However, faced with the plethora of Serengeti camps and concessions on offer, it’s easy to feel like a crocodile trying to choose which wildebeest to chomp during a mass river crossing. The Timbuktu team decided to do a little exploring, and discovered a gem of a camp, Namiri Plains. Situated in a remote area of the Serengeti, in Tanzania, it’s the perfect spot to see big cats and the Great Migration, with the added bonus of year-round sightings of all the usual suspects.
The Great Migration
When the grazing dries out and becomes sparse in the south Serengeti, giant troops of wildebeest and zebra gather en mass. So begins their epic journey. In columns several miles long, they head towards the permanent waters in the northern part of the park. Together, they create a wild and strangely rhythmic symphony of rumbling hooves, yelping and bleating. Once it has begun, nothing stops the chaotic stampede, driven by generations of genetic instinct. Hurtling after the herds are hunting dog, big cats and scavengers. Predators cash in on the mad rush and ensure that only the fittest make it through. Crocodiles in the Mara river lie in wait for an easy meal as the mass of herbivores struggle across in their thousands. And when the grazing in the north diminishes, the whole stampede happens in reverse, back to the replenished grasslands of the south.
Escape to Namiri Plains
It’s little wonder that so many tourists gather to watch the spectacle. Escaping the herds of inquisitive travellers during the Great Migration is no small feat. And that is where Namiri Plains comes into its own. From October to May, when the migration passes through Namiri Plains, you can experience all the action, far from the maddening crowds. Exclusive and remote are two words that sum up this intimate semi-permanent tented camp in the eastern corner of the Serengeti. The remoteness is largely due to the fact that, for the last two decades, the camp has been closed to tourists, as it was used for cheetah research. It is still home to one of the most dense populations of cheetah in east Africa. Big cat researchers still frequent the camp regularly and it is not uncommon to get insider insights over dinner with one of them.
The big cats
Namiri actually means “big cat” in Swahili. And there is good reason for the name. This really is big cat country and you are likely to see leopards lying in Acacia trees, prides of lion up to twenty strong, a variety of cute big cat cubs, as well as wild cat, caracal and serval. During December and January, you can feast your eyes on dramatic predator kills as these ferocious felines feast on the passing herds of herbivores. It’s highly entertaining but the violent action is certainly not for the faint of heart. Conflict between the top cats and subordinate predators also makes for riveting viewing. Over the rainy season, large clans of scavenging hyena squabbling over carcasses are a regular occurrence.
Namiri Plains sits on top of an underground river which creates pockets of permanent water – the perfect environment for year-round game viewing. Besides the abundance of game, its main draw card is the fact that it offers an authentic and secluded experience. With no other camps in the near vicinity and the nearest camp a 45 minute drive away, it’s easy to feel like a pioneer. The fact that there are only six tents (spaced a decent 15-20 meters apart) makes it all the more exclusive. You can indulge in all the usual comforts of gourmet food, top-class guiding and service, and luxurious accommodation, all while being in some of the wildest bush in Africa. It may be wise to book a spot well in advance to ensure you beat the rest of your own species to it.