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  1. #1
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    Default Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    We are at the cusp of committing to another big trip and visiting, among other places, the Serengeti. Tentative plan is to start our trip in October, in Namibia, where our vehicle is stored, and more or less head straight to Zambia. After some quality Zambia time (bats, etc) we anticipate the rains to set in and we were pondering where to head next. We have decided to set our sights on Tanzania.

    We visited in 2018, and though expensive, covid has made us a bit "seize the day", and as it's likely that we'll never be able to visit such a remarkable place with so few others again.

    My question is, if you were going to five nights (or possibly six at a stretch) in the Serengeti special campsites in January, where would you recommend going? Keeping in mind we visited in June 2018 for seven (?) extraordinary nights, where we stayed at: a Seronera public campsite (I forget which one), Kira Wira Hill SCS, Moru 3 & 4 SCS and Sero 4 SCS.

    This time around we will also be having friends of ours, safari and Serengeti novices, join us for this portion of the trip in a rental vehicle, so we want to give them a proper introduction.

    My original plan (after picking up our friends rental vehicle) was:
    -1 night at Migombani campsite outside Lake Manyara
    -1 night at Simba A, NCA
    -2 nights Moru 4 SCS (the best!)
    -1 night Seronera area SCS
    -2 nights Kogatende area SCS
    -exit Klein's gate and head to lake Natron, 1 or 2 nights at Worlds View Campsite. I am cognizant that this road is difficult if wet, but we recieved this advice from the rental company: "Yes the road is being redone from Kleins to Natron. It should be finished by January it is passable regardless, although that is always an optimistic statement in Tanzania!"

    However, my plan has been foiled. I have been advised by the rental company that the Moru Campsites have been closed. I quote: "Moru campsites have been closed. There is an additional $100 pppd to go into the Moru area as it is now part of the designated Rhino area."

    I had noted the "Special Rhino Viewing" charge on the updated TANAPA price list, but I had assumed this was for some sort of guided tracking thing. Apparently not. A shame, as the Moru sites were really something. We feel fortunate to have stayed there previously and had the good luck to see 3 rhinos in a group in the area.

    So, given it will be January, what advice on where to spend 5-ish nights in the park? We did not make it to Lobo, Woga or Kogatenda in the North in 2018 and I would like to see that area, but it is far from any suggestion of Migration. But perhaps the migration will be in the NCA and not so viewable anyway? Any opinions on this are welcome.

    I have had some trepidation about posting about our plans, as there is so much covid uncertainty on whether we would go, could go, or should go. We have decided to go, with the full understanding that covid may change our plans.
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Good news, Caldriver, that you are tentatively planning another trip. Fingers crossed!

    My first reaction is that you will need a night at Lobo if you are exiting via Klein’s Gate on the way to Lake Natron. Although Lobo public campsite does not have the best of facilities (!), it is a beautiful area with the rocks and hills.

    My second reaction is that you will need two nights, I think, at Simba in the Ngorongoro in order to do the crater justice. You don’t want to be rushing to get from the crater to a campsite in the Serengeti.

    Have you been to Tarangire NP? In my view, it is one of the finest parks in northern Tanzania. It is known as the Little Serengeti. Lake Manyara NP also warrants a visit.

    Happy planning!

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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    I commend your optimism regarding your planned northern Tanzania visit, best of luck and why not give it a good try? Are you aware of the new Tanzanian president's regulations around Covid and quarantine regulations?

    In January I personally would want to spend some time with the migration in the north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the south of Serengeti. There are special campsites in the NCA region, not falling under Serengeti, and with a bit of luck there might be some early wildebeest calving taking place. In southern Serengeti, as far as I can tell there are a number of special campsites under the Ndutu, Naabi and Kusini labels, with a few consecutive numbers at each eg Ndutu 1-5 I think.
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2021/05/05 at 09:46 AM.
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Good news, Caldriver, that you are tentatively planning another trip. Fingers crossed!

    My first reaction is that you will need a night at Lobo if you are exiting via Klein’s Gate on the way to Lake Natron. Although Lobo public campsite does not have the best of facilities (!), it is a beautiful area with the rocks and hills.

    My second reaction is that you will need two nights, I think, at Simba in the Ngorongoro in order to do the crater justice. You don’t want to be rushing to get from the crater to a campsite in the Serengeti.

    Have you been to Tarangire NP? In my view, it is one of the finest parks in northern Tanzania. It is known as the Little Serengeti. Lake Manyara NP also warrants a visit.

