Serengeti is not only one of Tanzania’s top tourist destinations but also one of the most popular safari destinations in Africa. Serengeti National Park is located in East Africa, in Tanzania, and shares an unfenced border with Kenya’s Maasai Mara and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This park was established in 1951, making it one of the oldest national parks in Tanzania. Covering 5,700sq. miles (14,763sq. kilometers), Serengeti is a place where you can truly experience the majesty of the untamed and magical African wilderness.
So, what is so special about Serengeti National Park? Not only does Serengeti have a rich wildlife diversity dotting its savannah, but it also gives visitors a unique chance to witness one of the largest wildlife migrations in the world dubbed “The Great Serengeti Migration”. African Serengeti is also renowned for its enormous and diverse ecosystem, combining open acacia woodlands, riverine forests, rocky granite outcroppings, grasslands, and vast plains. The natural beauty of the land has led it to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another interesting aspect of the Serengeti is that there are so many activities and things to see in the park. In summary, the thriving wildlife population, Great Wildebeest Migration, scenic beauty, and wide array of activities and attractions are in large part what makes the Serengeti National Park such a valuable and special place to visit.
Serengeti National Park is a part of the Greater Serengeti- Mara Ecosystem (GSME), a huge protected wildlife habitat that extends to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (8,292sq. kilometers), Grumeti Game Reserve (410sq. kilometers), Loliondo Game Controlled Area (6,200sq. kilometers), Maswa Game Reserve (1,415sq. kilometers) and Ikorongo Reserves (600sq. kilometers) in Northwestern Tanzania and all the way to the Masai Mara National Park in south-west Kenya.
Serengeti is a powerful symbol of wildlife conservation efforts and is home to some of the most incredible wildlife in the world. The Serengeti has one of the oldest ecosystems on the planet and is a great place to get up close to the African flora and fauna. Prior to its establishment as a national park, the Maasai’s grazed their cattle and lived in this area for decades. In their local language, they referred to this sprawling landscape as “Siringet” and when lightly translated, it means “endless plains”. And that is how the park got its current name, Serengeti.
In order to understand what makes Serengeti so special, it is important to know that Serengeti National Park is divided into 4 areas: the Southern Serengeti, the Central Serengeti, the Western Serengeti, and the Northern Serengeti. Sometimes the Southern Serengeti and Central Serengeti are classified together as the Serengeti Plains or the South-Central Seronera Valley, making it 3 regions. The areas are divided according to their predominant vegetation, key attractions, weather, landscape, and the season when Wildebeest Migration takes place in the regions. Below we will go into further details about each region to help you plan your trip accordingly.
Also referred to as Central Seronera Valley, this is the soul of Serengeti. Major attractions in this area include Seronera Valley, the Seronera River, Moru Kopjes, Maasai Kopjes, and Retima Hippo Pool.
Central Serengeti represents the typical African savannah. Short grassland and Acacia trees cover much of its land, while the areas surrounding the rivers have riverine forests. There are many rivers meandering through this part of Serengeti, making it perfect for game-viewing adventures all year round. For this reason, this area attracts most of the park’s tourist traffic.
If you don’t have enough time to explore this expansive park but still want to experience the spirit of Serengeti, Central Serengeti is the perfect place to go for a day trip.
This is an excellent location to spot large predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas. Sometimes black rhinos can be spotted roaming around the kopjes. Plenty of hippos live in the Retima Hippo Pool.
While migrating in search of pastures, the wildebeests, gazelles, and zebras cross through Central Serengeti severally. May-November is the best time of the year to visit the area and for those interested to take balloon safaris in the Serengeti, then this is the time to do so.
This is the biggest region of the Serengeti national park. The landscape in this area features open plains, short grasses, and some granite formations. Southern Serengeti includes the Ndutu Area and the seasonal Lake Ndutu. Since this portion of Serengeti National Park borders famous attractions such as Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, and Naabi Hills, it becomes the hotspot for tourism from mid – December all the way to the end of April every year.
Calving season happens here. During this time, thousands of wildebeests are born from January to march. This is the area where most Serengeti guided walking safaris and hot air balloon launching occur to experience the baby–boom season and the migratory wildebeests drop at least 500’000 babies within this timeframe!
Besides the wildebeest, Southern Serengeti provides amazing birding opportunities, especially around the shores of Lake Ndutu and in the woodlands. The area also supports one of the largest concentrations of cheetahs in the world during this time!
