Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti National Park is one of the most famous safari destinations in the world. Its vast open savanna plains of roughly 25,000 km2 allow the wildlife to move according to the commands of the seasonal rains, untroubled by park boundaries.
The Serengeti Eco-System
With the Serengeti National Park at its heart, the Serengeti eco-system comprises much of northern Tanzania including the adjacent wildlife management areas, the Ngorongoro Crater area, and a good chunk of Kenya in the form of the Masai Mara National Reserve and its associated game conservancies.
More than other safari destinations, the best place to stay in the Serengeti depends on when you are travelling and also your tolerance towards seeing other safari vehicles, as the Serengeti becomes very busy as the wildebeest migration begins.
The Wildebeest Migration
Up to two million wildebeest and half a million zebra live in the Serengeti National Park as well as thousands of impala and other antelope, the largest concentration of wildlife in the world. This in turn attracts predators which has led to the popular nickname of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.
Life on the Serengeti is a complex cycle defined by the rains. The Wildebeest migration is the continual movement of animals as they trek up to 800 km through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and into the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya in search of new grazing lands, and then back down again. The wildlife migration spills out into buffer zones on the edge of the park where wild animals co-exist alongside the local Masai and their livestock.
When to visit the Serengeti
- The beginning of the year sees the animals enjoying the sweet grass plains in the southern part of the Serengeti. From mid December to March, the short grass plains of the south around Ndutu are alive with migrant herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles and the animals give birth. However for the rest of the year the southern part can be a little empty in terms of game as the wildebeest migration heads north.
- When the long rains begin in April, the plains are at their most beautiful, vivid with wildflowers and packed with game. This is an ideal time for photographic safaris in as the quality of the light is magical.
- From April to June, the Serengeti National Park is the theatre for one of the most impressive wildlife shows on earth – the wildebeest migration. Hundreds of thousands of plains game begin moving north-westwards to the Seronera. This spectacular moving feast is trailed by predators: lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena. The Seronera area of the Serengeti comprises open plains dotted with attractive kopjes. There’s plenty of resident game with relaxed predators as well as the migrating herds coming through in April and May. Given the Seronera’s central position, you can stay in the Serengeti lodges located here and still travel south and north to the Western Corridor. However this means that the Seronera remains busy throughout the migration.
- By the end of June or July, as the rains dwindle, huge columns of wildebeest and zebra cross the crocodile-infested Grumeti River into the Masai Mara, where there is permanent water. Many travel via the Western Corridor of the Serengeti National Park, an area with plenty of permanent game including zebra, wildebeest, predators and forest species such as colobus monkeys. Good lodges here include Grumeti River Lodge and the Singita lodges in the private Singita Grumeti Reserve (Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Singita Faru Faru Lodge and Singita Serengeti House). Territorial game (hippo, elephant, leopard, serval, jackal, giraffe) remain behind, particularly in the Seronera area, hoping the fat they have gained during the last few months will enable them to survive the dry season whilst they anxiously wait for the rains. The Northern Serengeti lies between the Seronera and the Kenya border. This gentle rolling game country includes the pretty Lobo kopje. Given its northern position, it is far less crowded than the Seronera. Good options here for the wildebeest migration include Sayari Camp and Serengeti Migration Camp.
- East of Serengeti National Park lies the Loliondo area which belongs to the Masai tribes. This is part of the Serengeti eco-system and has plenty of permanent game and also experiences the wildebeest migration. The plus point for this area is that the camps here, being outside the park confines, offer night drives. Between October and November you can see the migration as it returns south into Tanzania. Here we recommend Nduara Loliondo Camp, andBeyond Klein’s Camp and Suyan Camp.
- The short rains begin in November to mid-December, and the wildebeest migration returns to the south-western part of the Serengeti National Park to the short sweet grass plains. Long columns of wildebeest and zebra are trailed by opportunistic predators. The return leg of the migration is much more scattered and sporadic taking place over several weeks.
Serengeti Hot Air Ballooning
A balloon flight over the Serengeti must be one of the most memorable ways to celebrate the glories of the African bush! Wake before the birds and drive through the dark to the balloon launch site. As dawn breaks the burners start to inflate the balloons and a small but excited bunch of people clambers into the traditional wicker baskets. Soon you are soaring high above the savanna and the acacias, watching from aloft as the first animals come to drink from the meandering river below. The pilot lets the wind take you where it will. All too soon you land to enjoy an alfresco bush breakfast to toast the best possible start to a day on safari.
Seasonal and Mobile Camps
Over the last ten years or so, several Tanzania safari operators have worked out how to strike, move and re-erect luxury tented camps which have all the comforts and trappings of permanent camps. It is wrong to call these mobile camps as they are more complex and are pitched in locations carefully chosen many months in advance. But the whole affair does relocate, some two or three times a year. Veterans Nomad Tanzania are masters at this and their Serengeti Safari Camp has probably been the model for others who also do this well, including Tanzania under Canvas and Asilia’s Olakira.