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February Serengeti Safari Advice

February Serengeti Safari Advice

Old Sep 30, 20, 11:48 pm
  #1  
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February Serengeti Safari Advice

Planning to fly into JRO early February for a 5-6 day safari.

From what I have read, it seems I should stick to the Southwestern portion of the park, as well as near Lake Ndutu.

What luxury lodges/campsites would you recommend I look into booking? Would the Four Seasons be too far north during this time?

Any other tips or advice would be much appreciated
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Old Oct 6, 20, 1:56 am
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I would split your time between Kusini area in S. Serengeti and Ndutu in the NCA, migration should be somewhere between those depending on rainfall. Serengeti no off roading, while its is allowed in the NCA if that matters to you. Fly into one, out of the other - about 2-3 hr drive between. Suggest Coastal for the flights, if your lucky it will be a PC-12
Four Seasons is not a great safari experience, for one its giant, like 75 rooms.
Look at Serian, Asilia, Sanctuary Serian - Luxury, with a slant towards photographers and wild life enthusiasts. Asilia - good guides, the most heavily us marketed so attracts instagram crowd. Sanctuary - good locations and guides, attracts older crowd
Not all the camps are operating for the first half of the 2021 season.
Look at ATR - Africa Travel Resource web site to get an idea of what the camps are like and where they are located.
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Old Oct 7, 20, 9:35 am
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The other poster made some great recommendations for place to stay. If you are seeking luxury at the level of Four Seasons, there really is only one show in town. That will be Mwiba Lodge by Legendary Expeditions and they are located in a massive private concession in the southwestern sector of the park near Ndutu. In addition to witnessing the migration, this private area will afford you great cultural interaction with the Maasai and Hadza people in addition to walking safaris amidst the migration, night safaris in search for nocturnal species and off-roading when you spot a high profile animal away from the road network. Four Seasons is considered downtown/central Serengeti or Seronera area and it will not be optimal for the migration this time of year. If Mwiba Lodge looks too robust/substantial, they do have a high spec simpler tented affair called Mila Tented nearby. They also have a luxury mobile safari rig with real showers and plumbed bathrooms in a neighboring concession. With that said, Feb carry some heat and Mwiba is one of only handful of lodges in the Serengeti with air conditioning (Mila Tent and mobile safari does not have AC). I checked with Legendary Lodge and all of these properties are scheduled to be open on Dec 1 or Jan 1.
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Old Oct 8, 20, 7:45 am
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Thank you both for the input. Very insightful.

The Mwiba Lodge looks phenomenal, but will run close to $2k USD per person per night

How many nights should we allocate at this property?

Any other lodging recommendations for when we are in the Southern Serengeti?
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Old Oct 8, 20, 10:05 am
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Mwiba is a premium product and the price certainly reflects the in-lodge amenities/experience. As I noted, they do have a sister property called Mila Tented which is a very high specification tented camp in the same area. It comes in at a lower price point, but the safaris are conducted in the same concession. If you think you'll be comfortable without AC during Feb (warm and a bit humid), Mila Tented will serve you well. I recommend you spend 3-4 nights at either camp. Mwiba is slated to open Dec 1, Mila Tent on Dec 15. Legendary also has a super chic mobile safari camp that operates in a private concession it the southern Serengeti - this camp is slated to open sometime in 2021. If you are interested to explore the luxury mobile safari option, I'd inquire about their projected opening date. There's lots of mobiles that operate seasonally in southern Serengeti - Legendary being one of the nicest camps. You should note that all Legendary camps include a private vehicle and guide with each booking.

Another super high end mobile camp in the south will be Roving Bushtops. Their mobile rig moves within the Serengeti based on seasons. It is arguably the finest mobile safari option in the Serengeti. It's hard to believe that such a substantial rig moves from location to location. This would be a great fit for you based on your mention of the Four Seasons.

Sanctuary's Kichakani is also a very nice mobile safari set up, but their opening dates for 2021 is tentative. Sanctuary's permanent camp called Kusini in the south will open Dec 1.

