THE Great Migration. Without a doubt the most humbling, life-changing natural event you're ever likely to see...
If you're looking for a trip of a lifetime - a safari where you get to witness one of the world's most awe-inspiring spectacles, as well as getting up close to an abundance of iconic African species - this trip will blow your socks off! Whilst on safari, our main aim will be to find you the sightings YOU want to see. But, if you need it, we'll also help fast-track your photography & photo-processing skills, to ensure you capture every moment. And, camping on the banks of the Mara River (Yes, the one the wildebeest migrate across!) within Serengeti National Park, we also demonstrate how safe AND easy it is to camp remotely, integrating cultured campfire cooking and comfortable bush living into our daily wilderness lifestyle.
Scroll down for our Great Migration Video - Booking Form - Expedition Brief - Dates - Itinerary - Maps - Frequently Asked Questions...
We know it isn't easy to committing to such an epic adventure - so, instead of us using a Shopping Cart style system, please fill out the form below and we'll get in contact with you personally so we can discuss your interest in an Expedition in the near future :)
It's only the 2nd week of January and already 2 of the 5 Migration tours for 2019 are FULLY-BOOKED, so get in now before you miss out!
Is "Witness the Great Migration" on Your Bucket List?
If it isn't, but you love animals, travelling, living on the wild side, fresh air and open plains, or yearn to see Africa ... it really should be!
If it is, I'd love to help you achieve that dream - in an affordable way, with a trusty Aussie guide who's spent quality time in Africa and knows how things work there - AND knows how to find epic wildebeest crossings!
From past experience we've developed an itinerary that affords us the highest chance of seeing multiple wildebeest crossings - as well as any particular species on your list. What we don't do is try to "tick off" iconic locations, or as many species as possible in one day. Instead, we believe in spending quality time in a few choice locations. It takes us 2 days to get to our ultimate Base Camp on the Mara, but from there each day we go in search of wildebeest crossings, various other animals, whatever YOU want! And we do so using tracking skills, our knowledge of animal behaviour and movements, and by putting in the homework in one place. Where we're going, you still get ALL the animals, the crossings and plenty of variety, and also the chance to actually have that holiday and relax as you should!
Note - the below Itinerary is a guide, and is flexible according to what the group wishes to do/see. We also have the option of moving camp, so if we're not getting the results we're after - we simply go chasing them! That easy.
Arrive Arusha > transfer to accommodation.
Options: Visit Meserani Snake Park including Masaai Cultural Museum and Crafts Centre, Snake Park tour, Medical Centre (incl. venom hospital) and/or Orphanage; local Arusha markets; and Arusha's incredible Cultural Heritage Centre, featuring spectacular local art.
Optional extras: Coffee plantations, Arusha town centre, local community projects.
Travel Arusha > Lake Natron's Giraffe Eco Lodge, starting in lush coffee plantations and driving through endless Masaai farmlands, before arriving at the expansive Lake Natron - where huge numbers of Flamingo flock to in August and September. *(Drive time 6-8 hours.)
Options: Late afternoon or following morning flamingo walk; hike to nearby waterfall; tour local Masaai Village.
Explore Lake Natron area, including viewing flamingos on Lake Natron and animals nearby, Masaai tribesmen herding stock through their open plains fields, wildlife living in harmony near Masaai, and explore or hike Ol Doinyo Lengai, a LIVE volcano!
Travel Lake Natron > Serengeti National Park and our Base Camp on the banks of the Mara River, taking one of the most spectacular drives you're ever likely to see! Once we cross into Serengeti NP, you'll start seeing the African wildlife you came here to see :) *(Drive time 6-8 hours).
Options: Set up camp on arrival, then either relax in camp or head out on our first scouting game drive, to figure out where the herds are, likelihood of upcoming crossings and where they're likely to be.
Once we've set up Base Camp in Serengeti, we'll make a game plan to tackle whatever you want to see... and our itinerary is flexible, so we can change things up at any time. Our initial goal will be to bank a handful of wildebeest crossings - after that, it's the group's call.
