Serengeti National Park is easily Tanzania’s most famous national park, and it’s also the largest, at 14,763 square kilometers of protected area that borders Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Park. Its far-reaching plains of endless grass, tinged with the twisted shadows of acacia trees, have made it the quintessential image of a wild and untarnished Africa.
Its large stone kopjes are home to rich ecosystems and the sheer magnitude and scale of life that the plains support is staggering. A large pride of lions lazes easily in the long grasses, plentiful families of elephants feed on acacia bark and trump to each other across the plains, and giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, eland, and the whole range of African wildlife is in awe-inspiring numbers.
Where is Serengeti National Park?
Serengeti National Park is in the Northern part of Tanzania, in East Africa. The park is bordered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the east and southeast, while on the south bordered by Maswa Game Reserve. Serengeti National Park is bordered by Masai Mara Kenya to the Noth. The Park is not far from Lake Victoria on the western part.
How to get to Serengeti National Park
Driving to Serengeti National Park
Most safaris to the Serengeti National Park start from the town of Arusha. The best option to get there is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) which is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), just outside of Dar es Salaam, and fly on to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). There are regular flights from Arusha to several airstrips inside the park.
It’s also possible to drive; the trip is about 325km/202mi and will take about eight hours. It is a bumpy ride but it’s scenic and you’ll see some wildlife on the way.
As the trip takes you through the Ngorongoro Conservation area, a popular option is to fly one way, and drive the other way taking in an overnight stop to visit the Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro Crater is a massive and beautiful caldera (collapsed volcano) filled with wildlife, so we highly recommend you include a stopover there in your travel itinerary.
Coming from the crater, the distance to the Seronera area in the Serengeti is about 140km/90mi, and the driving time is about three hours. If driving from Arusha to Serengeti National Park on your own, be sure to do some careful homework beforehand.
You should carry extra fuel, for instance, as the gas stations along the route don’t always have supply. Further, you should note that you must drive on the left, cellphone reception is rare along the route, and vehicle recovery can take days, even weeks. Most tour operators offering Serengeti safaris organize your transport from Arusha for you.
Flight to Serengeti National Park
There are daily flights from Kilimanjaro Airport in Arusha to Seronera Airport in the center of Serengeti National Park and to Kiravira B airfield in the western part of the park. If you are not already in or near Arusha, you can catch a connecting flight from Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast (near Zanzibar) or Nairobi in Kenya. (Note that Tanzania requires you to present a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you are entering a country at risk of yellow fever, such as Kenya.)
Serengeti National Park entrance fee
The entrance fees for visiting this Serengeti National Park are relatively reasonable. The entrance fees as of 2020 are:
- Adults over 16 years $60 €55
- Children aged 5 to 16 $30 €27
- Children below 5 years Free
Self-Drive In Serengeti National Park
You can certainly do a self-drive safari in Serengeti National Park. That said, we do not advise it. it is not a good idea. There are reasons for stating this…
You need a good 4×4 to travel inside of Serengeti, and you also need to be proficient at driving it, as the park’s roads are rutted and challenging. Bear in mind that you can not anticipate a quick, city-style assist if you breakdown inside Serengeti! It’s therefore very important to travel in a well-serviced off-road car that’s up to the rigors of the terrain.
Even though it is possible to hire a 4×4 in Arusha, if something goes wrong with the vehicle route to Serengeti or inside the park which you’re not able to address yourself, your vacation could be put in jeopardy. That is why we recommend traveling with a tour operator so that you have appropriate support and vehicle backup should anything occur. Further, it is useful to be driven by somebody who knows the park and its street network.
Tourists do not know the best places to Search for animals
The Serengeti National Park is a gigantic 14,750 km² (5,695 mi²). While you’ll surely see animals no matter which section you visit or that direction you head, if you are particularly keen to see certain animals, like lion prides and rhino crashes, then you want a driver.
