Located at this time of year deep in the Southern Serengeti, Olakira aims to bring you as close as you can get to the wildebeest migration
Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.
“In 300 metres, you have reached your destination”, droned our voice-over GPS. After 6 weeks on the road, we’re getting tired of her voice. We sighed. All we could see was dust and acacia trees, the same as the last 100km. No sign of Olakira camp.
Fear not, you’ll most likely arrive with your own driver/guide from Arusha, who will know the labyrinth of tracks better than us, but we find the camp at last, feeling as parched as the land around us, grateful for the warm welcome from our host, Martin and a refreshing cold drink.
Asilia’s Olakira is a mobile camp that moves twice a year, tracking the wildebeest migration and at the time of our visit, it had just relocated here to Ndutu, in the southern plains of the Serengeti. In October and November the wildebeest head south, reaching the Ndutu area around December where they stay for several months in their millions. The rest of the year, Olakira relocates to the Northern Serengeti.
But there wasn’t a wildebeest to be seen! The rains are late this year and the land is bone dry – so dry, our car is covered with such a thick layer of dust, it piles up against the windows, and as the wind blows, surrounds as with a cloud so thick you sometimes can’t see where you’re driving. It feels like a desert.
“Very Dry!”, affirms Martin as he shows us to our tent. Being a mobile camp, don’t expect the luxuries of a five star lodge, although there’s everything here to make you confortable. There are bucket showers (with hot water if you order 10 minutes before), a dining tent and small dining lounge with comfortable furniture. What more do you need?
You might think the game viewing would be disappointing, given that the main act, the million wildebeest, were still a couple of hundred kilometres to the north. You’d be wrong. We take a guide and head out into the plains around Lake Ndutu and soon come across a large lion pride with an almost untouched buffalo carcass.
“This morning I saw a huge cloud of dust”, our guide Ali explained, “and I watched the male lion bring her down. He killed her but then just walked away.” Ali and his guests had watched in astonishment and horror as the lionesses ripped out the fetus from the pregnant buff, ate it, then left the rest. Cubs were frolicking on the carcass like it was a termite mound. Times of drought can be good times for lion. Just a few kilometres on we came across another large pride, ruling over no less than three buffalo carcasses.
We swap stories around the campfire with our fellow guests – two honeymoon couples. Olakira is a rustic camp with an informal atmosphere – dining is communal. This is the way we like it – a safari enjoyed is a safari shared.
Now just imagine the million wildebeest milling about the camp, packed densely together, lions lurking in the shadows, the sound of a million moos just metres from your tent at night. Ah, we’ll just have to come back for that…
Good for: Rustic, middle-of-the-wilderness feel, with the chance to see vast wildebeest herds up close.
Not so good for: Luxury. And while the camps are located with the best chance of mass encounters, there are never any guarantees.
Our verdict: Down-to-earth, friendly, rustic and informal, the Olakira mobile camp puts you right where you belong – in the middle of nature, with no excessively luxurious frills. We like it.