    Happy planning!
    Thanks for the thoughts on Lobo. I had considered that, but also was trying to balance that it is nice to have be in a new camp each night, and also that I was interested in making it up as far as the Mara river, along with what appears to be many tracks to explore. That said, it does look like a long day from Klein's gate to Lake Natron, and departing from Lobo does make the most sense for that.

    Also noted on a second night at the crater rim. I need to puzzle out the gate entry time/exit at the end and all that. Now we had been thinking of leaving Lake Manyara/Migombani and entering the NCA at ~1500, to give us the following day to do an early game drive and make it to Naabi Hill Gate by 1500. As I have it now it'll be a long day getting to the Serengeti, but also my thought that Simba is really only special because of where it provides access to, the crater, not so much for being particularly great campsite at that price. But you are right, we don't want to take that unique day and make it unworkable, I'll think on this.

    We have visited Tarangire, which we loved. However I had been given to understand that in between the short and long rains much of the game leaves the park, so that game viewing might be sparse at that time. Thoughts on this? I should have noted that for our first day we'd visit Lake Manyara for an evening and morning game drive the next morning, but were planning on staying outside the park at Migombani to allow our friends to 'ease' into the experience.
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    I don’t know how long it would take you to get from Kogatende to Klein’s Gate, but I wouldn’t imagine the tracks up there are in good shape. It looks like it is about 60 kms. My rather old Giovanni Tombazzi maps says Klein’s Gate to Lake Natron takes 7 hours on a bad road. Even if the road is being upgraded (albeit in a very Tanzanian fashion!), it would be a long hard day from Kogatende to Natron. I haven’t been this way, but it is high on my wish list.

    Apropos Tarangire, my understanding is that the game disperses during the wet season. Northern Tanzania in January is subject to what we call in Kenya “the grass rains”. Short sharp showers as opposed to a full-blown monsoon. But who knows nowadays with climate change?

    Although eight months is a long time in the course of a pandemic, but you might be interested in this article about the recently introduced mandatory 14 day quarantine. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea...ellers-3386916

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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    I don’t know how long it would take you to get from Kogatende to Klein’s Gate, but I wouldn’t imagine the tracks up there are in good shape. It looks like it is about 60 kms. My rather old Giovanni Tombazzi maps says Klein’s Gate to Lake Natron takes 7 hours on a bad road. Even if the road is being upgraded (albeit in a very Tanzanian fashion!), it would be a long hard day from Kogatende to Natron. I haven’t been this way, but it is high on my wish list.

    Apropos Tarangire, my understanding is that the game disperses during the wet season. Northern Tanzania in January is subject to what we call in Kenya “the grass rains”. Short sharp showers as opposed to a full-blown monsoon. But who knows nowadays with climate change?

    Although eight months is a long time in the course of a pandemic, but you might be interested in this article about the recently introduced mandatory 14 day quarantine. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea...ellers-3386916
    Yes, maybe we'll do a day at Kogatende and then move closer to Lobo Hills area at the end. The road to Lake Natron just seems very interesting so we really would like to try it if we can. If we get reports on poor conditions or the rainy season changes it's mind, then of course we can reroute as needed.

    The grass rains, and short sharp showers sounds like it could produce some dramatic skies, might be something to see. We are excited.

    Noted on Tanzania's requirements, though the Overlanding Africa FB group has posted a link to a TZ MOH website that said they are implementing 14 day quarantine for travelers from India (see below). There was also a link to the official MoH rule, but right now their website isn't loading. If I get it to load I will post an update.

    Eight months is an epoch in covid time. I am daily in the thick of covid policy/procedure at work, and as I think back to the beginning I can't believe both how far we've come and how little has changed, all at the same time. I have been wrong over and over on my predictions, making me somewhat zen about the whole thing. We will make our plans and adjust in due course as needed, Inshallah. More thoughts on this I will post later...

    From FB (with the standard grain of salt it deserves) re: clarification on TZ entry policy:

    - everybody needs a COVID Test, taken max. 72h before arrival
    - everybody will need to go through an additional rapid test, 25 USD
    - NO quarantine, except if you arrive from IndiaThere
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Updated travel rules from Tanzania - as mentioned before, 14 day quarantine only required if coming from India. No doubt this will change as things progress, but nice to see Tanzania take things seriously.
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    It is a huge relief that Tanzania is, eventually, taking Covid-19 seriously.

    It isn’t at all clear whether travel advisory No 7 from 4th May 2021 is in addition to travel advisory No 6 as below. In particular see paragraph 5.

    https://www.moh.go.tz/en/announcemen...f-3rd-may-2021

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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    I commend your optimism regarding your planned northern Tanzania visit, best of luck and why not give it a good try? Are you aware of the new Tanzanian president's regulations around Covid and quarantine regulations?

