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Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

san francisco
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Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

Hello,

From searching the posts I understand that migration is basically unpredictable! And yet we need help deciding where to fly first :-)

Here's the scoop:

- my b/friend and I will be backpacking through Africa for 3+ months, from May 23rd to Aug 31st. We badly want to see the migration, either at Grumeti or Mara. As I see it, we have two options:

1. Fly first into Tanzania May 23rd. Since we have flexible timing, we can hang around until migration starts and keep ourselves occupied with Kili, Zanzibar, lake Manyara, Tangeri, etc. (we plan on only booking a safari for Ngorongoro/Serengeti, and will do the rest on our own through camps we'll stay at - is that a good idea btw?) My fear is that all accommodation will be booked out by the time migration starts (we are considering mbalageti or simiyu camps). Then we fly to South Africa, do Namibia, Zambia, Botswana. Then we make our way back towards Mozambique. (we have to be in South Africa before June 26th due to visa reasons)

2. Option 2. Do South Africa, Namibia, etc. circuit first from May 23rd - till about June 23rd, and then get to Tanzania and try to catch migration at Mara river. And then make our way to Mozambique...

- which option is better in terms of increasing our chances for seeing the migration?

- will accomodations book out if we don't book until last minute to try to time our visit around the migration?

- how about other trade-offs in terms of seasons, weather - starting in SA first vs. Tanzania first?

- lastly, if I just want to book mbalageti, what's the best cheapest way to book their chalet?

would really appreciate your input - i am driving myself insane trying to plan this thing around something that can't be predicted!!

Findlay, Ohio
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for Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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1. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

First, the migration goes on continually for about 10 months of the year in Tanzania and then for about 2 months in the Mara/Kenya. The animals move constantly for new grass, thus the weather dictates where they will be. It appears to me that you are wanting to see the river crossing into the Mara.

This is very unpredictable because it depends upon the weather (rains). If the weather dries up in the Serengeti and the rains begin in the Mara then the migration will begin to move towards the new grass there, thus crossing the river. Some photographers sit and wait for weeks to get their "special shots".

So you might need to camp out for several weeks in order to do what you want to do.

Be aware that when the migration moves into the Mara the Serengeti is not devoid of animals, they leave behind as many as move in the migration.

nyc
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2. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

There is no definite set time for the migration.

If you arrive late May, the herds are usually in the Central Serengeti, then move towards the Western corridor. So, no need to wait to make arrangements for lodging.

You can certainly contact in in-country outfitter, see: www.tatotz.com, select a few and send your requirements and budget. They'll be able to provide guide/vehicle and if "camping" a cook to prepare meals. This way you have transport to Manyara, Ngorongoro, the Serengeti and back to Arusha.

Note: While May is "low" season pricewise, come 1st June, rates go into "peak"

Mbalageti will be more expensive than Simiyu, regardless season, but both are good choices.

You might, depending on budget, fly out to the Serengeti (to get the lower May rates), have guide/vehicle meet you here. You then have the guide/vehicle for return to Ngorongoro, Manyara and Tarangire.

Hope that helps.

san francisco
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3. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

thanks for your responses.

Sorry if I wasn't clear - we're trying to catch the river crossing, either Grumeti or Mara. If that's our goal, and the timing is flexible (i.e. we can hang around and see other things until we hear that the crossing has started), what do you think of that? vs. just trying to book now for end of may or end of june/july.

Also, we're tempted by May quotes but if it's 'low season', is it worse for viewing? Considering this is a once in a lifetime trip for us, we don't want to save a couple of hundred bucks but end up being there at the wrong time.

and one more thing - we got a quote for mbalageti june vs. simiyu camp and simiyu was more expensive ($353 pp vs. 258 at Mbalageti). is that wrong info?

nyc
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4. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

It's possible that Simiyu is more expensive, but thought it would be the other way. You can only go by the quote you received from that particular outfitter.

As to the crossing, bear in mind:

-- the National Geo photogs that provide us those beautiful crossings, can take 2-3/years of filming to put together the 1/hr program we see Some of those photogs have never seen a crossing.

