Serengeti National Park, at a glance
One of the most famous destinations in Africa, this UNESCO world heritage park is the stage for the dramatic wildebeest migration that takes place each year.
Tanzania’s oldest park, covering a whopping 1.5 million hectares, it is home to an incredible diversity of animals.
The park borders Kenya in the northwest, and is connected to the Ngorongoro Conservation area.
The Serengeti is one of the best places for safari in Africa thanks to the huge numbers of big game that reside here.
The Areas of Serengeti
The word Serengeti is an approximation of a word used by the Maasai which means “endless plains” or “the place that land runs on forever”. It is a vast grassland area in Tanzania, to the west of the Great Rift Valley. In 1951 the Serengeti National Park was created to protect the area’s large numbers of wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle.
There are four main areas in the Serengeti: Central (Seronera), Western Corridor, Northern, and Southern.
There are four main areas in the Serengeti:
Seronera is one of many world famous attractions in the Central Serengeti. Seronera Valley supports a much greater diversity of resident wildlife than anywhere else in the Serengeti including elephant, giraffe, impala, waterbuck, hippo, topi, reedbuck, buffalo and baboon. This resident prey in turn attracts the highest concentrations of large predators in Africa (lion, hyena, leopard and cheetah) and a multitude of smaller predators (mongoose, jackal, serval and bat-eared fox).
Stretching across to Lake Victoria, the Western Corridor (or West Serengeti) is a remote, little-visited area of the national park famed for the thrilling river crossings of the Grumeti River during the Great Migration between May and July.
A huge valley bordered by hills that ends in Lake Victoria, the Western Corridor is made up of open savanna, woodlands, floodplains and riverine forest which are home to a great diversity of year-round wildlife, including elephant, giraffe, hippo, giant Nile crocodiles, rare Colobus monkeys and the localised kongoni antelope.
The Northern Serengeti offers a chance to escape the crowds: this region of the park – wedged between the Central Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve to the north – is remote and relatively inaccessible, which means it sees fewer visitors.
Travellers who make it to this corner of the Serengeti will be rewarded with gorgeous landscapes of green rolling hills, granite outcrops and acacia woodlands dotting open savanna, incredible wildlife, and most importantly, with massive herds of wildebeest and zebra making dangerous crossing of the croc-infested Mara River during the Great Migration in June and July and again in September, October and November.
This sector of the park is also home to the greatest concentration of elephant in the Serengeti, as well as good numbers of lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena and diverse resident animals such as giraffe, topi, eland and hippo.
Grassy plains studded with granite kopjes extend endlessly across the scenically beautiful Southern Serengeti, which stretches from the bottom of the Central Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Maswa Game Reserve.
It’s one of the best areas to see the animals of the Great Migration: visit between December and May to see the huge herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle arriving to calve, and then at the beginning of the dry season making their way northwards again in search of green grass.
February is a particularly good month to visit the Southern Serengeti to see thousands of baby wildebeest taking their first steps on the savanna – and being targeted by hungry lion, cheetah and hyena, which are in abundance in the region.
What can be said about the Serengeti that hasn’t already been said? This is simply Africa as you always imagined it. Endless rolling bleached grasslands with scattered flat-topped acacia trees and animals everywhere. This is the Tanzania’ mirror image of Kenya’s Masai Mara and it’s physically much the same but on a much larger scale.Kenya’s Masai Mara is probably my single favourite park in Africa but the only reason it beats the Serengeti is because I know it better. If I had to choose between the two though, My decision as to which of the two parks would basically come down to where the wildebeest were at the time of my visit.
When is the best time to Serengeti National park
The best time to visit the Serengeti National Park is in the Dry season (from late June to October). This period offers the best wildlife viewing in general – with the wildebeest migration as its absolute highlight.
Wildlife viewing is good throughout the year, but certain areas are better at specific times.
The timing of the migration varies every year (the best chance of seeing it is during June and July) while the wildebeest calving is from late January to February.
