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Serengeti National Park

The focus of most safaris in northern Tanzania, Serengeti National Park is renowned as the arena for the world’s greatest mammal migration. Even away from this iconic wildlife spectacle, the Serengeti’s sheer density of animals makes for incredible wildlife viewing throughout the year. The southern plains near Seronera are the most popular, but it’s also worth exploring the Western Corridor and Mara River regions.

Serengeti National Park offers what many consider the essence of an African safari. Massive animal herds march across the wide-open savannah as far as you can see, while predators never fail to add drama to this idyllic scene. You won’t need to drive far to spot lions. Cheetahs are common too. Imagine seeing the world’s fastest land animal in full sprint. Leopards are secretive, but you might find one 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. More than 1,500,000 wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the trek for fresh grazing grounds. Predators follow the migration and sightings of big cats hunting is particularly exciting. Spotted hyena, golden jackal and black-backed jackal are never far off either.

The Serengeti offers amazing wildlife viewing throughout the year. June and July are great months for seeing the migration and a possible crossing of the Grumeti River. The more famous river crossings of the Mara River can be witnessed around August and September in the north of the park. January to February is the best time for the wildebeest calving.

How to get to Serengeti National Park

Most safaris to Serengeti National Park start from the town of Arusha. The best option to get there is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is situated about 50km/31mi from Arusha. It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and fly on to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).

There are regular flights from Arusha to several airstrips inside the park, but it is also possible to drive. The trip is about 325km/200mi and will take around 8 hours*. It is a bumpy ride, but it’s scenic and you’ll see wildlife along the way.

As the drive takes you through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a popular option is to fly one way, and drive the other way taking in an overnight stop to visit the Ngorongoro Crater. Coming from the crater, the distance to the Seronera area in the Serengeti is about 140km/90mi and the driving time is around 3 hours*.

Reasons to Visit Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, is one of the best wildlife destinations in Tanzania and Africa, a premier conservation area which is why the Serengeti is so important to the world being one of the few places on earth where wild animals and their ecosystem exist in a highly protected environment. 

The park is famous for its exceptional wildlife such as large populations of Lion, Cheetah, Elephant, African Buffalo and Rhino, a few amongst the hundreds of animal and bird species that inhabbit the reserve. 

Serengeti National Park is also where the annual Great Migration happens, an amazing event of Nature, an important reason why Serengeti is recognised as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.

Safari in Serengeti National Park

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 western corridor is an area of land stretching west from Lake Victoria. It follows the path of the Grumeti river, the first of the wildebeest’s perilous crossing.

A particularly interesting area is the Serengeti hippo pool in the east of the park, where giant hippos pile on top of each other in small pools, bathing in the water.

Most safaris leave early in the morning, around 06:30 and return at midday for lunch at the camp. In the afternoon, you’ll head back out and return for sundowners at the end of the day. Night drives are not possible in the Serengeti. 

The Wildbeest Migration

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.

Wildlife at Serengeti

The rich grasslands of the Serengeti allow it to support the millions of wildebeest that live here, before the dry season forces them north towards the Mara in southern Kenya. Woodlands and acacia trees dot the landscape, as do ‘koppies’, large granite outcrops rising up from the plains.

As well as the famous wildebeest migration, the park is home to the Big Five: rhino, lions, leopards buffalo, and elephant. 

The Serengeti is home to some of the world’s fiercest predators: cheetah, spotted hyena (usually in the morning), jackal, bat-eared-fox, and wild dog. The park has the highest concentration of predators in Africa.

Alongside these you’ll find giraffes, mongoose, baboons, aardvarks, colobus monkeys, monitor lizards, and giant Nile crocodiles.

The park also has the highest ostrich population in Africa, and more than 350 species of birds. There are at least four endangered animal species; the black rhino, elephant, wild dog, and cheetah. 

During the dry season, when the short grasses and reduced watering holes make wildlife sightings much easier, it’s not uncommon to return from a safari in a state of silent disbelief. The abundance of wildlife, the beauty of the park, the sheer scale of it all. 

Searching for Migration: The migration occurs out of necessity. The animals must make this long, treacherous and circuitous route in search of food. In the short rain season (October to December), the animals can graze in the southern Serengeti, but as the water levels run low by April, they are forced to find more pastureland, or risk starvation.

For two million animals, this becomes a race against hunger and thirst. Herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle cover the plains and stretch out across the horizon, moving towards the Grumeti River in the west, and then to the Mara River in the north via the Seronera bypass.

They then stay in the Masai Mara National Reserve for three to four months, until the rains resume in October, and they can return to the Eastern Lobo Serengeti.

Safari in the Serengeti

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 western corridor is an area of land stretching west from Lake Victoria. It follows the path of the Grumeti river, the first of the wildebeest’s perilous crossing.

A particularly interesting area is the Serengeti hippo pool in the east of the park, where giant hippos pile on top of each other in small pools, bathing in the water.

Most safaris leave early in the morning, around 06:30 and return at midday for lunch at the camp. In the afternoon, you’ll head back out and return for sundowners at the end of the day. Night drives are not possible in the Serengeti. 

Tanzania

When is the best time to visit the park?

The best time to see the migration is from July to October. This is the dry season, and in June and July the herds will be facing their biggest challenge: the Mara river crossing. 

If you are keen on seeing the predators in action, go in January or February, when there is a hiatus in the annual rains and the wildebeest calve.The average temperature in the park during the year is 25-28 degrees Celsius.

Note that travelling in the peak seasons naturally comes with higher costs, and there’s a certain beauty about the country during or just after the rains. 

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