The above mentioned are probably the best fits for you based on your original post. There's a plethora of other nice mobile safari rigs in the area this time of year, but the ones I noted are probably the nicest of the lot. Other high end mobile safaris include Olakira by Asilia, Serengeti Safari Camp by Nomad Tanzania, Nasikia Mobile, Lemala Mobile etc.
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Old Oct 8, 20, 7:22 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyingFrZ View Post
The Mwiba Lodge looks phenomenal, but will run close to $2k USD per person per night
How many nights should we allocate at this property?
NONE! This lodge is owned by the largest trophy hunting outfitter in Tanzania.
The lodge is also far south from where the migratory herds will be and it has poor resident game.

Obviously tourism is down tremendously, income from park fees is down, poaching is increased significantly - both due to lack or funding for rangers and locals resorting to bush meat to survive.

If your going here, please support the Tanzania national parks by staying at a lodges in Serengeti and Ngorongoro' conservation area, there are plenty of luxe lodges where your money will actually help conservation.

TravelBeyond, a travel agent, should have disclosed the trophy hunting connection.

Sorry to be preachy, I do live in California, but I have a sizable gun collection, trophy hunting just has no place in conservation.

Suggest you look at Serian lodges, probably the best experience in the area, I would spend 3 nights each in their Kusini camp and South camp.
This is the migration area, you will see cats and plains game - maybe some elephants - If this is your first safari and your also wanting to see crocs and hippos and a chance at rhino , then maybe look at splitting with a camp in the central Serengeti.
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Old Oct 9, 20, 10:33 am
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Thanks for your contribution to the discussion, Aardvark0. I too am a California resident and very much against trophy hunting in Africa, here at home and elsewhere.

Mwiba is a conservation project which covers 130k acres of private land adjacent to and unfenced to southwestern Serengeti. The owners have invested over $200M in the land and its various properties (including Mwiba) converting it from a hunting block long ago to the photographic destination you see today. I find Legendary and the Mwiba concession to be of benefit to conservation, its neighboring communities and to the Serengeti experience as a whole; not the opposite. The ownership does lease hunting blocks in the Selous (southern Tanzania), but more on this shortly. Just to reiterate: there is no commercial or trophy hunting in Mwiba. It’s strictly for photographic safaris. The notion that the herds are further north I suppose can vary from year to year. There’s photographic evidence of larges masses of wildebeest during calving season/February in the Mwiba concession.

Let me start by noting that I am not a hunter (don’t own any guns) and never been in support of hunting. But one should note that many conservation based non-hunting safari outfitters today have a deep history in trophy hunting. As it were, this is how much of commercial safaris made their way into the mainstream decades ago. If you chose to not support companies with history of hunting, you’d be missing a big piece of the pie and sabotaging legitimate conservation initiatives. And I do believe that companies should be incentivized to turn away from hunting and continue their further transition into photographic safaris. After all, if one isn’t rewarded or supported for making the right transition, what’s the incentive to change?


Aardvark0, if I understand you correctly, I should not be supporting Mwiba because although there is no hunting in Mwiba today, and they’ve invested hundreds of millions in photographic safaris/conservation into the concession, I should ban them because the concessionaires used to and still do hunt elsewhere in Tanzania? The work that’s being done in Mwiba is, in my opinion, objectively positive. Why ruin something positive taking place and the communities that are benefitting from their presence. If we blacklist Mwiba, who else has the capital to invest as they have? We should be celebrating and supporting the fact that many have and are continuing to transition from hunting to photographic safaris. If we sabotage their efforts in something we agree to be positive, others may not follow. We need successful and positive examples of this type of transition taking place for meaningful change to continue. Lastly on the topic of Mwiba, if Mwiba becomes a smashing success story, these could be the very people who start the transition from hunting to photographic in the southern Selous.

Finally, Serian camps are also superb. If you have the means to hire Alex Walker, the owner of Serian as your private guide, you will be guaranteed to have a safari of a lifetime! One thing to note for Serian is that due to current demand levels, they have not committed to opening their luxury camp for your timeframe, but rather working off of their more basic "fly camping" set up. This can change as occupancy with Serian increases, but if you are seeking Four Seasons luxury, his fly camping rig may be a bit basic. It’s all about the field experience with Alex, not the bells and whistles of a 5 star ++ lodge.
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Old Oct 9, 20, 11:19 am
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Hi Folks,

I work with Kota. I was born and raised in Minnesota but my family is from Africa and all but 5 of my blood relatives on Earth live in South Africa. In my 16 years of working in the luxury, non-hunting safari industry, I have never seen a single acre of farmland or a commercial mine or a shopping mall be returned back to nature as a photographic safari reserve. Once the land is lost to farming, mining or commercial development, it never comes back. Luckily, I have seen plenty of hunting concessions convert to photographic safari use (Kwando, Mwiba, Grumeti, etc.).

Like Kota said, the people that invest millions into these endeavors are perhaps worthy of support during their business model transition. It could be argued that the only way to hold land in a near pristine condition while the popularity of photographic safaris increases, is to hunt on it. Very few land owners or governments, especially in Africa, will let land sit idle with no revenue steam/ROI.

I hate hunting and would never do it. Although both sadden me, I am less saddened when I head of the loss of a few trophy animals while keeping all other flora and fauna alive than when I hear about a pristine track of wilderness being clear-cut for farming; this kills everything. We should cross fingers that enough people go to Africa on photo-safaris to make the best future use of land be the conversion from hunting to photographic throughout the continent and especially here in the US.

Craig Beal - Owner - Travel Beyond
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Old Oct 9, 20, 6:10 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelBeyond View Post
I find Legendary and the Mwiba concession to be of benefit to conservation.
The government of Tanzania and the US may disagree with your opinion.

Mwiba is owned my Legendary Lodges, which is in part of the Friedkin Group with hunting operator Wengert Windrose Safaris, which are all owned by Texan Daniel Friedkin.

Not only is trophy hunting their primary business, WWS has links to supporting poachers.
https://www.dailynews.co.tz/news/poa...e-exposed.aspx

several years ago they swapped a concession with Green Mile, a hunting company banned in Tanzania for cruelty
https://qz.com/africa/707120/whats-g...n-in-tanzania/

maybe it is not clear cut as everything Friedkin backed is evil, but tourist dollars are finite, and currently in short supply.

a travel agent should just disclose to the consumer a business' trophy hunting relationship, and let the consumer decide if they want to support conservation in a national park or a billionaire's trophy hunting franchise

Originally Posted by SafariCraig View Post
I have never seen a single acre of farmland or a commercial mine or a shopping mall be returned back to nature as a photographic safari reserve.
?? Kenya has some very well known examples, the Mara conservancies, Lewa, Ol Pejeta, etc. While not perfect, they are a great example of rewilding cattle ranches for conservation and photographic safaris, while at the same time getting money into the hands of the people who actually live there.
The ranches in the pantanal in brazil are another, I'll have to get back to you on mines and shopping malls.
Sorry, there is no justification for trophy hunting in the name of conservation.
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Old Oct 10, 20, 12:28 pm
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I am in no way a supporter of trophy hunting. A pointless practice IMO.

I personally do not see an ethical issue staying at Mwiba. If I can support an operation currently working towards conservation, I suppose its for the greater good.

The other options, like Serina, look amazing as well, but are at the high-end luxury tents. Do any of these have AC? Is it even possible to AC a tent?
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Old Oct 12, 20, 9:50 am
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Hi Aardvark0,

Thanks for your contribution. Many entities are certainly "after" the Friedkin family. I don't know them and, again, I am anti-hunting. I do believe they made their billions by owning Toyota dealerships in the US not by operating hunting trips. I think the Tanzania tax man is trying to collect US $60 million from them! It seems to be a complex issue. I am just happy they have spent over US $200 million to make a 130,000 acre buffer adjacent to the Serengeti.

I have been to most upscale properties in the Mara Conservancies and Lewa and Laikipia. These areas were, for the most part, grazing land and not farmland. In the case of the Mara conservancies, the land was and is mostly owned by the local community and they never left. You still see cattle grazing and Masai communities when you game drive at places like Serian Original, Mara Plains. In modern Africa, it is virtually impossible to wrest land from local communities and re-wild it but they have done a good job of managing this in the Mara conservancies so everyone can benefit. Lakipia and Lewa were a bit easier to re-wild as they were not owned and farmed by indigenous people at the time they were converted from grazing land to photographic safari land. White farmers and settlers forcibly took the land a century ago.

