Migration and Predation
February 2 to 17, 2023
Timing is everything. The vast herds of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle that constitute the Great Migration of the Serengeti ecosystem arrive in the southern shortgrass plains soon after seasonal rains return the plants green hue. February is the perfect time for the production of babies, for herbivores and the dependent carnivores. It’s also time for the “snowbirds” from Europe and Asia to join many colorful resident species and partake in the flush of productivity. Flowers and butterflies also thrive on the bounty that nature provides. You may see about 50 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds, as well as some interesting and colorful reptiles. The montane forests and alkaline lakes of Arusha National Park, the massive baobabs and other habitats of Tarangire, the oasis within Ngorongoro Crater, and the plains and Precambrian outcrops of the Serengeti offer the very finest wildlife watching you can imagine.
- Watch Tarangire’s enormous elephants (dwarfed by towering baobab trees) as they frolic in wetlands or feast on about 300 pounds of grass or leaves in a typical day.
- Search for dramatic predators—lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas—and observe their social systems.
- Enjoy colorful weavers building nests, rollers sallying out for fat flying insects, insanely colorful starlings popping up almost everywhere, oxpeckers feasting on small arthropods on giraffes and buffalo, stately secretarybirds and storks stalking the grasslands, and much more.
- Compare the distinctive ecological strategies of the herbivores (e.g., zebra, giraffe, hippo, buffalo, eland, impala, hartebeest, dikdik, hyrax, hare) and small carnivores (e.g., mongoose, bat-eared fox, jackal, serval, honey badger).
- Marvel at dense wildlife herds contained by the lush caldera walls of Ngorongoro Crater.
- Experience the astonishing abundance of large mammals involved in the Great Migration of the Serengeti.
- Learn of the discoveries of early hominids at Oldupai Gorge and see Maasai living their traditional pastoral lifestyles, albeit now with cell phone communication.
- Continue your journey on our Mkomazi extension from February 16 to 20, 2023. Discover many arid-adapted species such as southern gerenuk, fringe-eared oryx, lesser kudu, vulturine guineafowl, eastern yellow-billed hornbill, and golden-breasted starling. Visit repatriation programs for endangered African wild dogs and black rhinos.
- After the Mkomazi extension, continue your journey on our Mountain Gorilla extension. Trek the forests of the Virunga Mountains to encounter Rwanda’s gentle giant, the mountain gorilla. Contact us for more details.
Itinerary Updated: April 2022
FAQ Print Trip Safari Options
|Feb 2||Travel to Arusha, Tanzania.|
|Feb 3||Arrive in Arusha.||Gran Melia Hotel, Arusha|
|Feb 4||Arusha National Park.||Gran Melia Hotel, Arusha||B, L, D|
|Feb 5-6||Tarangire National Park.||Tarangire Safari Lodge, Tarangire National Park||B, L, D|
|Feb 7-9||Ngorongoro Crater.||Lion’s Paw Camp||B, L, D|
|Feb 10-12||Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park.||Ndutu Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area||B, L, D|
|Feb 13-14||Serengeti National Park.||Embalakai Camp, Central Serengeti||B, L, D|
|Feb 15||Visit Oldupai Gorge and Ngorongoro Crater Highlands.||Ngorongoro Farm House, Ngorongoro Conservation Area||B, L, D|
|Feb 16||Drive back to Arusha and continue on our Mkomazi extension or rest for your flights home.||Kia Lodge, Arusha (dayroom)||B, L|
|Feb 17||Fly home.|
Our Trip Leaders
Walt is one of the pioneers of ecotourism, having led expeditions in Africa, North and South America, and Australia for many years. He led the first World Wildlife Fund trips to Madagascar and the first ecotours from the US to the national parks of Brazil; his deepest international experience is in East Africa. Walt is an author, photographer, wildlife artist, and lecturer whose love for the natural world is conveyed with humor and enthusiasm. He was Professor of Environmental Studies at Prescott College in Arizona for 27 years and is the author of two books on California’s Sutter Buttes and a major chapter on ecotourism in International Wildlife: Contemporary Challenges in a Changing World.
Lema grew up at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where his observations of guides taking visitors up the mountain inspired him to pursue a career in ecotourism. He exudes charisma and positive energy, and he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of birds and mammals with grace and humility. His birding skills, including recognition of vocalizations, are top-notch. He has over 17 years of experience guiding wildlife, natural history, and birding tours throughout Tanzania and is delighted to again be working for Cheesemans’.
David has been a popular safari guide for over 25 years. He has an uncanny ability to spot leopards and other wildlife even while driving with consummate skill. His flexibility, kindness, and charm complement his spotting talents, and he is adept at getting the vehicle into position for the best possible wildlife photos. David has earned certificates in Tour Guiding and Leadership, and he is passionate about continuing to learn and grow as a guide. When not guiding, he takes care of his farm and family on the slopes of Mt. Meru.
