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Beyond the migration

On a journey to the north of Serengeti National Park, Laura Griffith-Jones discovers that you don’t have to focus on the river crossings during the Great Migration to have some exceptional wildlife encounters
Vast herds of wildebeest cross Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area as part of their epic annual journey in the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem.
MICHAEL POLIZA

Our red-letter day began just before dawn in a dark tent in a remote corner of the northern Serengeti. The music of the nocturnal African bush played loud in our ears as we crept along the torch-lit pathway a hyena had trodden the evening before. Clambering into our Land Cruiser, bleary eyed, we set off towards the Kogatende Airstrip and the Mara River. The engine growled sluggishly as the night sky became pinker, until it was stained deep purple. Our guide Bahati slowed the car to a halt and we watched in silence as the horizon turned mauve, then crimson, and the huge golden orb rose from the hills.

I would have come to this 14,763sq-km park to experience that sunrise and nothing else. But most people flood here each year with one aim alone: to see the Great Migration, the ‘World Cup of Wildlife’, where nearly 1.7 million wildebeest, 400,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 300,000 zebra and 12,000 eland trek in a vast cyclical route between Tanzania and Kenya on an eternal quest for fresh water and grassland.

“My favourite months in the Serengeti are between February and April in the Ndutu plains,” Bahati divulged, much to my surprise. “When the wildebeest are dropping their young. Some 300,000 to 400,000 calves are born within two to three weeks of one another, and there is lots of action, with hyenas and jackals stealing babies and big cats hunting. It’s a feast for predators.”

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Essential Luangwa - our guide to one of Zambia's finest reserves • Secret South Africa • Why self-drive in Namibia? • Ethiopia's lost treasures • Beyond the Serengeti migration • Mauritania • Become a Kalahari Bushman • Uganda's adventure capital... and much more!
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