    In January I personally would want to spend some time with the migration in the north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the south of Serengeti. There are special campsites in the NCA region, not falling under Serengeti, and with a bit of luck there might be some early wildebeest calving taking place. In southern Serengeti, as far as I can tell there are a number of special campsites under the Ndutu, Naabi and Kusini labels, with a few consecutive numbers at each eg Ndutu 1-5 I think.
    I haven’t read much about the campsites in the NCA Ndutu area, for whatever reason I had the vague impression they were only for tour operators or tented camps? But I will look into Ndutu, Naabi and Kusini options. I had to order another GT map because the first one I had is in the seat pocket of the Land Cruiser, far from here. Should be here this week, and that will help me visualize what camps are in the South of the park.


    An acquaintance of ours was a guide in the Serengeti for a few years and now operates a tour company, he said his favorite time in the Serengeti is Jan to early March, with a particular preference for the first two weeks in March. We can't go then, but it was nice to hear that it is a good time to visit.


    I am aware of the new Tanzanian regulations. For me this is cause for optimism, I was saddened to see Tanzania ignore covid, and to see they are taking precautions is reassuring. As we won’t be up that way for six months, who knows what may happen by then. I suspect that Tanzania will work and rework their covid protocols many times before we make it there.

    In some way, risky as it may seem, planning this trip is something of psychological self preservation. Though I am not an 'essential worker', I have been at work through most of this (no way to operate a ship via zoom, yet), and I think that has given me a comfort, sort of against my will, with operating in the covid world. I am involved in seemingly endless chasm of development and enforcement of covid safety policy at work, and so following and navigating the rules of Africa sort of feels like just another protocol to add to the list. Planning the trip has been good for my covid troubled psyche, and if we have to cancel/readjust then of course we will.

    [I thought I hit reply earlier, but I just noticed that this never posted...]
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    It is indeed therapeutic to plan ahead whilst understanding the vagaries that Covid might present. We are in the same boat.

    Please keep us updated.
    Stanley Weakley.
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    OR
    http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    I think that you need to spend time on the Mara River - the road there is beautiful from the junction near Bologonja and should be OK, although could be muddy in October. The other area which we would recommend is Ndutu Lake .

    It took us a long day (with lots of time stopped) from Lobo to our wild campsite on the Mara Rive near Kogatende: actual moving time was about 5 hours. From there to the turn off for Klein’s Gate we took a great track in the hills (partly to avoid the atrocious main track) took us 7-1/4 hours.

    Lobo when we were there was disgusting, however without the hordes of tour groups it could be OK (we were permitted to camp outside the campsite by a friendly Ranger).


    I agree that you need two nights at Simba - our experience was that although in theory you are not permitted to spend more than 6 hours in the crater no one checks.



    Tarangire and Lake Manyara are well worth visiting - the latter in particular for the lake birds.

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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Caldriver

    You may be interested in reading this from the Kenyan Mara Conservancy‘s excellent monthly reports. And note the patrol area maps for October to December 2020 - as well as the unseasonal rain in January 2021. It is an impressive organisation.

    https://www.maratriangle.org/novembe...1/january-2021

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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Caldriver

    You may be interested in reading this from the Kenyan Mara Conservancy‘s excellent monthly reports. And note the patrol area maps for October to December 2020 - as well as the unseasonal rain in January 2021. It is an impressive organisation.

    https://www.maratriangle.org/novembe...1/january-2021
    What a great site WW, thanks for that, I'm getting anxious just looking, can't wait to get our trip underway
    Last edited by Tedx2; 2021/05/07 at 03:56 PM.
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  18. #14
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Caldriver

    You may be interested in reading this from the Kenyan Mara Conservancy‘s excellent monthly reports. And note the patrol area maps for October to December 2020 - as well as the unseasonal rain in January 2021. It is an impressive organisation.

    https://www.maratriangle.org/novembe...1/january-2021
    Thank you for that, I forget about their newsletters. I had no idea the level of cross border collaboration and patrolling, very impressive. Also some sobering info on human pressure on crossings, river levels and very interesting about the migration spending less time in the Seronera area.
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    Thank you for that, I forget about their newsletters. I had no idea the level of cross border collaboration and patrolling, very impressive. Also some sobering info on human pressure on crossings, river levels and very interesting about the migration spending less time in the Seronera area.
    From the patrolling GPS tracks, you can see that the major area of concern is this infamous Lemai Wedge. I have a feeling that the northern Serengeti NP is rather dependent on the antipoaching resources owned by the Mara Conservancy - as well as the well-trained, well-looked after Kenyan personnel.

