The Migration Birthing Season
This was my second trip to Tanzania during the pandemic – more on testing at the end.
Because of specific nutrients in the grass, Ndutu is where the wildebeest go to give birth during their annual migratory trek south. While Ndutu is basically the same eco system as the Serengeti, it’s part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and not the national park system. That means one can do walking safaris and drive off road.
I’m just back from spending 5 glorious nights / days in Ndutu – birthing season is from mid-January through end of March, early April.
On to the wildlife experience in Ndutu – it was simply amazing! While I was determined to see wildebeests dropping babies this time, I did not. Had we sat for a few hours and watched a wildebeest herd, I’m sure we would have see live births. I did see babies about 2-3 days old and sadly too many baby wildebeests as kill. Predators don’t go hungry this time of year.
What we did spend our hours watching were the predator hunts! On my safaris, we saw 49 lions, 7 cheetahs, 1 serval, 1 caracal, too many hyenas and lots of jackals. We watched 2 cheetah hunts, a cheetah and Coke’s hartebeest standoff and a lion hunt that resulted in 2 baby wildebeest kills. Bottom line, the wildlife in Ndutu is spectacular – remember it’s the same eco system as the Serengeti. You’ll find elephants, zebra of course, giraffe, antelopes galore, birds, bat eared foxes and more.
Back to the migration…..I did see 2 water crossings as the herds swam across Lake Ndutu. Sadly many hours later, we saw too many dead wildebeests floating in the lake as they drowned. Halifa said they get their hooves stuck in the mud and drown – it was startling and sad to see.
You’ll see zebra with the wildebeest herds but it’s always cool to see huge herds of zebra with a few wildebeest in the group. I’m obsessed with zebra that have aberrant striping so here’s my one photo of a zebra with a dot! If you look closely, there are also 2 small circles on the leg and underbelly.
Let’s chat about testing. Things are vastly different from my trip in November where I along with the 5 agents traveling with me all tested negative upon our return home. Requirements changed dramatically in January with the US rule to have COVID test upon re-entering the States. Don’t be mislead about PCR vs. rapid tests (long story, I made that mistake flying over) and instead rely on what the airline, connecting and destination country requirements are. I had to have a PCR test to board in Denver and then a rapid test in Atlanta to board my flight connecting through Schiphol on KLM. Security agents met us at the jetway to see our tests. Coming home, I had a PCR test in Tanzania, then another rapid test outside the JRO airport before boarding my flight connecting through Schiphol again. Both tests were checked by Amsterdam security at the boarding gate for my Delta flight home. Rather annoying, not one US airport official asked to see any COVID test paperwork at all. Five days upon my return home, I once again took a PCR test to demonstrate my experience in Tanzania. For the second time upon returning from Tanzania during this pandemic, I tested negative.
Although Tanzania is currently getting bad press for its handling of the virus, rest assured that the Ministry of Health is working with tourism stakeholders and there are strict COVID protocols out in the bush at the camps. You might be shocked driving through Arusha and Karatu at the lack of mask wearing.
Let Takims Holidays plan your safaris – they know the best camps and locations for the migration.