A safari to The Northern Serengeti then on to Katavi and Mahale, a special experience

August 2008 ~ Part 1

I was asked to select three places over 10 days that showed off the very best wildlife Tanzania has on offer in August. Easy really! By combining the Northern Serengeti wildebeest migration with the mass of large mammals at Katavi and then a close encounter of the chimp kind at Mahale – I couldn’t go wrong! August is such a special month here. But as always on safari I was pleasantly surprised by a few things and saw a few areas as I had never seen them before.

Firstly the Northern Serengeti was awesome! I don’t think I have ever seen such wildebeest concentrations in and around Sayari camp and along the Mara River before. It was truly spectacular and my guests, who had been on safari to Tanzania and many other African safari locations before, were blown away. We just couldn’t stop seeing River Crossings and unbelievable numbers of migrating wildlife in such a small portion of the Serengeti. Shall we try to see another crossing or go on to find more lions? Should we spend more time with that group of 80+ elephants? Surely we couldn’t see more eland? So many new bird species for us- wow!

We were literally spoilt for choice each and every time we drove out of camp. Even the amount of impalas was impressive! Late one afternoon we lazily drove up to a ridge top with a plan of sunset drinks to view the area. Valley after valley full of wildebeest herds lay before us. We guessed at 300,000 + animals in one view! Maybe more- seriously the landscape for miles was black with them! Even I was taken aback and truly inspired by the sight.

Crossing The MaraCrossing The Mara

Sam the cub near Sayari CampSam the cub near Sayari Camp

Eland near Sayari Eland near Sayari

None of us wanted to leave the Mara River and as we were flying out over the masses of wildlife around the river, leaving behind one of Africa’s premier wildlife spectacles I thought I’d gotten the safari the wrong way round. I always try to put the perceived highlight at safari’s end and what could possibly match or better the experience we had just enjoyed to the full? Katavi had received good rains the previous wet season and as the illegal dams up river from the park had been knocked down the amount of water flowing into this large area of swamps, sandy ridges and mature woodland was far more than I was expecting. I couldn’t believe the amounts of standing water as we flew in. I had been there for June, July and December the previous year and expected less standing water than in July - there was 100 times more water! From the air we could see 2000+ buffalos, countless elephants and numerous hippos.

That Katavi bullThat Katavi bull

The Chada pride play at SunsetThe Chada pride play at Sunset

A young and curious giraffeA young and curious giraffe

A male leopard gives up the hunt and walks awayA male leopard gives up the hunt and walks away

Katavi hippos with palmsKatavi hippos with palms

The Katavi wildlife was looking great and the half full rivers, that would normally be almost dry by August, were being enjoyed by masses of large animals. Where ever we went the banks were laden with crocodiles, full of healthy hippos and the wonderful trees of Katavi stood tall and strong. Some had lions in them! We just couldn’t go wrong. That dry bush smell that all regular safari goers love permeated through every corner of this grand park of parks. It really is a special place, full of wonder and the unexpected. Our 4 days were packed with excellent wildlife encounters. Wonderful lions, an incredible 2 hour leopard hunt (he failed), endless vista of green swamplands full of buffalos, hippos and elephant.

We didn’t forget our Serengeti experience but Katavi was so different that we almost did. What a combination. Chada Camp was right in the thick of things with elephants in camp all the time, a herd of 1500 buffalos on view from camp and the local Chada pride roaring every dawn. We witnessed the local pride hunting this vast buffalo herd one day, we watched enthralled from 2 miles ways. One morning, actually our last, instead of driving to the airstrip after a hearty breakfast we cut across the swamp in front of camp towards where we had heard this pride. As these open areas dry out, driving onto the swamps becomes possible- with care I might add. Bumping along in low gear we reached the water course without problem and drove along its banks finding the 14 lions lazing. Hippo were everywhere, they protested our presence and stood bellowing at the vehicle from only a few yards away. The hippo action in these conditions is extreme as they are healthy and combative. As they start to concentrate because the water levels are dropping, fights break out and boy are they feisty! Intimidating as well! We walked one morning and saw numerous species including a fleeing lioness, crocs, hippos, elephant, impala, buffalo and waterbuck.

Don’t come any closerDon’t come any closer

I challenge youI challenge you

A Katavi breakfast overlooking Katisunga PlainA Katavi breakfast overlooking Katisunga Plain

Katavi lions love to climbKatavi lions love to climb

Walking near Chada CampWalking near Chada Camp

This male fought in a different way, he did this repeatedlyThis male fought in a different way, he did this repeatedly

I would rate Katavi over almost any wildlife area in Africa. It is the place to explore, the park where one feels like exploring.

Where man meets beast and the beasts rule - ok! Its remoteness will keep it that way - I hope!

Part two of this newsletter will visit Mahale.