    Conservation costs money - a lot of money.

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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Hello Caldriver,

    Glad that you are making plans and hope they materialize in spite of all Sars-Cov2 uncertainties.

    In January I would certainly try the Ndutu area in the Serengeti /NCA, as Stan said. Being on the cusp of the calving season would be quite an experience.

    I agree with WW that you will need an extra day at Lobo to make it to Natron. The site itself, although quite windy, has splendid views across the Lobo Hills. the conditions are poor and quite neglected (at the time). The access road from Lobo to the Mara/Sand river Region (The Bologonga Rd.) is a easy and most pleasurable ride. It was one of the most pleasurable drives we had on the trip. Nevertheless let me point out : it is mostly driven on cotton soil and after the Long Stone bridge at the Mara area, there are a multitude of tracks that initially, can just confuse your orientation. The Mara/ Kogatende area are indeed a must see/ must be in the Serengeti. Bear in mind that we visited at the end of the dry season (October 2016), but in January, in the rainy season, driving those roads can be quite problematic and even slower going.

    Lobo - to Natron : Visiting Natron was one of our most sought after highlights. It was a long but enjoyable drive. We made it in 7-8 hrs. I would divide it in two : the first part until Waso (where we re-fuelled) is again, mostly on cotton soil and through a sparsely rural populated area - the Loliondo GCA. After Waso and until Sonjo the terrain is the same but the area is a little more populated. The second part, after Sonjo, the terrain just changes becoming more gravel and rocky as one approaches the descent towards the lake just deviating northerly the great escarpment. The scenery is outstanding. At the time it looked the road was being upgraded as the old escarpment road was being abandoned.

    From Natron to Mto-wa-mbu took us around 6-7 hrs through a seriously rocky and slow going road.

    The full report can be read in here : https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...eport-Oct-2016!

    Hope to have contributed to your decisions.

    Enjoy your homework!

    AP

    A few pics to add to your decision making!!!
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by alannymarce View Post
    I think that you need to spend time on the Mara River - the road there is beautiful from the junction near Bologonja and should be OK, although could be muddy in October. The other area which we would recommend is Ndutu Lake .

    It took us a long day (with lots of time stopped) from Lobo to our wild campsite on the Mara Rive near Kogatende: actual moving time was about 5 hours. From there to the turn off for Klein’s Gate we took a great track in the hills (partly to avoid the atrocious main track) took us 7-1/4 hours.

    Lobo when we were there was disgusting, however without the hordes of tour groups it could be OK (we were permitted to camp outside the campsite by a friendly Ranger).


    I agree that you need two nights at Simba - our experience was that although in theory you are not permitted to spend more than 6 hours in the crater no one checks.



    Tarangire and Lake Manyara are well worth visiting - the latter in particular for the lake birds.
    Thank you for your thoughts. I am starting to think that we will try to spend some time in the Ndutu area and head all the way north to the Mara, then the last night at Lobo and exit to Natron. Of course how to do this in our timeframe will be challenging! I'll puzzle it out.

    We have visted Tarangire before, and I understand that the game is very dispersed there in January, so we may pass on it this time around. However, I have recently learned of a wild campsite that you can book just East of Tarangire called Sunset Hill, in the adjacent GMA. (when I learn booking details I will post) perhaps we will try that for some exploring.

    We do intend to visit Manyara, to 'warm up' our friends that are joining us before heading to Ngorongoro/Serengeti.
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    Quote Originally Posted by apfac View Post
    Hello Caldriver,

    Glad that you are making plans and hope they materialize in spite of all Sars-Cov2 uncertainties.

    In January I would certainly try the Ndutu area in the Serengeti /NCA, as Stan said. Being on the cusp of the calving season would be quite an experience.

    I agree with WW that you will need an extra day at Lobo to make it to Natron. The site itself, although quite windy, has splendid views across the Lobo Hills. the conditions are poor and quite neglected (at the time). The access road from Lobo to the Mara/Sand river Region (The Bologonga Rd.) is a easy and most pleasurable ride. It was one of the most pleasurable drives we had on the trip. Nevertheless let me point out : it is mostly driven on cotton soil and after the Long Stone bridge at the Mara area, there are a multitude of tracks that initially, can just confuse your orientation. The Mara/ Kogatende area are indeed a must see/ must be in the Serengeti. Bear in mind that we visited at the end of the dry season (October 2016), but in January, in the rainy season, driving those roads can be quite problematic and even slower going.

