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Makoma Hill Summary

The Makoma Hill Private Luxury Camp is a superb year round destination and is highly recommended for its central location, great views and easily accessible wildlife. The camp makes a great choice during any month but is at its best in May/June and November/December for the northward and southward migrations, respectively. Makoma Hill is a prominent hill that forms the western edge of the action packed Seronera Valley. The campsite is situated partially up the base of the hill and offers glorious views of Makoma Plain and the beautiful Thatch Kopjes. The Thatch Kopjes and Makoma Hill are the core area of one of the Serengeti's largest lion prides, the Makoma Hill Lion Pride. The surrounding long grass plains are also used extensively by cheetah and spotted hyena. Excellent cheetah and lion sightings along with solid leopard action around the nearby Seronera River combine to form one of the best camping locations for the big cat enthusiast. Giraffes are regular visitors to the campsite and are commonly seen browsing from the surrounding acacia trees.

Makoma Hill affords a centralized location from which to explore the Seronera River Valley. Makoma Hill is located just 4.5 miles southwest of the Seronera Airstrip, which is at the heart of the Seronera River Valley. The Seronera River Valley, with its abundance of resident animals including all the big carnivores, is a must see no matter what time of year. The campsite is conveniently located within a 15 minute drive of the main road, which means that you can spend more time game viewing the predator rich area of the Seronera River Valley and less time in transit. The campsite is also set far enough off the main road and away from the other facilities, camps and lodges of Seronera that it affords an intimate and wild bush feeling. Additionally, there is only one campsite located at Makoma assuring complete privacy. This is also a potential problem as availability can be an issue due to popularity of this wonderful spot.

Directly in front of the Makoma 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 h3 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 h3 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 h3 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."

Serengeti Home is a must read before, during or after your safari and is a great companion book to Myles Turner's My Serengeti Years . Kay Turner lived in the Serengeti with her husband, Myles Turner, who was chief game warden for 16 years. Kay Turner's book details her adventures including raising her family in the Serengeti (this chapter is charmingly titled "Bush Babies"), humorous stories about her wild pets including 'Chuta' the bat-eared fox, 'Gussie' the Grant's gazelle and 'Prince and 'Pixie' the serval cats.   Kay shares many wonderful adventures both living and going on safari in the Serengeti.  

The chapter in Kay's book about camping in the Serengeti will undoubtedly have you excited to camp at Makoma Hill:

"After a long day out in the sun amongst the game, we would return to camp...then, stretching our feet towards the campfire with drinks in hand, we enjoyed seeing the sun sink slowly towards the horizon and the stars appear in the thousands, until it seemed there was no space in the sky for more. The sky at night felt close on those treeless plains, and it glowed with a soft and enveloping radiance that inspired a feeling of harmony with the universe. We were alone in that immense open country, and it seemed the stars displayed their brilliance solely for us. After an early supper, we would be lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sound of the wildebeest bleating, interspersed by the off-key moan of a hyena or the plaintive cry of a stone curlew."


Location

Makoma Hill Private Campsite (elevation of 5,142 feet) forms the western edge of the action packed Seronera River Valley. The campsite is located just 4.5 miles southwest of the Seronera Airstrip. The Seronera Airstrip is roughly located at the center of the Seronera River Valley. The Makoma Hill Campsite is well positioned to easily access the Seronera River Valley game loops. With an early 6.00am departure, it is possible to immediately be game driving the Seronera River in hopes of seeing the famous Seronera lions in action or at least the remnants of a kill made during the night. The campsite resides just inside the plains/woodland border at the beginning of the western woodlands. To the north and west of Makoma are the acacia woodlands of the Serengeti. To the southeast of Makoma are the famous Serengeti Plains.

Longer game drives are also possible from the centrally located Makoma Hill Campsite to more remote areas of the park including the famous Serengeti eastern plains and the GOL Kopjes. The GOL Kopjes are approximately a 2-hour drive away. This drive is only recommended during the green season when the GOL kopjes are green and packed with game.