Options: Our general daily itinerary follows the principle "the early bird gets the worm"... to ensure higher chances of spotting cryptic species like leopards and aardvark - and spotting animal tracks before other trucks have driven over them - we're up at around 5am, ready to hit the road by 0530, coffees in hand. We'll game drive until the group wants a break, or until around 0800 for first stop (depending on sightings). If we're on an important sighting we'll have food in the car to eat breakfast on the run, otherwise will stop at a viewpoint somewhere to enjoy the scenery. After that we'll continue until around 1100, when we return to camp to relax in hammocks through the heat of the day - when all the animals are in hiding, too. Around 2-3pm we'll head out for our afternoon game drive, continuing until sunset around 6-7pm. Then we return to camp, shower etc., then you relax around the fire while we prepare you delicious, fire-cooked dinners. Bliss!
Optional extras: Hot air balloon trip (~$400 USD); potential walking safari, or night drives; moving camp to another location within SNP.
Even though it's our last day, we'll sneak in a morning game drive - whatever you want to see!
Optional extras: From here we recommend you flying back to Arusha - at additional cost of ~$340, it's 100% worth it to fly out over the Mara River and see the herds from the sky, and what the area you just spent 10 days in looks like! It's also a nice way to end the trip, and far better than a full day's drive back out of the park. Furthermore, there's also a chance you'll see Mount Kilimanjaro from the air when you land in Arusha!
AND - To say thanks to you, our supporters, for being our reason for starting this business - Anyone who books an Expedition will receive a 2020 "Wilds of Africa" Wall Calendar showing 2019 Great Migration or general nature images :)
What isn't included:
* As an Aussie guide who spent the last 3 years in Africa, I've travelled throughout Tanzania AND Kenya, witnessing the Great Migration in both. From those experiences I've developed this flexible-itinerary tour, based in what I believe is the best location to catch crossings. Having toured the Serengeti and the Mara last year, I also know how and where to find everything else Africa has to offer - from Elephants and Rhino, to all 3 Big Cats (and their smaller cousins), hyena, plains game, mongoose, vultures - you name it, we'll try find them.
Once you've decided you're coming on Expedition, you need to start getting things in order at your end too. I'll do whatever I can to make this as easy and enjoyable as possible for you, but you need to consider the following tasks in the months leading up to our trip:
This is a little tricky, unfortunately. But, to see the Great Migration in Serengeti - the better side in my opinion - you have to go via Arusha. That means getting to Africa via Johannesburg (South Africa) for Southern Hemispherians, or Nairobi (Kenya) for Northerners.
If you're travelling from Johannesburg to Arusha (ARK), you generally have to do so via Dar Es Salaam, or Zanzibar, or both. That will however require you to overnight in Dar the night before your tour starts - meaning that you must ensure you arrive in Johannesburg at least 2 days before your tour start date, to catch your onward flight to Arusha! If you don't you'll be holding up the group from leaving on time. Your best bet for airlines are, in order, 1) South African + Precision Air; 2) Kenya Airways; 3) Ethiopian.
NB. We can provide you with suggested hotel to use in Dar for your overnight - just ask.
There is an alternative to the above route, instead flying Kenya Airways from Johannesburg, via Nairobi, to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) - also in Arusha (nearby town of Moshi, essentially). Just note that KIA is on the other side of town from where our accommodation is, so just check with me re: arrival times so they don't clash with any arrivals from ARK.
* It's up to you which you choose, just make sure you ARRIVE in Arusha on the start day of your tour, preferably early. Check flight duration and look out for the hidden +1/+2 symbols (usually meaning arrive the following day/s). If you need help with this - please ask!
When using these sites, first narrow down your flights then go to the flight providers website in a new tab, and preferably book through them. The only situation you shouldn't do this is if Skyscanner or Matrix offer a better deal than the airline themselves.
Hot Tip #2 - Qantas offer the best flights to Africa from Australia, flying direct to Johannesburg from Sydney (14hrs) or Perth (10hrs). Wait for Qantas Frequent Flyer sales to get the most benefit.
It's entirely up to you what vaccinations or prevention measures you decide to take prior to flying to Africa. Just know that it's not near as bad/risky as it's made out to be. I do recommend seeing your Doctor/GP in months prior to your trip, to ensure you get any recommended treatments in time.
Yellow Fever - You will, almost definitely, be asked for your "Yellow Fever Certificate" on arrival into, or departure from, Tanzania. I recommend you get this vaccination, and ensure you get the vacc. card from your GP stating "Yellow Fever" (not just the vaccination itself) and currency.
