Photo Safari Review: Serengeti Ndutu Safari

Each year something special happens on the southern plains of the great Serengeti. Nearly two million wildebeest or white-bearded gnu arrive on the open plains surrounding Lake Ndutu. Here, a miracle of nature occurs as nearly 8000 wildebeest calves are born daily in the months of January and February. Absolutely incredible.

It is this very experience that sets the stage for one of the very best safaris you’ll ever get to do.

Planned to coincide with the wildebeest calving season, this safari explores Ndutu and its surrounds across 9 days. Ndutu is not technically a part of the Serengeti National Park, but actually forms a part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Ndutu does however border the southern regions of the Serengeti and it is completely unfenced allowing the migratory herds and other wildlife to move freely between the 2 protected wildlife sanctuaries.

On this Ndutu Serengeti Safari Experience, you’ll stand of chance of seeing the famous Big 5. The safari spans 2 key areas – The Ngorongoro Crater and also the Ndutu Conservation Area. Both of these destinations are incredibly diverse and offer open grass plains, woodlands, lakes, hills, forests, mountains, and more. This means that the wildlife on offer will be incredibly diverse, too.

The Ngorongoro has been included in this safari because it’s an absolute marvel of nature and a sight you’ll treasure for a lifetime to come. It’s incredibly unique and the photographic opportunities are special.

You stand a chance of seeing all of the beautiful big cats of Africa on this safari – lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, and serval. There’s even a chance of spotting African wild dogs hunting the open plains and large woodlands in Ndutu.

Arusha to the Ngorongoro Crater

This safari starts with a night in the city of Arusha. It’s important to enjoy a day where you regather yourself after what would have likely been a day or 2 of travelling. In Arusha is where all of the other guests will also join and this is where you’ll likely meet your host & photographic guide for the upcoming safari. Should you arrive in the morning you are free to explore the nearby Arusha National Park in the afternoon. The main attraction would be views of Mount Meru, beautiful scenery and the striking black & white Colobus Monkeys. In the evening everybody will enjoy dinner together, and talk about the upcoming adventure.

After an early start and a good breakfast, we’ll depart by road for the Ngorongoro Crater. The drive takes you through the hustle and bustle of Arusha, a great visual journey as you absorb more of this vibrant region. Drive time to the Ngorongoro Crater is approximately 3 hours. The time will however go by pretty quickly and the drive up to the Ngorongoro Crater will give you greater insight into the region and what it looks like. I always enjoy these drives as opposed to always flying. By air, you never really get a sense of the land and its people. As we arrive on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater you’ll play witness to one of the most spectacular views on our planet – a birds-eye view of the Ngorongoro Crater in all its glory! This will be a sight you won’t forget!

Instead of checking into the lodge as we get there, we’ll head straight into the Ngorongoro Crater via the closest access road and start with our first safari experience. This first afternoon in the Ngorongoro Crater is a great welcoming encounter to the region and we can expect to see just about anything. It’s beautiful on the Crater floor during the late afternoon and we will all be ready and armed, with cameras in hand. We need to be out of the Ngorongoro Crater by sunset and will then check into our lodge. We should arrive at the lodge just as the sun is about to set, allowing for a glory-filled view of the Crater, right from camp. You’ll have time to settle in and freshen up now. This will be followed by drinks and a well-deserved dinner.

Ngorongoro Crater to Ndutu, Serengeti

We’ll leave camp the following day well before sunrise in order to get to the access point for our full day in the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Crater stands out as one of nature’s most beautiful areas. Nothing can compare to the visual glory you’ll experience on this day, it’s breath-taking. Our focus for the early morning will be to catch up with the big cats before the heat of the day sets in. Lions here love lounging around in the open and unlike their Southern African cousins, don’t mind the sun beating down on them. In fact, they can spend the entire day in the sun, something not often seen elsewhere. Shade is usually the first thing lions seek out when the sun heats up.

We will have breakfast and lunch packed with us, so there’s no need to return to camp. Our focus will be on exploring the majority of the Crater floor. Here we can also find large-tusked elephant bulls, black rhinos, buffalo herds, thousands of zebras and wildebeest, and much more.

There’s also a great chance of seeing some of the smaller cats such as serval and caracal. The Ngorongoro Crater is an unforgettable place and will be a part of this itinerary you’ll treasure. After a full day on the crater floor, we’ll head back to camp at sunset for drinks, conversation, and a hearty dinner. Get a good night’s rest as the days to come will be busy and action-packed.

We will start the next day following a hearty breakfast. After breakfast, we’ll hit the road to Ndutu. The drive takes us across the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, through Maasai villages and down onto the open plains the Serengeti region is so well known for. It’s a stunning drive and you’ll really gain an authentic glimpse into the lives of pastoral Maasai that call this wild region home. It will take us about 2 hours to reach Ndutu although we won’t rush to camp as we’ll start to encounter wildlife well before the time. Remember, there are no fences here so as we get closer to Ndutu, you’ll start to see more and more wildlife along the way. We could even encounter the beginning of the great migratory herds before we reach the camp.