Once the dry season sets in from May-October, most of the park animals migrate, making this section deserted. As a result, camps around this area close.
Also known as the Western Corridor, Western Serengeti covers the Grumeti, Nyasirori, Kijereshi, Mbalageti, Ndabaka, and Ikoma areas. The landscape features a hilly terrain dotted with acacia woodlands. Grumeti River and Mbalageti River are the major highlights of this region.
This area supports thriving primates, hippo, and crocodile populations, as well as large pride of lions which depend on mostly the resident populations of prey mammals such as the Wildebeests, Zebras, Topis, African Cape Buffaloes, and Impalas. This area also has become home to the largest concentration of Topis in the world!
The Grumeti River crossing is best witnessed from May-July when the migratory Wildebeests and Zebras come through this incredible part of the Serengeti.
This is the region nearest to Kenya’s Maasai Mara and includes Togoro, Lobo, and Kogatende areas. Because of its remote location, only few visitors come to this area except when the migratory beasts are here. The landscape is hilly and dominated by riverine forests and plains.
Major points of interest include Bologonja Springs and Lobo Valley. It is a great place to see the Mara River crossing from August – October. The area has an abundance of predators such as Lions, Cheetahs, and Hyenas. Northern Serengeti also hosts most of the park’s baboons.
What to see in Serengeti National Park
With so much flora and fauna dotting the park’s landscape, there is no shortage of things to see in Tanzania’s Serengeti. From wildebeest migration to the big five, kopjes, and springs, the Serengeti National Park offers an array of attractions.
Witness Nature in Action During “The Great Migration”
One of the top things to see in the park is “The Great Serengeti Migration”. This is one of the seven natural wonders of Africa. The migration is definitely a wondrous sight to witness and is seen by many as one of the most important wildlife events in the world.
Serengeti is world-renowned for its yearly wildebeest migration, a spectacular natural phenomenon that peaks from May to November (depending on the rainfall and the food supply in the area) when over 2 million mammals cross over the Mara River from Serengeti to Kenya’s Maasai Mara and back between August and October every year.
Did you know that although this natural phenomenon is popularly referred to as the Great Wildebeest Migration that there are three main migrating animals in the Serengeti? Yes, Wildebeests, Zebras and Gazelles usually migrate together in search of food. At approximately 2 million the wildebeest constitutes the largest number of migrating animals followed by Zebras and Thomson’s Gazelles.
While watching herds of animals migrate is itself a breathtaking event, crocodiles preying on the animals during the water crossing makes the migration more dramatic. Lions and hyenas serve as predators on land.
See the Animals of Serengeti up-close
This African jewel is home to an enormous number of animals. These animals need open grassy plains to survive, and the Serengeti National Park is one place in Africa with such a huge expanse of open grasslands.
With thousands of animals dwelling in the park, antelopes are probably the most abundant animals in Serengeti. There are over 10 different species of antelopes living on the plains of Serengeti, including the Wildebeests, Grant gazelles, Topis, Elands, impalas, Coke’s Hartebeests, Waterbucks, Steinboks, Thomson gazelles, Kirk’s dik-diks, and Bohor Reedbucks. The African Wildebeest is not only the most common antelope species in Serengeti, but it also constitutes the largest population of animals in the park. Reedbucks and steinboks are the rarest types of antelopes seen in the Serengeti region.
While taking a safari in the Serengeti plains, you are bound to encounter big cats such as the African Lions, Leopards, and Cheetahs, as well as other larger predators such as Jackals and Hyenas.
Besides the cats and the antelopes, this region is home to many other large mammals, including African elephants, Hippos, Cape buffalos, Giraffes and Zebras.
The savannah is home to a variety of endangered and rare animal species, including African Wild dogs, Black rhinos, Cheetahs, Lovebirds et cetera.
Serengeti woodlands are also a prime habitat for primates. The best place to spot the apes is on the canopies lying along the Grumeti River in the Western Corridor. Olive Baboons, Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys, the rare Patas monkeys and Vervet monkeys are the popular species here.
The park is also home to many birds, including both endemic and migratory birds. The most notable ones include the ostrich, vultures, lesser flamingos and kori bustard.
