Consisting mainly of sweeping grasslands, the Ndutu area in the northern part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area joins the Serengeti. As such, it forms part of the annual migratory route of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, antelope and their predators who come to graze and calve between November and March, depending on the rains. The forests around Lake Ndutu and small koppies are also home to prolific resident wildlife.
- The famous Great Migration settles on the plains from about November to March and April
- Calving season on the plains from December through May is a must-see
- In the dry season from June to November resident elephant, giraffe and big cats gather at waterholes
- All six cat species reside here year-round; leopard, lion, cheetah, caracal, serval and African wildcat
- Prolific birdlife
- Olduvai Gorge; fascinating archaeological site
- Lakes Ndutu and Masek; soda lakes
The Ndutu area forms the northwestern part of the Ngorongoro Conservation area, which covers an area of just over 8,000 km² and includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge, forests, mountains and the vast plains of Ndutu stretching unfenced to Serengeti.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is famous not only for its beauty and wildlife but also for allowing human habitation. The local Maasai tribe still live on subsistence farming within the area. It is not unusual to see a Maasai herdsman with his cows heading over sweeping grasslands dotted with wildebeest and zebra.
Animals of Ndutu
From December to May, depending on the rains, the plains of Ndutu are populated by huge herds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope as they settle on the fertile grasslands to calve. As is to be expected of nature, the predators come in droves, too, feasting on the vulnerable young. It's a smorgasbord of wildlife and the natural circle of life.
During the dry season, the plains empty out as the herds move off in search of better water and grazing. There is plenty of resident game, though, that don't follow the migration, including giraffe, elephant, hyena and antelope which tend to concentrate around the waterholes. All six cat species can be found in the area throughout the year; lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, serval and African wildcat.
Things to see and do in the Ndutu area
- Game drives are especially spectacular when the herds of the Great Migration are on the plains
- Visit the fascinating archaeological site at Olduvai Gorge
- Hot air balloon flight over the plains
- Walk with Maasai guides and learn about local culture and traditions
Best time to visit
There is no 'bad time to visit the Ndutu area, as there is an abundance of resident game that doesn't follow the migration route.
If seeing the Great Migration is top of your bucket list, please remember that the movement of the animals is unpredictable and highly dependent on the rains. There is a pattern as to where they move and, based on previous years, an estimate can be made of when they'll be where. The big herds usually arrive on the plains of Ndutu around November and December and move off around April and May.
Speak to our consultants about the best time to go, and where to go, in order to increase your chances of catching it. Do remember that there is always plenty to see, even if you miss the migration!
By car - Ndutu is about 280 km from Arusha by road. The trip takes about six hours through beautiful countryside and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
By air - There are several airstrips in the area; Ndutu, Seronera and Kusini. Flight time from Arusha to Ndutu Airstrip is just under an hour and daily scheduled flights are available during the high season. Charter flights are also available. Arusha is served by two airports; Arusha domestic airport and Kilimanjaro International Airport with daily flights from local, African and international airlines.
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