Best time to Visit Serengeti
Serengeti National Park is one of the most iconic safari destinations in Africa, famous for its vast plains, diverse wildlife, and the spectacular phenomenon of the Great Migration. But when is the best time to visit the Serengeti and witness its natural wonders? The answer depends on what you are looking for, as each season offers something different. Here are some factors to consider when planning your trip to Serengeti National Park.
Climate and Seasons
The climate in the Serengeti is generally warm and dry, with average temperatures ranging from 15°C (59°F) to 25°C (77°F) throughout the year. However, there are two distinct seasons that affect the weather and wildlife patterns: the Dry season and the Wet season.
The Dry season lasts from June to October and is characterized by clear skies, sunny days, and cool nights. This is the best time to visit the Serengeti for general wildlife viewing, as animals tend to congregate around water sources and vegetation is sparse. The downside is that this is also the peak tourism season, so expect higher prices and more crowds.
The Wet season lasts from November to May and is divided into two periods: the short rains (November to December) and the long rains (March to May). This is when the park receives most of its rainfall, which varies from region to region. The Wet season brings lush green landscapes, blooming flowers, and calving season for many animals. The upside is that this is also the low tourism season, so expect lower prices and fewer crowds.
The Great Migration is one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles on Earth. It is a year-round event that follows a circular route around the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. The main drivers of this movement are rainfall and grass quality, which determine where the animals find food and water.
The best time to visit Serengeti National Park to see the Great Migration depends on where you are in the park and what you want to see. Here are some highlights of each month:
- January-February: This is when most of the wildebeest calves are born in the southern Serengeti (Ndutu area). This attracts many predators who prey on the vulnerable newborns. This is also a good time to see cheetahs hunting in the open plains.
- March-April: This is when the herds start moving northwards towards the central Serengeti (Seronera area). This is also when the long rains start falling, making some roads muddy and inaccessible.
- May-June: This is when the herds reach the western Serengeti (Grumeti area), where they face one of their biggest challenges: crossing the crocodile-infested Grumeti River. This is a thrilling sight for safari-goers who can witness dramatic scenes of life and death.
- July-August: This is when the herds cross into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve through Northern Serengeti, where they face another river crossing: the Mara River. This is another exciting time to see dramatic action as thousands of animals plunge into the water while avoiding crocodiles and hippos.
- September-October: This is when the herds start moving southwards again towards Tanzania’s northern Serengeti (Kogatende area). This is also a good time to see other wildlife, such as elephants, giraffes, and antelopes, in the northern part of the park.
- November-December: This is when the herds return to the southern Serengeti (Ndutu area), where they prepare for another calving season. This is also when the short rains start falling, bringing fresh grass and water to the parched land.
The Serengeti is one of the best places in the world to see wildlife. It boasts a high density and diversity of animals, including the Big Five (lions, elephants, leopards, buffalos, and rhinos), as well as other species like giraffes, zebras, and various antelope species. The park also has a large population of predators, such as cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, and wild dogs.
Wildlife viewing is good throughout the year in the Serengeti, but some areas are better than others depending on the season and the movement of the Great Migration. Generally speaking, the central Serengeti (Seronera area) is a good place to see wildlife all year round, as it has permanent water sources and a high concentration of resident animals. The southern Serengeti (Ndutu area) is a good place to see wildlife from December to March, when the Great Migration is in the area and calving season takes place. The western Serengeti (Grumeti area) is a good place to see wildlife from May to July, when the Great Migration crosses the Grumeti River. The northern Serengeti (Kogatende area) is a good place to see wildlife from July to October, when the Great Migration crosses the Mara River.
The best time for game drives and animal sightings in the Serengeti is usually early morning and late afternoon, when the animals are most active and the light is softer. However, some lodges and camps offer full-day game drives or night drives for those who want to maximize their safari experience.
Weather and Crowds
The weather and crowds are two important factors that can affect your safari experience in the Serengeti. Here are some pros and cons of visiting during different seasons:
- The Dry season (from June to October) has mostly sunny and dry weather, with little to no rainfall. The temperatures are pleasant during the day, but can get cold at night. This is the peak tourism season in the Serengeti, so you can expect more crowds and higher prices. However, this also means more safari vehicles and guides available, and better road conditions.
- The Wet season (from November to May) has more rainfall, which can vary from short showers to heavy downpours. The temperatures are warmer during the day, but can drop at night. This is the low tourism season in the Serengeti, so you can enjoy more solitude and lower prices. However, this also means fewer safari vehicles and guides available, and worse road conditions.
The Serengeti offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury lodges to budget campsites. However, due to its popularity and limited capacity, it is important to book your accommodation in advance, especially during the peak months of June to September and December to February. You can choose from different types of lodging options available within and around the park, such as:
- Permanent lodges & Camps: These are large and comfortable structures that offer all the amenities you need, such as electricity, hot water, Wi-Fi, swimming pools, etc. They are usually located in scenic spots with great views of the park. They are open all year round, but tend to be more expensive than other options.
- Semi-permanent camps: These are smaller and more intimate structures that offer a more authentic safari experience. They are usually tented camps that have beds, bathrooms, solar power, etc. They are located in strategic areas that follow the movement of the wildlife(migration). They are open for most of the year, but close during some months depending on their location.
- Mobile camps: These are the most adventurous and flexible option, as they move with the wildlife (migration) and the seasons. They are usually basic tents that have mattresses, sleeping bags, bucket showers, etc. They are located in remote and wild areas that offer close encounters with nature. They are open for most of the year, but close during some months depending on their location.
The Serengeti is also a paradise for bird lovers. It hosts more than 500 species of birds, including resident and migratory ones. Some of the most common and colorful birds include ostriches, secretary birds, kori bustards, crowned cranes, lilac-breasted rollers, superb starlings, and many more.
The best time for a Serengeti safari focused on bird watching is from November to April, when the Wet season attracts many migratory birds from Europe and Asia. This is also when many resident birds are breeding and displaying their plumage and behavior. Some of the best areas for birding in the park include Lake Ndutu, Lake Magadi, Seronera River Valley, Moru Kopjes, Lobo Valley, and Bologonja Springs.
The Serengeti is a photographer’s dream, offering stunning scenery, dramatic light, and incredible wildlife interactions. The best time for photography depends on your personal preference, but some general guidelines are:
- The Dry season (from June to October) offers sparse vegetation and concentrated wildlife, making it easier to spot and photograph animals. The light is also clearer and less hazy, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. This is also the best time to see the wildebeest crossing the Grumeti River (June-July) or the Mara River (September), which are spectacular events to capture on camera.
- The Wet season (from November to May) offers greener landscapes and more vibrant colors, especially after the rains. The clouds can create dramatic contrasts and reflections, and the sunsets are more vivid. This is also the best time to see the wildebeest calving (late January to February), which is an amazing sight to witness and photograph.
Some tips and recommendations for capturing the best shots in the Serengeti are:
- Use a telephoto lens to zoom in on distant or shy animals, and a wide-angle lens to capture landscapes and large herds.
- Use a bean bag or a tripod to stabilize your camera and avoid blurry shots.
- Respect the wildlife and keep a safe distance. Do not disturb or provoke them, and follow your guide’s instructions.
- Be patient and observant. Sometimes you have to wait for the right moment or angle to get that perfect shot.
- Be creative and experiment with different perspectives, compositions, and settings. Try to capture the mood, behavior, and personality of your subjects.
All in all, there is no definitive answer to when is the best time to visit Serengeti National Park, as each season has its own advantages and disadvantages. The best time for you depends on your personal preferences, interests, and budget.