The Serengeti National Park needs no introduction. The word Serengeti is derived from ‘Siringet’ which in Maa (language of the Maasai) means ‘open plains’. These plains also happen to be the stage for The Great Migration, when over two million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles head to Kenya in search of fresh fodder. Geographically the Serengeti ecosystem covers 30,000 sq km and most of it is in Tanzania. The smaller section that stretches into Kenya is called the Maasai Mara and this comprehensive Serengeti safari guide and tips will cover every aspect to help you plan an experience of a lifetime.
For a great Serengeti safari experience, learn to read its map
Understanding the four parts of Serengeti
From July-Oct, nearly two million wildebeest, thousands of gazelles, zebra and eland head north through the Serengeti in search of greener pastures in Kenya’s Masai Mara. During this mass exodus, crocodiles, lions, cheetahs, hyena, and other predators lie in wait at key vulnerable points. The main ones are the Mara River, the Mbalageti and Grumeti Rivers and the Ndutu, Masek and Lagarja Lakes, in order of importance.
- The Southern Plains area Easy to access, this large section offers great Serengeti safaris. One can see the herds from December to March and the calving season in February is rewarding. Avoid during the dry season as the wildlife at that time gets scarce there.
- The Central Serengeti and Seronera area This is the most visited area for Serengeti safaris. The wildlife viewing there is good year-round and it has the most lodging options. Needless to say, it is also the most crowded part of the park.
- The Western Serengeti area or Western Corridor This part has decent wildlife viewing all year round and The Great Migration reaching the Grumeti River there around May or June. The river is also a great place to view crocodiles and hippos.
- The Northern Serengeti area (Kogatende, Lobo, Loliondo) The least visited and most remote section of the Serengeti, this part is home to some of the best luxury camps and lodges in Tanzania. The possibility to see Mara River crossings peaks around July and August here and several camps in the north offer walking Serengeti safaris and off-road experiences. Not to be missed if you have loads of money.
Hotspots to keep in mind for an awesome Serengeti safari
- Mara River Rising from the Kenyan Highlands, the Mara River flows through the Serengeti. Being infested with predators, it is infamous for being the most perilous crossing for wildebeest and other animals on the Great Migration. If this iconic spectacle in on your mind, then for the best Serengeti safari experience, stay in nearby camps to catch sight of hippos, Nile crocodiles, and the rare black rhino among many other animals.
- Naabi Hill Lying just beside one of the main gates into the park, the Naabi Hill is actually a rocky outcrop which offers stunning panoramic views. Accessible via a short hike, one can spot giraffes and zebras from there. Get along a pair of binoculars and these are also teeming with birds, reptiles, and butterflies.
- Ol Doinyo Lengai and Lake Natron The nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano is the sole high land in the endless stretch of Serengeti. Do be careful, since this popular hike still sizzles and the equally fecund Lake Natron is famous for its flamingoes colonies.
- Simba Kopje This is the highest rocky outcrop and is known as the Lion Hill. A hippo pool lies below it, providing great Serengeti safari views and the flamingo-filled Lake Magadi lies on the west.
Best time for a Serengeti safari
This Tanzanian national park offers good game viewing throughout the year. However, depending on your sightseeing priorities (wildebeest river crossing, the big five, birding, etc.), you should plan your Serengeti safari (time and duration) accordingly. The best time for The Great Migration is from December to March in the southern Serengeti. From July to October they are mostly in Kenya and in the north of the Serengeti, which is a good place to see the migration. The dramatic River Mara crossings happen in June-Sep and these are also the hottest months. March-early May is avoidable due to the rainy season with another short one Nov-Dec. These are a lean season for Serengeti safaris and great wildlife can be seen at a fraction of the cost. Jan-Feb is most popular. Everything is lush and green at that time and right after the birthing season.
You may also like: Ngorongoro Conservation Area Guide and Safari Tips
Where to stay?
There is a wide range of accommodation available in the Serengeti National Park. These range from the public campsites to luxury lodges. There are also a number of public campsites, special campsites, tented camps, and lodges in the Serengeti. While some camps are permanent and open year-round, others are mobile and some are seasonal. The largest number and greatest variety of lodging exist in the Central Serengeti region around Seronera. Book accommodations well in advance, especially in peak season. No prior reservation is required for staying in public campsites, you don’t normally need to reserve in advance. Costs normally range from about $30/adult to $50/adult.
