Southward Migration Safari
February 5 - 22, 2018
February is green on the Serengeti—a perfect tour backdrop for lions, cheetah, and jaguars as they stalk prey. The vibrant life on the vast, green East African savannas in February makes this Gail and Doug's favorite destination. While zebras, giraffes, and gazelles nurse their young and newborn wildebeest calves frolic on the plains alongside their moms, predators skulk in the grasses. Elephants drink and wallow in water among the baobab trees, flocks of storks dot the plains searching for insects, and oxpeckers feast on small insects on giraffes. The Southern Serengeti hold cheetah with frisky cubs and leopards hunting along the river corridors. With only four participants in each stretch, pop-top Land Cruiser, we provide flexibility in our schedule, and 360° views for wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities. When the Cheesemans started leading East African safaris in 1978, they didn't dream that they would still be going back there year after year, but with almost 50 species of mammals, colorful reptiles, and over 300 species of birds, how can you resist?
• Watch enormous Elephants dwarfed by towering baobab trees in Tarangire National Park.
• Gaze at the dense herds of wildlife contained by the lush caldera walls of Ngorongoro Crater.
• Experience the vast plains as far as the eye can see in the midst of Blue Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Cheetah, and Leopard scattered in the Serengeti.
• Delight in watching the Olive Baboons and Blue Monkeys leaping from tree to tree in Lake Manyara National Park.
Itinerary Updated: October 2016
FAQ Print Trip Safari Options
|Feb 5||Travel to Arusha, Tanzania.|
|Feb 6||Arrive in Arusha.||Lake Duluti Serena Hotel, Arusha|
|Feb 7 - 8||African Elephant extravaganza at Tarangire National Park, plus Giraffe and other wildlife.||Tarangire Sopa Lodge, Tarangire National Park||B, L, D|
|Feb 9 - 11||Descend into Ngorongoro Crater to experience dense herds of wildlife and the famous black-maned Lions present only in the crater.||Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area||B, L, D|
|Feb 12 - 13||Behold spectacular, limitless views of the vast Serengeti Plains as we enter Serengeti National Park and immerse in its unparalleled diversity.||Serengeti Sopa Lodge, Serengeti National Park||B, L, D|
|Feb 14 - 19||Explore each nook of the woodlands, marshes, and plains in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area during offroad game drives.||Ndutu Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area||B, L, D|
|Feb 20||Bid farewell to the Serengeti ecosystem and drive to the historic Olduvai Gorge. Then prepare to be engulfed by the lush, jungle-like Lake Manyara National Park at the base of the Great Rift.||Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge, near Lake Manyara National Park||B, L, D|
|Feb 21||Delight in morning monkey commotion at Lake Manyara National Park. Share our last lunch in Arusha, and depart for home if you’re not joining the Kenya extension.||Kia Lodge, Arusha (dayroom only)||B, L|
|Feb 22||Arrive home, if you’re not on the Kenya extension.|
Our Trip Leaders
Gail is a naturalist of the best kind–self-taught through a lifetime in the field fueled by a deep passion for wildlife. Her attention to tour details and individual desires ensures that each Cheesemans’ traveler has the experience of their dreams. Gail has a true spirit for conservation that drives her actions on many issues, both local and worldwide. Together, Gail and Doug make a team of remarkable ecologists who seek to inspire others to enjoy and conserve the Earth’s wild landscapes.
Doug leverages his expertise gained during 35 years of teaching ecology and zoology at De Anza College to offer travelers a unique learning experience in wildlife-rich regions of the world. Doug and Gail have led over 70 safaris to Africa, especially to Tanzania and Kenya, since 1978. They also led many tours to all corners of the globe including the Antarctic, South America, Australia, and Asia. A love of photographing wildlife behavior and giving college-level lectures to interested groups adds to his accomplishments.
Emmanuel has great knowledge of the terrain and wildlife of Tanzania that is matched by a great sense of humor and contagious chuckle. He was a driver/naturalist for Ngorongoro in the 1980’s when Doug and Gail met him. His father was head chef at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, giving him a wonderful opportunity to learn about its special wildlife while growing up.
