Serengeti National Park

World-Famous for the Annual Migration of Wildebeest and Zebras

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is world-famous. It is home to the Big Five, but also known for the annual migration of millions of blue wildebeest, zebras and Thomson's gazelles. As far as the eye can see, there are savannahs, large grassy plains, with every now and then an acacia tree. A landscape that gives you the best chance of getting a cheetah on your jeep. Below you will find all you need to know for your visit to the Serengeti. Including information on tours and excursions.

The Serengeti plain is one of the oldest safari territories in Africa. It’s all in the name: Serengeti is derived from the Maasai language and means endless plains. It is somewhat confusing, though. The Tanzanian part is called Serengeti, but in Kenya it is called the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

There also are several other territories that are part of the Serengeti plan. Approximately two-thirds of the Serengeti plain lies in Tanzania, one-third in Kenya.

There is notably little water, except in the wet season. The region also has many forests, rivers and rocky hills. However, the Serengeti plain is the key attraction.

For travellers this is a much sought after destination. Particularly the part in Tanzania that is larger and provides ample opportunities to meet extraordinary animals, without a human being in sight.

The Great Migration in the Serengeti

The Serengeti is mainly because of the annual Great Migration of millions of blue wildebeest, plains zebras and Thomson's gazelles. The footage of hungry Nile crocodiles grabbing the animals as they crossed a river is known worldwide. 

Due to the drought, around October, about one and a half million herbivores migrate from the north via the eastern part to the south of Tanzania. After the rainy season (around April) they return to Kenya via the west.

Their route resembles a kind of clock. During their migration, they make optimal use of the weather conditions that ensure the growth of the grass. Scientists have found out that the animals cover about 800 kilometres per year. Many predators, such as lions, follow in their wake.

Some scientists find the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the surrounding area part of the Serengeti Plain. The reason is that the migration also passes through this part of Tanzania. Making the area more than 30,000 km2. While even without the crater, the area is already so large that it is difficult to comprehend.

If you want to witness the Great Migration, you should visit between February and June.

A giraffe in Serengeti National Park. ©Corno van den Berg

Drive a 4x4

You can rent a car and drive around the national park by yourself. You will probably see less wildlife (a guide has hawk eyes), but the experience is entirely different. Remember that you must be well prepared to go out by yourself. If you get lost you might have a big problem. You can also hire a local guide who knows the way. And possibly help with spotting animals.

Walking Safari in the Serengeti

It sounds dangerous, but walking safaris don’t result in very many casualties. Guides and park rangers know the animals well and will fire warning shots if they come too close. Worst case scenario, they will shoot the animal, but it hardly ever comes to that. Most of the animals are afraid of people on foot.

Despite seeing less than when you’re in a jeep, there is no way of getting closer to the African nature than by walking safari. You can hike for several hours, but also go from one camp to another, for instance.

Morning Safari

Two cheetah cubs in the Serengeti.

In the early hours of day the nocturnal animals will turn in and the day animals will wake up. This process has been going on for centuries and can still be experienced in the Serengeti. If you set out early enough, you may see hyenas and jackals on their final quest for food for the night.

Meanwhile, the gazelles are getting up and starting to graze and the sun gradually rises over the horizon. Other advantages are that you will be ahead of most tourists and that the soft light will add an extra dimension to your photos.

A spotted hyena. ©Corno van den Berg

Meet the Maasai

The Maasai are well-known cattle farmers in Eastern Africa. Meeting them is very special and you will see them in the area around the Serengeti. They’ve kept most of their traditions during the last decades. They still use the meat of the goats, the blood and the milk, and also the skin and bones for accessories. Take your time when you meet them, they’re very friendly.

Camping in Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti has several campsites. Reserve your spot in advance and enjoy the African bush sounds. Those who go camping in the Serengeti will not only be impressed by the sounds but also by the night sky. On a cloudless day, of which there are many, there will be no light pollution and you will be able to see the stars, the Milky Way and planets extremely well.

You may also see the Southern Cross, which is only visible in the southern hemisphere. Many lodges and hotels have telescopes you can use to gaze at the sky. Half an hour of staring will enhance the feeling that you are far away from civilisation.

A young lion in Serengeti National Park. ©Corno van den Berg

Sleep in a Tented Camp

The luxury lodges are very appealing, but also expensive. If you wish to stay here at a cheaper rate, you may want to go camping. But there also is a combination of the two. The tented camps are luxury safari tents with a real bed, often include a shower and many other amenities. Ideal for someone who wants to spend the night close to nature and still be comfortable.

In the Serengeti there also are several ‘mobile tented camps’ that are set up in the wilderness for the season. The choice is up to you. When preparing for your journey, ask about the possibilities to include these types of tented camps as accommodation.

Best Time to Visit

The Great Migration can be seen from February til June in the Serengeti.Other then that, the nature reserve can be visited throughout the year, except for March until May when it’s the wet season. The roads will be almost or completely inaccessible.

Visit Serengeti National Park

From all over the world you can book a flight to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The Serengeti lies at about 900 kilometers from the capital. On the way, right before you get to your destination, you will reach the Ngorongoro Crater. There are domestic flights that go to the Serengeti as well.

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