Wildebeest Calving Season
A 12-day bespoke wildebeest Calving Season and birding tour that runs during the green season (November to May) hosts two of the most important aspects of the life cycle for wildebeest. The calving season begins at the end of December but peaks for a 6-week time period between January and February. At this time of the year, it is recommended that you visit the southern and central Serengeti combined with Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. The Green Season is a peak time for birdwatching also as the African birds are joined by the European migrants.
Alternative Name: Wildebeest Calving and Birding Tour
Arrive in the early evening on KLM into Kilimanjaro International Airport. VIP Meet and greet by Unique Safaris and transfer to Arusha town (45 min) to the African Tulip Hotel for dinner and overnight. VIP arrival services include the cost of your Tanzania visa pre-paid and a private officer to assist your group through Immigration, Baggage and Customs.
Enjoy a day of culture and children! Enjoy a town tour of Arusha and a visit to the School of St. Jude and have lunch with the primary students (www.schoolofstjude.org). This remarkable organization provides a free quality education for the most disadvantaged children in the Arusha district. Tour the campus, ride the school buses home with the students and participate in a home visit to meet some families. Dinner/overnight at African Tulip
After an early breakfast, transfer to the Arusha airport and fly to the central Serengeti. Check-in is at 7:30 and the flight leaves at 8:00 and arrives around 10:00 depending upon other possible bush stops. Meet and greet by your private vehicle/guide and immediately begin your first game drive in the Serengeti as you travel to Sametu Camp for a hot lunch and afternoon game drive. www.karibucampcollection.com
Explore the vast areas of the central Serengeti, including the Sametu and Barafu Kopjes, the Retima Hippo Pool, Seronera River Valley and the Maasai, Simba and Moru Kopjes as well. The central Serengeti is excellent leopard habitat and offer a huge number of antelopes and elephants as well as the big herds and super prides of lions. The camp is located in the east-central Serengeti, in the beautiful Sametu Kopjes. This area of the central Serengeti has large prides of lion and a healthy population of cheetah. Sametu Camp has only 8 tents and is located near the banks of the Ngarenyuki River, often attracting many animals as a source of water.
After an early breakfast game drive through the Gol Kopjes to reach the southern Serengeti Plains. The Gol Kopjes are a fragile habitat and require a special permit to drive through the short-grass plains. Cheetah especially love this area because their favorite prey–Thomson gazelle-thrive on the rich short grass that grows here. Hopefully you will be in the Serengeti at the peak of the wildebeest calving with almost 750,000 calves being born. The pregnant females require the short grasses found in the southern plains for the nutrients that are critical for good lactation. This is a wonderful example of “swarm intelligence” because a higher percent of calves survive when so many are born each day (sometimes 10,000 calves a day). Your three days will allow you to visit a number of key areas of the southern plains, including Lake Ndutu, Lake Masek, the Gol Kopjes, the Moru Kopjes and possibly Hidden Valley. Woodland s Camp is located just west of Lake Ndutu in an important wildlife corridor. www.karibucampcollection.com
With a normal weather pattern consisting of short rains (short bursts of rain usually at night an in the late afternoons), the calving takes place on the southern Serengeti Plains, which offers some added protection from predators due to the shorter grass. Wildebeest like to travel with zebra to take advantage of their extraordinary sight and sense of smell for spotting predators. And zebra like to travel with wildebeest to take advantage of their extraordinary ability to smell promising rain clouds.
Explore the vast areas of the southern Serengeti Plains. Return each night for a lovely campfire and refreshments as you shower and are ready for dinner in the bush. Woodlands Camp is located right on the border between the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Land. As such, we plan for double permits for each park so that you are not restricted in your game drives. The Ngorongoro Conservation Land allows more off-road driving so you will have additional freedom in some of these areas, until you cross onto Serengeti National Park land.
Say goodbye to the Serengeti and drive toward Ngorongoro Crater, the jewel of the Ngorongoro Conservation Land. Stop along the way to visit Olduvai Gorge, the site of Louis and Mary Leakey’s famous archeological discoveries. You also can choose to stop at a Maasai boma to visit. Continue to the western descent road, arriving around noon and go down the Crater floor for an afternoon game drive. Ascend on the eastern rim to Lions Paw Camp for dinner and overnight. The rim of the Crater sits at 7,500-8,000 feet of elevation so nights can be chilly. Lions Paw has heaters in each tent and always places a hot water bottle in your bed at night to keep your toes toasty. www.karibucampcollection.com
Prepare to leave Lion’s Paw by 5:45 am so you can check in at the ranger post and be the first vehicle on the Crater floor. In general, all of your game drives will begin by 6:00 am unless you specifically request otherwise. Hot breakfast will be served at all bush properties to accommodate early departures. Early mornings are the best times for photography (soft lighting) and greater predator activity as you may see some of the lion kills from the previous night. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the Crater and return to Lions Paw before curfew at 18:00.
Enjoy a relaxing morning at Lions Paw and then drive through the Crater Highlands to Gibbs Farm or The Retreat in the Karatu area. Karatu is a busy and colorful town as well as a hub for growing maize, beans, tea and coffee. Arrive in time to check in and then enjoy their scrumptious hot buffet lunch. Gibbs is an active coffee plantation and organic farm and they grow all their food on their land. You can participate in any of the daily farm activities (collecting eggs, picking vegetables for meals, bread making, coffee roasting) free of charge. You can also enjoy a number of free hikes in the Crater Forest or mountain biking into town. The Retreat is located almost next door to Gibbs Farm and was planned as a celebration of bird life. The gardens, trees and lake were all planned to attract a large number of bird species set against the stunning background of the Ngorongoro Forest Reserve. The Retreat also has guided hikes, birding on the grounds, mountain bikes and village visits. www.gibbsfarm.com or www.theretreatatngorongoro.com
You may choose to relax at the lodge, visit Lake Manyara NP or visit the Hadzapi tribe in nearby Lake Eyasi. The Hadzapi are Tanzania’s Bushmen with less than 1,200 individuals remaining. They are nomadic hunters and gatherers and enjoy showing you how they collect poison for their arrows and their hunting prowess.
Depart after breakfast and drive back to Arusha (2 hours) driving through the village of Mto wa Mbu. Mto wa Mbu is known for growing a large variety of bananas and sampling some of the species is very enjoyable. Stop along the way to shop at the African Gallery and then continue to Arusha in time for a hot lunch at the Arusha Coffee Lodge. Continue to the African Tulip for a dayroom with time to shower, pack and relax a little bit. Dinner is available for anyone who is hungry. Early evening transfer to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
We have been a licensed tour operator since 1990. Specializing in private custom-designed programs but also offer set itineraries on our website. Our guides have outstanding knowledge of all remote areas of the national parks. All of our safari guides are contracted employees, all with outstanding dedication to education, a passion for the bush, and outstanding customer service! Unique Safaris owns and maintains a full fleet of vehicles, all stretch Land Rovers and Land Cruisers, specially adapted for photography and unrestricted game viewing. Truth in pricing. Not all safari companies are equal.