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Serengeti National Park – An Exclusive Safari Guide

Mark Whitman

Famous for the Great Wildebeest Migration, the Serengeti National Park is the jewel in Tanzania’s crown. With around 1.5 million wildebeest and thousands of other grazing animals and predators, an action-packed safari is guaranteed.

I myself have gone on several safaris in the Serengeti National Park and each one has left me feeling amazed by the sheer volume of plant and wildlife species which can be found in this unique ecosystem. 

In this article, I will give you a detailed guide on the Serengeti National Park, focusing on why it's so famous and how to enjoy an epic safari there. 

Let's dive in!

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Serengeti National Park FAQs

What makes Serengeti National Park so special?

The Serengeti National Park is so special for several reasons. First off, it's a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders.

It is one of the most popular safari destinations in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

What parts of the Serengeti National Park can I visit? 

Serengeti National Park is split into three distinct regions that tourists can visit and explore diverse ecosystems: 

  • Serengeti Plains
  • Western Corridor
  • Northern Serengeti 

Three Areas of Serengeti Plains

The 15,000 square kilometre Serengeti National Park is unfenced and forms part of the 30,000 square kilometres Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, also including the fascinating Ngorongoro Crater. It is in the northwest of Tanzania, bordered to the north by the Kenyan border, where it continues with the Maasai Mara National Reserve

See more info in our Tanzania Safari Map guide to orient yourself better with the Serengeti's location. 

Serengeti Plains

The endless, almost treeless grassland of the south. This is where the wildebeest breed, as they stay in the plains from December to May. Granite mounds, or koppies, are very common in the region and great observation posts for predators, and a refuge for hyrax and pythons.

Serengeti-Plains
Western Corridor

Black clay soil covers the swampy savannah of this region. The Grumeti River is home to enormous Nile crocodiles, colobus monkeys and martial eagles. The migration passes through from May to July.

Northern Serengeti

The landscape is dominated by open woodlands and hills, from Seronera in the South to the Mara River into Kenya. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra, the bushy savannah is the best place to find elephants, giraffes and dik-dik.

crocodile-river-tanzania

Serengeti Rivers

There are five rivers in the Serengeti National Park that feed the landscape and provide sustenance to its inhabitants. 

The Grumeti River, Mara River, Mbalageti River and Orangi River flow westward to Lake Victoria, while the Oldupai River flows eastward into the Olbalbal Swamps.

The Grumeti River is a major river crossing for the Great Migration. Between May and August, thousands of wildebeest and other animals cross the crocodile-infested waters. For every one wildebeest captured by the crocodiles, 50 drown.

Wildebeest-river-crossing

What is the weather and climate like in the Serengeti National Park?

The Serengeti National Park falls into the classic weather pattern of East Africa – the long rains between March and May and the short rains in November and December. The hottest and most humid period stretches between November and February (25–31°C/77-88F) while the coolest period occurs between May and August (15–20°C/59-68F).

Like much of East Africa, the Serengeti has two distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet season. 

Leopard-Serengeti

Dry Season

The dry season between June and October is usually the best time to go on a safari in the Serengeti National Park. This is when the weather is moderate with average daytime temperatures in the mid to high 20 degrees Celsius.  

During the dry season, the vegetation also thins out, making it easier to spot wildlife. The big game also tends to flock to available water sources, so sightings of herds and prides gathered around waterholes is fairly common. 

Black-Rhino-with-baby

Wet season

The short rains in November and December in the Serengeti National Park will bring respite from the hot and humid conditions. 

The long rains between March and May are accompanied by heavy downpours that can ruin safari outings. 

Acacia tree in the Serengeti Plains

When is the best time to visit Serengeti National Park?

The best time to visit the Serengeti is between June and October when the Great Migration is at its height. It is the dry season and overall provides the best opportunity for spotting wildlife such as black rhino, plains game, predators, elephants, and more. 

This is also the time to witness incredible predator kills on the banks of the Mara and Grumeti Rivers. Ferocious crocodile populations lunge at wildebeest and other plains game on the riverbanks, putting on quite a show for onlookers. July is reportedly the best month for predator kill sightings. 

Another good time to visit the Serengeti is between January and February, and during the spring months from March to May (low season). Outside of the high safari season, the accommodation tends to be cheaper, but some of the mobile camps might not be in operation. A trip should be planned around the movement of the great migration.

How do I get to Serengeti National Park? 

To get to the Serengeti National Park, most visitors fly into Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport and then take a flight from Arusha (less than 50 kilometres away) to several airstrips located inside the park. 

Travel Tip: A word of caution – limit luggage to 15 kilograms per person, and rather use soft bags instead of hard-sided suitcases when travelling to Tanzania.

It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport, just outside of Dar es Salaam, and then fly on to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).

One can also travel to the Serengeti via road from Arusha and enter the park through the Naabi Hill Gate. The distance is 325 km and the drive takes around eight hours.

How should I plan for a safari in Serengeti National Park?

