Serengeti National Park – Cycle of Life (The Great Migration)
Serengeti National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. It is a bucket list destination for many travelers and safari enthusiasts. The park covers 14,763 km² and is the largest and oldest national park in Tanzania. The vegetation includes acacia savannah in the central parts, grassland plains in the south and east, hilly and densely wooded areas in the north and extensive woodland in the west, and rocky outcrops- kopjes. The Maasai people call it ‘’Siringet’’ meaning wide endless plains.
The park hosts the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle – The Great Migration and has an all-year-round abundance of wildlife making it one of the best safari destinations in Africa. The wildlife experience in this most famous park is unparalleled! The entire Serengeti ecosystem includes the Maswa Game Reserve (2,200km2) in the south, Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves in the east, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya (1,672km2) to the north, and Loliondo Game Controlled Area in the west.
Every year during the rainy months of January to March, the wildebeest are scattered over the southern part of the Serengeti and the western side of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. April they begin to migrate northwest in search of food. The crossing of the Grumeti River through the western corridor takes place between late May and early July. Then in August, they make the ‘great migration’ from Serengeti to Masai Mara before heading south in November in anticipation of the rains.
Wildlife drives are great for other game sightings like Elephants, Buffaloes, Wildebeests, Warthogs, Gazelles, Duikers, Elands, Zebras, Antelopes, Lions, Hyenas, Leopards, Cheetahs, and many more animals. There are more than 530 species of bird that have been recorded in Serengeti, a quarter of which migrate annually to or through the park.
Things to do in Serengeti National Park
Witness the Great Migration
The great migration is a sight to behold, .this is the world’s largest animal migration as it involves more than one million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles. For the Great Migration, you can see the herds moving into the Western Corridor from May to July, however, the main event of the Mara River crossing happens in July and August, and again in October or November, when the rainy season begins.
Visit the Seronera River Valley
This vast valley in the Central Serengeti has an abundance of wildlife. The River keeps the vegetation plentiful hence supporting herbivores throughout the year. Wildebeest, zebras, elephants, giraffes, gazelles, and many other species can be spotted. A large amount of prey also draws the highest population of predators. The golden grassland rustles with the movement of roaming lions, cheetahs, and hyenas. This is also one of the best places to find the park’s elusive leopards.
Serengeti Safari Hot Air Balloons
Serengeti is quite large and exploring the place by foot is impossible. The Hot Air Ballons are done at dawn and you’ll be able to view the sunrise across the peninsula taking in the sights of animals. The balloon has a capacity of 8- 12- and 16-passenger and takes people across Central Serengeti and seasonally through the Western Corridor and Southern Serengeti) to give them a bird’s-eye view of the park. The session lasts about an hour, after which passengers gather, surrounded by the park’s lush plains, for a sparkling wine toast and an “Out of Africa” English-style breakfast.
Visit the Lobo Valley
The Lobo Valley is the best place to spot lions and other big cats in the Serengeti. The big cats are attracted to the valley because of abundant prey and permanent waterholes. Apart from the big cats, the Lobo Valley also attracts baboons, elephants, and giraffes. Between July and November, the valley is the center of the great migration. Tourists flock to the valley to observe zebras, wildebeest, and gazelles enjoying the lush green grass in the area.
Visit the Olduvai Gorge
Situated in the midst of Serengeti national park and the Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge is famous for being the site where 2 million-year-old human fossils were found. It is a top tourist spot in Serengeti that allows history buffs to dig out more about the past. Visit the Oldupai Museum which showcases the facts about fossils.
Visit the Bologonja Springs
The Northern Serengeti – Bologonja Springs downstream to the Larelemangi salt lick is great for wildlife viewing – like elephants and giraffes, as well as a variety of birds and antelope species. Bologonja Springs is a hotspot for animals and the perfect bird-watching spot. The verdant Bologonja Springs attracts hundreds of animals with refreshing waters and verdant canopies.
Walking Safaris in the Moro Kopjes and Kogatende Regions
Serengeti is home to Moru Kopjes which gives travelers a choice to explore this famous place in Tanzania. Moru Kopjes is an incredibly interesting rock formation that will definitely thrill the adventurer in you. These mound-like rocks rise up like mountains and serve as shelters for the animals. This is an ideal spot in Serengeti for animal viewing as it has animals such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, and the famous black rhinos. They are covered with vegetation, small pools, and shade. This is where lions and other predators go to rest as they look out for prey. The Moru Kopjes are the most popular and impressive within the Serengeti. They also contain old Masai paintings. From the top of the Kopjes, you can scan the horizon with your binoculars and get beautiful views of wildlife in the plains. The Moru Kopjes are the best place to spot black Rhinos.
The Serengeti National Park is home to 542 recorded species of birds of which 11 are endemic to the Serengeti. The endermic bird species include grey-throated spurfowl, Schalow’s wheatear, red-throated tit, rufous-tailed weaver, grey-crested helmet shrike, and Schalow’s turaco. There are also migratory birds that visit the park between November and April. They come all the way from Europe and North Africa. The species to look out for are the great African Ostrich, vultures, Black-headed Heron, D’Arnaud’s barbet, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Decken-Toko Tockus, Grey-breasted spurfowl, Grey-headed sparrow, Purple Grenadier, Red-backed scrub, Rufous-tailed weaver, Secretary birds, The Kori bustard, Variable Sunbird, White-bellied go-away bird, White-crowned shrike, and Yellow-throated sandgrouse.