Private Luxury Camp Summary

Do you crave seclusion, adventure, and the unspoiled beauty of nature? Do you appreciate comfort, exceptional food and first rate service? Do you want to have the ultimate "once in a lifetime" safari experience? If you said YES to any of these questions - PRIVATE LUXURY CAMPING IS FOR YOU!   Private Luxury Camping is the most unique and rewarding way to experience that intangible "something" that makes the Serengeti so special. Imagine total privacy in the middle of the remote African savanna, where you can embrace the peace of this pristine wilderness completely uninterrupted by other tourists or the lights and sounds of a commercial lodge.

Think you'll miss the service or comforts of a commercial lodge? Think again! The beautiful irony of the experience is that you sacrifice little comfort by choosing to camp in this way - let's just say you won't be "roughing it!"   In fact, at the Private Luxury Camp, you'll have a dedicated staff of courteous attendants catering to YOU and YOU ALONE with the same level of service you would expect at a high-class luxury resort! Immediately upon your arrival, you'll be graciously welcomed by the staff with warm Swahili greetings, a hot towel and a chilled beverage. From that moment on, the only distance between any wish and reality is simply a request to make it so. Even laundry service is included - one of the many little perks you'll find integrated into your stay.

And did we mention the front row seats to spectacular wildlife viewing? You are, after all, spending the best parts of the day in the middle of the remote wilderness! Look for elephants and giraffe drifting among the Acacia trees, or if the migration is thundering through be prepared for an even more dramatic show! Okay, so you've got the spell-binding ambience of the Serengeti savanna, you've got the personalized service of a 5-star luxury resort, NOW throw in all those familiar creature comforts (only better!) like hot showers (by starlight!), un-limited beer or wine (by a bonfire!) and gourmet meals served on fine china (cooked to order- just for you !) The result of this combination is an overall experience that's almost too good to be true!

Let's face it, no commercial lodge can compete with the raw, authentic ambience that accompanies camping underneath the exposed African sky. In complete solitude you will be able to just soak in the peace and beauty of your surroundings, unrushed by the schedules of others. Watch an ocean of sun-drenched grasses ripple in the breeze as far as the eye can see (with no walls to block the view!) and piles of shifting clouds roll through brilliant blue skies (in lieu of hotel ceilings!)   Smooth islands of granite kopjes rise from this vast sea of grass just as they have for millions of years, adorned by ornate candelabra trees that stretch their lofty arms to the heavens. Primitive, wild and beautiful, THIS is where you will really GET the Serengeti. The buildings, traffic and crowds of civilization are but distant memories of the past.

Don't feel like leaving yet? Good! You don't have to! As evening descends over the camp, sit outside your tent and watch the dying light of sunset shimmer through the long, frayed grasses of golden savanna. Indulge in a traditional bush dinner by candlelight or campfire, featuring 4 course gourmet meals that are cooked to order (just for you) and graciously served by the dedicated staff (just to you.)   Don't be surprised if the cooks and waiters burst into a spontaneous performance of traditional song and dance as they serve dessert! Choose your favorite beverage from the fully stocked bar (soda, beer, wine and spirits are all included with your stay!) and huddle by the dancing lights of the roaring bonfire as night cloaks the rest of the camp. Gaze at the sparkling blanket of stars that beam overhead, larger and lower and more brilliant than you've ever remembered seeing them before - there are no commercial lights around for miles to dilute this magical view!  

When you are ready for a good night's sleep, retreat to your private tent and stretch out in a real, comfortable bed draped in a cozy duvet and fine linens. A hot water bottle, already placed snugly under the covers by one of the staff, nips any rogue chill that tries to sneak in. Since you are miles from civilization, expect the night to be full of life and nocturnal voices. Warm, comfortable and safe under your canvas shelter, you are coaxed to dreams by the symphony of the Serengeti - the soft throbbing of crickets, the distant whoops of hyenas and maybe even the roar of a lion!