Augustine, founder and owner of our local safari operator, studied at Tanzania’s College of Wildlife Management and served with the Tanzania Wildlife Department, developing an invaluable set of connections and knowledge. He did his Master’s in Conservation Biology and Ecotourism with Walt Anderson at Prescott College in Arizona. Augustine’s warmth and humor, intimate knowledge of animal behavior, friendships with indigenous people, and command of logistical details have given him a well-deserved reputation in the safari field.
A glimpse into our journey
Arrive in Arusha
Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport where our local agent will transfer you from the airport to the hotel.
Arusha National Park
After breakfast, meet your guides and fellow participants for a day on the slopes of nearby Mt. Meru. You’ll ascend through montane forest, watching for baboons, monkeys (including the charming blue monkey and the impressive black-and-white colobus), various forest antelopes, African buffalo, and dozens of species of birds. At the rim of Ngurdoto Crater (really a caldera or volcanic collapse feature), peer into a pristine ecosystem where no humans venture. From the overlook, proceed through woodlands to the Momela Lakes, observing giraffes, waterbucks, shorebirds, waterfowl, flamingos, storks, ibises, raptors, bee-eaters, kingfishers, and much more. Many visitors to Tanzania head directly to the savannah parks and miss the lush, green beauty and special wildlife of this park, a naturalist’s favorite.
Tarangire National Park
South of Arusha is Tarangire National Park, a diverse landscape with open plains, stands of magnificent giant baobab trees, riverine forest, acacia parkland, scrub-woodlands, and extensive marshes. The resident lions, leopards, and cheetahs coexist with thousands of elephants, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, impalas, buffalo, eland, warthog, dikdiks, and much more. It is one of the birding hotspots of East Africa, with several endemic species (e.g., ashy starling, yellow-collared lovebird) you won’t see elsewhere. You will have a special opportunity for a night game drive, a privilege that few safari goers can get these days in the parks. Lions and leopards observed at night are completely different from the snoozing cats to be found in mid-day. You’ll watch for nocturnal mammals like civets, genets, springhares (a bizarre rodent that hops like a kangaroo), mongooses, and bushbabies.
After a final exciting morning game drive at Tarangire, you will head west, climbing the steep rift valley escarpment into the rich farmlands of the Ngorongoro highlands. At the entrance gate to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, you will pass suddenly into lush forests as you ascend to the crater rim for your first view of the incredible landscape below. Upon arriving at the camp in an other-worldly forest of epiphyte-festooned Acacia lehai, you will be able to bird in the camp and watch the sunset over the massive caldera below.
Brace yourself for a trip back into the Pleistocene, when you explore one of the world’s largest calderas, 10 to 11mi in diameter and 2,500ft deep. Ngorongoro Crater is a World Heritage Site, truly one of the most-productive wildlife-viewing areas on the planet. This diverse ecosystem of forests, swamps, grasslands, and lakes supports lions, servals, hyenas, three kinds of jackal, baboons, monkeys, zebras, hippos, and thousands of antelopes, including the massive eland. Because poaching is not a problem here, rare black rhinos and elephants with enormous tusks are present. It’s also a birding hotspot. You’ll be here when migrant birds from Europe and Asia have congregated to avoid the harsh northern winters, and many of the beautiful resident birds are nesting following the rains of the previous months. You’ll have plenty of time to carefully observe animal behavior and get some wonderful photos of the animals that are habituated to vehicles and thus ignore us.
The next morning, you will drive through high moorlands and past Maasai villages to the forested rim of Empakaai Crater, where you will have stunning views of Ol Doinyo Lengai, the Mountain of God. With an armed guard, you will walk through beautiful forest, descending to the shores of a pristine caldera lake. This is a rare opportunity to get some exercise on foot in an absolutely gorgeous African forest. The 1.5-mile trail is steep, but you take your time and enjoy the birds and plants as you go. In the afternoon, you will have another opportunity for a game drive in the crater or simply to rest at your luxurious camp on the rim.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park
Road conditions permitting, you will take the little-known Endulen route to the short-grass plains to begin five fabulous days in the Serengeti ecosystem, one of the most productive and important wildlife areas in the world. You will still be in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but this is typically where the vast migratory herds congregate and where the wildebeest synchronize their calving, with about 85% of the births occurring within a three-week period. Of course, this means fat and happy carnivores too, and it is a prime area for lion prides and cheetahs. There may also be opportunities to see smaller cats like servals and caracals. You could not be here at a better time of year!