    Lobo - to Natron : Visiting Natron was one of our most sought after highlights. It was a long but enjoyable drive. We made it in 7-8 hrs. I would divide it in two : the first part until Waso (where we re-fuelled) is again, mostly on cotton soil and through a sparsely rural populated area - the Loliondo GCA. After Waso and until Sonjo the terrain is the same but the area is a little more populated. The second part, after Sonjo, the terrain just changes becoming more gravel and rocky as one approaches the descent towards the lake just deviating northerly the great escarpment. The scenery is outstanding. At the time it looked the road was being upgraded as the old escarpment road was being abandoned.

    From Natron to Mto-wa-mbu took us around 6-7 hrs through a seriously rocky and slow going road.

    The full report can be read in here : https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...eport-Oct-2016!

    Hope to have contributed to your decisions.

    Enjoy your homework!

    AP

    A few pics to add to your decision making!!!
    Wonderful photos! Some really great information, thank you. I did look for trip reports but somehow missed yours, I will read carefully. Noted on the cotton soil warnings. I was very wary of attempting the Kleins-Natron road in January, but the Arusha based tour operator that is booking the vehicle for our friends is confident it will be passable. And of course we can ask at Kleins gate at the time and adjust if need be. Also we will have two vehicles so we will be more confident in attempting messy sections.

    I have heard the scenery on the road to Natron is excellent and we're very excited about it.

    Maybe we'll end up with something like:
    -1 night Lake Manyara
    -1 night Simba, against advice offered here I loath to spend 2 nights here if I can avoid it. A fine enough camp, until one considers the price and what other wonderful camps are not so far away
    -2 nights Ndutu
    -1 Sero 6 or Northern Seronera area, as Ndutu to Kogatende is too far for one day. T4A says 238km with no deviations, 7hrs. I'm sure it would take us 12.
    -2 nights Kogatende/Mara area
    -1 night Lobo
    -2 nights Lake Natron
    -Arusha

    This is a day or two longer than originally planned, but we'll think on it and decide if we want to scale back our ambitions or cough up the extra cash. We always struggle to accept that we can't see it all.
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

  25. #19
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    The wildebeest calving en masse in the south is considered by experts to be an absolute highlight on the Serengeti calendar. It begins in January in the far south in the NCA near the Ndutu special campsites (about 5), and peaks very slightly further north in the south of Serengeti near the Naabi and Kusini Special Camps in February. These dates can vary seasonally. Not only are the massive wildebeest herds gathered together, they are calving en masse and predators such as maribou storks, vultures, jackals and hyenas gather in numbers to feast on all the afterbirths and young calves as well. Lions and some of the other big cats are attracted by all the helpless newly born calves.

    Please do note that the Ndutu Special Campsites fall under the NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area) and not with the Serengeti camps. As such they have to be booked at the NCA booking office in Karatu or in Arusha near the clock tower, just ask. (They cannot be booked via any TANAPA Offices).
    You might find that they already might be hired out to private safari companies that block-book them in season. However these offices can give you the contact details of these private companies who might be willing to rent any to you that might be empty.
    Perhaps private booking or travel agents might be able to help if you want bookings secured before leaving home.

    The Naabi and Kusini (south) special camps are in southern Serengeti (just north of the NCA) and are booked through TANAPA in Arusha. They are around Naabi Hill and in the south-west of Serengeti and the herds in early January might routinely be further south in the NCA camps.

    If wanting to stay in the Lobo and the camp is as crowded and the ablutions overused, it is possible to arrange via the section ranger that you stay instead at one of a couple Lobo Special Campsites all on your own, no facilities. Probably best to also rather pre-book those Lobo Specials with the other bookings. If for any reason you cannot locate any of the allocated Special Campsites anywhere, collar the regional game guide at his office/hut and take him in your vehicle so that he points exactly where he wants you to put up camp. The precise location of the campsite can vary over time.
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2021/05/09 at 09:17 AM.
    Stanley Weakley.
    Toyota Landcruiser 76SW 4,2L diesel.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...-6-SLOW-DONKEY
    OR
    http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  26. #20
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    Default Re: Help with January Serengeti itinerary + Moru campsites closed

    At Ndutu you have Spezial Campsites on both sides NCA and Serengeti. I think NCA would be better because of more Game Drive roads. The question is to get one of this Special Campsites. This year in February it was not a problem to get on a very short notice because of so less tourists that not all Tended Camps build up there Camps as usual. If travel restrictions around the world will be in place next year too than it shouldn't be a problem too. In normal times all campsites are block booked in this time of the year as I know. I can't imagine that when already booked for building up there Tended Camps for a period of 3 month that you find it empty in the second half of January.

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