Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s most famous park, the park is known for having the largest concentration of migratory game animals in the world, a huge lion population, and is one of the best places on the continent to see them. Serengeti National Park derives its name from the local Maasai word meaning ‘land of endless plains. For centuries, the Maasai people have shared this dramatic landscape with its wildlife and earned a fearsome reputation as warriors and skilled cattle herders. Serengeti national Park? Like much of the wildlife, these semi-nomadic Maasai followed the rains.
The Serengeti ecosystem also includes Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, bordering on the north; the Loliondo Controlled Area, bordering on the northeast; the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, bordering on the southeast; the Maswa Game Reserve, bordering on the southwest; and the Grumeti Reserves and the Ikorongo Controlled Areas, bordering on the northwest. The “western corridor” of the park comes within 5 miles (8 km) of Lake Victoria.
Nearly 500 species of birds and 35 species of large plains animals can be found in Serengeti National Park. The park may contain as many as 1.5 million wildebeest, 500,000 zebra, 300,000 Grant’s gazelle, 250,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 120,000 impala, 70,000 topi, 20,000 buffalo, 9,000 eland, 8,000 giraffe, 1,000 lion and 800 elephant. Most of the Serengeti is a vast, open plain broken by rocky outcrops (kopjes). There is also acacia savannah, savannah woodland, riverine forests, some swamps and small lakes. The north is hillier, with thick scrub and forests lining the Mara River, where leopards are sometimes spotted sleeping in the trees. Acacia savannah dominates the central region, with short-and long-grass open plains in the southeast and woodland plains and hills in the western corridor.
Serengeti National Park Trips
Why visit Serengeti National Park?
The main activity in Serengeti National park is finding animals, our game drives take you bouncing across the wilderness of The Serengeti looking for the major highlight which is the migrating herds. Aside from the migrating herds, Serengeti National park sustains stable populations of many other wildlife species, and you will certainly encounter giraffe, warthog, olive baboon, vervet monkey, and buffalo, as well as elephant (though the latter are not as commonly encountered as at Tarangire or Lake Manyara). More important, for most, at least, is the large population of predators.
An estimated 2,000 lions alone prowl within the park, many of them territorial and well habituated to human presence; aside from encountering them during the day on your Serengeti safari tour, it is very common to hear them roar at night, a powerful and thrilling sound that can reverberate across the plains 5km (3 miles) or more. Hyenas and jackals are also plentiful. Cheetahs, mostly encountered on the plains, are more elusive; leopard, while more plentiful in number, are even more so. Moru Kopjes is where you should look out for sightings. Mostly rewarding during the morning and evenings, our game drives can also be full-day wildlife drives accompanied with a picnic lunch that you get to enjoy in a bush setting within the wilderness of the Park.
Explore The Serengeti
A unique way to experience the Serengeti is by hot air balloon. Your pilot may fly you, at times, over 1,000 feet off the ground for panoramic views, and at other times at very low altitudes (a few yards/meters off the ground) for great game viewing and photographic opportunities. The flight lasts about an hour, depending on wind conditions. After landing, guests enjoy a champagne breakfast. There are balloon launch sites in the central Serengeti and in the western corridor, and a seasonal one in the South eastern Serengeti. There are no launch sites in northern Serengeti. Balloon safaris are not accessible from all camps and lodges.
The Great Migration in Serengeti National Park
It is impossible to predict the exact time of the famous Serengeti migration of approximately 1.3 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 250,000 Thomson’s gazelle, which covers a circuit of about 500 miles (800 km). The key element in understanding “The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth” is that it follows the general “rainfall gradient” across the ecosystem, with lower rainfall in the southeast (short-grass plains) and higher rainfall in the northwest. The migration moves from Kenya back to the short-grass plains of Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area once the short rains have begun (usually in late October into November), and after the short-grass plains have dried out (usually in April or May), the migration moves northwest to higher rainfall areas and areas of permanent water and fresh grass.