General vaccinations - While you're seeing your GP, ask about currency of your other vaccinations. General vaccinations like Hep A/B, Typhoid, Tetanus etc. are worth keeping current, or getting your next booster shot.
Malaria prevention - The real risk with Malaria exists when we're around other people (carriers of the virus) eg. Arusha town. Once we're in Serengeti the risk is minimal. However, it's up to you. I took Lariam on my first trip and had no negative side effects - plus side is it's only one pill/week, and no sun/other issues. Your other options are Malarone (once weekly), or Doxycycline (daily, sun intolerance).
Water or food sickness - Travelling to a new country can play havoc in your body. I recommend buying personal pain-killers of your preference, as well as asking your GP for diarrhea/gastro pills for your trip. Don't go over the top with medication though! We'll also consider using iodine water treatment tabs for you if you think you need them.
Once in Serengeti we will likely encounter Tsetse flies. If you've experienced Marsh (March) or Horse flies before, these are similar. I'll show you how to avoid them once we're there, and we won't go into places we know they're bad.
After years of travel experience, YES, I 100% recommend you taking out your own travel insurance policy - for the total time you're away from your home country. I’ve used 1Cover the past few trips and highly recommend them!
Yes - for both South Africa (or Kenya) and Tanzania. Please ensure you have your passport and return flights within easy reach to show any officials.
In South Africa, either a temporary/short-term visa will suffice (free).
In Tanzania, request a "single-entry tourist visa", valid for 3 months. This will cost $50 USD, so arrange to purchase US currency prior and have your US $50 ready to hand to the officer over when you reach the Immigration desk. Tell customs officers you're here as a tourist and want the full 90-day visa, and that you're staying at: Meserani Snake Park, Arusha, Tanzania 23405. Phone +255 754 440 800. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. If they ask for a name, use mine.
While some companies ask for full payment up-front, we know that every situation is different. For 2018 tours we ask for an initial deposit of $1,500 - then are happy to arrange scheduled transfers for you in the following months eg. 6 x $500 monthly payments (May/Jun/Jul/Aug).
Payment can be by direct bank transfer, or other means - whatever suits you best!
We will supply 1 x 2-person tent for each person, a comfortable sleeping mat and sleeping bag. We also provide all food (which I prepare), hire vehicle, transport 24/7, general comfort items around camp eg. chairs, table, lighting, toilets, firewood, clothes-washing tubs and powder, a couple of battery-charging solar panels and cigarette-lighter adapters in the car, a speaker, car fridge/freezer etc.
YOU should bring:
Headlamp (a good one!) - Ask me about this, it's your most necessary piece of kit!
Camera + lenses + memory cards + hard drive if necessary (I have a laptop we can use to download files);
Spare batteries + charging devices with either a cigarette-lighter adapter/s or USB cable;
Binoculars, if you think you'll need them;
Clothing - Warm clothes + casual day clothing (3 sets is plenty as we can wash regularly);
Only 2 pairs of shoes permitted - we suggest 1 x joggers, 1 x flip-flops (boots not required);
Reading books/Kindle, journal, music, other ways to keep yourself entertained when you have spare time;
Current passport incl. at least 2 empty pages and +6 months remaining before expiry;
And whatever main bag you fit all this in to, PLEASE make sure it's a soft bag - NO suitcases accepted as space is limited.
Re: clothing - We'd appreciate it if you didn't bring anything too bright (no reds, blues, purples) for wearing during the day, though night doesn't matter as much. You could bring 1 x nicer set of clothes for your travel days and when we're in Arusha, though otherwise we won't be anywhere we need to impress.
* Headlamp NOTE - the one piece of gear we insist you buying before the trip is a decent headlight. I'm talking LED-Lenser, Petzyl, Black Wolf etc. Please DON'T go buy just any headlamp from an adventure store, they're generally poorly made. Do your homework! Check out Outdoor Gear Lab for all your camping gear needs!
* Cameras NOTE - if you need to, hire or buy a camera before you go. If you get there and find your gear doesn't do what you wanted it to, you'll be disappointed. Please think seriously about what you want out of your photography for this trip; and don't rely on others to capture moments for you. We'll be running instruction sessions once we're there, so again it'd pay to have the right gear so we can teach you properly.
Other gear - I have guiding books and other interpretive materials; and a pair of binoculars I will keep in the car.
* You don't need to buy new backpacks, boots, cameras etc. before the trip - if you have any questions though, just ask!
