East Africa: Golden Age of Travel
Tanzania has been open to travel since June and Kenya since the start of September. If there was ever a time to explore these East African gems, it is NOW. Global travel is still slow and as a result, East Africa has no crowds, accommodation is the most affordable its been in years and quite frankly the wilderness, with its wide open spaces, is the safest place to be on the planet right now.
Added to this the arrival of summer in the southern hemisphere means we’re going into the Green Season and the whole region is currently transforming from a dry savannah to lush, verdant bushveld. This means in November, you’ll see trains of warthog piglets scampering through the bush. In February wild dog pups will emerge from their dens and in March you’ll see thousands of zebra, wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle babies taking their first shaky steps.
For photographer’s, the dramatic skies with dark storm clouds and bursts of light breaking through, carpets of flowers on the ground and rainfall dispelling the dust of the dry season makes this a dream to capture.
If you want to look out over the vast horizons of the Masai Mara or Serengeti without other vehicles in sight and enjoy shorter queues at park gates and airports, this is the time to travel. From walking expeditions across the Masai Mara conservancies to cultural immersions with the Hadzabe people, a whole array of new adventure opportunities open up to you now.
The nightly rate of safari accommodation can be up to 70% lower than peak season at some camps. And with availability in high season 2021 already proving tight (thanks to COVID-19 postponements and existing bookings), the green season is a real opportunity where finding space is less of a battle, and the experience is still second to none.
If you can go, you should go. This is the Golden Age for East African safaris and we’re not sure how long it’ll last.
If you are ready to travel, here are some of our most highly recommended spots perfect for the summer months…
Little Oliver’s Camp
Located in the Tarangire National Park in the remote south of the Serengeti, Little Oliver’s is a place for those who want to experience an adventurous safari with ample comforts. This 5-tent camp is relaxed and comfy and has the original safaris-of-old feel.
The Tarangire is one of our favorite parks in all of Africa.
At this time of year the number of elephants is heart stopping and you’re likely to see a few hundred in a single morning. Lions are renowned for climbing trees here and one may even find a whole pride of lions resting in a baobab. Predator numbers are high with great leopard, lion, cheetah and sometimes even wild dog sightings. Special antelope include eland, fringe-eared oryx and Coke’s Hartebeest. This park is much quieter in terms of vehicles and is a true gem.
Located on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater this award-winning camp, with its eight domed canvas and glass suites, is situated on the edge of a forest that skirts Olmoti Volcano. The surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This camp is very well situated, allowing direct and quick access into the crater, where animal sightings are prolific. Lions, leopards, black rhino and even serval are likely to be found on the crater floor. Once an ancient volcano the crater, now the largest caldera in the world, provides a haven to a high density of wildlife that have no reason to leave the crater floor.
From camp, hike up to the top of Olmoti for staggering views, or take a half-day trip to the soda lake in Empakaai Crater, where thousands of pink flamingos congregate. You can also interact with the local community, learning about Maasai culture and walk the cattle back to the boma at the end of the day.
Located in the eastern Serengeti, Namiri Plains was completely refurbished and upgraded in 2019. This remote camp is also a conservation initiative, protecting an area crucial to cheetah and other big cats.
This is an ideal spot to place yourself to witness the migration at this time of the year (Oct/Nov). Although the wildebeest herd movements can never guaranteed, predator viewing is great year round meaning you will have an incredible experience regardless. From Jan-March visitors tend to focus around the southern Serengeti where animals are calving, which means you will have exclusive access to the eastern Serengeti and its excellent resident game populations.
Before Namiri Plains was built, these grasslands were closed for 20 years to allow the cheetah population to restore. The nearest other camps are over an hour’s drive away so you can experience the vast plains all to yourself. When not out in the bush spotting lion and other big cats or watching huge wildebeest herds, spend an afternoon around the pool, schedule a massage in the spa or rest and scan for animals from your private deck.
Olakira Camp – Ndutu Plain’s
The Ndutu Region forms part of the northern section of Ngorongoro Conservation Area and stretches to the southern reaches of the Serengeti National Park, a meeting point between these two incredible wilderness areas. This section of the park is made up of rolling grasslands peppered with alkaline lakes that attract flocks of flamingos, as well as acacia woodlands.
A big draw of the Ndutu Region is to see the full circle of the Great Migration, from the return of the herds to graze in December, and then the calving which takes place in January and February, and then the departure of the herds again in April as they start making their journey northwards. Calving season is particularly dramatic: a million wildebeest give birth to 8000 babies every day, and as these newborns take their first steps, they’re targeted by lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena.
The prime game viewing spot in the Ndutu Region is around Lake Ndutu, where enormous herds congregate between December and April to graze and calve. The forests and granite kopjes around Lake Ndutu are also home to lots of game outside of the migration months.
Sightings of six species of cats – leopard, lion, cheetah, caracal, African wildcat and serval – are a big highlight of visiting the Ndutu Region. You can spot the cats throughout the year, but the best viewing is during the calving months of January and February, when these predators pick on the fledgling baby animals.
Olakira Migration Camp follows the migration throughout the year, offering the closest possible view of the action. The canvas tents are designed to blend into the bush without leaving a trace, though that doesn’t mean they scrimp on comforts. Admire the sprawling plains of the Serengeti or Ndutu region from the dining tent, or spend a leisurely afternoon in an armchair, watching zebras or Thomson’s gazelles pass by. After dark, dinner is served under the stars.
Even at night, the Olakira Migration Camp experience is special with mesh-covered stargazing tents allowing guests to sleep under a sky of glittering stars.
One of our favourite lodges in Kenya is Angama Mara, which means suspended in mid air or between Heaven and Earth.
Perched on the edge of the escarpment, this beautiful lodge looks over the Mara below which teams with wildlife. It is the perfect spot to witness the great migration, one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet but comes just as highly recommended year round.
Not to be missed here is a hot air balloon trip above the wending Mara River and the wildlife it attracts.
Tucked away to the east of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, the Naboisho Conservancy is somewhat of a hidden gem. Home to high concentrations of wildlife, including an impressive numbers of big cats, herds of elephant, giraffe, and wildebeest and very few visitors – Naboisho is wilderness haven.
Mara Naboisho is a ground-breaking example of tourism benefiting conservation and community. The Conservancy is comprised of land leased from 500 Maasai landowners and the conservancy fees provide the local community with a sustainable livelihood whilst ensuring the conservation of the wildlife in this this vital corridor of the Mara eco-system.
There are nine spacious tents at Naboisho Camp. Because Naibosho is based on private land, you are afforded greater freedom than in the national parks. In addition to game drives, explore the Mara on foot, keep your eyes peeled on a night drive or spend an unforgettable night camping in the bush for those called to the adventure.
Get in touch by emailing Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nicci at email@example.com to start planning your East African adventure.