January-February for the wildebeest calving; June-September for general wildlife viewing with a chance of seeing the wildebeest crossing of the Grumeti River (June-July) or the Mara River (September)
Wildlife in the Serengeti
The Serengeti is considered Tanzania’s best park. Big herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and many antelope, such as eland, topi, kongoni and impala are resident at any time of the year. The Serengeti offers amazing wildlife viewing throughout the year. June and July are the best months for seeing the migration and a possible crossing of the Grumeti River.
All three big cats are easily seen. Lion are often found on a kill. Cheetah are very common on the southeastern plains, while leopard can typically be found lazing in one of the big trees along the Seronera River.
The Serengeti is famed for its annual wildebeest migration, when some 8 million hooves cross the open plains, as more than 1,500,000 wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the trek for fresh grazing. Predators follow the migration and sightings of big cats hunting is particularly exciting. Spotted hyena, golden and black-backed jackal are never far off either.
How to get to Serengeti Natonal Park
There is an airstrip located in the park itself – the Seronera Airstrip receives flights from Dar es Salaam (with flights times from 2.5-4 hours depending on the size of plane you book), Arusha, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and Ruaha. Most planes flying to the Serengeti are small bush planes, and so we recommend you keep your luggage as light and small as possible.
You can drive from Arusha, which takes 8 hours but is a safari ride in itself; you will pass much wildlife and beautiful scenery, along a rather bumpy road. This trip takes you through the Ngorongoro Conservation area, so you might want to drive through here, stopping overnight and finishing in the Serengeti the next day after a three-hour drive.
Serengeti National Park is home to a myriad of accommodation options in the form of safari camps & lodges. These range from permanent semi-tented bush camps to ultra luxurious design properties to mobile tented camps and anything in between.
The check in time at lodges located in the Serengeti is from 13H00. Check out time is between 10H30 and 11H00 (usually after a morning safari activity and breakfast).
Yes, most foreigners need a Tanzanian visa to visit the country. US, Canadian, British and most European citizens can simply obtain a visa upon arrival at the airport. The cost is $100 for US passport holders and $50 for others. US citizens do get a longer visa, however.
If you’re a citizen of a different country, please check with your embassy if you can obtain a visa upon arrival – of if you even need one. Certain African nationals, for instance, can enter Tanzania without a visa.
Please also note that you need a passport that’s valid for at least six months after your departure date.
There are no specific vaccine requirements for entry into Tanzania. However, be aware that the Government of Tanzania requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival if you are travelling from a country with risk of yellow fever.
While it’s not mandatory by any means, we suggest you talk to your doctor about getting the following vaccinations (which are standard in developed countries): Hepatitis A & B, typhoid, yellow fever, tetanus, polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and meningococcal meningitis (Africa and Asia).
We definitely recommend bringing a pair of binoculars as it adds to the fun! Bringing a pair results in increased visibility when staying in the Serengeti, and brings those faraway creatures a little bit closer (which can make all the difference). At some of the lodges your guide will carry a pair of binoculars in the safari vehicle, but this is never guaranteed.
There are three popular regions for safari in the Serengeti: the southern plains, the central Seronera Valley, and the western corridor.
The southern plains are flat, open areas of short grassland. This is the quintessential Serengeti landscape, and what you probably picture in your head when you think of safari.
The central Seronera Valley is a network of river valleys whose rich grazing grounds attract the largest numbers of wildlife in the region. This is the most popular area to visit.
The annual wildebeest migration takes place from late January through to September each year.
This incredible natural phenomenon sees over two million wildebeest, as well as herds of zebra and gazelle, migrate through the Serengeti, cross the Grumeti and Mara river before arriving at the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
It is at the Grumeti and Mara river that some of the most famous shots of the wildebeest migration have been taken. Here, the animals are not only faced with the possibility of being swept away by the fierce water, but from attacks under the water from crocodiles, and above on the plains as they wait to cross, by lions and leopards.
It is a perilous journey, and one of nature’s most incredible migratory events.