Entrance fees to visit Serengeti National Park
As of November 2018, the Serengeti National Park fees are USD $60/person for visitors over age 16, USD $20/child (ages 5 to 16), and free for children under 5 years of age. These fees are good for a 24-hour period, so a 48-hour stay for an adult would be $120.
What to expect and do on a Serengeti safari
- Game Drive Going on a Serengeti safari is the top thing to do here. You can choose between a luxury glamping option, a small group tour, hotels or a customized trip with a driver guide. Most of the Serengeti safari include the Lake Manyara National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. One of the most exciting ways for the more adventurous to see the Serengeti is from a saddle, with wonderful cycling holidays on offer.
- Nature Walk This is an interesting way to explore rich ecosystem and though perhaps not as exciting as a Serengeti safari, nature walks are the perfect way to get up close to the plants, trees, and smaller animals. Similar to night drives, walking safaris are possible on the borders of the Serengeti National Park in designated areas.
- Serengeti Safari at night If you are interested in a night drive in Serengeti, look for lodges and camps located just outside the national park and let your safari operator know you are interested in this experience.
- Meet with local Maasai and other local communities There are also other tribes, apart from the Masai residing in the heart of Serengeti. Support the local people financially during your trip but also do respect their cultures by reading up on their important heritage in advance. These are human interfaces on your trip, not a visit to the human zoo.
- Visit the Oldupai Gorge Also known as the Olduvai Gorge, this steep ravine is where human fossils and tools dating back to over 2 million years ago, were found. Lying only a few miles south of Serengeti National Park, the Olduvai Gorge makes a convenient stop for those traveling between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. There is a small Olduvai Museum (small entrance fee) there, which contain information and artifacts related to the discoverer Leakey family, the fossil discoveries, the gorge, and the Laetoli footprints.
- Splurge in an Aerial View of the Serengeti This is perhaps the best way to see this magnificent space, especially during sunrise and sunset. Spend an hour or so floating in a hot air balloon to witness the sunrise over the “endless plains”. Thereafter, come down to treetop level to view the animals and after you touch down, a glass of champagne and a full English-style breakfast awaits you and the other balloon riders. Priced at $499 per person, this service is provided by the SerengeBalloonlon Safaris. For a cheaper option, consider booking one of the small shared regional plane flights to or from one of the seven Serengeti airstrips. The views are not nearly as good as you’d get from a balloon (except briefly when landing and taking off) but for $275/person the flight provides an aerial view and saves a lot of time on the long bumpy ride by jeep back to Arusha.
Things not to do on a Serengeti safari
- Travel independently DIY Serengeti safari is not a thing to do, as you can’t go off-road, and it is mandatory to be accompanied by a licensed driver guide or tour operator.
- Disrespect the Maasai or any indigenous local people
- Ignore your driver or guide’s advice This is for penultimate safety reasons, especially when around wildlife on walking safaris. Opt for a responsible tour company which practices all the responsible tourism guidelines.
- Don’t forget to take some medical precautions. Visit your doctor six to eight weeks before traveling to Tanzania as you may need to show a Yellow Fever certificate, get immunization shots, and be on anti-malarial medication. On your Serengeti safari, always wear long sleeves and trousers, use mosquito nets, and only drink bottled water.
Serengeti Family Travel Tip
Photography tip for your Serengeti safari
The key to great wildlife photography is to capture the animals’ natural behaviour. So take your time, by standing back a little bit and letting these things pan out.
How to save money on your Serengeti safari?
Consider picking up a bargain and traveling on the lean season. If you travel during the wet season, you will see more greenery and the summer storms can be an intoxicating experience. While the wildlife is more scattered and not so focused around the waterholes, you can easily spot all the large predators.”
Where to go after your Serengeti safari?
The neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater is famous for Black Rhino sightings and Lake Manyara National Park has beautiful flamingos. Tarangire National park also has plenty of wildlife, from monkeys to elephants. For more information, check out the official website.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE