Jim’s Early Great Migration 2020    (13 Days)


Guided by Jim Heck

March 4 – 16, 2020



Read a personal letter from safari guide Jim Heck addressed to you.

The great wildebeest migration is the last greatest wildlife spectacle on earth!  Approximately 1½ million white-bearded gnus, wildebeest – joined by at least another half million zebra plus groupings of topi, harte-beest and even giraffe – move across the Ngorongoro/Serengeti/Maasai Mara ecosystems in search of better grass. The herds often stampede, running 4 to 5 abreast in files sometimes ten miles long. But in this area the size of northern New Jersey where they will be on any given day is a hazardous prediction. So this safari covers an enormous portion of the area with enough time at various spots to find and enjoy this amazing sight.

With the onset of the rains the East African veld is the most beautiful of the year. The forests are lush green and wild flowers cover the Mohajve plateau. It’s cooler and less dusty. There’s no question in Jim’s mind this is the best time to go!

Jim’s safaris explore the most dramatic and exciting animal events you can imagine, but he also does much more. He has a passion for early man, so you’ll spend time at the Olduvai prehistoric site, and he knows a tremendous amount about the history, culture, languages and current politics of East Africa. Come for the animals and scenery to be sure, but you’ll return home with an incredible understanding of this fascinating part of the world.

Jim has designed a Kenyan pre-tour to compliment the Tanzania tour, with animals, habitat and scenery that won’t be found in Tanzania. This includes the great Rift Lakes, a highland rainforest, and the great Laikipia semi-arid plateau of Samburu. With a few days in Kenya your journey is like starting in the great northwest forests of America and ending in the endless beauty of the Arizona desert. Very rare and beautiful animals like the reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra are only found here. This Kenyan trip is the perfect compliment and so much different to the Great Migration Safari in Tanzania!

This will be Jim’s 44th consecutive year of guiding a Great Migration Safari in Tanzania. No one has his length of experience or vibrancy of knowledge. The nearly half million readers of his AfricaAnswerman blog, the awards to his novel and other writings, and his unique credentials (including being made one of the few non-native honorary Maasai elders by the Kenyan community) assures you of a safari experience second to none.

According to Jim this safari gives you the best chance of the entire year of seeing the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth, the great migration. This is when more than two million animals congregate on the great southern grassland plains of the Serengeti. Of course the migration goes on throughout the year, but at this time of the year the herds are calving and usually most concentrated.

This is also Jim’s favorite time of the year. The veld is blossoming with spectacular wild flowers and lush nutrient grasses. Predation by hyaena and lion becomes intense and the drama over hundreds of miles of veld is incredible.

For many years Jim has nicknamed this safari “The Most Animals Ever,” and while nothing can ever be guaranteed in the wild, there’s a wonderful chance this will prove true again, as it has from year to year in Jim’s long 44 years of guiding!

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Dates & Pricing


*Contact EWT for the best international air fares and for recommendations on how to use your frequent flyer miles.


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Whenever you arrive at Kilimanjaro airport in northern Tanzania you’ll be personally met and privately transferred into Arusha town where you’ll meet the rest of the group arriving throughout the day as well as those who are ending their Kenya Pre-Tour. Overnight at the Four Points by Sheraton.

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Thursday, March 5

Everyone gathers for Jim’s safari briefing after breakfast, and after hotel checkout the group drives through Arusha town to the local airport. Stops can be made at malls for any last-minute needs. The noon charter from busy, congested Arusha takes all of 25 minutes, a drive that takes 4-5 hours. The plane lands in the deep center of Tarangire National Park well beyond where most of the tourists are found. Jim’s crew will be there and game viewing begins immediately. The short 5 miles to the picnic site are likely to encounter quite a few elephant, because Tarangire is Africa’s best elephant park. Lunch overlooks the extraordinary Silale Swamp and while you enjoy your sandwiches Jim will tell you the story of Stanley and Livingstone, because Stanley had to cross a swamp like this on his journey. After lunch game viewing travels along the swamp for its many birds and bathing elephants and likely a lot more. This is one of the best areas in Tanzania for leopard. Pull into camp for dinner and overnight in Kichuguu Camp.