We work on a "less is more" principle when it comes to covering iconic destinations on this trip. We don't prescribe to ticking places off and thus spending all our time racing around to see every icon nearby, to see the Big 5 in one day etc. However, if the group wishes to change the itinerary as a group, and include other destinations like Ngorogoro Crater, central Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Tarangire NP... we can incorporate it, though this will likely add to the overall trip cost (eg. it costs $300 USD vehicle fee just to drive down into the crater, plus about $200/pp USD entry).
* We've chosen the northern part of Serengeti for this tour because: a) it's quieter than the south eg. Ngorogoro, or Central Serengeti; b) because that's where the migrations will be happening, and we believe it's better and easier to see crossings here rather than in the busier Mara in Kenya - and, the longer we spend there (6-7 nights) the more likely we are to see several epic crossings; and c) the roads are less rough in this area, and the drive in from Arusha > Lake Natron > Serengeti is far nicer this way.
You have several options around Arusha, as well as greater Tanzania, nearby Kenya, the mountains of Uganda/Rwanda/Congo, and other incredible wildlife viewing parks in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Want to know more about these? Just ask!
For Tanzania, favourite add-on trips are:
Impressions about the Great Migration are diverse, but the simplest way to explain it is - approximately 2 million wildebeest, plus other plains species, migrate north in a clockwise manner every year, following rains and fresh grasses. WE're timing our trips to coincide with them crossing the Mara River into Kenya, where the chaos is electric. In this case we hope to witness several river crossings (often involving hungry Nile crocodiles and big cats waiting to prey on weak animals crossing), as well as finding herds in their 10,000 on the plains either side of the Mara. Additionally, we have the added ability to have a "normal" African tour at the same time, finding all the species you'd find elsewhere in Africa, all in the one spot. It's truly a breath-taking experience!
We will be travelling in a pop-top Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier for the duration of our expedition. To maximise chances of seeing crossings as well as other animals, our morning drive typically starts around 5am, returning by 11am; our afternoon drive leaves by 2pm, returning after sunset.
You'll often hear the words "rustic", "authentic" or "luxurious" in association with bush camp accommodation in Africa...
Generally, what the exclusive lodges and tented camps have in common is over-the-top luxurious living spaces, security guards, closed-in eating areas and an overly safe but "babysitting" feel to them. What we're delivering is a closer connection to nature. Don't worry though - we've lived it for the past 3 years, and know how to make it safe. We just like the idea of having elephants eating lunch nearby as we eat lunch. Of being able to distinguish between sounds of the night, rather than losing their beauty in the depths of closed-in buildings. We want your full sensory capacity to be activated, and that's only possible outside of luxury accommodation.
Our Base Camp is situated in a beautiful, grassy spot amongst secluded bushland on the banks of the Mara River. From camp we're likely to see elephants and other plains animals moving by, and might even be lucky enough to see wildebeest building up for a crossing from camp. The best thing is, for the times we're in camp and not on game drive, we're surrounded by beautiful birdlife and lush vegetation, and able to spot crocodiles and hippos in the river below – but don’t worry, they can’t get us from the high bank we camp on!
In terms of camping, another general rule we live by is "tents are only for sleeping in!" - Which means, the only time you'll be in your tent is overnight... The remainder of the time we're either on game drive, relaxing in our midday hammocks, or hanging out by the fire. We'll teach you how to stay safe, and what to do in the event animals come into camp - but trust us, it's perfectly safe! You'll have your own 2-person tent and sleeping equipment, and all tents will be arranged in a horseshoe around the central living area. Here we'll have our fireplace, dining area, hammock chill zone - and nearby our separate male/female bathroom and shower areas, and a washing and hanging area for clothes.
The setting is spectacular, the living ruggedly luxurious and the animal encounters magnificent! It's honestly the best way to see Africa.
To keep to the raw brand and demonstrate how important it is to connect with nature, we offer the most authentic accommodation option... the African Glamping Safari. Along our journey we camp in 3 different locations, all carefully selected to capture the essence of the African safari experience and connect you with local culture, and nature.
Night 1: What we're sure will be one of the highlights of your trip, on our first night we stay at Africa-famous Meserani Snake Park, resembling something similar to an Aussie outback pub and sporting owners with more charisma and life experiences than the cast of Crocodile Dundee. Community projects, Masaai museum and Snake Park here also.