Night Time Game Drive
A night game drive in Serengeti National Park usually takes place in the Ikoma area which has a number of animals coming around. These night game drives in Serengeti National Park last about 2-3 hours, usually starting at 8 pm up until 11 pm. Travelers get an opportunity to see leopards, lions, civets, bush babies, genets, prickly porcupines, and nightjars.
The Retina Hippo Pool
The pool is found in the Seronera sector of the park and attracts hundreds of hippos. Hippos and buffaloes are arguably the most dangerous animals to humans in the Serengeti. The pool offers you a chance to observe them and take great photos. Tourists are allowed to explore the pool on foot as they watch the hippos fight for the best spots. After watching the mammals and taking photos, you can go for lunch to the picnic area.
Explore the Serengeti Visitor Center
If you want to know more about Serengeti, then the visitor center would be a perfect place that will give you more detailed information about the place. The center features a walking path for self-guided walks where exhibits and detailed signs educate on Serengeti’s history, its wildlife, and the ecosystem.
Experience Massai culture and lifestyle
Serengeti is home to the Maasai tribe which reflects the ancient culture and lifestyle of Africa. Visit the Massai village to explore their traditional way of living, culture, and nature. You can learn about Maasai customs, rituals, and traditions, visit a few of their homesteads, and learn about their culture and traditional beliefs. and take a look at their handicrafts made using traditional methods. The Maasai are semi-nomadic pastoralists living in most parts of Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They are arguably the most known East African tribal group. They have tall stature and put on vibrant/colorful attire. The Masai have lived within/close to the Serengeti plains for the last 300 years (after migrating from Sudan). They still believe in their ancient traditional practices and values. You may participate in the traditional dance performances.
Where to stay in the Serengeti Park
Serengeti Kuhama Camp
The camp is in the central Serengeti prime game viewing area, 29 kilometers southwest of Seronera airstrip. Kuhama offers an ideal base from where guests can explore many parts of the Serengeti – to the north, west, east, and the Moru kopjes.
There are only 10 guest tents, spread out on the lower slopes of Makoma Hill with views of the Serengeti savannah. The tents feature a wood floor and are furnished with beds made of fine tropical wood, and bedside tables. The en-suite washroom facilities are set on the far end of the guest tent with a hand washbasin, a safari bucket shower, and a flush toilet. Each tent has a verandah with two safari chairs and a table, to enjoy the different scents, sights, and sounds around you. This is an eco-friendly camp fully powered by solar energy.
Other facilities include a spacious and well-ventilated, dining area with a standard restaurant and a small cozy lounge with charging units for guests. Wi-Fi is available in the dining/lounge area free of charge. There is always a crackling campfire for social gatherings in the evening.
Serengeti Sopa Lodge
The Lodge is set in the Nyaruboro Hills, in the southwestern part of the park, overlooking the kopje-studded Serengeti plains, about a 45-minute drive to Seronera airstrip. The Lodge’s 65 rooms are furnished with local fabrics and art. Each room has a lounge and mini-bar, en-suite bathroom, and each features a verandah opening dramatically to the game-filled plain below. The lodge also features 5 double-story suites with a lounge area on the ground floor, a bedroom upstairs with a king-size bed on a raised wooden platform, a bathtub facing the plains, and an outside open shower. Other facilities at the lodge include an open spacious dining area, a bar area strategically placed with an uninterrupted view of the Serengeti plains and a terrace with comfortable chairs. a swimming pool, gift shop.
Kubu Kubu Tented Camp
The Kubu Kubu Tented Camp is located in the prime central Serengeti area, where Seronera River provides year-round surface water for resident game. The camp comprises 25 spacious double tents, all furnished with a large king-size bed or twin beds, and have en-suite bathrooms with a flush toilet, hand basin, and shower with hot water. Lights are powered by solar with a backup generator. There is a cozy lounge and a restaurant, a swimming pool Wi-Fi in the central building, a small library, and board games. Breakfasts and cocktails can be arranged in private areas of the park upon request.
The best time to visit Serengeti Park
The best time to visit the Serengeti is from January to February or from June to October. However, the Serengeti’s density of wildlife offers a spectacular safari experience no matter what time of the year you visit. The park’s open plains and mild climate mean that vegetation is never too dense to see animals, and the region’s two short rainy seasons from November to December and March to April are rarely too unpleasant.
January is when the rolling plains of the Serengeti are lush with vegetation and the game viewing is excellent. The Ndutu Plains area is very popular during this period as the landscape is greener than other parts, with year-round resident wildlife such as elephants, giraffes, and various antelope species. It’s the wildebeest calving season during February which makes this a great time for a Serengeti safari to witness the many herds giving birth to their young. The wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles making their annual migration through the Serengeti National Park can be viewed in their thousands.
March- April marks the beginning of the ‘long rains’ season, there are fewer safari crowds, and the migratory herds begin to leave the Ndutu region in the south and head west. The humidity rises during March -April but this is the best time to go to the Serengeti for great rates on accommodation.
July – September is the peak season to witness the Great Migration. River crossings are a spectacle during these months though this means there are many tourists in the park. August is peak season and generally considered the best time to witness the dramatic river crossings from the northern Serengeti into the Masai Mara.
How to get to Serengeti National Park
Arusha to Serengeti is about 7- 8 hours. There are regional flights from Arusha or Kilimanjaro to the park that take 1-2 hrs flight to any seven of the airstrips of the park. All these flights are operated by Coastal Aviation or Grumeti Air.
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