Awake before sunrise to prepare for your early morning game drive and drench your body with steaming hot water from the open-air shower - you look up to the sky and all you see are stars! Toast the Serengeti with a delicious champagne breakfast by bonfire as you watch the sun rise and cast its ethereal glow over the surrounding land and cloudscapes. Inhale the smell of earth and dew and grass. Embrace the raw power of a wilderness still completely untouched by man. Each glorious moment is a celebration of the senses, and an incredible way to start the next day's adventure! <

So if you really want the opportunity to connect with the nature of the Serengeti in a very intimate way, without sacrificing comfort, this is your chance to do it. Private Luxury Camping allows you to invest quality time in the Serengeti, especially during those magical hours like sunrise and sunset where the sights and sounds of your surroundings naturally intensify. Bask in the golden light of the setting sun, gaze up at a brilliant canopy of stars, listen for lions roaring in the night and then roll out of bed to a champagne toast at sunrise without ever climbing into the land rover. You are continually immersed in the magic of nature without interruption.

As mentioned above, the gracious staff at your Private Luxury Camp are there to serve YOU and YOU ONLY! So expect to be pampered like royalty. Expect gourmet meals and fine linens. Expect to be inspired. But don't just let us just talk about it - come experience it for yourself!  


Testimonials

'The Private Luxury Camp in the Serengeti was the showstopper! A private Tent (as big as our Family Room) so clean you could eat off the floor. A separate Dining Tent. Superb food (including the popcorn at the Fire Pit and Trout for lunch). A staff of five, to take care of the two of us, headed by Anthony. Anthony could make anyone feel welcome, he is a sophisticated, caring professional who sees to the smallest detail. It was hard to believe we were in the "Bush".'

- Bill & Maryann K.


'The whole experience at the private luxury camp was great. The service was akin to a 5-star hotel, the bed was very comfortable.'

- Paula and Ray M.


'Next we were off to the Central Serengeti region where we stayed at a 'mobile' Private Luxury Camp site, right out on the open plains among the animals, an absolutely incredible experience. Here you really get the feeling you are on an African Safari versus staying just at hotel like lodges.'

- Tom and Peg W.


'You don't offer the same canned tours as everyone else. We saw Tanzania the way we wanted to. We opted to camp almost every night. It was so exciting. The private camping was exhilarating.'

- Barry T. Family


'The lions roaring all night and the African dinner the last night at the Private Luxury Camp were particularly memorable.'

- Carl S.


'You may recall that we were somewhat reluctant, to say the least, about the private luxury camp. You will probably not be surprised to hear that it stands out as one of our most memorable safari experiences. The thrill of camping at the very site of the migration, the magnificent starry African night sky, being awakened by the sounds of roaring lions and hysterical zebras, and the extraordinary, warm personal care we received from the staff made our time spent there sensational. We thank you for insisting on it.'

- Martha and Monty D.


'We actually heard a pride of lions right outside our campsite in the middle of the night!! That was why we did it and it was worth it! Plus, it put us right in the thick of the animals. The food at the camp was great and the cake and song at the end was the perfect end to our camping experience.'

- Susie and Phillip C.


Accomodations

The Private Luxury Camp is a completely mobile camp and will be set up at the campsite of your choice (subject to availability) for the dates of your choice. The completely private camp is set up exclusively for just your group and can accommodate from 1 to 16 people. The camp consists of one dining tent and one or more sleeping tents depending upon the number of people in your group. Each sleeping tent is spacious and comfortable, and can be arranged as a single, double, twin or triple. The single will sleep one person in a queen size bed. Similarly, the double can be set up to accommodate a couple or two people with one queen size bed. Twin tents have two smaller beds and can accommodate two people in separate beds. A triple can also be arranged for a family with a small child. In the triple tents there is a queen size bed and a single bed suitable for two adults and 1 child.