Hi FlyingFrZ, Serena is not a high end operation. The properties are mostly brick and mortar hotels very out of place in the environment where they are located. Serian is a luxury product based on the experience not the accommodation.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Old Oct 12, 20, 12:06 pm
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Originally Posted by SafariCraig View Post
Hi Aardvark0,

Thanks for your contribution. Many entities are certainly "after" the Friedkin family. I don't know them and, again, I am anti-hunting. I do believe they made their billions by owning Toyota dealerships in the US not by operating hunting trips. I think the Tanzania tax man is trying to collect US $60 million from them! It seems to be a complex issue. I am just happy they have spent over US $200 million to make a 130,000 acre buffer adjacent to the Serengeti.

I have been to most upscale properties in the Mara Conservancies and Lewa and Laikipia. These areas were, for the most part, grazing land and not farmland. In the case of the Mara conservancies, the land was and is mostly owned by the local community and they never left. You still see cattle grazing and Masai communities when you game drive at places like Serian Original, Mara Plains. In modern Africa, it is virtually impossible to wrest land from local communities and re-wild it but they have done a good job of managing this in the Mara conservancies so everyone can benefit. Lakipia and Lewa were a bit easier to re-wild as they were not owned and farmed by indigenous people at the time they were converted from grazing land to photographic safari land. White farmers and settlers forcibly took the land a century ago.

Hi FlyingFrZ, Serena is not a high end operation. The properties are mostly brick and mortar hotels very out of place in the environment where they are located. Serian is a luxury product based on the experience not the accommodation.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
Thank you Mr. Beal for your input.
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I have contacted several of the various organizations recommended. Pricing seems similar for Serian, roving bushtops, sanctuary, and asilia. Are the accommodations provided by these groups similar or does one stand out above the rest?
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I am not averse to staying in tented accommodations provided by these organizations. The only reason I mentioned the Four Seasons initially was because it seemed like a really cool concept. Now that I am more familiar with the area and time of year, I understand it isn't an ideal option. The price is quite enticing though

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Last edited by FlyingFrZ; Oct 12, 20 at 12:15 pm
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Old Oct 12, 20, 1:29 pm
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I'm not familiar with roving bushtops - of the others I would rank it as Serian, Asilia, Sanctuary. If you generally like Four Season properties, you would probably like Sanctuary style the best, Sanctuary is or at least was started as part of Abercrombie & Kent.
Also, if you can stretch to 7 nights total, Sanctuary offers 40% off or something about that. Asilia also has some special offers, one of them is if you happen to be working in healthcare or related services, you+1 get 75% off - great deal.
Check with an agent to see what specials might work for dates you are considering. If you do decide on the four seasons you can just book through hotel.com or other online site, which you can use shopping portals or dicsounted gift cards to bring down the cost another 20% or so - or use the nights to count for their stay 10 get 1 night free program - they have an offer now where you get a bonus night for each stay too. If your thinking of going this route - also look at Elewana properties - Elewana Pioneer camp for example - its in the central area, like Four Seasons - so not ideal for this time of year, but you can book online, and is high quality. Most of the other properties on hotel.com like sites like Serena are budget quality and I would not recommend.
You can book the local flights directly too, coastal.co.tz or auricair.com are the most reliable for bush flights, then you have flight delay coverage with your credit card, earn bonus points, etc.

