Wildlife of Tanzania’s Southern Serengeti with Penny Robartes
In my previous blog post, Tribes of the Southern Serengeti, I wrote about the cultural photographic experience my guests and I had on two different private photo tours that took place in January and March 2023.
When in the Southern Serengeti, it is hard to not be taken in by the utter beauty of the area. Vast, open grassland plains, forest thickets that you can easily imagine homes all sorts of beautiful wildlife treasures, large granite kopjies that often have Lions lazing on them, or looking intently for their next meal.
If you are looking for a photo safari that offers a variety of species and photographic opportunities, an abundance of wildlife in different shapes and forms, then the Southern Serengeti is a place to highly consider.
The many grassland plains support large numbers of herbivores, both resident species and the migrating ungulates that come to feed on the nutrient-dense grass and calf. As calendar months go, these plains are brimming with migrating herds of Wildebeest and Zebra from around the end of January to mid-April. Resident species of Thomson’s Gazelle, the ever-elegant Grant’s Gazelle, large herds of Eland, dazzling Zebra, beautifully patterned Maasai Giraffe, and gentle Elephant herds are just some of the larger plains game species that are found in the Southern Serengeti throughout the year.
As you can imagine, the calving season makes this section of the Serengeti a haven for predator and predator action due to the abundance of food and access to it. Lion prides rule here in large numbers, with multiple prides found here. Where Lion are found, Hyena are usually not far away as they seek to scavenge what they can, but make no mistake, these creatures are apex predators and are often seen winding through Wildebeest herds looking to feast on new born and young calfs. Should they tire of them, there are always the adults that a Hyena can chase to exhaustion. While predators such as Lion, Spotted Hyena and Jackal are found here, there is a specific cat whose presence adds a distinctly enticing pull to this African safari destination; the lithe, lightning-fast Cheetah! The plains were made for Cheetah; open spaces to view unsuspecting prey, and ample room for them to stretch their legs and feel the air beneath their feet as they chase their prey and use their long, flat tail as a rudder to assist them with their tight turns while running at incredible speeds.
For January tour my guests and I stayed at Kakessio and Kusini. Both areas are part of the Southern Serengeti, but a main difference is that Kakessio is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and as one of two camps in the area, our off-road driving freedom is unmatched, as well as hardly ever coming into contact with the other camp due to how large the area is. Kusini is part of the Serengeti National Park, so off-road driving is limited and you come across more vehicles. That being said, we came across perhaps 2 vehicles throughout the January tour as it was just before season started, so we were never at a loss for positioning the vehicles as we wished, and had most sightings to ourselves.
In relatively close proximity to Kakessio are two areas that we can easily access for further wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities. As most reserves aren’t accessible unless you pay daily entrance fees or have to be staying at a camp within the reserve, our location afforded us a total of 3 hotspot wildlife areas at our disposal! Enter Kusini and Ndutu. Kusini falls under the Serengeti National Park and has beautiful vistas and scenic landmarks to accompany its wildlife viewing. Although off-road driving is not allowed due to this area being in a national park, my guests and I ventured forth to Kusini in January to stay at our sister camp, and had great sightings of Serval, Lion, Cheetah and other beautiful African animals.
With the second tour that took place in March, we stayed at Kakessio for mainly the cultural aspect, although we had some great Cheetah sightings and massive herds of Wildebeest with their calfs, and drove into the Ndutu area on two different occasions for the day for more wildlife focused photography in a different area.
Ndutu is famed for its variety of scenes, animal behaviours, sought-out species and its lake, Lake Ndutu. During the calendar months that the calving season takes place, you have the possibility of viewing hundreds of Greater and Lesser Flamingo gathering together on this saline lake to feed. The sound is a cacophony that becomes white noise to the scene that sucks you in.You see the vast numbers of bright pink Flamingoes (the Lesser) feeding, walking, dancing on the water’s edge, and it is such a beautiful sight to behold! In between the bright pinks are the larger and glowing white Greater Flamingo whom too, go about feeding, dancing and walking before gathering together to fly to a different section of the lake. It wraps you up and takes all your attention until you come back to yourself and realise how much time has passed.
Our first foray into the Ndutu presented us with massive herds of Wildebeest and Zebra, with Hyena on a kill. Eating in their chaotic order (its actually very structured based on hierarchy), the sounds were just amazing. Excited calls and bickering sounds filled the air and we were on fire. “There’s a male Lion” called our guide. Far past the Hyena, a tan spec was moving towards us. Directly to the carcass with the Hyena, and us behind them. As the male Lion came closer to the carcass, we watched the change in the Hyenas’ behaviour as they became more uncertain. But this male paid them no mind. His belly was so full, and probably from the carcass the Hyena’s were on. He was walking towards the forest thicket quite a way behind us, so we had a lot of time to ourselves with him as we set up our angles to photograph this majestic male.
This was just one scene of many that Ndutu held for us. If you aren’t focused on only one goal, or one specie, you will be rewarded with abundance as you are open to every possible sighting.
Both of my January and March photo tours were private photo tours to photograph some of Tanzania’s cultures and wildlife. The beauty of these tours is that the private component allows much more freedom of movement and itinerary tweaks as the tour is purely focused on you. Although both tours went to the same Datoga village, and we photographed the same Hadzabe men, the images are never the same from one person to the other, from one tour to the other. Different elements made the tours and their images unique, as well as I never recreated the same photographic scene.
Tanzania – Tribes & Wildlife Photo Tour is an incredible combination tour for those who are looking to explore more than just one genre whilst on a photo safari.
Interested in finding out more? Click here Tanzania – Southern Serengeti Culture Wildlife Photo Tour 2024 to read a customisable itinerary, and email for more info! I look forward to assisting you with your photographic journey as we explore, learn and photograph the Tribes and Wildlife of the Southern Serengeti.