James has the most experience of all our guides in Tanzania and is considered the wizard of the safari scene. Once, when we arrived at a flooded river with many cars queued and waiting to cross, James rerouted us to a little-known crossing that was not flooded and we were soon on our way. He is a very wise man and an inspiration to his daughter who recently earned her Master's degree in biology and manages one of the national parks in southern Tanzania. James is a warm and friendly person with lots of knowledge that he will share with you.
Maulidi, like many of our Tanzanian guides, has been working with us since the late 1980s. He is a true intellectual who spends hours studying nature, even learning the scientific names plus many interesting facts of the species you encounter. It seems that he has "eyes in the back of his head" because of his keen spotting abilities used to find hidden leopards and other wildlife. He knows all the bird songs, which he began learning as a boy growing up west of Tarangire National Park. He is a wonderful teacher and safari companion.
Steven has been guiding for us in Tanzania since the late 1980s. He is, to a great extent, self-educated and is even now taking exams to finish his degrees. He learned to speak English when he was in the Tanzanian Army. He often studies mammal, bird, and plant books and puts his extensive knowledge to work in the field to find the best wildlife action. Steven grew-up on fertile highlands near Ngorongoro Crater. He has a wonderfully warm personality, is a great leader, and highly respected among the safari guides in Tanzania.
Yuda grew up near the east side of Kilimanjaro near the Kenya border on land that is now part of Mkomazi National Park. He worked at a wildlife sanctuary before becoming a guide and is especially knowledgeable about animal behavior. Due to his long hours in the field observing wildlife, he understands their feeding, hunting, and other behaviors, especially the cats. Like all our Tanzanian guides, he is aware of the elements that make a good photo and will position the vehicle to achieve the best action in the best light.
A glimpse into our journey
Arrive in Arusha, Tanzania
Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) near Arusha, Tanzania by this evening.
Tarangire National Park
Feb 7 - 8
Stroll the hotel grounds around dawn to observe the birds beginning their day. After breakfast, greet our resident guides and depart for Tarangire National Park for an elephant extravaganza. Discover the dense community of African Elephants dwarfed by towering baobab trees glimmering in the light. Watch for the different elephant behaviors – scooping water in their trunks to drink or splatter onto their backs to cool off, using their toe nails to cut grass to eat, and if you’re lucky, boisterous wallowing in the river and mud. Tarangire is also home to two bird species you won’t find elsewhere – Ashy Starling and Yellow-collared Lovebird.
Feb 9 - 11
Weave through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to descend from the Ngorongoro Crater rim into its astounding ecosystem 2,000 feet below. The Crater caldera contains 110 square miles of grasslands, marsh, and fresh and alkaline (brackish) lakes, providing habitat to about 25,000 large animals. Lion prides, hyena cackles, and jackal families interact uninhibited by vehicles while nervous wildebeest calve and nurse young. Track black-maned male Lions unique to Ngorongoro to highlight just one of the many interrelationships between the wildlife and its ecosystem. In the evenings, catch the last glimmer of light reflecting on the alkaline lakes within the crater. Watch the rich colors unfold during sunrises and sunsets, and discover the abundant bird activity around our lodge back up on the crater rim.
Serengeti National Park
Feb 12 - 13
You will marvel at the expansive grasslands of the vast Serengeti Plains spread before you as you enter Serengeti National Park. The alkaline soil, rich in salts like calcium and sodium, creates a hardpan that prevents tree growth and holds rainwater close to the surface to facilitate dense grass growth. Continuous grass cropping during feeding maintains this productive and rich food source that sustains the large numbers of wildebeest and other ungulates. Amid the grasslands, scan the protruding granite kopjes (pronounced “copies”) for predators watching their prey scattered on the plains below. Lions, cheetah, and leopards dominate these corriders formed by marshes, the Seronera River, and the kopjes.
Serengeti Plains of Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Feb 14 - 19
Immense herds of Blue Wildebeest and Burchell’s Zebras graze the short grass among the Moru and Gol Kopjes. Here we will search for predators then enjoy a picnic lunch while watching the movement of these herds on our way to Ndutu Safari Lodge. Ndutu is Gail and Doug’s favorite area in East Africa during this season because of the wildlife action found here – especially the several Cheetah moms with cubs who follow the Blue Wildebeest nursery herds.