By noon we’ll have lunch in camp and have some time to settle into your new home for the coming days. Once at camp we will have time to listen to a brief on how the camp operators, and we will be shown our rooms so that we can settle. A hearty lunch awaits you along with an ice-cold drink.

We’ll depart camp again at around 14:30, ready for the afternoon’s safari experience. Park rules mean that we need to be back in camp shortly after sunset. It gives us plenty of time to take in the beauty of the area and to find many sought-after animals to see and photograph. Once back at camp, unwind with a drink around the campfire under the African stars, followed by dinner.

Our camp in Ndutu is a tented safari camp right in the heart of the stunning Ndutu woodlands, close to the big & small marsh lands. The camp is well located to make the best of the game viewing experience on hand. In order to describe the camp as accurately as possible and to avoid any confusion, I took the following from our Ndutu hosts’ website.

“Each tent is 12m long by 4m wide made from well-known heavy duty safari rip-stop canvas made locally at Morogoro, southern Tanzania, plus the additional cooling feature of shade-clothing over the entire tent. You are met at the entrance by a patio area with chairs and side tables for relaxing when you have a moment. The front of the tents zips fully open, including a layer of mosquito netting and the rip-stop canvas (which zips completely closed) with both layers. Once you step into the tent into the bedroom area, you will see an arrangement of unique furniture like sideboard and chair, storage chest (with extra blankets), carpet, an umbrella and laundry bag, luggage racks, torch/whistle/camp information folder, bedside tables, bed footers and beds (depending on room configuration). All the fittings depict colours in natural tones to adhere to the intrinsic area we are located. The beds are fitted with imported cotton sheets, double pillows, duvets, and bed runners for your comfort.

The tents have netted windows down each side of the tent which you can fully open with only the canvas remaining at all times with the mosquito netting stitched strongly into the actual tent. Then comes the bathroom area, which can be accessed directly from the bedroom with a separate doorway. Once inside, there is a bathroom stand with a ceramic wash basin with running water via stylish taps, a mirror, a supply of natural based bathroom products, and linen to suit. This area also displays a woven grass mat and clothes rack. Within this area, there are additional toilet and shower areas for privacy. Inside the toilet area is a ceramic flushing toilet, encased in a wooden frame for stability. Inside the shower area, is a stand for washing behind a shower curtain under a 20 litre PVC bucket erected on a pulley system as required. From the entrance of the bedroom and onto the bathroom, each tent is fitted with an extensive solar lighting system for your convenience.”

It’s important to understand that you will not be camping. Imagine if you will, a luxury safari camp but with canvas walls. That is pretty much what you’ll be getting here in Ndutu. It’s very comfortable and above all, authentic to the region and what we are doing there. This camp is unique in that it only stays here till April, after which it is packed up and sent to the Northern Serengeti, awaiting the arrival of the wildebeest herds.

You will be very comfortable in camp and I assure you, all of your needs will be met and taken care of.

Mornings will start early as we leave camp around 6 am, well before sunrise. It’s essential to get an early start in Ndutu. Our focus for the first part of every morning will be the predators. Ndutu offers some of Africa’s very best lion, cheetah, and general predator viewing. They are out and about and very active during this time of year, as the large wildebeest and zebra herds move into Ndutu. The wildebeest herds will give birth to over 400 000 calves within a short space of time, and this influx creates an opportunity to see action-packed experiences between predator and prey. There’s so much to see in Ndutu and time usually flies by. We’ll take a packed breakfast with us every day, and on some of the days even have lunch in the field. The action often takes place within the vicinity of the camp itself which means there’ll be an opportunity to pop into camp to freshen up on some days.

Ndutu has a variety of landscapes to explore, from grasslands to woodlands, hills to large lakes, and more. It creates an environment for an array of species to flourish. There’s always a sense of expectation when in Ndutu as you never know what you may find or come across. A stand-out highlight of Ndutu is their well-known tree-climbing lions. The resident pride often rests in trees for the entire day and there’s a great chance of seeing this firsthand.

Lake Ndutu is also a highlight of the stay. There’s always a hive of activity around the lake itself. On the edge of the lake, we will look for smaller animals such as serval and even caracal, and the lake often hosts large flocks of Flamingos. The herds also get access to water from the lake and surroundings, and this means that the herds could be present in large numbers here.

I have been visiting the Masai Mara and the great migration during the months of July, August, and September for the past 10 years, and never have I seen large herds as you do in Ndutu. The density of the herds here is remarkable and add to that the fact that there will be almost 400 000 more if you count the new calves. It’s tough to comprehend sights like these if you’ve not seen them before.

Each day will see us return to camp at sunset. Ndutu never disappoints and I am sure that there will be much to talk about with a warm campfire waiting for you under the starry Ndutu skies. Enjoy drinks together as we regal in the stories of the day, followed by a delicious dinner and a good night’s rest.

We will spend about a week in Ndutu, and all at the same camp. You need not concern yourself over this long amount of time in a single camp, as there’s so much to see and explore. There’s simply no such thing as a dull day here. The area has fantastic variety and we will be kept busy throughout our stay.

