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12 July 2017

A guide to where to stay to see the Serengeti's Great Migration in September

Firstly, where are the herds? September is basically identical to August with the herds spread out across the far north of the Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara. There is no rain in the southern Serengeti but reliable rainfall in the northern plains due to the macro climate dictated by Lake Victoria and the Oloololo Escarpment.

This is the peak of river crossing season, one of the major reasons that travellers come to the park. The Tanzanian side of the border is significantly quieter than the Kenyan side - the Mara Conservancies excluded but they don’t offer good river crossings - and for that reason I focus the vast majority of trips in the northern Serengeti.

The exact location for the river crossings on the Tanzanian side is an area called Kogatende and the Lamai Wedge. Both sides are excellent with Lamai being a quieter location that’s truly away from the crowds. Further away from the river is an area called Lobo to the east of the Mara River – a place that offers great value with a few excellent camps. It’s easy to access the river area from Lobo and some camps prefer to locate themselves between the two areas to find a quiet part of the Serengeti all to themselves.

THE VIDEO BELOW – an overview of where to stay in September to maximise your chance of seeing the herds.

BENEATH THE VIDEO - a write up of my favourite lodges and recommendations for where to stay that covers all price points

Serengeti Migration   where to stay August to October

The Serengeti Migration's best camps and safari lodges in September

There are two different styles of property to choose from. The first is the famous ‘Serengeti mobiles’ that follow the herds, and the second is the ‘permanent lodges’ (or camps). The Serengeti mobiles tend to cater for the more adventurous traveller, however I would always encourage people to consider the idea of the mobile camps; they are much more comfortable than people expect and are often the highlight of a safari.

To help you understand what you get for your money, we split the Serengeti’s properties into three different price brackets – Value, Classic, and Luxury. It's worth mentioning that the prices below do NOT include any long stay deals etc. Therefore our safaris can often be less expensive than this nightly rate.

‘Value’ Serengeti camps (approximately $500 - $650 per person per night)

Mobile Camps - The pick of the mobile camps in our most economical bracket are Nasikia Migration Mobile in Lobo and Chaka in Kogatende. Nasikia Migration Mobile is slightly larger than most mobiles we use but this is a great value little camp and a product that offers reliably good service and very good guiding for its price. Chaka is located in Kogatende near the river and, although good faces extreme competition from Lemala Mara, which albeit more expensive is on the river and is overall more comfortable and personal than Nasikia. All three are superb options, and we find it very difficult to pick a ‘winner’. Ultimately price makes most clients decisions for them.

Permanent Lodges – At this time of year it is very difficult to get a good permanent lodge in the far north for anything less than $650pppn. Kaskaz is the best option and although slightly more expensive than the two mobiles in this price bracket their special offers can bring the price down. It’s a wonderful camp with a superb location away from the crowds.

My suggestion for the ‘Value’ price bracket - Nasikia Migration Mobile in Lobo still gets you into the thick of the action for the river crossings and is a camp that gets absurdly good feedback from clients. Stepping up a level slightly however and Lemala Mara is the camp I’d splash out on.

‘Classic’ Serengeti camps (approximately $750 - $850 per person per night)

Mobile Camps – Lemala Mara is without doubt worth a look. I usually include this property as he splash out option for the ‘Value’ bracket but realistically this camp sits between the two price brackets. At the top end of our ‘Classsic’ bracket there is fierce competition between a couple of big ‘safari names’ - Nomad Tanzania’s Serengeti Safari Camp and Asilia’s Ubuntu, Kimondo and Olakira. The two companies are fierce enemies! Out of these, I have always been a fan of Serengeti Safari Camp due to the authentic approach of the company that runs it, and the fact that they offer great value when combined with their sister properties elsewhere – in Tarangire or the Ngorongoro, for example. Ubuntu and Olakira are good properties (Olakia especially due to its amazing riverfront location), but we believe their value in July is debatable. Kimondo’s selling point is its remote Laamai Wedge location.