From December to April wildebeest, zebra, eland, and Thomson’s gazelle usually concentrate on the treeless short-grass plains in the extreme southeastern Serengeti and western Ngorongoro Conservation Area near Lake Ndutu in search of short grass, which they prefer over the longer dry-stemmed variety. In April and May, the height of the rainy season, a 4wd vehicle is highly recommended. Leopard frequently seen on the Serengeti plains
Other species common to the area during this period are Grant’s gazelle, eland, hartebeest, topi and a host of predators including lion, cheetah, spotted hyena, honey badger, and black-backed jackal. Kori bustard, secretarybird, yellow-throated sandgrouse and rufous-naped lark are resident birds of the open plains, which attract large numbers of migratory Montagu’s and pallid harriers (from Europe) between September and March. During the long rainy season (April and May) nomadic lions and hyena move to the eastern part of Serengeti National Park. The migration, mainly of wildebeest and zebra, begins in May or June.
Once the dry season begins, wildebeest and zebra must migrate from the area. There is no permanent water, and both of these species must drink on a regular basis. The rut for wildebeest is concentrated over a three-week period and generally occurs at the end of April, May or early June. After a gestation period of eight and one-half months, approximately 90% of the pregnant herd wildlife will give birth on the short-grass plains within a six-week period between the mid/end of January and February. Zebra calving season is spread out over most of the year, with a slightly higher birth rate December through March.
The best time to see wildebeest and zebra crossing the Grumeti River is in June/early July and November, and the best time to see them crossing the Mara River is from July to November. Wildebeest move about 6 to 10 abreast in columns several miles long toward the western corridor. Zebra do not move in columns but in family units. As a general rule, by June the migration has progressed west of Seronera. The migration then splits into three separate migrations: one west through the corridor toward permanent water and Lake Victoria and then northeast; the second due north, reaching the Maasai Mara of Kenya around mid-July; and the third northward between the other two to a region west of Lobo Lodge, where the group disperses. During July through October, the highest concentration of the migration in the Serengeti National Park is in the extreme north. The first and second groups meet and usually begin returning to the Serengeti National Park in late October; the migration then reaches the central or southern Serengeti by December.
How to get to Serengeti National Park?
Serengeti National Park can be accessed both by road and by air depending on your preference, budget, and itinerary.
Most visitors traveling by road enter the Serengeti through Naabi Hill Gate, which lies in the southeastern part of the park. Were you to drive straight through from Arusha (not recommended), the 325km (202-mile) drive would take 7 to 8 hours; the flight takes just more than an hour. Naabi Gate is about 2 hours from Ngorongoro, 4 hours from Lake Manyara, and 61⁄2 hours from Tarangire.
There are airstrips throughout the park, allowing visitors to fly within easy reach of whichever camp or lodge they have booked. Kusini and Ndutu airstrips are located in the south; Seronera airstrip is in the center; Lobo, Kleins, and Kogatende serve the north; and Grumeti and Sasakwa airstrips serve the Western Corridor. You can fly in from Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, or Ngorongoro, or fly within the park for relatively little money. Regional Air Services () has the biggest fleet of twin-engine, turboprop aircraft servicing all the Serengeti airstrips.
You can book charter flights or check out (and book online) the daily scheduled flights between Serengeti and Manyara, Zanzibar, and Dar es Salaam. Northern Air is another very professional charter company based in Arusha, operating three Grand Caravans (13 seats) and one Cessna 206 (five seats), all in mint condition. Precision Air, Tanzania’s fastest-growing airline, operates scheduled flights to Grumeti and Seronera (from Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Lake Manyara).
Getting Around the Park
If you are on a game package, your price will include a transfer from the closest airstrip, as well as scheduled game activities (either a full-day game drive or morning and late-afternoon drives), so you need not concern yourself with the practicalities of how to get around but it’s worth knowing that you may not drive around after 7 pm or before 6 am. If you are being transferred by a ground operator, you can choose to travel by road between camps or fly while your driver catches up via road. And once you’ve negotiated the Ngorongoro-Naabi gate road, the Serengeti roads, though not perfect, are relatively smooth. If you are debating about spending time on road transfer or to fly. Visitors traveling by vehicle usually enter the Serengeti through the Naabi Hill Gate, the gateway to the undeveloped southern plains