Makoma Hill is a prominent hill that forms the western edge of the action packed Seronera Valley. Directly in front of the hill lies a small but idyllic plain referred to as the Makoma Plain. The Makoma Plain is bordered by Makoma Hill to west and the Seronera River to the east. The beautiful Thatch Kopjes rise above the surrounding area and their commanding presence dominates the center of the plain. Each of these three landmarks (Makoma Hill, Makoma Plain and Thatch Kopjes) is a scenic wonder and each offers tremendous wildlife viewing opportunities. The wooded Makoma Hill is a good spot to see giraffe and impala, the long grass Makoma Plains is a great habitat for cheetah, buffalo, gazelle and spotted hyena while the Thatch Kopjes are favored by the large Makoma lion pride. The Makoma lion pride consistently uses the Thatch Kopjes as a den site and cubs are commonly seen playing on the granite boulders that make up the kopjes.
Game drives around the aforementioned areas of Makoma can be incredibly rewarding. For lack of better words the game loop is simply called the Makoma Game Loop. This loop circles the entire Makoma Plain with several smaller tracks encircling the Thatch Kopjes. While game driving through the Makoma Plain it is common to see large groups of buffalo and gazelle. The gazelle reside here only during the dry season, however the buffalo appear to be resident and make this area their home year round. One large buffalo herd numbering over 100 individuals is commonly seen here on a regular basis.
The Makoma lion pride, as well as large clans of spotted hyena, can typically be seen hunting on these plains. There is tremendous conflict in this area betweens lions and hyenas as both of these strong predators are found in large numbers and compete with each other for food in this small but prey rich area.
Raptors, especially tawny eagles, are frequently encountered here along with a host of other small carnivores such as the black-backed jackal and the bat-eared fox. The black-backed jackal is a small, smart looking canine that resembles a tawny fox with a thick stripe of black and silver running down its back. A black-backed jackal and his mate will form a monogamous bond for life, and the two partners will defend their territory together. Bat-eared foxes are another small predator that lives in this area; these amusing little foxes can be seen frisking about in the clearings or sniffing for their next insect lunch in a termite mound.
There is a second track that wraps around the backside of Makoma Hill to a secret area tucked away from the main plain. This is a superb spot well off the beaten path of the busy Seronera Valley and we commonly set up picnic lunches here at the base of the hill. This isolated location has a spectacular view looking out over the grassy plains. This picnic site is one of the hidden gems of Seronera. Picnic in complete solitude under a clear sky washed in blue, with giraffes browsing behind you on the hill and gazelles grazing below you on the plains.
Makoma is situated in a great location for wildlife viewing throughout the year but it is at its best when the migration thunders north in May / June and south in November / December. The migration is certainly the favorite time of year for the Makoma Hill lion pride and the large clans of hyena that call this area their home. Hans Kruuk, who spent four years studying spotted hyenas in the Serengeti, writes: "Makoma Plain is a small region at the north western edge of the Serengeti plains which is obviously a very important area of passage for ungulates and hyenas between their wet and dry season rages."
Cheetahs use the long grass plains that surround Makoma Hill extensively in the dry season while during the green season they migrate back out to the short grass plains to the east. Generally, cheetahs live their lives in pursuit of the migratory Thomson's gazelles with the exception of a few resident cheetahs stationed at high biomass areas with good cover such as Makoma. The majority of cheetahs in the Serengeti are migratory with the exception of a small proportion of males, which are resident and set up permanent territories. In a nine- year study conducted on the cheetahs of the Serengeti, T.M. Caro concluded that there were only eight cheetah territories in the bottom half of the Serengeti including Makoma Hill, Simba Kopjes, Naabi Hill, Gol Kopjes, Ndutu, Barafu Kopjes, Maasai Kopjes, and Hidden Valley.
As previously mentioned, spotted hyenas are commonly seen in the Makoma area. Hyenas are social animals and often live in large groups called clans. A force to be reckoned with on these African plains, a hyena has jaws strong enough to crush bones and a heart twice the size of an adult male lion. Hyenas are renowned for several unique characteristics, perhaps the most notorious being its distinctive whoop or 'laughing' call; one can often hear their cackle vibrating through the peaceful air of night or interrupting the stillness of early dawn. Another unique trait of the hyena is that their front legs are slightly longer than their hind legs, giving them a distinctive profile and ambling gait. Hyenas are extremely intelligent and strategic hunters, and have been known to employ specific, focused strategies for hunting different types of prey. Hyenas and lions are mortal enemies, and there will never be a dull moment here in Makoma as long as their territories continue to overlap.
Makoma was home to a very unusual phenomenon as recorded by Hans Kruuk during his study of the Spotted Hyena. The below has never been witnessed before and was most likely due to a very violent thunderstorm that hit Makoma causing much chaos and confusion. Hans Kruuk writes,
"On the morning of 16 November 1966, on the Makoma Plains where many thousands of Thomson's gazelles that had gathered during the previous two weeks. I found scattered over an area of about 8 square kilometers 59 dead Thomson's gazelle and 27 badly injured ones. In and around the area were 19 hyenas, all with extremely distended stomachs, but from only 13 of the 59 dead gazelle did I find anything that had been eaten. It seemed most likely that the hyenas had eaten several gazelle completely, leaving no traces of them. The night had been very dark with thick cloud cover, very heavy rain, and strong gales. I collected a number of the victims and studied their injury pattern, which suggested that the victims had been grabbed randomly at any part of their body. The tracks showed that the hyenas had walked quietly from one animal to another, a number of them operating quite independently of each other; after killing a gazelle they left and walked on to the next one."