The plains of Serengeti are also home to a large variety of butterflies, insects, rodents, crocodiles, and other animals
Take in the Scenery at Bologonja Springs
Bologonja Springs lies in the remote Northern Serengeti close to Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve. This hidden gem is a paradise for visitors who are passionate about wildlife, plants, and natural beauty. The area is extremely lush and full of wildlife. The grass is tall and green and the canopies are flourishing.
Bologonja Springs is a habitat for a number of rare plants and animals that can be found in this small area, such as Vervet monkeys, Reedbucks and Steinboks. The stream of water that flows from here is a great attraction to the animals, who come to drink water, graze and hunt around the riverine forests, especially during the dry seasons. Buffalos, elephants, Cheetahs, and Leopards are commonly seen around this area.
Watch the Moru Kopjes
Moru Kopjes are a cluster of granitic boulders, which were formed due to volcanic activity. If you are enjoying a game drive through the central plains of Serengeti, it’s almost impossible to miss these interesting rock formations.
Moru Kopjes are usually found adjacent to the Seronera River, which attracts wildlife all year long. They are surrounded by gorgeous views of the savannah grasslands and you’ll be able to see some great wildlife roaming around the area. Lions, Elephants, and African Cape Buffaloes are especially numerous around the kopjes.
The region surrounding the kopjes is the best place to spot the rare Black rhinos. A visit to a Moru Kopjes also gives visitors a chance to see some old Maasai paintings on the rocks. Besides the Moru Kopjes, there are many other little mounds of rocks spread in the Eastern and Northern Serengeti.
Retima Hippo Pool
Retima Hippo Pool also referred to as the Serengeti Hippo Pool, is a natural pond formed at the place where the Seronera and Orangi Rivers merge. The pond is a popular site for hippos to congregate and cool off. Over 150 hippos can be spotted here all year round.
Located in Central Serengeti, the best months to visit Retina Hippo Pool are from July to November when the dry season peaks. When the rain subsides, the water levels in the pond get low thus giving better sightings for the Hippos.
What Activities are Possible in Serengeti National Park
There are many great things you can do in the Serengeti National Park. Obviously, the first on your list should be seeing the breathtaking wildlife. From the open – grassland plains to the wooded – grasslands, the park is one of the best places to see animals in their natural environment. And you can do this in several ways, such as game drives, a hot-air balloon, from the hotel/camp, or just on foot.
Serengeti National Park game drive is one of the most beautiful and interesting activities you can do during your stay in Tanzania. The game viewing will be exciting as you will be able to spot many animals in the wild.
Depending on your schedule, there is a range of game drives offered in the park, including morning game drives, evening game drives, and full-day game drives. Game drives can also be custom-tailored to suit your priority and interests. Included in the game drives package is a professional guide to help you spot different animals and to take visitors through the fauna and flora of this ecosystem.
Serengeti National Park is not only an exceptional place to watch the wild animals, but it is also a haven for birdwatchers. Over 300 bird species have been identified in the Serengeti region, making it one of the best places to watch birds in Tanzania. While birds can be spotted all over the park, there are specific spots such as Bologonja Springs, Grumeti Area, and the shores of Lake Ndutu and in the woodlands where most birds reside.
Birding is at its peak during and after the wet season (November-April) when both resident and migratory birds such as Flamingos, European Rollers, White Storks, and others are in abundance.
Bird species spotted in Serengeti throughout the year include Fischer’s Lovebirds, Gray- backed fiscal Shrikes, Helmeted Guineafowls, Cardinal woodpeckers, Red-billed buffalo weaver, Gray-breasted spurfowl, Black-headed gonolek, Usambiro barbet, African Finfoot, Kori bustards, and Schalow’s wheatear, to mention afew.
Hot-Air Balloon Safaris
Serengeti is a great place to enjoy relaxing hot-air balloon rides. Hot air balloon safaris offer a unique way to experience the endless savannah plains of the Serengeti. Seeing plenty of wildlife and stunning landscapes from an aerial view is one of the most incredible feelings.
Hot-air balloon safaris give splendid views of Tanzania’s Great Migration, wildebeest calving, and predators hunting their prey. Most of the hot–air balloon safaris launching happen in Central Serengeti and Southern Serengeti. There are hot–air balloon safaris that take place in the Western and Northern Serengeti when the Great Serengeti Migration is in these areas to make your trip to Tanzania even more extraordinary!