Nights 2-3: After driving to Lake Natron, we camp at World View Campsite, on a hillside overlooking both the Lake and the nearby Volcano
Nights 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: Situated alongside the Mara River, by day our Serengeti Camp is nestled beneath a shady grove of Umbrella Thorn Acacias, cooled by breeze from the river; and at night, with fairy lights and lanterns lining the trees and lit paths from your tents to the dining area and fireplace, it's more like an enchanted forest, filled with the sounds of the African night.
In one word - glorious! We may see some storms building in late afternoons, but the weather should remain dry, warm but not hot during the day, and a couple degrees cooler at night. It's an amazing time of year to be in northern Tanzania!
To protect yourself about possible cold weather (unlikely), bring one warm top/jacket, long pants and a beanie - though hopefully we won't need these.
Although reputation and media make Africa out to be a dangerous place - it's generally far safer than most! People are super friendly, the animals are more afraid of you than you of them, if anything; and, as long as you're switched on in public places, you won't be pick-pocketed. We'll show you how to do things safely here as you are our #1 priority!
With regards to food, that's entirely the group's choice! If, prior to the trip, the group decides on a certain dietary preference - I most often will be able to incorporate this. If you have particular food allergies, preferences or cooking styles, again, we can cater accordingly.
Our basis is generally around hearty campfire meals, African style. They will include dishes like:
We're very open to suggestion here so if there's something you love - let us know and we'll have a crack!
At Base Camp we'll have access to fresh water everyday, though if you're unsure about drinking water in foreign countries we advise bringing sufficient water tablets to treat your daily intake.
We cannot, however, afford to buy bulk spring water as there just won't be enough room in the vehicle for it.
In short, yes. We'll have a handful of solar panels for you to use, though if you own one feel free to bring it. We'll also have charging outputs in the vehicle and an inverter, hopefully, too.
If your device/s take replaceable batteries eg. AA's, please bring sufficient spares rather than using rechargeable batteries - just in case we don't have sufficient charging outputs.
Please keep in mind - between 6 people - if we have to charge all of the above, daily, we may overload or not have enough options, so choose wisely what you bring!
* Remember, if you bring all the tech gear - phone, camera, gopro, kindle, music devices, headlamp, toothbrush etc. - you need to have a suitable cigarette-lighter adapter OR a USB charging cord for each.
Once in the swing of daily game drives, our days will look something like this:
0500-0530 - Wake up call, get ready to hit the road by 0530.
0530-0800 - Game drive until first break, get out of car at lookout and have coffee and stretch.
0830-1100 - Second half of morning game drive.
1100-1400 - Head back to camp, have lunch then relax in hammocks through the heat of the day.
1400-1900 - Afternoon game drive incl. rest stop around 1700.
1900-2100 - Sunset drinks and dinner around the fire :)
2100-0500 - Bedtime, then repeat!
NB. If we're on an important sighting (or have to head to one), we'll have food in the car to eat on the run. This way we ensure we're always ready for a sighting, but never left hungry and waiting in the car!
YES!!! You bet! This entirely depends on you and the rest of the group, but we can run the Expedition as a Photographic Safari if it's wanted - we can run sessions with the group - or we can even run one-on-one sessions with you, as part of the tour.
We'll also be teaching you other awesome skills throughout, like photo processing in Lightroom/Photoshop, animal tracking, how to read animal behaviour (ethology), species diversity and habits, bird/frog calls and sounds of the night, bush skills and survival techniques, about ecosystem function, conservation, nature tourism - whatever! It's all about you, so if you want to learn about something in particular and we know it, we'll show you.
We're still building this aspect into our tours, but if you wish to engage in any community or conservation initiatives - ask us :)
Honestly... our trip cost is cheap compared to our competitors! There are no hidden expenses, no bribing locals, no elaborate profit margins. Going to the Great Migration is just straight expensive! In terms of upfront costs, it costs each person $157/day just to be in Serengeti NP - that includes:
Multiply that out across 9 days in Tanzania = $1,845pp. That's close to 1/2 of your total trip fee, without including vehicle costs ($2,000/week), other permits and fees, food, fuel and camping equipment.
To see photos of the Great Migration from our trip last year, check out our dedicated Great Migration Shane Ross Photography Portfolio page, or return to top and watch our promotional video :)