A blend of comfort and practicality, each canvas sleeping tent is spacious, secure and well appointed with the fundamental necessities. In each roomy tent, there is a comfortable hardwood bed with a cozy duvet, comfy pillows, smooth sheets and plenty of blankets. Hot water bottles are thoughtfully embedded in your sheets each night although this is usually completely unnecessary. Next to each bed is a handy nightstand with bottled water, solar powered lamp and flashlight for your convenience. Towards the back of each tent is a table with a hand basin with soap and water to wash your hands.

Each sleeping tent is conveniently equipped with an en-suite toilet and bladder shower in two separate compartments. These compartments are accessed from inside you own tent and are separated with a zipper from the main tent (you do not need to walk outside your tent to use the facilities). The toilet is a simple and clean chemical, manual flush toilet. The toilet is cleaned and sterilized every day while you are out on game drives. The bladder shower is quite charming, with a ceiling open to the sky, and is filled with plenty of hot water upon demand. At the front of each tent are traditional safari chairs to relax in while enjoying the setting and additional wash basins and towels so you may freshen up for those early morning game drives.

Although electricity is not supplied to each separate sleeping tent (the space is lit by solar powered lanterns as required), there is a generator at each camp used to run the refrigerator and can be used to charge any camera or camcorder batteries. If you need any batteries charged, just leave them with the staff during the day and they will charge them by the time you get back from your game drive. Please do make sure you have the proper 3-pin UK plug adapter - see our useful information section for the specifics.


Food and Drink

Overall, the food and beverages offered at the Private Luxury Camp are among the finest in all of Tanzania. Dinners are especially delicious and the roaring campfires, full bar and attentive service makes for especially memorable bush evenings. A stay at the Private Luxury Camp is inclusive of 3 mouth-watering meals a day and all drinks (soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits, champagne, etc.)   You won't have to compete with other tourists for attention because the dedicated staff caters to YOU, and you alone! 

Wake up call times are taken the night before and then steaming hot coffee or tea is delivered to your tent at a predetermined time. A full breakfast can be enjoyed in the main dining tent at the time of your choosing, or you may have the cooks prepare a delightful breakfast box (to go) if you wish to have an early morning game drive. Just let your guide know the night before of your choice but we h3ly advise to try the early morning game drive with breakfast box at least once during your stay. If you choose to dine in for breakfast, a large spread will be prepared in the dining tent including cereal, fruit, breads and juices. Orders are taken for eggs, omelets, pancakes, bacon, sausage, hot potatoes, etc. On the last morning of your stay, you may choose to sit outside by the warmth of a bonfire and watch the sun rise over the golden plains with a delicious champagne breakfast served al fresco.

Similarly to breakfast, you have the choice of either having a scrumptious lunch at camp in the main dining tent or rather a box lunch, packed with care, so you may enjoy a bush picnic. As with breakfast, we recommend a lunch box in the bush at least once during your stay.

The evenings at the Private Luxury Camp are simply heaven! Upon arrival from your afternoon game drive you are greeted with warm towels and escorted back to your tent for a hot shower to prepare for the evening's festivities. You will then be escorted back to the main dining area where a roaring campfire awaits with a full bar of soda, beer, wine, champagne and spirits (all included in your stay.) Popcorn, roasted cashews and drinks are served by a blazing campfire under a mesmerizing blanket of stars. At your convenience, dinner is served in the main dining tent by the light of flickering candles. Dinner is quite a serious production and consists of 4 amazing courses including tasty appetizers, hearty soup, flavorful salad, delectable entrees of beef or chicken, potatoes, rice, several selections of freshly prepared vegetables and luscious dessert (vegetarian meals are available on request). On your last night at the Private Luxury Camp, a traditional African dinner is served under the stars with a bottle of sparkling champagne. The thrill of the Serengeti night and all its wild wonder surrounds you. There is no lodge with an atmosphere to compete with this!