Guided Nature Walks
A self-guided nature walk through the Serengeti Visitors Center in the Seronera region of the park is a great place to familiarize yourself with the history, biodiversity, and ecosystem of this place. There is a path lined with illustrations detailing the park’s regions and their major highlights across different seasons, which is quite resourceful.
Serengeti walking safaris are allowed in certain areas of the park. In addition to the tour guide, an armed ranger accompanies visitors while trekking the park.
This guided nature walk is the perfect way to encounter different species of flora and fauna, especially the smaller ones such as butterflies, insects, rocky hyraxes, lizards, et cetera which are not easy to spot from a safari vehicle.
A Visit to Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is more like a vast inland sea than a lake. It covers an area of 69,490 sq km (26,830 sq miles), the size of Ireland, comparatively. Of this, 51% is in Tanzania, 43% in Uganda, and only 6% in Kenya. It is the largest freshwater body in Africa and the second only to Lake Superior on the Canada-US border.
Lake Victoria was known to the Africans in Tanzania as Nyanza and to the Arabs as Ukerewe after an island in the lake of that name. An English explorer, John Hanning Speke, renamed it after his Queen, ‘VICTORIA’.
Clients visiting Lake Victoria will have an opportunity to encounter the charms of the Sukuma people, in their “live snake costume”, worn in their “Gobogobo Dance”. The dance involves the bodies of the dancers draped in the coils of lethal, sometimes exceptionally large reptiles, wriggling to the drum beats before stunned spectators. True to the old adage that music stimulates them. the snakes become increasingly excited as the tempo increases. Sukuma is the largest tribe in Tanzania with a population of approximately 4.5 million people.
A visit to Lake Victoria can be arranged when clients stay either in the central Serengeti or western Serengeti or at the shores of Lake Victoria itself.
When is the Great Migration in the Serengeti?
One of the major highlights for most safaris to Serengeti is to catch a glimpse of the famous animal migration, where wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles migrate in massive numbers.
When the word “Great Migration” is mentioned, what comes to the mind of most people is the annual Mara River crossing. But did you know that Africa’s Great Migration is an all-year-round spectacle? Yes, the animals are constantly migrating across the plains of the Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem.
So, when can you see the Serengeti migration? The migration in Serengeti can be seen in different areas within the Serengeti ecosystem at different times. For example, January to April is a great time to see the baby – boom season (late January to mid-February being the peak calving season). During this time thousands of migrating animals can be found in the southern plains. This marks the start of the great migration cycle, as the herds are moving southwards. This is also the best season to watch the Serengeti predators as they prey on the vulnerable wildebeests and their calves. May–July is the best time to witness the Grumeti River crossing. August to October is the best time of the year to witness the wildebeests crossing the Mara River en route to Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya.
If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Africa’s Great Migration, then Serengeti is known to be a big part of that. And did you also know that for about 2/3 of the year (9 months) the migration happens on Tanzania’s side ( within the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area) while the other 1/3 happens across the Serengeti-Mara?
The Mara River crossing is the most popular and for good reasons. First, the Mara River is relatively wider and larger than the Grumeti River. Second, Mara River has ranging currents and its banks are steeper. This makes the experience more challenging and dramatic as animals try to navigate the currents to avoid getting drowned while at the same time evading the Nile Crocodiles. Though it lasts for approximately three months, it attracts the most visitors.
Bottom line, it is amazing to see tens of thousands of migrating herbivorous animals together, whether they are grazing, calving, migrating on plains or across the river.
When is the Best Month to Visit Serengeti?
Simply put, there is no dull season in Serengeti. While wildlife viewing is rewarding all year round, each season has its own major highlights, which may either be birdwatching, Serengeti wildebeest migration, wildebeest calving season, and Grumeti or Mara River crossing.
So, the best time to visit Serengeti will largely be determined by what is the top thing you want to experience during your Serengeti safari.
Usually, Serengeti safari peak season runs from July through October, which is a drier month, while March to May is the low season months.
Tanzania’s Serengeti is a land of vast plains and immense beauty, and one of the best places to see animals in the wild, especially Cheetahs. Leopards, some of the largest Nile Crocodiles in the world, The Great Migration, and the largest population of Topis in the world. Serengeti harbors the largest population of Lions like no other on the planet! Serengeti is also one of the few places in Africa where black rhinos can be seen in the wild. It’s a great place to capture extraordinary wildlife moments on your dream trip to Africa!
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