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Picture this: The immense sprawling fields of the southern Serengeti. Now add thousands, no, tens of thousands of wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, and more. And… to these plains thick with wildlife add uncountable baby animals dropping into the lush grasses or taking their first steps.
This is the calving season in the area known as Ndutu. It begins in December when the Great Migration of millions of grazers has herded south from the Masai Mara, following the rains and attracted to the rich vegetation here. This birthing season continues through March.
The drama of all this new life is an incredibly touching scene. Perhaps even more so as the predators of the area, all the big cats, have also recently given birth to their young and are anxious to feed them. This then, is the tableau of survival that plays out in Ndutu during this amazing time of the year.
But within months all the young will be walking and running with the herd, as the great masses of grazers head back north, leaving behind the predators and the masses of other wildlife that populate this part of the Serengeti throughout the year.
The Colorful Varieties of Ndutu
Ndutu as they say, is easy on the eye. Rolling grasslands give way to acacia woodlands where giraffes, monkeys, baboons, elephants, and antelope thrive. The area’s alkaline lakes draw in a fluttering carpet of pink flamingoes.
The birdlife here exceeds 400 species so don’t be surprised to find ostrich, cuckoos, storks, pelicans, heron, ibis, hawks, eagles, owls, vultures, buzzards, and a rainbow canopy of smaller winged creatures wherever you roam in this active region of Tanzania.
Unlike the migrating grazers, all the big cats make Ndutu their home year-round, so any season is a great safari time for spotting these stunning predators. During the dry season, you’ll likely find them gathered around the area’s watering holes.
The region is home to many prides of lions, plus cheetahs, hyenas, caracal, and African wildcats. And you may be lucky to spot an elusive leopard, lounging on a tree branch or lurking in the bush on an evening prowl.
The Calving Season
But should you be here during this fertile time, you’ll see these predators move into an active hunt when up to 8,000 wildebeest young are born each day. For this isn’t just the time when the grazers are birthing. In the amazing parallels of nature, the predators too have given birth and they have hungry mouths to feed.
The sights and sounds of the thousands of newborn wildebeests, zebras, antelope, and more attract the big cats, luring them to the birthing fields. But first, they must get past the protective animal mothers who stand guard around their young, forming a defensive barrier.
What follows is an emotional display of survival between grazer and predator. But ironically, this period of mass calving is a way that nature helps the survival for the majority of newborns. As in the old adage, ‘There’s safety in numbers.’, the predators get more than their fill, thus protecting most of the animal babies who are left alone, to grow and become part of the herd.
Join us at Ndutu any time of the year to witness the immense numbers of active wildlife and the overwhelming drama of survival that makes this region a must-part of the great Serengeti.
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