Permanent Lodges - Kaskaz is the first property to mention. This luxury camp can often release great deals, making it very affordable compared with its competition. With a quite location away from the river many clients choose Kaskaz to avoid the somewhat busy river area of the north. Fierce competition to Kaskaz is Lemala’s Kuria Hills – a well-priced and genuinely luxurious property with private plunge pools on the decks of all the rooms.

My suggestion for the ‘Classic’ price bracket I have always believed that Nomad’s Serengeti Safari Camp is the best mobile camp option. However, the fact they do not offer a long-stay deal in September makes the camp more expensive than at other times of year. You have to include their other camps to make Serengeti Safari Camp a good value property in September. For lodges the best value is either Lemala’s Kuria Hills or Serengeti Kaskaz… and I’m sorry to say I’m going to sit on the fence here – both camps are superb.

‘Luxury’ Serengeti camps (approximately $1,000+ per person per night)

Mobile Camps – An exciting new option is Wilderness Usawa, which can offer walking safari alongside classic game drives. This brand new luxury mobile outfit is creating a stir with its fantastic locations that are in the midst of the Migration, while also being away from the crowds! Wilderness’ green credentials have helped the company secure these great sites. Also at the top end of the mobile camp market sit Alex Walker’s two Serian properties, Serian Serengeti and Serian Lamai. Offering private safari and with locations on either side of the Mara river, these camps are truly outstanding. Of the two, I would choose Lamai solely due to the fact the camp is located in the significantly quieter Lamai Wedge and is often home to Alex himself! &Beyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas is another mobile option here, but when you pay over $1,000pppn and don’t have a guide like Alex in house I’ve always thought the value on offer is debatable.

Permanent Lodges - Lamai Serengeti is nothing short of exceptional. With the best views of the entire area and a well-tuned team, this permanent lodge is usually my go-to place for top-end safaris. Its sister property Mkombe House is also sublime – a private family house option for small groups and families. Competition to Lamai is Asilia’s Sayari, but the location and sheer character of Serengeti Lamai wins for me.

Across the river from Lamai is Singita’s Mara River. This is an exceptionally finely tuned property where luxury levels skyrocket, albeit in a fairly ‘light’ camp. I find the price quite eye-watering considering the camp has no pool, for example, but the sheer quality of Singita Mara is undeniable. It’s the place to go if incredibly high service levels are important to you.

The final place to mention is the Singita Reserve in the western Serengeti - a great option to end for a few nights of sheer luxury but not an area to get the river crossings even if they do still have good migration herds. The best of these is Faru Faru whilst Sasakwa deserves its own special mention for being a genuinely 5* luxury hotel option in the bush, the likes of which I have not seen elsewhere in Africa.

My suggestion for the ‘Luxury’ price bracket – If you are looking for a mobile camp and want a genuine ‘bush’ experience then go and stay with Alex Walker at Serian, as there are very few companies that epitomise the essence of safari in this way. For something a little more luxurious, Wilderness Usawa is the stunning new arrival, with beautiful tents, as well as great locations and activities. For a more permanent type lodge, I can’t get enough of Lamai Serengeti – there is a character about this property that few camps can match. However, if truly 5-star luxury is your focus then start with either Usawa or Serengeti Lamai and move down to Singita Faru Faru (one of my Top 3 camps anywhere) or Singita Sasakwa, a destination in itself.

Are you considering going on safari?

If so, then we would love to help you design it! With all the information on the net today we quite often find clients somewhat confused and flooded with information. The best thing you can do is to speak to someone in the YZ office about your plans. We have three members of staff who have worked in the Serengeti and can talk you through the best options for you, at the right time of year.

Wies ([email protected], pronounced Veece!) is a professional safari guide and camp manager, while Lauren ([email protected]) worked for Legendary Expeditions and Mwiba. They know the Serengeti backwards… and they love to chat about it!

Please feel free to get in touch with either them or myself on [email protected].

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