-- you're dealing with animals and they do what they wish whenever; your holiday doesn't much matter to them.

-- no one can guarantee when/if there will be a crossing and where, whether at Grumeti or Mara River in the Serengeti; same holds in the Masai Mara in Kenya.

-- no one is standing there with a stop-watch and phoning back to Arusha to advise visitors "the crossing is happening" As quick as it starts in one place, that's how quick it can end.

-- some of the herds never cross and remain resident in the Serengeti or Masai Mara, year-round.

There are plenty of tales from visitors waiting one day and the next and the herds don't cross. Then on the third day when they are long gone... the herds do cross.

With over a million animals, that don't all move at the same time, some can cross one day and none cross for days after, or even a week later. There simply is no guarantee.

san francisco
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5. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

4sandi,

this is really great info! very common sense, and really helpful in getting rid of the guess work.

so given that you've convinced me to book ahead, would your reco be to take advantage of may pricing and do Serengeti/ngorongoro then? Or wait until june or july? Will we be giving up something in terms of seeing animals or nature if we go in May? (we’ll also be doing lake manyara & tarangire park on our own) – are those good in may, or should we not try to save a few hundred bucks and just go during june or july?

Thanks again so much!

Findlay, Ohio
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for Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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6. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

I would book for whatever you're comfortable for, hope for the best. In May the herds of the migration will most probably be in the Western corridor, and perhaps the Northern Serengeti, some may cross. Don't pin your hopes and the success of the trip on seeing the river crossing; animals move on their own timeframe.

Book and hope for the best.

Findlay, Ohio
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for Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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7. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

I forgot to add, you will see more animals then you thought possible. It's not the best months for Tarangire but it's a good park. Ngorongoro Crater is good most all the time with animals at every turn of the head.

nyc
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8. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

Prices go up to "peak" as 1st June and if budget is of concern, then do the Serengeti in May.

At this time, over the past 6/yrs we've found the wildies as far south as Ndutu or as far north as the western corridor. And, they do move between central and west till usually sometime in July when they start heading north and then into the Masai Mara in Kenya.

If the ground underfoot is too wet, the herds move. The zebra lead the wildies as they eat the taller grasses, then the wildies come along with the Tommies and other antelope. There have been times when the wildies were in central, but the zebra in Ndutu and so the wildies weren't going anywhere till the zebra made their way farther north.

So you see... don't bank on anything. TIA - this is Africa - and moves on it's own schedule.

Do agree with Karl... Tarangire is a wonderful park, but coming out of the rainy April/May months, the grasses tend to be high and a bit more difficult to spot smaller game. Why this park is better visited later in June or July thru October.

Kind of like asking "I'm going to California in June, what kind of weather can I expect?" Duh? Where in California, north, mid or south and even those areas can vary. Like comparing downtown SFO weather to that out in Walnut Creek!

nyc
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9. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

Prices go up to "peak" as 1st June and if budget is of concern, then do the Serengeti in May.

At this time, over the past 6/yrs we've found the wildies as far south as Ndutu or as far north as the western corridor. And, they do move between central and west till usually sometime in July when they start heading north and then into the Masai Mara in Kenya.

If the ground underfoot is too wet, the herds move. The zebra lead the wildies as they eat the taller grasses, then the wildies come along with the Tommies and other antelope. There have been times when the wildies were in central, but the zebra in Ndutu and so the wildies weren't going anywhere till the zebra made their way farther north.

So you see... don't bank on anything. TIA - this is Africa - and moves on it's own schedule.

Do agree with Karl... Tarangire is a wonderful park, but coming out of the rainy April/May months, the grasses tend to be high and a bit more difficult to spot smaller game. Why this park is better visited later in June or July thru October.

Kind of like asking "I'm going to California in June, what kind of weather can I expect?" Duh? Where in California, north, mid or south and even those areas can vary. Like comparing downtown SFO weather to that out in Walnut Creek!

nyc
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10. Re: Migration - Grumeti or Mara? help decide, flexible timing!

....sorry about double posting!