The new year heralds a time of new life, and adorable offspring all around. Southern Serengeti hosts the wildebeest birthing season, while Kenya is abounding with young predators getting playful. February tends to be the focal point for the calving, but join us in mid-January or in March, and you’ll have the best of the season with no one else about. This is the perfect quarter for a ‘Winter Sunshine’ long weekend – when the frosty cold gets to be too much, the Mara is a mere hop from Nairobi, and guarantees a delicious dose of heat, and a heap of things to do: a night-drive with infrared spotlights, or a view from on high in a balloon… Or even a romantic Valentine’s night in our Tree House.
It’s the wildebeest birthing season, which means that between 300,000 and 400,000 calves are born on the open plains in front of our Serengeti South and Kusini Mobile camps. This entire new generation is born within a 3-4 week period – the theory being that with such a glut, predators will eat their fill, and thereafter the rest of the babies survive – hence the spectacular big cats and kills at this time of year.
The Loita wildebeest population in Mara North stages its own birthing season, but on a much smaller scale, totaling about 30,000 gnus and zebra. To really see the spectacle in full glory, our Southern Serengeti camp is the place to be.
The wildebeest move in and off the plains, and predators follow, picking off the newborns: cheetah, lion, wild dog, honey badgers, hyena are all feasting in this time of plenty. Zebra and Thomson’s gazelle flood the plains alongside the wildebeest, and migratory European birds flock in, including storks, kestrels, and steppe eagles.
Predators give birth after the short rains in October/November, so by now, the 2-3 month old cubs and pups are becoming active, playful and visible. The short grass along the backbone of Mara North Conservancy makes for great cheetah action: nowhere for prey to hide, and plenty of space to get up to deadly speeds.
The river hosts hippos, crocodiles and elephant, and because Serian and Ngare Serian are in a rain-rich area, the vestiges of greenness lure game away from the other drier conservancies: large numbers of gazelle continue their grazing, and in turn keep the big cats coming. Night drives can yield lion and hyena in hunting mode, plus potential for spotting aardvark and aardwolf.
A great time to capture cheetah and wild dog on the hunt for wildebeest calves, as well as all the drama of a kill. The backdrop of vast open spaces and big skies is stunningly dramatic, and the cultural element of Masai going about their traditional lifestyle makes for magical photographic opportunities.
view the itinerary here.
The short grass makes for uninterrupted views, and it’s a great time for cat viewings. Blissfully empty of crowds, this is your chance to spend undisturbed quality time with sightings. Take a balloon ride for amazing aerial shots, and make use of our night vision and thermal imaging cameras for exciting nocturnal photography.
Go walkabout with local tribesmen: traditional Hadzabe hunter-gatherers will teach you to track animals, make bows and arrows, identify medicinal plants, traditional folklore, and see through their eyes. Flycamp for just 1 night, or make a 2-3 day adventure of it: rove the spectacular countryside, climb rocky kopjes and sleep under the stars next to the 3,000ft rift that forms Lake Eyasi.
We use our private conservation area, which only we have access to: no cars allowed, and 4km of our own riverfront. The emphasis is on short walks, which are intense, big game experiences: you will likely encounter buffalo, elephant and hippo as well as more unusual species like Chandler’s mountain reedbuck, klipspringer, and oribi. Climbing up the escarpment gives beautiful expansive views over MNC, and you walk in the company of scouts who patrol the area every day and who can share their intimate knowledge with you. Follow them as they react to the bush signals that will dictate the nature of your walk. Stop at ‘The Nest’, our tree house, for a picnic breakfast… Hang out with a book and watch the hippos, before slowly wending your way back to camp. Walks can range from gentle strolls to a sweaty hike, and all ages can participate.
Our vehicles are specially customised to be a climbing frame, and a photographer’s extra tool. They are comfortable, able to handle the terrain, and cover the distance…. And were designed for sun, rain, wind, and above all, the feeling of having as little as possible separating you from what’s out there.
Our guides and spotters are intimately familiar with these special places, so they know all its secrets and the ways the animals interact with it, from the subtle changes of the seasons, to the stages of an animals lifecycle, to the flora that sustains it all – they are the key that can unlock it all for you.
We can also do night drives in Serian, Ngare Serian and Serian’s Serengeti South. Red-filter spotlights illuminate the nocturnal world without dazzling the wildlife, so you can watch the night come alive with no disturbance to the animals. Take a flask of soup and a blanket, and enjoy the wilderness by starlight.
March is blissfully empty and quiet, and there is often prime availability in mid-January. Enjoy the delicious pleasure of these beautiful spaces with no one else around.