One clear plan is to go on safari with an experienced driver-guide. Driver-guides know the behaviors and habitats of the various animals of the Serengeti. They understand the favorite watering spots per season, the paths of migratory herds, the birds to search for in the trees, the meanings of various animal tracks, the best places for lunch, and much more.
They are also communicating with park officials and may access the most recent on animal positions. Therefore a driver-guide is the very best shot at seeing the Big Five and other fan favorites.
Tourists do not always know what they’re seeing
Finally, a suitable driver-guide has knowledge about the animals, their habits, and habitats that can boost your safari experience to a whole new level. As an example, the uninformed visitor might see elephants rolling into the mud and assume they’re playing. A driver-guide can associate that they’re, in fact, doing so to keep cool and protect themselves from the sun and bug bites.
Further to this, visitors frequently don’t know the titles of lots of the creatures they see. Could you identify a caracal? Bat-eared fox? Buzzard? We all like to understand what we’re looking at, and therefore a well-trained safari driver-guide is key on safari. And not only do these people know their stuff but watching their fire for the animals and the ecosystem is also an important part of a good Serengeti safari.
If you take our advice and opt to use the help of a tour operator when visiting Serengeti National Park, the upcoming logical question would be: how can I go about finding and selecting a good one? (We discuss this at the end)
Safety In Serengeti National Park
Thousands and thousands of tourists visit the park every year, making security a high priority for park officials. The greatest danger arguably stems from vacationers, well, silly. Don’t decide you want an Insta pic of you cuddling an itty-bitty lion cub, for instance.
A lot of the wildlife of Africa is dangerous and has to be admired and appreciated from a proper distance. Again, a safari driver-guide is valuable in maintaining visitors to Serengeti National Park safe. You should always, consistently do as he or she informs.
A trip to the Serengeti is very safe in our opinion. Crime within Tanzania’s parks and reserves are very rare. You’ll always need to take normal safety precautions (as you would anywhere) in cities and towns as this is where incidents like petty theft can happen.
Read ‘Cities & Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ below for more information. However, you’ll be shielded from any safety issues when on an organized tour by following the instructions of your expert guide.
Malaria & Vaccinations
As malaria is present in the Serengeti, you should take measures to protect yourself. Apply DEET-based mosquito repellent (these formulations are the most effective) and take antimalarial medication. It’s a good idea to cover up exposed skin in the evening too. Several vaccinations are also advisable when traveling to Tanzania – seek advice from your local healthcare professional.
Wildlife Viewing Safety
Wildlife viewing is generally very safe, especially on an organized safari. Always listen to the directions given by your guide. Take note of the rules of the park, and if you’re on a self-drive safari, always stay in your vehicle unless you are in a designated area. For further tips, read ‘Wildlife Viewing Safety Precautions’ below.
Big Five in Serengeti National Park
it is possible to discover the Big Five in Serengeti National Park! This means that you can anticipate spotting lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant.
You may want to know that the word Big Five was not coined regarding the size of these critters. Even a hippo, for example, is much larger and thicker than the leopard or lion, yet is not contained at the Big Five. The term was invented by sport hunters with regard to the critters which are the toughest to kill (being evasive, ferocious, and fast ). Providentially, the creatures within Serengeti National Park are protected, so there is no hunting allowed there anymore.
Eastern Black Rhino
Rhinos are categorized as being black or white, with the 2 species being readily distinguishable from the contours of the mouths. Black rhinos have now pointed or hook-lipped mouths, utilized to select leaves from trees and trees. White rhinos, on the flip side, have broader, square-lipped mouths taken for grazing bud. (White rhinos are not, clearly, white in color, and they really have their title since English lands into South Africa misinterpreted the Afrikaans term wyd, meaning broad’, to meanwhile’.) The Serengeti is home to black rhinos, and they also are not the color of their title: black rhinos are gray or brownish.
African buffaloes are big bovines that live their own lives in huge herds. They’re fearsome creatures to not be trifled with. A herd of buffalo can also take on a lion, especially if revenge is needed for some nabbed calf. A buffalo can weigh up to a slew , along with the men have thick, rounded horns that are powerful weapons.