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Friday, March 6

Jim spends as much time as possible on the veld, often taking a picnic breakfast or lunch so that the safari can roam far afield. Sometimes the schedule is determined by known animal events like the location of the migration or a recent kill. Many stops are made during which Jim recounts stories of past safaris or retells the exciting history of earlier days in Africa. The game viewing schedule is intense, so don’t hesitate to take off an afternoon to enjoy the marvelous surroundings of camp! Return to lodge for sundowners and hors d’oeuvres around the camp fire during which Jim debriefs everyone on their exciting day! Meals and overnight at Kichuguu Camp.

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Saturday, March 7

Game view through the remote western interior of Tarangire. Big game may not be as thick in these little visited and wild areas, but the chances for rarer animals like wild dog is much better. Jim exits Tarangire’s far western gate and a few minutes later you’re in very rural Tanzania, a prosperous farming area on the southern side of Lake Manyara. Rice, corn, beans and much more is grown here. A short way later the safari enters the southern gate of Lake Manyara National Park. While Jim’s drivers process entry formalities the group will enjoy a picnic lunch. Continue through some thick forests immediately onto the lake shore. This is usually where Manyara’s millions of flamingoes are. They can’t be guaranteed, because unusual rains or little rain disturbs the chemistry of the lake in such a way that they will leave. But normally this is one of Africa’s most astounding flamingo rookeries. Not too late in the afternoon the safari arrives Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, one of the fancier properties on the circuit, chosen by Jim for its perfect location. Dinner and overnight in this remote southern part of the park.

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Sunday, March 8

The morning is spent game driving the entire length of the park along the lake shore. Large numbers of giraffe and zebra are regularly seen, and unusually large families of baboon. Manyara is well known for “lions-in-the-trees” although the truth is that lions climb trees wherever they can. Because of Manyara’s incredibly diverse ecology (it’s an UNESCO heritage site because of this) the small park has more kinds of trees than large parts of America’s Midwest. With all this variety there’s bound to be a tree that a lion can climb! These are usually ones with low, horizontal branches because the fact is that lions are lousy climbers!

The group will enjoy a picnic lunch before leaving the park. Rather than heading straight on to Gibb’s, Jim will take you in the opposite direction into the busy town of Mto-wa-Mbu. (Swahili for “mosquito gulch.”) The town has a vibrant Maasai market perfect for your exploration! Then it’s back the other way driving up the spectacular cliff road onto the Rift Valley plateau. At a view point overlooking the dramatic Great Rift Valley Jim will give you a brief geology lesson of the continent. It’s a short drive from here into the agricultural area of Karatu. Arrive at Gibb's Farm, a lovely resort farm for dinner and overnight.

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Monday, March 9

The day is free at Gibb’s Farm for a variety of exciting options. Many people spend the morning on a guided tour of the local town and school. There are free tours of the organic vegetable and flower farm, walks with park rangers into the beautiful forests of Ngorongoro, mountain biking and a variety of spa treatments. Many travelers rate Gibb’s among their favorite spots, often comparing the beautiful cottages and scenery to Tuscany. Meals and overnight at Gibb’s Farm.

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Tuesday, March 10

Leave Gibb's after breakfast a the short drive into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. All civilization is now left behind as the safari pierces the enormous 6000 sq. mile ecosystem that extends all the way into Kenya. The first attraction is the amazing Ngorongoro Crater. After a 7-kilometer drive through the thick, magical highland forest the track emerges onto the rim with its spectacular views. After continuing around the rim for a while, the tour takes the “down road” into Ngorongoro Crater National Park. The 102 sq. mile crater is a volcanic caldera that is one of the most spectacular sites in the world, and the crater floor is dense with animals including Africa's greatest concentration of cats and its largest number of free-ranging black rhino. Enjoy a special lunch on the crater floor before continuing up the opposite side to an intimate boutique camp in the forest rim. Dinner and overnight at Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp.