Lakes Ndutu and Masek also offer exceptional birding: flamingos, shorebirds, waterfowl, and wading birds at the lakes; owls, hawks, rollers, bee-eaters, and much more in the acacia woodlands. Scavengers also thrive where the herds are concentrated, so you’ll see vultures, eagles, jackals, and hyenas taking advantage of the unfortunate herbivores that don’t make it.
Ndutu Lodge, your home for three nights, is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the wildlife spectacle, and it is famous for obliging genets that often give amazing close views of these charming nocturnal creatures.
Serengeti National Park
On the 13th, you’ll head north, stopping briefly at Naabi Hill for permits and for some excellent birding. With its vast rolling plains, dramatic outcrops of Precambrian rocks (kopjes), flat-topped acacias, crocodile- and hippo-inhabited rivers lined with riverine gallery forests, and herds of animals, the Central Serengeti is about the ultimate in “wild Africa.”
Birding here is really special; for example, more than 50 species of diurnal birds of prey inhabit this ecosystem, ranging from tiny pygmy falcons to tall and stately secretarybirds. You will be astonished not only with the diversity of birds you will see but also by how easy it is to see them. Many—like the sunbirds, bee-eaters, rollers, hoopoes, starlings, kingfishers, barbets, bishops, and cordon bleus—are stunningly beautiful. Palearctic migrants, like certain storks, falcons, eagles, wheatears, and rollers, are here too. You are not simply trying to amass high species lists but also to take time to observe behavior and to soak in the beauty of the avian diversity. Patience can also yield wonderful photographic rewards.
Embalakai Camp is set in a stunning landscape, close to hippo pools, picturesque kopjes, and other productive wildlife sites. It is one of the best areas in which to find leopards. You will visit the superb Serengeti visitor center, where there are two species of hyraxes (small relatives of elephants!) and wonderful birds. The interpretive displays are a bonus.
Oldupai Gorge and Ngorongoro Crater Highlands
After your final breakfast in the Serengeti, you’ll drive across the plains, ascending again into the highlands of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a World Heritage Site dedicated to the peaceful union of pastoralism, conservation of natural resources, and responsible tourism. You will stop to visit Oldupai (misnamed “Olduvai”) Gorge, world-renowned for the discoveries of early hominids made by archaeologists Mary and Louis Leakey. For many people, a visit to Oldupai and its wonderful museum is a pilgrimage to one of the world’s greatest archeological sites, a place where you can vicariously connect with our distant ancestors. A visit to a Maasai Village is possible if time permits. Thereafter, you will drive out of the park to relax at the Ngorongoro Farm House, whose lovely gardens provide scrumptious produce for this oasis and for some of the remote tented camps. Tonight you will share highlights of the safari as you prepare tomorrow to return to Arusha.
Return to Arusha
Today you drive back to Arusha, stopping for a visit to the Cultural Heritage Center (a wonderful conservation center, wildlife art gallery, and excellent shopping, including for precious Tanzanite jewelry). Share a special farewell luncheon with your guides and then drive to the Kia Lodge near the Kilimanjaro International Airport. If you are not continuing on the Mkomazi extension, use your dayroom at the lodge to refresh and prepare for your flight home. Those doing the Mkomazi extension will have an afternoon drive to that park.
Continue on our Mkomazi extension or arrive home
February is green on the Serengeti in Tanzania – a perfect safari backdrop for lions, cheetahs, and leopards.
Cost & Payments
Costs (in US$)
|Type||Cost Per Person|
|Trip Cost, double occupancy||$14,690|
Costs are per person, double occupancy, not including airfare, singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.
If you are a single traveler, we will find a roommate for you, but if we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement. Single rooms cost extra and are subject to availability.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$3,000|
|Final Payment||September 1, 2022||Remaining balance|
Payments are due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space.
Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another trip if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.
- All leaders, park entry fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
- Accommodations for the nights of February 3 through February 15 and a dayroom on February 16.
- Meals from breakfast on February 4 through lunch on February 16.
- Mineral water at meals and during game drives.
- Coffee and tea during meals.
- Transfers from the Kilimanjaro International Airport to Gran Melia Hotel, regardless of arrival day, and via complimentary hotel airport shuttle from Kia Lodge to the Kilimanjaro International Airport, regardless of departure day.
- Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
- Short-term AMREF Flying Doctor medical emergency evacuation insurance. This does not include hospital or treatment costs. For more information see travel insurance.
- All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Round-trip airfare is approximately $870 to $1,800 between the US and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
- Passport and visa fees.
- COVID tests.
- We can arrange extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
- Gratuities – tipping is always discretionary. However, we will add a gratuity of $455 per participant ($35 per participant per day for February 4 to February 16 with our local guides) to your final payment. This does not include any trip extensions.