Since you were concerned about AC, you should also know that when 1.4 million wildebeest come to an area, the tsetse flies really go crazy. It is rare, but they can transmit Trypanosomiasis. Plus their bite is really painful, and some people have really bad reactions. Sprays dont really work, the african method is to take some elephant poo and keep it burning in the back of the jeep - it does help a little, they don't like smoke.
If your going during the migration, I'd suggest spraying you clothes with permethrin, its sold in the us under the sawyer brand. You treat your clothes, and it lasts a few washings - its derived from chrysanthemum flowers - insects dont like to land on it - which is good because tsetse can bite straight through jeans. I found it very effective, except the tsetse then go for anything that hasn't been treated - like your hands and face.
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Old Oct 12, 20, 4:02 pm
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Originally Posted by AArdvark0 View Post
I'm not familiar with roving bushtops - of the others I would rank it as Serian, Asilia, Sanctuary. If you generally like Four Season properties, you would probably like Sanctuary style the best, Sanctuary is or at least was started as part of Abercrombie & Kent.
Also, if you can stretch to 7 nights total, Sanctuary offers 40% off or something about that. Asilia also has some special offers, one of them is if you happen to be working in healthcare or related services, you+1 get 75% off - great deal.
Check with an agent to see what specials might work for dates you are considering. If you do decide on the four seasons you can just book through hotel.com or other online site, which you can use shopping portals or dicsounted gift cards to bring down the cost another 20% or so - or use the nights to count for their stay 10 get 1 night free program - they have an offer now where you get a bonus night for each stay too. If your thinking of going this route - also look at Elewana properties - Elewana Pioneer camp for example - its in the central area, like Four Seasons - so not ideal for this time of year, but you can book online, and is high quality. Most of the other properties on hotel.com like sites like Serena are budget quality and I would not recommend.
You can book the local flights directly too, coastal.co.tz or auricair.com are the most reliable for bush flights, then you have flight delay coverage with your credit card, earn bonus points, etc.

Since you were concerned about AC, you should also know that when 1.4 million wildebeest come to an area, the tsetse flies really go crazy. It is rare, but they can transmit Trypanosomiasis. Plus their bite is really painful, and some people have really bad reactions. Sprays dont really work, the african method is to take some elephant poo and keep it burning in the back of the jeep - it does help a little, they don't like smoke.
If your going during the migration, I'd suggest spraying you clothes with permethrin, its sold in the us under the sawyer brand. You treat your clothes, and it lasts a few washings - its derived from chrysanthemum flowers - insects dont like to land on it - which is good because tsetse can bite straight through jeans. I found it very effective, except the tsetse then go for anything that hasn't been treated - like your hands and face.
Thank you for the tips on the bugs. I am sure being summer, they will be quite a nuisance :/

I was curious if Singita or andBeyond are worth considering?

Last edited by FlyingFrZ; Oct 12, 20 at 4:36 pm
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Old Oct 13, 20, 2:59 pm
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Singita and the private Grumeti Reserve is definitely worthy of your consideration for February timeframe. Like Mwiba, the area is private, meaning you will only find guests of Singita in the 350,000 acre private concession. In addition to exclusivity, you will also be afforded all of the other benefits of being on safari in private land (walking, off-road, evening drives etc.). The resident wildlife of the Grumeti will offer strong viewing all year, regardless of whether the migration is in the area or not (the Migration typically comes through this area May - July; not in February). Singita Sabora has just been renovated from the ground up - two of my colleagues just returned from Sabora last week. Its location in the plains will make you feel as through you are in the midst of all the action. Faru Faru is located on the Grumeti River, the lifeblood of the ecosystem. Sasakwa has arguably one of the best views in all of Africa, albeit a bit removed from the action (rather than being immersed like Sabora, you feel more like an observer perched atop the Sasakwa Hills). All products in the Singita roster are stunners; just a matter of personal preference.

AndBeyond has some great properties too. In the Serengeti, you've got Klein's Camps in northeastern Serengeti (24,700 acre private conservancy) and Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp in the Western Corridor (closed for refurbishment until Dec 2021). If I had to chose between Klein's and Singita Grumeti, I'd have to go with Singita. If you want to consider exploring the northern Lamai Wedge/Mara sector, other high-end luxury options come into play. You can look into Singita Mara River Tented, Serengeti Bushtops, Lamai Serengeti, Sayari and Kuria Hills.

Another remote nook of the Serengeti will be the areas just east of the Seronera area. Formerly a "wilderness area" not permitting vehicles for land restoration, this area in recent years opened for photographic safaris. Have a look at Namiri Plains (Asilia) and Nanyukie Camp (Lemala). Both great high end options in the area.
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