Capt. Sammy B Sandhu captured a large herd of the wildebeest migration from the bird's eye heading towards the Naabi Hill in the Southern Serengeti.
Naabi Hill towers above the short grass plains of the Serengeti. Other than a hot air balloon safari, the viewpoint from the top of Naabi Hill offers the best views of the plains. This acacia covered hill functions as the Serengeti's park gate and shelters antelope, elephant and giraffe. It's also home base for the Naabi lion pride and den site for cheetahs.
During the green season, Naabi Hill is the epicenter of the great migration and the surrounding plains can be choked black with wildebeest.
When people say “Ngorongoro Conservation Area,” what most human brain automatically pictures is the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater. And we really can’t blame you for that. Ngorongoro Crater, the Garden of Eden of Africa, has a glorious landscape that’s teeming with about 25,000 animals including ungulates, four of the Big Five and other large mammals.
It is also one of the best places to spot critically endangered animals like black rhinos, golden cats and wild hunting dogs. Home to one of the densest known population of Masai lions, Ngorongoro Crater guarantees an action-packed, heart-pounding game.
In fact, it also supports the largest animal migration on earth, the Great Migration. You see, the Ngorongoro Crater area and Ndutu area are settings of the wildebeest calving season. During this time, you will be able to witness thousands of baby wildebeests being born and a plethora of opportunistic predators on stealth and killing modes. The splendor of this world wonder makes people say this is like “mini Africa in a bowl.” As one traveler would put it, “Imagine a bowl of an incredible landscape filled with just about every African animal you can think of.”
The best camps for the calving season lie in the Ndutu area, south of the Serengeti. Many are semi-permanent tented camps set up each year in the path of the migration, enabling you to leave camp on early morning drives and head straight into the action. Your accommodation usually takes the form of a large, walk-in tented suite with large bed, outside seating area and a private bathroom.
We suggest three nights in the Ndutu area and two nights in another destination to complement the migration experience. Perhaps a camp in the Central Serengeti, home to excellent resident wildlife, or – since Ndutu forms part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – a lodge at the nearby Ngorongoro Crater, home to Africa’s most reliable Big 5 game viewing.
Horizons covered in black from the 1.5 million wildebeest and zebras that traveled over 800 kilometres to this spot in the southern Serengeti to graze on green grasses and birth their young. No photo or video can capture the largest overland migration in the world.
Molly witnessed a mom cheetah teaching her three cubs some hunting kills, with hyenas circling and vultures waiting in-line.
The hunting life for a young cheetah begins early and involves much more than developing the incredible sprints - up to 60 miles per hour. Almost as soon as they can walk, cheetah cubs race around, slap and knock each other down, and stalk and nip their siblings.
Once the cubs get a little older between eight months and a year - the mom releases about a third of the prey she catch, and the cubs at least occasionally kill the animals on their own. Rapid progress at this point is important. Two months after their mother becomes pregnant again, when the cubs are between a year and 18 months old, they will be forced to fend for themselves.
This is the peak of calving season. The herds move around the area following localised rainfall and are often stretched from an area called Maswa in the west to Gol in the east. It’s a vast area but historically the heart of this area - Kusini and Ndutu – has had good rain and historically focuses the herds. These two areas also host reliably brilliant general games throughout the month, including all the cats.
Sammy B Sandhu captured the herds crossing Miracle Experience Balloon Safaris base in the Ndutu area heading towards the Lake Ndutu!
January sees the herds starting to settle into the short grass plains around Lake Ndutu, just south of the border with the national park itself. This immense region of short-grass plains is classic Serengeti, with vast open skies and endless savanna stretching as far as the eye can see. January is often the start of calving with the fertile soil and nutrient-rich grasses here providing the perfect start to new life… and in return draw in the predators!
The best game viewing at this time of year stretches across much of the southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area – from Maswa to Gol, as far south as Kakesio, and as far north as the Moru Kopjes. Localised rainfall drives their movement. This is also the location of the highest concentrations of predators in Africa at any time of year!
Summary – Excellent cat viewing (especially cheetah!) and large herds of the Great Migration spread across the entirety of the southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. January is also a slightly quieter travel period than February or Christmas. A peak calving month.
With the heavy rains and thunderstorms, the pilot and guests had a beautiful flight, with light winds, amazing cloudy skies, and a beautiful sunrise. The pilot slowly moved to the south at a low level towards the southwest flying over tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebras.
The Great Wildebeest Migration was surrounding the balloon as they went down to the lower level. Not only did they witness the great migration, but they also saw hyenas, Thompson gazelle's, Grant gazelle's, jackals, and a Kori bustard.
By visiting later in the month, you will also have the best chance of catching the big herds, as by this time the majority will definitely be fully into calving season creating spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities.