The best ways to plan a typical safari in Serengeti National Park are to find accommodation where you'll be most comfortable and book specialised tours and activities you'll enjoy the most.  

Find Accommodation in the Serengeti

A safari to the Serengeti National Park typically includes accommodation, all meals, activities, private walks, transfers and local drinks. Because there aren’t any shops and practically no civilisation, everything is included in the rate. 

Some camps and Serengeti resorts are more expensive than others, and some are completely remote which hikes the price up by quite a bit. A good budget to work with is $500 to $1000 per person sharing per night (see our guide on Tanzania safari costs). 

For a two week safari, it’s advisable to set aside about $11,000 for a mid to luxury safari in a Serengeti camp. However, an optimal time on safari is seven nights. Because the terrain is so vast and there’s so much to see, a minimum of four full days on safari is best. Any less than this isn’t recommended.

If you go on an organised safari with a local tour operator, you will mostly sleep in mobile camps. Here, facilities are more limited. The tents usually have simple beds with lining and duvets, camping toilets and showers depending on the safari operator you make your booking through.

Read some of our Serengeti hotel reviews:

Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in the Serengeti: 

See more Serengeti accommodation options.

Choose Different Serengeti Activities

There are countless options when it comes to exploring the Serengeti National Park and experiencing all that this natural gem has to offer.

  • balloon safari over the Serengeti for an aerial view of landscapes and wildlife comes highly recommended. 
  • Learn about the history of the Serengeti National Park at Olduvai Gorge, otherwise known as the Cradle of Humankind. 
  • The best way to explore the varied terrain is to go on a Serengeti game drive. Guided game drives led by professional field guides cover a lot of ground, and normally take place in the early morning and late evening when predators are most active. 
  • Guided Serengeti walking safaris are normally conducted by qualified guides, and offer an immersive experience in the Serengeti.
Serengeti Balloon Safari

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What wildlife can I see in Serengeti National Park? 

With them numbering in thousands and millions, there are numerous wildlife species you can see in the Serengeti National Park at any time of the year. 

Predators

One of the largest populations of lions in Africa – 3,000, as well as 1,000 leopards and 500 cheetahs, call Serengeti their home. There are also more than 8000 spotted hyenas as well as side-striped, black-backed and golden jackals. Wild dogs are however scarce.

Serengeti-National-Park

Grazing Animals

Apart from the millions of wildebeest and zebra that make up most of the Great Migration, grazers like Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, topi, waterbuck, eland, African elephant, Cape buffalo and warthog also occur in the Serengeti National Park. The park can sustain them all because each species, even those that are closely related, has a different diet. For example, wildebeests prefer to consume shorter grasses, while plains zebras prefer taller ones.

Springbok-fight

Wildebeest

The Serengeti National Park is famed for its annual wildebeest migration when some 8 million hooves cross the open plains. More than 1,500,000 wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join this trek driven by the need for fresh grazing. Predators follow the migration and sightings of big cats hunting is always particularly exciting for even the most experienced traveller. Spotted hyena, golden and black-backed jackal are never far off either.

Great Wildebeest Migration Map

Birdwatching

With more than 500 species of birds, the Serengeti is a birdwatching paradise. These include the Masai ostrich, secretary bird, kori bustard, grey-breasted spurfowl, blacksmith lapwing, African collared dove, Southern ground hornbill, crowned crane, knob-billed duck, spotted thick-knee, white stork and lesser flamingo.

Additionally, there are also 34 raptor species and six species of vulture.

Lilac-breasted roller

What are some interesting facts about the Serengeti National Park?

Here are some interesting facts about the Serengeti National Park that you didn't already know: 

  • The word 'Serengeti' is derived from the words 'Seringit' and 'Maa' in the Maasai dialect, which means 'Endless Plains'
  • Over 200,000 species of plains game, elephant and rhino are killed annually by poachers. The Maasai people are the guardians of the Serengeti ecosystem, and these communities are involved in protecting species to prevent a decline in numbers. One such initiative is the Mara Elephant Project.
  • In the mid 1990s, a vicious virus called canine distemper killed off 35% of the Serengeti National Park’s lion population, but the numbers increased and recovered in the following five years.
  • Elephants weren’t always in the national park, but did occur on the periphery. The elephants migrated into the park when the farming lands grew, and more people moved in for agriculture. Currently, there are an estimated 1,360 elephants in the park, and over 8,000 elephants in the Serengeti ecosystem.

Conclusion

And that's a wrap on the Serengeti National Park FAQs! I hope you learnt some valuable information before booking a trip to one of the largest and most celebrated wildlife conservation areas in the world. 

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Mark Whitman

Hi, I'm Mark! Welcome to Climb Kilimanjaro Guide - the Web's No.1 Trekking Guide to Mount Kilimanjaro. This site is your one stop shop for everything Kilimanjaro. To date over 5 million people have visited Climb Kilimanjaro Guide, many of which have gone on to summit Kili! I hope you find all the answers you are looking for, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below!

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