With six days here, you’ll have time to explore each nook of the woodlands, marshes, and Serengeti Plains in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area during offroad game drives. Wildebeest calving occurs during a three-week period when about 80% to 90% of the calves are born, increasing the likelihood more young survive. We’ll also watch for exciting predation behaviors when hunters attempt to catch a calf.
You’ll likely find cats like Serval, African Wild Cat, Cheetah, Leopard, and Lion in this area of the Serengeti. Watch for the nightly visit from a family of genets during our dinners at the lodge. Special species of this area include Fischer’s Lovebirds that frequent the lodge’s bird bath, Steinbok, Gray-breasted Francolin, and Chestnut-banded Plover.
Bid farewell to the woodlands, marshes, and plains of Ndutu and head to Olduvai Gorge on the eastern boundary of the Serengeti Ecological Unit. The Leakeys found the hominid remains Australopitchecus boisei, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and many other fossils here. See some of these fossils in the small museum where you’ll receive a brief introduction before driving down to Bed 1 where Mary Leakey found the Australopithecine the Leakeys classified as Zinjanthropus (now known as Paranthropus boisei or Australopithecus boisei). If you search a little along a wash here, you may find small fragments of fossils. After our visit in the gorge, retrace our drive along the Ngorongoro Crater rim to our lodge near Lake Manyara National Park, atop the escarpment formed by the Great Rift.
Lake Manyara National Park and departure
Find Olive Baboons grooming themselves along the forest road, Blue Monkeys chasing each other in the tree branches, elephants foraging in the forest, and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills calling and flitting among the canopy openings. This “ground water forest” is sustained by an underground water supply instead of rain, providing an abundant number of fig, mahogany, and fruit trees.
Share a special farewell luncheon with our guides, then drive to Kia Lodge near the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). If you are not continuing on the Kenya Extension, use your dayroom at the lodge (included) to refresh and prepare for your flight home or stay overnight (not included) if you are flying home the next day.
If you are continuing on the six-day extension to Kenya, see separate itinerary for more information.
Arrive home depending on your flight schedule.
February is green on the Serengeti—a perfect safari backdrop for lions, cheetah, and leopards as they stalk prey.
Cost & Payments
Costs (in US$)
|Type||Cost Per Person|
|Trip cost, double occupancy||$11,240|
We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$500|
|Second Payment||December 1, 2016||$1,000|
|Final Payment||September 1, 2017||Remaining balance|
Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.
Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.
- All leaders, park entry fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
- Transfers to your hotel on February 6 and to your dayroom on February 21 (Kia Lodge has a complementary shuttle to the airport).
- Accommodations for the nights of February 6 through February 20 and a dayroom on February 21.
- Meals from breakfast on February 7 through lunch on February 21.
- Bottled beverages – Each lodge provides bottles of drinking water in your room daily.
- Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
- Short Term AMREF Flying Doctors medical emergency evacuation insurance.
- All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Airfare is approximately $1,600 roundtrip from US, depending on origin (subject to change).
- Passport and visa fees.
- We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
- We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
- Bottled beverages – Bottled water costs extra during meals, except at breakfast when water is often available to fill your reusable water bottle.
- Gratuities – Tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $20 to $22 per participant per day for February 7 to 21 with our leaders (about $300 to $330 total per participant).
- Trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, and items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.
It is the Austral summertime in the southern hemisphere. Daily temperatures range from around 65 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 33 degrees Celsius). Although most days will be warm to hot, it can be cool and breezy in the Land Cruisers early in the morning and in the late afternoon. This is the dry season between the “short rains” of November/December and the “long rains” of mid-March through mid-June, but rain is still possible.
Early morning game drives at dawn in pop-top vehicles, bumpy roads, and long days in the field require good energy levels. Most walking is optional and around lodge grounds between game drives.
Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.
Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) near Arusha, Tanzania, by February 6. For most, this means departing from home on February 5. Depart from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) on the evening of February 21. If you are continuing on the Kenya and/or Rwanda extension, see flight details for the extension in its separate itinerary.