Ndutu is in the Ngorongoro Conservation area which means rich, nutrient soils for the young calves to give them the best start in life. By mid-January, calving season is in full swing and more than 8,000 calves are born daily. Aside from the sheer volume of grazers in the area which is phenomenal to see in itself, the young calves also attract an immense number of predators. In fact, from January to February, the Ndutu plains has the biggest concentration of predators anywhere on the planet, which only means one thing; seriously explosive predator action.
Safari guide Filbert Mbise captured the great herds roaming in the Ndutu area spread out across the marsh area moving into the open plains of the southern Ndutu.
Chaka Camp, is a mobile Serengeti safari camp designed to be lightweight enough to move seasonally, is located in the Ndutu area from December through March. The camp relocates to Western Serengeti from May through June, and again to Northern Serengeti from July through November.
From December through March, the wildebeest migration moves in and out of the Ndutu area. Ndutu is located in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, just south of Serengeti National Park. Chaka Camp’s location provides easy access to prime game viewing areas around Lakes Ndutu and Masek. In addition to the almost two million wildebeest and zebra that move through the area each year, Ndutu is home to cheetah, lion, giraffe and hundreds of bird species. During February’s calving season, the wildebeest give birth to 8,000 babies a day.
From May through June, Chaka Camp relocates to Western Serengeti. The wildebeest migration is generally in this area during this time, and crossings over the Grumeti River are sometimes seen in this area. Access to Central Serengeti is also possible from this area as the drive is only two hours.
From July through November, Chaka Camp is located in Northern Serengeti. The camp is close to the Mara River, allowing easy access to several river crossing points in the area. During this time of year, the wildebeest migration is crossing the Mara River back and forth from Tanzania to Kenya. River crossings are common with crocodiles, hippos and large cats scattered throughout the area.
Tucked within a grassy corridor that links the Lake Ndutu area with the Moru Kopjes and Hidden Valley is the seasonal Woodlands Camp. During the calving season, this area is teaming with wildebeest as hundreds of thousands of pregnant females converge to give birth. While most properties are compacted in a central location, Woodlands Camp is slightly removed from the main tourist venue, allowing for more privacy without sacrificing access to this awe-inspiring event.
Ndutu Safari Lodge is situated in the south-eastern part of the Serengeti eco-system. Shaded by majestic acacia trees, each of the thirty four cottages, which are built of local materials, has a private verandah facing Lake Ndutu.
The Lodge is surrounded by indigenous trees and shrubs which encourage a host of birds and mammals to come right to your front door. Tucked well away from the busy tourist circuit, Ndutu offers peace and tranquillity far from the madding crowd. Spend some time with us and unwind. Relax to the rhythm of an African day as a myriad bird calls herald the rising sun. Stay close to the lodge and enjoy the resident wildlife or go for a drive and explore the range of habitats that lie within easy reach. After sunset return to the homely warmth and hospitality of Ndutu Safari Lodge.
Perched on the edge of a permanent marsh, Lemala Ndutu is the ultimate amphitheater for the wildebeest migration between December and March.
9 suite tents of a very high specification are relocated from the Northern Serengeti to this stunning Ndutu site to capture the boundless drama that accompanies the migration. The migrating herds of over 1.5 million wildebeest and zebra begin to arrive in December and begin calving in February.
The camp is situated inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, near the border of Southern Serengeti, in what is perhaps the finest location in the whole of Ndutu because of its shady umbrella acacia trees and grass cover which reduces dust considerably and also attracts grazers. The camp offers fantastic views of the marsh whose permanent fresh waters attract an abundance of game including predators. The camp enjoys regular visits from resident wildlife ranging from lions, leopards,cheetahs and hyenas to elephant and giraffe. Lion hunts close to the camp are not uncommon.
Like the animal it is named after, Camp Zebra follows the wildebeest migration to the northern part of the Serengeti National Park in June, July, August, September, October and November; and to the southern part of the park from December till March. Camp Zebra is closed from the middle of April till the end of May each year.
Camp Zebra consists of six accommodation tents, each of which can be used for single, double (or twin) or triple occupancy. Each sleeping tent consists of a bedroom area, dressing area and ensuite shower and toilet. The dressing area, shower and toilet are all “open air” so as to heighten the experience of living as one with your surroundings. Despite being able to enjoy some breathtaking views as you prepare yourself for the day ahead, privacy is still assured due to the clever design of our tents. As an added convenience, each tent is provided with sufficient electricity for lighting as well as for charging mobile telephones, cameras, tablets, laptop computers or any other electronic devices you may carry with you.
Camp Zebra is Serengeti camping at its finest. The mobile nature of the camp makes it easy to follow the wildebeest herds as they complete their long journey, ensuring the best wildlife sightings during the incredible Great Migration in Tanzania. See our HerdTracker app for the latest migration updates.