A time of transition: the tail-end of the emerald season in April means everything is fresh, new and full of vitality – flowers blooming, birds breeding, and lush rich life is everywhere. In Serengeti, cheetah and wild dog are feasting while they can on the glut of the wildebeest calving season before the herds move north in search of greener pastures, as May and June dry out. In the Mara, the river brings life to our camps: plains game are in rut, and elephant abound in our private conservation area. Look out for lion in trees, looking for vantage over the long grass. In short, it’s our very favourite ‘secret season’, and a magical time to bring the family for an Easter getaway.
It’s the wildebeest rutting season – as things start drying out in early May, the herds begin to migrate again, and the males carve out temporary territories to mate on the run. The general movement is northward, with herd factions making micro-movements back and forth. They weave through the woodlands by our Kusini camp, and drift through the majestic kopjes toward the long grass at Moru. By mid-June, they are crossing the Grumeti River as the southern plains dry out, feeding on into the Northern Serengeti and then into the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. The lasts of the herds leave Southern Serengeti in May, whilst the forerunners enter the northern Serengeti in mid June.
The advent of the rains at the end of March moves the wildebeest eastward onto the Loita Plains away from MMNR and into the Northern Mara. They stay here with their young, making the most of the mineral-rich soils until end of May/June, when they head back toward Serian (The Original) and Ngare Serian in the private conservancies. Dazzle’s of Zebra contrast with the lush green grass, feasting on the tall stands of oat grass in the Mara North Conservancy.
In April all is emerald, with water pans everywhere. Cheetah and wild dog are out and about and active, and great to follow as they hunt. Elephant are visible in the Ndutu area, and around our Kusini camp. In Northern Serengeti, June’s tall grass means the river becomes the focal point for impala, giraffe and elephant. Cats perch up in kopjes to survey the plains, and the first herds of topi and zebra arrive ahead of the wildebeest.
The Mara River swells, and all is lovely and green. Mornings are crisp and bright, and it’s a time of afternoon storms and amazing skies. Impala, Thomson’s gazelle and topi are all in rut. Serian is a special place at this time because the elevated ridge forming the backbone of the Mara North Conservancy makes for drier conditions, and the plains game move away from the flooded MMNR towards us, making for fantastic sightings.
The tall grass sees cats climbing trees, and there are plentiful elephant in our private conservation area – not to mention beautiful birds in their mating plumage. Hippos make homes in mud puddles, and the whole area is deliciously quiet and empty of crowds.
The plains are filled with wildflowers and emerald flora, and dramatic stormy skies make for amazing light. Hyena and cheetah are in action, and night-drives with a thermal imaging camera yield nocturnal insights. It’s also the perfect time to see birds decked out in their breeding plumage finery, and for macro and insect photography, so be sure to bring a good zoom lens.
This is a time when the landscape is in its element: the river is full to bursting, there is gorgeous greenery and waving grass all around, skies are enormous, and the light that comes with the drama of the storms is worth writing home about. As is the case in Tanzania, birds are in breeding plumage, and macro focus on all the intricate details like insects and flowers makes for a whole other world of photography. It’s also a good time for unusual sightings – like lions in trees.
In April, take a night drive with a picnic dinner and sleep out on the plains: awaken in fields of flowers and birdsong. Or head out in the fresh first morning light for a walk with our guides. In June, there’s an exciting opportunity to take a 3-4 day walking safari in the heart of the Serengeti wilderness, following the migration through Kilima Fedha.
Climbing up the escarpment gives beautiful expansive views over the MNC, and you walk in the company of scouts who patrol the area every day and who can share their intimate knowledge with you.
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.
The cornerstone of a safari experience at Serian is that each group has their own open-top safari vehicle, and their own dedicated guide and spotter. The freedom this grants you is key to getting the most out of your stay: go where the day takes you, without the limitations of fixed schedules, or fitting in with other peoples’ plans. Nothing but personal desire need dictate what you do.
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’s Serengeti South, Serian, and Ngare Serian. 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.
In Kenya the rains start at the end of March and peter out mid-May, and in Tanzania things start drying out in early June. It’s the time of year for a million acres of sky: the air is brilliantly clear in the mornings and early afternoon – then clouds build in layers for a later storm.
One of our favourite timesto be in the bush is during the less fashionable months of March, April and early May, when the bulk of visitors are steered away by ill-informed advice. Incredible flowers, insects and bird life vie for your attention with astonishing concentrations of game.
If occasionally having to batten down the game-viewing hatches for a brief downpour or having to push your vehicle out of the mud is the only price to pay for having all of this to yourself, we would say it’s a most excellent trade…and as if you needed further incentive: it’s also a great time to ask us about discounts.
Mid-June is the perfect time to combine Serian’s Serengeti Mobile in Lamai with Serian (The Original) for a 10-night getaway that spans both Kenya and Tanzania. Alternatively, go adventure flycamping on the Mara River, and track the Loita wildebeest population.