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2lions.restingonkill.563.maraWednesday, March 11

Jim gets you down into the crater just before dawn. This allows you the best chance of seeing the night’s kills, when the animals are most active. The drama in the early morning is tough to beat, and the group’s camp is closest to the floor. A picnic breakfast will be laid out beside a lake usually filled with hippo and the safari will return to camp for a late lunch. This afternoon Jim’s vehicles will take everyone into the Maasai highlands, a gorgeous area just outside the main crater. You’ll get a glimpse of modern Maasai village life and for those interested, a hike up the spectacular Olmoti Volcano (now dormant). Dinner and overnight at Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp.

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Thursday, March 12

A spectacular and very unusual day as Jim takes you into a very remote area of the southeastern Serengeti that few people enter. It begins after an early breakfast and a drive around 2/3 of the crater rim. The scenery is spectacular as the route descends through the alter-crater onto the Serengeti. First stop is one of Jim’s favorite attractions, Olduvai Gorge, where so many precious finds of early man were found. He'll give you a short lecture and update you on the exciting current knowledge about early man before a bit of time to visit the museum. From here there are no roads and few tracks, and few guides or drivers are capable of navigating into these remote but wondrous lands. Depending upon the weather Jim might stop at the sacred Maasai site of Shifting Sands and enjoy lunch on the Lemuta Kopjes with outstanding views of the plains! Often these roadless plains are saturated with game: hundreds of thousands of gazelle and with luck, even the fractional millions of the migration. For almost the entire day off-roading it’s unlikely you’ll see a single other vehicle than Jim's. By the end of the day the safari reenters the developed part of the park and follows a remote track to the lakes area, arriving Ndutu Lodge for dinner and overnight.

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Friday, March 13

The southwest lakes area of the Serengeti appears on the great grassland plains like a mole on someone’s smooth face. It looks out of place, but in fact has an incredibly strategic value for the migration, and that’s why Jim brings you here. The two large lakes, Masek and Ndutu, are very shallow and often dry except now in the rainy season, and so they’re an important watering station for the great herds. All around the lakes are thick acacia woodlands filled with leopards and lions, and this is one of the finest places in Africa to find cheetah. The change in habitat from great grasslands gives rise to this great variety of wildlife. Normally at this time of the year, this is where large sections of the great migration become sedentary. Calving normally begins the end of February and in March nearly a quarter million wildebeest are born. It takes them 3-4 months to grow strong enough to start running in the migration, and the particularly good nutrient grasses of the southern Serengeti provide their best fodder. Meals and overnight at Ndutu Lodge.

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Saturday, March 14

Jim takes you further west back onto the seemingly endless great plains as the safari leaves the lakes area. This massive grasslands often contains huge sections of the migration. Rare but occasional hills provide just that little bit of elevation above the plains for breath-taking views. Game viewing occurs throughout the day as Jim searches for all the important nooks and crannies of dramatic wildlife. At the end of the day the safari arrives at one of the most comfortable and attractive camps in Tanzania for the final two nights. Dinner and overnight at Kusini Camp.

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Sunday, March 15

Hopefully by now the great herds have been found. Of course nothing in the wild can be guaranteed. Unusual rain patterns in particular can massively disrupt the migration. So today is entirely available for continuing the search if necessary! Kusini is located at the edge of the great plains in an area known as the Moru Kopjes. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the Serengeti. The many giant boulders with their magical formations historically represented some of the most sacred parts of Maasailand and Jim can introduce you to ancient cave paintings and “singing” rocks! The area has great game, too, including some real success with reintroduced wild black rhino. Return to the lodge in time for sundowners atop its own giant boulder for the final night together on this fabulous trip! Meals and overnight at Kusini Camp.

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Monday, March 16

This morning the safari flies back to Arusha, eliminating what would otherwise be a ten-hour drive. New vehicles will take everyone shopping and to lunch in Arusha before continuing to the international airport. Private rooms are available for everyone at the very modest KIA Lodge adjacent the airport, and the lodge shuttles guests to the terminal on demand. Most departures are overnight to Europe or the Mideast, connecting onto Tuesday flights returning you home tomorrow afternoon.

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