- Trip cancellation insurance. For more information see travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation Form.
Temperatures generally range from around 65°F at night to 92°F during the day (18 to 33°C), but the temperature depends on the elevation. Although most days will be warm to hot, it can be cool and breezy in the Land Cruisers early in the morning and in the late afternoon. This is the dry season between the “short rains” of November/December and the “long rains” of mid-March through mid-June, but rain is still possible.
Most days consist of early mornings, game drives on bumpy roads, and long hours in nature that require good energy levels. Most walking is optional and around lodge grounds between game drives. The 3-mile round-trip hike at Empakaai Crater is optional; you can still enjoy the scenic drive and can stay at the rim with a staff member while others hike, if you choose. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.
Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later, as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.
Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) near Arusha, Tanzania, by February 3. Depart from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) on the evening of February 16. If you are continuing on our Mkomazi extension, see the Flights section in its itinerary for departure information.
Which safari is right for me if I want to travel to Africa?
If this is your first African safari, we suggest taking our Tanzania to experience the quintessential African safari. The grassy Serengeti Plains of Tanzania spread unbelievably from horizon to horizon and are often covered with migrating herds seeking fresh grass while predators pursue them.
Our Botswana and Zambia safari provides you with a unique immersion into wild Africa through carefree mobile camping that gives you an intimate 24/7 connection. The extensive waterways of the Okavango Delta that spread on the dry, sandy landscape of Botswana create quite the contrast to the grass-covered Serengeti Plains of Tanzania. In Botswana, you find more animals suited to this dry watery environment such as hippos, elephants, and antelopes. It is possible to see the “big five” (African lion, African elephant, cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros) in all three countries.
What is the “Great Migration?”
The Great Serengeti Migration is the continuous movement of vast herds of western white-bearded wildebeest, common zebra, and Serengeti Thomson’s gazelle. Throughout the year the herds move in a circular, clockwise pattern around the Serengeti, heading northward or southward, seeking new green grass. It is the world’s largest terrestrial mammal migration! Even where the migration isn’t present, there are resident carnivores and buffalo, giraffe, topi, kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest), impala, eland, and Grant’s gazelle.
Which safari is best to see the “Great Migration?”
The exact timing of the migration is dependent on the seasonal rainfall that freshens the grass consumed by ungulates. Throughout the year the herds move in a circular pattern around the Serengeti, heading northward or southward, seeking new green grass. In January/February, wildlife is concentrated in the southern Serengeti short grass plains of Tanzania. In July/August, the famous Mara River crossings of wildebeest and zebra occur in the northern Serengeti ecosystem right on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. While the herbivores migrate through the Serengeti, they pass through the territories of many predators, such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas.
How much time do I spend in nature?
You will spend maximum time in nature! To allow more time for observing relative to driving, you may be out all day with picnic lunches. If our activities are close enough to camp, you may return for lunch and a short break before heading out on a late-afternoon safari. Be prepared for long days.
Can I walk around to see the wildlife?
For safety reasons, you are not permitted to leave the vehicles on safari drives, although you can walk around the lodge grounds. The three-mile round-trip hike at Empakaai Crater is optional; you can still enjoy the scenic drive and can stay at the rim with a staff member while others hike, if you choose.
What is Cheesemans’ background in East Africa tourism?
Walt has been leading safaris in Tanzania and Kenya since 1979 and has had long, close relationships with our driver-guides. Not only do you have experts on wildlife behavior, but you also get a unique family-like experience from spending time with Walt, Augustine, David, and Lema.
You stay in top-notch lodges/camps with private baths in close proximity to the parks/reserves and wildlife.
You travel in pop-top Land Cruisers with shaded roof covers that provide 360° viewing and excellent photography opportunities. With only four participants in each seven-passenger vehicle, you’ll have more space for your gear and changing vantage points. Be prepared to experience bumpy, unpaved roads, and although our vehicles are comfortable, you will be jostled around.
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"I loved the view of the crater Ngorongoro from our hotel at the top. Impossible to capture. Breathtaking, especially because everything was so green and lush. Areas on the deck of the hotel provided a beautiful frame for pictures of the crater. Also watching the moon rise over the crater will stay in my memory forever. I also liked the entertainment provided by the hotel."
Lorrayne Bailey, 2020
"This was a magnificent experience! I am still processing all I saw and experienced two months later. I understand why Doug & Gail have returned so many times."
Phyllis York, 2019
"The guides exceeded my expectations! They were not only excellent wildlife spotters and drivers, and so personable and friendly—they also have a
remarkable depth of knowledge. They did a great job answering questions, answering what was asked and providing additional interesting info, but
not going on at such length that we missed new sightings. They were just superb, every one."