Serengeti National Park, national park and wildlife refuge on the Serengeti Plain in north-central Tanzania. It is partly adjacent to the Kenya border and is northwest of the adjoining Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is best known for its huge herds of plains animals (especially gnu [wildebeests], gazelles, and zebras), and it is the only place in Africa where vast land-animal migrations still take place. The park, an international tourist attraction, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981.
The park was established in 1951 and covers 5,700 square miles (14,763 square km) of some of the best grassland range in Africa, as well as extensive acacia woodland savanna. With elevations ranging from 3,020 to 6,070 feet (920 to 1,850 metres), the park extends 100 miles (160 km) southeast from points near the shores of Lake Victoria and, in its eastern portion, 100 miles (160 km) south from the Kenya-Tanzania border. It is along the “western corridor” to Lake Victoria that many of the park’s animals migrate. Within the area are nearly 1,300,000 gnu, 60,000 zebras, 150,000 gazelles, and numerous other animals.
During the wet season, from November to May, the herds graze in the southeastern plains within the park. In late May or June one major group moves west into the park’s woodland savanna and then north into the grasslands just beyond the Kenya-Tanzania border, an area known as the Mara (Masai Mara National Reserve). Another group migrates directly northward. The herds return to the park’s southeastern plains in November, at the end of the dry season.
Wildlife in the Serengeti
The rich grasslands of the Serengeti allow it to support the millions of wildebeest that live here, before the dry season forces them north towards the Mara in southern Kenya.Woodlands and acacia trees dot the landscape, as do ‘koppies’, large granite outcrops rising up from the plains.As well as the famous wildebeest migration, the park is home to the Big Five: rhino, lions, leopards buffalo, and elephant.
The Serengeti is home to some of the world’s fiercest predators: cheetah, spotted hyena (usually in the morning), jackal, bat-eared-fox, and wild dog. The park has the highest concentration of predators in Africa.Alongside these you’ll find giraffes, mongoose, baboons, aardvarks, colobus monkeys, monitor lizards, and giant Nile crocodiles.
The park also has the highest ostrich population in Africa, and more than 350 species of birds. There are at least four endangered animal species; the black rhino, elephant, wild dog, and cheetah.
During the dry season, when the short grasses and reduced watering holes make wildlife sightings much easier, it’s not uncommon to return from a safari in a state of silent disbelief. The abundance of wildlife, the beauty of the park, the sheer scale of it all.
Northern Tanzania Safari Circuit
The well-established ‘Northern Circuit’ safari of northern Tanzania offers some of the world’s most diverse safari experiences, consisting of National Parks, game reserves, conservation areas and private concessions.
Among these are the world-famous and iconic Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, and of course their less well-known neighbours, Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park.
These parks exist for one general purpose and that is to protect the amazing variety and abundance of wildlife in them, both resident and seasonal – and most of all, the world’s largest annual migration of wildebeest and zebra. Although this part of the world has become increasingly busy as a result of its reputation, it is still possible to escape the crowds and find a quiet corner if you know where to go.
The Wildebeest Migration
The annual wildebeest migration takes place from late January through to September each year.
This incredible natural phenomenon sees over two million wildebeest, as well as herds of zebra and gazelle, migrate through the Serengeti, cross the Grumeti and Mara river before arriving at the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
It is at the Grumeti and Mara river that some of the most famous shots of the wildebeest migration have been taken. Here, the animals are not only faced with the possibility of being swept away by the fierce water, but from attacks under the water from crocodiles, and above on the plains as they wait to cross, by lions and leopards.
It is a perilous journey, and one of nature’s most incredible migratory events.
Safari in the Serengeti
There are three popular regions for safari in the Serengeti: the southern plains, the central Seronera Valley, and the western corridor.
The southern plains are flat, open areas of short grassland. This is the quintessential Serengeti landscape, and what you probably picture in your head when you think of safari.
The central Seronera Valley is a network of river valleys whose rich grazing grounds attract the largest numbers of wildlife in the region. This is the most popular area to visit.
The western corridor is an area of land stretching west from Lake Victoria. It follows the path of the Grumeti river, the first of the wildebeest’s perilous crossing.
A particularly interesting area is the Serengeti hippo pool in the east of the park, where giant hippos pile on top of each other in small pools, bathing in the water.
Most safaris leave early in the morning, around 06:30 and return at midday for lunch at the camp. In the afternoon, you’ll head back out and return for sundowners at the end of the day. Night drives are not possible in the Serengeti.
Getting to the Serengeti
There is an airstrip located in the park itself – the Seronera Airstrip receives flights from Dar es Salaam (with flights times from 2.5-4 hours depending on the size of plane you book), Arusha, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and Ruaha.
Most planes flying to the Serengeti are small bush planes, and so we recommend you keep your luggage as light and small as possible.
You can drive from Arusha, which takes 8 hours but is a safari ride in itself; you will pass much wildlife and beautiful scenery, along a rather bumpy road.
You could also fly one way and drive back.