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The eastern plains of the Serengeti ecosystem encompass a massive area. They begin roughly just east of Naabi Hill. They extend east through the Gol Kopjes, Lemuta Hill, Nasera Rock, Angata Kiti, the Salei Plains and all the way to the Ngorongoro Highlands and the active volcano Mount Lengai. This area is approximately 50 miles wide from west to east. The southern border of eastern plains is roughly Olduvai Gorge and the northern border reaches into the Loliondo game controlled area.
The eastern plains are similar to the southern plains in that they are extremely seasonal. During the dry season, the eastern plains are transformed into a semi desert and only a few hearty Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles survive. However, the eastern plains come to life in the wet season from about November through May and offer prolific wildlife viewing for certain species of animals. A day trip at the minimum should be included in every green season itinerary.
The Gol Kopjes, located on the Eastern Plains, boast the highest concentrations of cheetahs in Africa during the wet season. The majority of the cheetahs in the Serengeti are migratory in that many of them follow the Thomson’s Gazelle migration to the eastern short grass plains during the wet season and then back to the Central Serengeti (plains/woodland border) during the dry season. During the wet season, the eastern plains offer the best cheetah viewing in the Serengeti and in all of Africa. On a full day game drive to the GOL kopjes, you will likely encounter several groups of cheetahs. Cheetahs are strictly diurnal (daytime) hunters and with a little luck you will witness the fastest land animal in the world in action.
In addition to cheetahs, the eastern plains are home to the largest concentrations of hyenas during the green season. Large clans of hyenas numbering up to 30 individuals are regularly spotted from Naabi Hill east through the Gol kopjes and Lemuta Hill. Hyenas, the most abundant predator in the entire ecosystem, are semi-nomadic and ‘commute’ to the Eastern Plains during the wet season from their den sites located in the Central Serengeti. Lion numbers are also high on the eastern plains during the wet season. The majority of the lions in the Serengeti are resident but a significant portion is nomadic (roughly 20%) and they do follow the migratory animals to the plains each wet season. However, lions are rarely encountered east of Lemuta and they are much more readily seen inside the Serengeti proper including the Gol Kopjes area.
The Thomson’s gazelle and eland migration differs from the wildebeest and zebra migration in that the gazelles and elands utilize the eastern plains much more than the southern plains of the Serengeti ecosystem. You will likely encounter thousands of gazelles and hundreds of elands on the eastern plains during the wet season.
During the wet season, the eastern plains play host to a somewhat separate population of the wildebeest migration that can number into the hundreds of thousands. You will likely encounter thousands of wildebeest from the GOL Kopjes, east through Angata Kiti and into the Salei Plains by the active volcano Mount Lengai. The Salei Plains receive the least amount of rainfall in the Serengeti ecosystem. However, when the Salei plains do receive enough rain to produce fresh green grass, massive wildebeest herds will congregate here. It is not uncommon to see two or three hundred thousand wildebeest on the Salei Plains when they are green. The wildebeest prefer the fresh green grass on these eastern plains, as they are closest to the volcanic highlands that produced the nutrient rich and fertile soils millions of years ago. This is an extremely beautiful and remote area of the Eastern Plains and if you are adventurous enough to visit you will be rewarded with the best off the beaten track game viewing available in Northern Tanzania.
Gol Kopje Cheetah (Please Caution)
You are allowed to off road drive in the GOL Kopjes but please always remain a respectable distance to Cheetahs especially if they look to be hunting, there is a kill, or if there are cubs present. Cheetahs are extremely fragile and will often abandon an uneaten gazelle or even their own cubs if they are harassed by an over eager vehicle. Please do not urge your driver to get too close, as he will is always striving to impress you and by doing so may unintentionally stress these wonderful animals.