Activities and Highlights

  • Private game drives
  • Walk next to the hippos at Retina Hippo Pool
  • Balloon safaris
  • Picnic breakfasts and lunches if desired
  • Bush dinners and evening campfires
  • Early morning (before sunrise) game drives to witness the predators in action
  • Full day game drives to the GOL Kopjes
  • Sundowners
  • Private safari bush camp set up special for just you and your group accommodating from 1 to 16 guests
  • Location selected for seclusion and prime game viewing in the Seronera River Valley, Turner's Springs, Makoma Hill, Moru Kopjes or Naabi Hill depending upon the season
  • Camp consists of guest sleeping tent(s) and dining tent
  • Spacious sleeping tent(s) furnished with a comfortable hardwood bed, linens, washbasin, deck chairs, etc.
  • Each tent contains an ensuite chemical toilet and bladder shower filled with hot water on demand - these facilities are in every tent towards the back in separate compartments
  • Portable solar lanterns to carry with you at night and to light the interior of your sleeping tent
  • Separate dining tent with refrigerator and full bar (all drinks are included)
  • Approximately 6 camp staff including cooks, camp crew and waiters accompany each Private Luxury Camp
  • Inclusive of 3 superb meals a day including 4 course dinners with appetizers, soup, salad, beef or chicken, potatoes, rice, several selections of vegetables and dessert (vegetarian meals available on request)
  • Champagne dinner under the stars with traditional African food on your last night
  • All drinks (soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits, champagne, etc.) are included
  • Laundry service is included
  • Roaring campfire, popcorn and drinks under the African sky each evening
  • Breakfast boxes can be prepared for early morning game drives and lunch boxes can be prepared for full day adventure game drives
  • Generator at each camp - you may charge your camera or camcorder batteries during the day
  • Hot towel greetings upon arrival
  • Hot water bottles embedded in your sheets each night
  • Unparalleled Service!!

Some Additional Thoughts on Private Luxury Camping

There are several ingredients that if met always create a truly incredible property and ultimately the most rewarding safari experience. These components include location with regards to wildlife viewing, lodge/camp size, authenticity, closeness with nature, comfort, service and food. We think the Private Luxury Camp meets and exceeds each of these items and will undoubtedly prove to be one of your safari highlights. This is a tall order to fill but it really is this good. There is no where else in Tanzania where one could have complete privacy under traditional canvas with roaring campfires, lively nocturnal sounds, great food, friendly service plus the most intimate bush setting and the all the creature comforts (massive tent with en suite toilet and shower and all proper bedroom furnishings). Of course, there is always a downside and unfortunately the very high price tag for a private and luxurious bush property can be a deal breaker for many. However, for some it may be worth it to pull off a few nights at the Private Luxury Camp by downgrading the rest of your accommodations if what you're looking for is the ultimate bush adventure without compromising any comfort.

The Private Luxury Camp is commonly used in the Seronera River Valley of the Central Serengeti. The Central Serengeti is a must see on every safari (regardless of your month of travel) due its abundance of resident wildlife. The only problem with the Central Serengeti is the lack of small bush lodges and tented lodges that are found throughout the other areas of the park. There are three lodges in the Central Serengeti including the Serengeti Serena Lodge, Serengeti Sopa Lodge and Seronera Wildlife Lodge but all of these are large hotel style lodges with hordes of tourists. The main idea behind the private luxury camp is to provide a superb alternative to these large lodges for those of us looking for something a little more special then a large buffet line.

We highly recommend adding two nights at the Private Luxury Camp to every well-balanced safari itinerary as budget allows. The immediate area around the camp offers superb year round game viewing so this is a good fit regardless of your month of travel. However, the Private Luxury Camp is best combined with traditional lodges and tented lodges throughout the parks and conservation areas of Northern Tanzania. When used in conjunction with other lodges and tented lodges, a diversified and truly rewarding experience is obtained.