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Lamai Triangle View Full Tanzania Map

The Lamai Triangle is a triangular shaped watershed area just north of the majestic Mara Rver. Lamai's fresh water and verdant grasslands serve as a critical refuge for the migratory wildebeest and zebra during the late dry season. In fact, the majority of the migration usually resides here from early August until November. It's one of East Africa's best secrets that during the dry season, the secluded Lamai Triangle holds more of the migration then the more heavily touristed Masai Mara game reserve just to the north in Kenya. A documented study conducted by the Serengeti Research Institute revealed that only about 15% to 35% of the migratory wildebeest and 10% to 20% of the migratory zebra populations in the Serengeti ecosystem utilize the Masai Mara reserve.

It is interesting to note that when the wildebeest numbers were low (1950s and 1960s), the animals of the migration barely even crossed the border into Kenya. In fact, neither Lamai nor the rest of the Northern Serengeti were heavily grazed during this period of time. During the dry season these relatively small numbers of wildebeest were content lingering in the grasslands of the Western Serengeti, which is now known as their transitional zone. As the population increased from 250,000 in 1961 to today's 1.7 million, the wildebeest have been forced to migrate further north for forage during the dry season as the great herds quickly exhaust pastures. At the beginning of a typical dry season the Western Serengeti is overgrazed quickly by the ravenous herds. The instinctive search for more food drives the wildebeest north towards Lamai.

The topography of Lamai is a mosaic of fertile grasslands, winding streams and rounded hills, which delineate the border with the Masai Mara, Kenya. The Mara River defines the southern base of the Lamai Triangle, while Kenya's border and the adjacent Serengeti border form the two sides. Lamai is 300 square miles of open plains covered in a vast carpet of red oat grass, similar to the landscape of the Masai Mara in Kenya. This sweeping vista of rolling plains, dotted with the occasional acacia tree, is of stark contrast to the rest of Northern Serengeti's dense woodlands (with the exception of a few open plains and valleys scattered within areas of broken woodlands including Lobo, Bologonja and Wogakuria.) The Mara River can be thought of as the beginning of the Mara watershed area; it is only political boundaries that have chopped the Mara watershed into two blocks with one being the Lamai Triangle in Tanzania and the other being the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. While there are hundreds of vehicles just a few miles north in the Masai Mara game reserve, the Serengeti side of the Mara watershed (i.e. Lamai) is an isolated wilderness virtually devoid of tourists. Throughout Lamai, one is able to witness the same caliber of game viewing without hordes of other vehicles and the resulting solitude sets the stage for a much more intimate and rewarding experience.

The most captivating highlight of any safari to Lamai is undoubtedly the massive herds of wildebeest and zebra one can see during the dry season. However, Lamai also supports an abundance of resident wildlife including ostrich, topi, buffalo, warthog, elephant and giraffe. Lamai is perhaps the best spot in East Africa during the dry season to see the giant eland, which is Africa's largest antelope. Massive yet elegant, these powerful antelopes have been known to gracefully leap fences over 10 feet tall. Male elands can exceed a remarkable 2,000 pounds in weight and it's difficult to appreciate their immense size unless they are seen grazing next to a 500 pound wildebeest or a 50 pound gazelle. Their large size provides protection against most predators with the exception of the Serengeti's largest lions and also man. Elands are prized for their meat and are heavily hunted throughout Africa. Even the Maasai, who being pastoralists do not typically hunt wildlife, are fond of eland as they are rather cow like in appearance. Accordingly, elands are often difficult to approach closely and quick to amble away. Elands like the other three migratory species in the Serengeti (wildebeest, Thomson's gazelle and zebra) utilize the woodlands in the dry season and plains in the green season.

As described above, Lamai serves a key role in supporting the patterns of the great migration. However, the Lamai triangle was not originally protected as a part of the Serengeti National Park. Prior to 1965 when the Lamai triangle was added, the Serengeti National Park ended abruptly at the Mara River. The premature boundary left this vital dry season refuge for the migration open for poaching. A pioneering field survey on the migration's movements, conducted by Bernhard Grzimek, revealed that a portion of the migration moved north past the Mara river into Lamai. Thanks in part to this study, the Lamai triangle was given national park status and now serves as a protected haven for the migration in the dry season. Referring to the committee that argued for the addition of Lamai: 'the Serengeti National Park must cover an area large enough to provide a viable ecological unit embracing the full annual cycle of the animal migration.' Later years have since proven that this little known area called Lamai is in fact critical to the health of the migration; as wildebeest numbers have continued to increase, the search for more robust resources has indeed forced the great herds further north during the dry season.