Another exciting experience to partake in during your stay in Ndutu, is a hotair balloon flight over the open plains. To see the Serengeti from the skies above is something you’ll always cherish and remember. It also presents photographers with a very unique view of the region and allows you to capture stunning images from the skies above.

Being in a balloon you have a limited time in the skies, usually just over an hour. You also can’t change the flight path too drastically due to the nature of the vessel. Due to these factors it is never really possible to predict what exactly you will see from up above, but regardless of that, it’s still a unique experience and something that should be considered.

It’s important to note that the costs of a balloon flight on this Ndutu safari experience is not included and would need to be arranged ahead of the time.

On the last morning in Ndutu, you’ll still get to enjoy a full morning of safari. There’s an airport only 15 minutes from our camp and we’ll have a better idea of flight time a little closer to the day. The flight from Ndutu to Kilimanjaro only takes about an hour and a bit, and this signals the end of an epic safari experience.

Should you wish to extend your stay whilst in East Africa, there are some great options to consider. Please also keep in mind that these experiences could be done in the company of your Tanda Afrika guide as your private host, in the form of a privately guided safari extension.

Here are a few of our favorite add-on experiences for you.

Namiri Plains

Right across the road from Ndutu, you’ll find a region of the Serengeti National Park, called Namiri Plains. The region was closed for over 20 years with no access to any visitors. This was done to allow the resident cheetah population to grow undisturbed. Only a hand full of camps were opened here from 2014 onwards and the region offers some of the best cheetah and lion viewing in Africa.

There’s also a fantastic chance of spotting serval and caracal, and the area has become well known for its black serval population.

It is classic Serengeti. Some of the views offer no trees or structures, just endless views of grassy plains with beautiful blue skies above. It’s something else and a great add-on experience to your exciting Ndutu safari. Be sure to request your guide to stay on with you to ensure you enjoy a quality photographic experience.

Logistics are easy to arrange. Instead of flying back to Kilimanjaro on the last day of your Ndutu safari, you’ll continue north by means of a game viewer and further into the Serengeti. The camps we love to use are only about 2 or 3 hours from our camp in Ndutu.

The Safari Collection & Giraffe Manor

I am sure you’ve heard of Giraffe Manor, right? It’s located on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. The experience at Giraffe Manor is purely unforgettable.

Giraffe Manor is an exclusive boutique hotel, owned by The Safari Collection. Often referred to as one of the most “instagrammed” properties in the world, Giraffe Manor is set in 12 acres of private land within 140 acres of indigenous forest in the Langata suburb of Nairobi. The historic manor house has extraordinary appeal, that harks back to the 1930s when visitors first flocked to East Africa to enjoy safaris. With its stately façade, elegant interior, verdant green gardens, sunny terraces and delightful courtyards, guests often remark that it’s like walking into the film Out of Africa: indeed, one of its twelve rooms is named after the author Karen Blixen.

One of the most fascinating things about Giraffe Manor is its resident herd of Rothschild’s giraffes who may visit morning and evening, poking their long necks into the windows in the hope of a treat, before retreating to their forest sanctuary. It’s this experience with the resident giraffe that sets it apart and makes it so incredibly popular.

The Safari Collection has some more exciting properties worth considering and adding to your stay. These can form a part of your extension experience.

We would suggest a stay of 5 nights. This would include 1 night at Giraffe Manor, 2 nights in Laikipia and 2 nights in Samburu, all within The Safari Collection family of safari camps.

Gorilla Trekking Experience

This is a bucket list experience for any lover of nature and wildlife photographer alike. Both Rwanda and Uganda offer exceptional gorilla trekking experiences and they are around the corner from your Serengeti safari. It’s easy to add a stay in either country at the beginning or end of your safari.

In Rwanda, you’ll trek the Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. The park makes trekking a little easier but trekking permits are almost twice the cost of those in neighboring Uganda. In Uganda, you’ll trek in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest & National Park. It’s not called the “impenetrable” park for no reason as trekking there can be a little more challenging, but still very rewarding. The permits for trekking here are also half the cost of those in Rwanda.

We would suggest a 4-night stay at the minimum, and to include 2 days of gorilla trekking. If you have time, a trek for the beautiful Golden Monkeys will also be worthwhile.

Private Guided Safari

If you love what you’ve read here yet prefer to travel on your own, privately, then this could be arranged too.

We love planning privately guided safari experiences with our clients. Simply send us an email or fill out an inquiry form on the link below, and we’ll get in touch to start planning your very own private safari of the Serengeti and surrounds.

This experience allows for exclusivity and a full focus on your experience.


The Serengeti Ndutu Safari offers you an action-packed encounter with nature unlike any other. There’s so much on offer here beyond the photographs you’ll take. You’ll see some of the most beautiful landscapes on the continent and you can extend your stay with a number of exciting experiences.

If you’ve never been to the Serengeti, this is an absolute must for you! If you’d love to return, no one day here is the same and the experience will feel like the first. Reach out to me or the Tanda Afrika team if you have any questions and be sure to book your spot if you’d love to join us.

Thanks for reading!

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