The Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is a highlight of any northern circuit safari in Tanzania. It spans an impressive 30,000 sq kilometres, extending into south-western Kenya where it is known as the Maasai Mara. It’s not just endless grassy plains, you’ll find a variety of ecosystems supporting a huge array of wildlife. Renowned for large numbers of lions and cheetahs, alongside other large mammals such as buffalos, zebras and wildebeest, in addition, over 500 bird species have been recorded too.
The Serengeti is well worth a visit at any time of year, but if your focus is the amazing spectacle that is the migration, then read more in depth information on that here
When to visit the Serengeti
Wildlife viewing in the Serengeti is good all year round, but it is the dry season that offers the ultimate sightings, as you might expect. The Serengeti is huge, and if your prime focus is to see the migration then it is important put you in the right area of this vast park at the right time. June and July are considered the best months for seeing the migration, that said the spectacular sight of all the young wildebeest being born, takes place at the end of January into February. If you want to see the wildebeest crossing the Mara river then you need to look at September.
Excellent Good Fair Poor
JUNE TO OCTOBER
- The migration is in the Western Corridor in June and July
- From August to September it passes through the quieter northern areas of the park
- Wildlife viewing is always best in the dry season, less vegetation makes for easier spotting
- Wildlife will congregate around water sources
- The dry season has fewer mosquitos, which is always a bonus
- Early mornings and evenings can be cold, warm fleeces are a must
- Certain areas can be very busy, particularly the central area of Seronera
NOVEMBER TO MAY
- The scenery is rich and colourful
- Birders should consider this time of year as the migratory species are present
- The end of January and early February is calving season for the wildebeest, this is seen in the southern serengeti
- It’s always less crowded in the rainy months of March, April and May
- Even though its considered the rainy season, wildlife viewing is good all year round
- The rainy season reaches its peak in March, April, May
- The rains bring with them humidity and pesky mozzies
The northern Serengeti is classed as the area north of Seronara up to the Kenya border. This area gets fewer visitors the further north you go, predominantly due to the huge distances involved and accessibility from the main gate. It is however an area of great scenic beauty with rolling hills, valleys and plains. Another draw card of this more remote area is that you can off-road here in certain areas and also enjoy walking safaris which are prohibited in other areas of the park, it’s a safari connoisseur’s dream.
This is the best place to see the spectacular river crossings as the game reaches the Mara River. These are the scenes that you will have seen on TV documentaries, and are perhaps the scenes that you would associate with the migration. It’s mesmerising and heart-stopping at the same time, the noise of the braying animals is phenomenal as they clamber over each other, launch themselves into the thundering river and make their way to the other side, hopefully avoiding any crocs as they go.
When to visit the Northern Serengeti
Certain areas have good game all year round and the migration comes through between August and October and this is when you will get amazing river crossings that one associates with the migration.
Where to stay in the Northern Serengeti
The accommodation options in the northern Serengeti are all smaller concerns, offering a more intimate experience. The mobile operators follow the migration and will set up in the area for the duration of the spectacle. Alex Walker’s Serian always offers excellent guiding with all those extra touches that ensure a comfortable stay. Lemala Mara is another office favourite, offering a luxurious home from home.
Central Serengeti has good game all year round, it’s a great option for a safari even if you are not here during the migration, but be prepared for it to be busy which is the only drawback.
It is an area of scenic beauty, open plains dotted with hills and kopjes and the resident wildlife is magnificent. The predators have food all year round, the migration is simply a bonus for them when prey is bountiful.
The migration passes through from April to June as the wildebeest and zebra head north and then again in November and December when they are returning south.
Seronara’s location makes it a good base for viewing the migration in both the southern plains and the western corridor, but as a result it can be busy.
When to visit Central Serengeti
The central Serengeti is good all year round, but if it’s the migration you are particularly wanting to see then stick to April to June and November to December when the procession of wildlife passes through on their trek. It’s one of the most popular areas of the Serengeti, so you can expect to see other vehicles during your stay.
Where to stay in Central Serengeti
There are plenty of options in this area of the Serengeti from the larger properties such as Serengeti Serena to the smaller Kirurumu Serengeti Camp which is a favourite of ours. As this area is popular availability can be an issue, booking in advance is strongly advised.
Stretching west towards Lake Victoria, the main features of this area are the Grumeti and Mbalogeti rivers which run parallel. The area is a mix of riverine forest and stunning wide open plains that stretch for miles. As with Seronara there is good resident game here all year round including predators and there is a good variety of birds too.
The migration passes through from May to July. Seeing the migration massing on the Musabi plains before the cross the Grumeti is a quite spectacle, the sheer numbers are astounding. Those fraught and manic river crossings seen in documentaries do happen here though it happens quickly and unless timed correctly, you may miss it. But it really is like finding yourself in the middle of a nature documentary, the wildebeest and zebra frantically clambering over each other to make the crossing throwing themselves into crocodile infested waters, unlucky ones not reaching the other side – a harrowing sight.
When to visit the Western Corridor
With a good variety of permanent game in this area, any time is a good time to visit, but of course the most popular months for the western corridor are May to July when the migration is in full flow. If you aren’t keen on the rains then avoid March and April.
Where to stay in the Western Corridor
If you fancy something a little secluded you might like Grumeti River Camp which has just ten tents overlooking a by-water of the Grumeti River. The larger Mbalageti Camp offers breathtaking views from the terrace, it has 40 rooms but still maintains and intimate atmosphere. These are just two examples of the fine accommodation on offer in the Western Corridor, there is plenty to choose from, across all sizes and budgets.
The southern plains of the Serengeti stretch for miles, endless grassy plains which come alive when the rains arrive. This area receives less rainfall than other areas and during the dry season it’s virtually barren. Dotted about the plains are many large and small rock kopjes but very few trees.
The migration comes through late November to April and the area changes. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest cover the vast grassy plains that stretch as far as the eye can see.
February sees another change, for two weeks the cows will give birth to over a hundred thousand calves and they continue their epic trek – the young must keep up or get left behind.
When to visit the Southern Serengeti Plains
The dry season, roughly July to October, is when game is most plentiful, but wildlife can be seen all year and most camps and lodges are open year-round. Being less famous than the Serengeti, Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire has the added benefit of fewer vehicles, even in the dry season.
Where to stay in Southern Serengeti Plains
Tarangire does not have the same volume of properties of some of the other Northern Circuit parks, but there is a variety of accommodation available. There are traditional tented safari camps, luxury options and larger lodges, plus some properties situated in land adjoining the park that can also offer guided walks and night drives.