SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
The Serengeti National Park is arguably the best known wildlife sanctuary in the world. “Serengeti” means “endless plains” in the Maasai language and these rolling distances of short grass plains provide an exceptional landscape for wildlife viewing; it is ultimate Safari expedition. Three million large mammals live within the Serengeti’s boundaries. With altitudes ranging from 920 to 1,830 meters , it’s average temperatures vary from 15 degrees to 26 degrees Celsius with the coldest temperatures experienced from June to October.
Serengeti: Regions Explained
The National Park is broadly divided into three distinct areas, the Seronera Valley and Seronera River, the Western Corridor and the Northern Lobo area that extends northwards through the Lamai Wedge to the Maasai Mara.
Central Serengeti: Seronera Valley
Most visitors enter the Serengeti through the southern Naabi Hill Gate, which opens onto the Seronera Valley; a vibrant wildlife area at the heart of the Serengeti. This is the region in which the migration commonly calve in march each year. The Seronera region is mainly wide open grassy plains and rock kopjes, patched together within a network of rivers that ensure year-round water supplies and keep this region incredibly rich in wildlife throughout the year. All other areas of the Serengeti are more seasonal and much of the time wildlife viewing is dependent on the path of the migration.
Serengeti: The Western Corridor
This follows the path of the Grumeti River up towards Lake Victoria. This region provides superb wildlife viewing action when the migration crosses the crocodile infested waters of the Grumeti; at this point camps such as the CCA Grumeti River or Kirawira come into their own. It is also possible to arrange mobile camping in this region in order to optimise your location.
Serengeti: The Northern Reaches
The Northern reaches of the Serengeti remain fantastically quiet and unvisited, due to their relative inaccessibility. Previously inaccessible swathes of National Park at Wogakuria, close to the Masai Mara border, have been opened up. This region has been described as ‘ultimate paradise’ for keen safari buffs.
Flora & Fauna
Wildlife: About 35 species of plains animals may be seen here including the so-called “big seven” – buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, cheetah and African hunting dog. Unfortunately very few of the latter remain in the Serengeti. Originally exterminated as a threat to domestic stock they have more recently become victims of distemper. On a brighter side, after being decimated by poaching, the black rhino population of the Serengeti has developed well in recent years: There are now 13 black rhinos in the Moru Kopjes area but they may be very difficult to see as visitors are only allowed to drive through the area on certain roads. White rhinoceros are not found in the Serengeti.
In May or early June, huge herds of wildebeest and zebra begin their spectacular 600 mile pilgrimage. In their wake follow the predators – lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and jackal – while vultures circle overhead and some of Africa’s biggest crocodile lie in wait. Other animals frequently seen in the Serengeti include baboons, caracal, civet, bat-eared fox, genet, giraffe, hippo, honey badger, hyrax, mongoose, ostrich, serval, both Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, vervet monkeys and some 20 types of antelope including eland, hartebeest or kongoni, impala, kudu, reedbuck, roan, topi, waterbuck and the much smaller dik dik, duiker, klipspringer and oribi.
Birds: The Serengeti also has a profusion of bird life; Ostriches are common here and over 500 species of resident and migrant birds soar over these endless plains, including bustards, cranes, eagles, herons, owls, storks, vultures and the bizarre, long-legged secretary birds. Other noted birds are the Kori bustard, Larks, Fiches and Raptors. The park is home to the amazing Lilac-breasted roller and three endemic species of Tanzania: Fischer’s Lovebird, Grey-romped spur fowl and Babbler-like rufous-tailed weaver.
Migration in the Serengeti
The wildebeest migration, like a discernible thread, embraces and connects the Serengeti’s ecosystem much as it has done for at least two millions years. Every year, with some seasonally dictated variations in timing and scale, one million wildebeest leave the southern Serengeti’s short grass plains in search of the grass and water they need to survive. During their annual pilgrimage they will travel some 2.000 miles devouring 4.000 tonnes of grass a day. A quarter of a million will be born, many will die (~40%).
For the latest migration update: Wildebeest Watch
The migration is in the southeastern Serengeti on the short-grass plains after the short rains which have nurtured fresh grass. This month and December are the peak months for zebra birth.
The short-grass plains are the main feeding ground for some two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle. Predators lurk close by, feeding on the newborn. This is the main month for wildebeest calving.
Beginning of the long and heavy rains. Clouds, growing in intensity, appear from the south and occassional lightning illuminates the night sky. The short-grass plains’ pastures are nearing exhaustion and the newborn can keep up with the herds.
Heaviest rainy month. Wildebeest are almost evenly scattered on the short-grass plains.
Good forage still available but water begins to be a limited factor. Now the vast herds begin to coalesce with columns containing hundreds of thousands stretched over many km as they had across the woodland zones into the Western Corridor where new food and water has been generated by the rains around Grumeti.
Rains come to an end and the herds leave the black-cotton-soil plains, crossing the Grumeti River where many wildebeest drown every year providing food for the crocodiles who lurk at crossing points. In a normal year they will be in Seronera/Moru kopjes area.
The migration now heads northwest briefly leaving the park as they enter the Grumeti Controlled Area, with a small portion of the herd heading towards the Lobo area. Visitors should note that morning temperatures have fallen sharply.
The migration and the ever-attendant predators trailing now cross the Ikorongo controlled Area. The various branches of the migration begin to meet up. The migration in a normal year should now be in the northern Serengeti and entering Maasai Mara. It is still cold in the mornings.
The migration has now entered Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve just across the northern border from the Serengeti. Temperatures begin to rise and the skies are blue by day.
This is the driest month in the Serengeti with the bulk of the animals briefly absent in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve where there is always plentiful water and better grazing for the plains animals at this time of year.
As if sensing the oncoming short rains with clouds gathering in the sky, the migration begins its trek back home to the Serengeti. Flame trees are beginning to blossom and migrant birds start to arrive.
The migration increases its pace as it heads towards Serengeti’s southern plains where the short rains are generating the grass. It follows the Loliondo boundary of the park and the zebra begin to give birth.
Size: 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles) stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west.
Location: A six hour drive (335km or 208 miles) or one hour flight, from Arusha. On route, you can visit Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge or make a detour to neighbouring Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron’s flamingos.
What to do
Hot air balloon safaris, walking safari, picnicking, game drives, Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks.
When to go
- To follow the wildebeest migration, December-July;
- To see predators, June-October.
- End of October and November the migration heads back (fast) to Serengeti’s lush southern plains from Maasai Mara.
Important Note: The route and timing of the wildebeest migration is unpredictable. Allow at least three days to be assured of seeing them on your visit – longer if you want to see the main predators as well.
Public campsites, lodges or luxury tented camps are scattered throughout the park.