater was great and 4 prides of lions and 5 black rhinos on sight together were highlights of our day. It was bursting at the seams with wildlife, and not too many vehicles, I glad to report!

The Ngurdoto Crater of Arusha National ParkThe Ngurdoto Crater of Arusha National Park

The Ngorongoro Crater is full of lifeThe Ngorongoro Crater is full of life

We departed early the next morning to catch a flight to the Klein’s area of north eastern Serengeti where Suyan Camp is located from June to November.

Seeing how busy other areas of the Serengeti were we were glad to at least be out and away from the crowded central and western areas of this incredible park.

Suyan is still my favourite camp in the greater Serengeti eco-system and with the whole northern zone to explore we looked forward to our 4 night stay. This gave us time to travel south one day to see the wildebeest herds that are moving northwards quickly this year. All around camp were zebras in wonderful numbers and some wildebeest had already started to drink on the nearby beginning of the Grumeti River. Parks had been burning off the tall blond grass and with some rain the previous week many grasslands had already turned bright green thereby attracting zebra and gazelle.

Suyan Camp mess tent in JuneSuyan Camp mess tent in June

Suyan camp's Mess Tent is looking goodSuyan camp's Mess Tent is looking good

At Bolagonja Springs Northern Serengeti Zebra herds come to drinkAt Bolagonja Springs Northern Serengeti Zebra herds come to drink

The elephants and buffalos around camp kept us awake a little at night, as we listened to lions roaring. One morning we watched a cheetah hunting impala and the hunt was spoiled by a huge male baboon that chased away the spotted beauty. It seemed like we had the northern Serengeti to ourselves and on a drive to Bolagonja Springs we marvelled at the contrast between tall blond grasses and short green patches of new grass. That beige and green of the early dry season is most attractive. Wildlife numbers were good and seeing such a variety of species always brightens the safari day. On night drives we were surrounded by wildlife and on our last sun downer drink I spotted 3 mountain reedbucks - a species I hadn’t seen for over 6 years! The area around Suyan camp supports wonderful resident wildlife and as the migrants were pouring in to this area we enjoyed a secret and mostly private Serengeti. As we flew out and landed a few too many times on our trip to Arusha I couldn’t help thinking just how lucky we were to be in that Klein’s Gate area rather than the crowded western Serengeti.

I still photograph Lilac Breasted RollersI still photograph Lilac Breasted Rollers

We explored in open style vehiclesWe explored in open style vehicles

The head of a GnuThe head of a Gnu

A busy season ahead will keep me on safari almost every day until October 30th. With trips all over Tanzania I will have to write these newsletters from the bush! I am not complaining! Please check out our new web site www.sanjan.info(external link) and she what my wife Marina (Tati) is up to these days- apart from keeping me healthy and working of course!

Best wishes,
Paul.