I want to travel to Africa, which trip is right for me?
If you are looking for the vast Serengeti-like experience, then consider Tanzania/Kenya. If you want a more exclusive experience of Africa and you like mobile camping, then consider Botswana. Botswana is more arid and sandy and lacks the vast grassland plains of Tanzania/Kenya and generally has fewer species, although species do overlap quite a bit, particularly the antelopes. If this is your first Africa safari, we suggest Tanzania/Kenya to experience the quintessential African safari among animals more accostumed to vehicles.
I want to see the “Great Migration,” which trip is best?
The Great Serengeti Migration is the movement of vast herds of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of Burchell’s Zebra and fewer numbers of Grant's Gazelle, Thompson's Gazelle, Topi, Kongoni (Hartebeest), Eland and Impala – it is the world’s largest terrestrial mammal migration. Throughout the year the herds move in a circular pattern around the Serengeti, sometimes heading northward or southward, seeking fresh grass. The exact timing of the migration is dependent on the timing of the seasonal rainfall.
The famous Mara River crossings of the wildebeest and Burchell’s Zebra occur in Kenya in July/August, whereas the migration is concentrated on the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania in January/February.
Why are the February and July/August itineraries different?
Our itineraries follow the concentration of the great ungulate herds during their migration through the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya. The exact timing of the migration can vary depending on the rains that freshen the grass that they consume.
In February, we spend almost twice the number of nights at Ndutu in the southern Serengeti in Tanzania to focus on the wildlife concentrated here. At Ndutu we can drive off road giving us the opportunity for unique experiences. The cat population around Ndutu is one of the best in all the Serengeti, with Serval, African Wild Cat, Cheetah, Leopard, and Lion.
In July/August in Kenya, we focus on the the Masai Mara in Kenya because more wildlife is concentrated here.
What is the difference in species in February and July/August?
In both seasons we can see about 50 mammals and 250 bird species. We see similar species in both seasons, but northern birds migrate south to spend January/February in Africa, which adds about 25 species. In July/August we have a better chance of seeing denning African Wild Dogs in Tanzania.
Do we see large herds in February and July/August?
We see herds in both seasons, but the distribution is different. In July/August, the wildlife is concentrated around water sources, whereas in January/February the wildlife is grazing on the shortgrass plains, often in lines or dispersed over the plains, only visiting water sources when needed.
Do we see different animal behaviors in February and July/August?
In February, we see wildebeest and other ungulates (such as zebra) with nursing young, and possibly see wildebeest calving. Cheetah females with cubs are more visible as they follow the herd movements. In July/August, we have our best chances of seeing the Masai River crossings.
What is the difference in climate in February and July/August?
February is warmer since it’s the Austral summer in the southern hemisphere.
How much time do we spend in the field?
We spend maximum time in the field! We typically eat a quick, light breakfast before dawn, come back for lunch or take a picnic lunch with us, and return for dinner (sometimes late).
What is Cheesemans’ background/history in East Africa tourism?
Doug and Gail have been leading African safaris since 1978 and they have known many of the local naturalists/guides since they were young adults, so you not only have experts on wildlife behavior but also get a unique family-like experience from spending time with Doug and Gail and the local guides.
We stay in top-notch lodges inside or near the parks with quick driving access to wildlife. Lodges have a variety of food, private baths, and laundry service. We choose many of these lodges because of their commitment to responsible environmental practices.
We travel in five pop-top Land Cruisers with shaded roof covers that provide 360° viewing and excellent photography opportunities. With only four participants in each seven-passenger vehicle, you’ll have more space for your gear.
- Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
- Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
- Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather, wildlife sightings, or road conditions.
- Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
- Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but understanding and accepting the risks, both medical and logistical, are important. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but due to the fact that we often travel to locations far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your tour deposit and signed reservation form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.
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"This has been the best photo tour out of the 12 that I took during my very extended sabbatical. The variety of wildlife is incredible and the wildlife activity was equally incredible."
David Soares, 2017
"I tell friends and family that I doubt I could go with another company after spending a couple weeks with Doug and Gail. The attention to detail was perfect, the lodges were fantastic, the guides exceptional, and the pre-trip information was great."