Their only real predators apart from humans are lions and huge crocodiles. However, a buffalo isn’t an easy kill, and they’re incredibly furious when cornered. They are generally considered one of the most dangerous of African animals.
Ever heard the saying that an elephant never forgets? This is only because dinosaurs have excellent memory foam. An African bush elephant’s brain could weigh up to five kg (11 lb), that’s the heaviest of almost any land animal. And speaking of mass, can you think that fully grown African elephant bulls regularly grow to be five to six tons?!
African elephants differ from Asian elephants in a number of ways; there are differences, for example, in terms of size, head shape, tusk, back tip, skin, and ear shape and dimension. And then African bush elephants differ from African forest elephants, the former being bigger and having a concave back to the latter’s almost level back. Serengeti National Park contains African bush elephants, which are the largest land mammals in the world.
Leopards are notoriously hard to spot, as they’re solitary creatures and like to sit in trees. The best approach to locate a leopard is with an experienced driver-guide. They’re known to hang about in the trees lining the Seronera River. If they have a kill, they usually drag it up to the tree to ensure scavengers like hyenas won’t hassle them. They have incredibly strong jaws.
Like domestic cats, leopards growl when angry and purr when content. They’ll also scratch trees, urinate, and defecate to mark their territory and warn off other leopards. Men and women come together only to mate, then head back off on their particular missions. When a leopardess provides birth (generally to two or three cubs at a time), she does however care for them for about two decades. Following that, the kids hit out on their own.
There are approximately 3,000 lions living in the Serengeti ecosystem. They’re relatively easy to see not only because of their numbers but also since they like to loll about for hours each day under trees. In fact, lions can lounge around for about 20 hours a day.
Being social animals, lions reside in pride. Related lionesses invest their lives together in a pride, together with up to three unrelated male lions. Lionesses do the hunting in classes while the male lions remain and guard the pride. However, the males have first dibs if a kill is brought back the pride. And were you aware that the man-lion has the loudest roar of almost any cat species? It could be heard up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) away!
Birds of Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park has an extremely impressive population of resident and migratory birds. In fact, it can claim over 500 bird species! One beauty of the Serengeti is the grey crowned crane, which is easy to spot for its spray of stiff gold head feathers.
Another of the gems to be on the lookout for is the Kori bustard, which seldom flies and can often be seen with smaller birds perching on its back. One very pretty bird to keep your eyes peeled for is the Fischer’s lovebird, which has beautifully vibrant orange, green and yellow plumage and lives only in Tanzania.
It can be found in the wooded areas of Serengeti. Also endemic to Tanzania and also very pretty is the Rufous-tailed weaver, a small songbird that is in a genus of its own. Also keep your eyes open for the beautifully patterned greater kestrel, a member of the falcon family.
Migration in Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is famed for its annual wildebeest migration, when some 8 million hooves cross the open plains, as more than 1,500,000 wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the trek for fresh grazing. Predators follow the migration and sightings of big cats hunting is particularly exciting. Spotted hyena, golden and black-backed jackal are never far off either.
The Serengeti offers amazing wildlife viewing throughout the year. June and July are the best months for seeing the migration and a possible crossing of the Grumeti River. The more famous river crossings of the Mara River can be witnessed around September in the north of the park. February is the best month for the wildebeest calving. The dry months from June to October offer the best general wildlife viewing.
The driving force behind the migration would be the search for grazing water and pasture. While the course of the migration obviously changes a bit each year according to factors like rain and land fluctuations, the total path of this migration is rather predictable. This permits guides and visitors to the park to understand whereabouts to head to find the migration in actions.
At the very heart of the Great Migration is your wildebeest or gnu. (The name wildebeest is Afrikaans for wild beast’.) Approximately one and a half million wildebeest take part in the migration, along with 300,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 200,000 zebras, as well as large herds of eland and impala. Interestingly, one of the reasons why wildebeest and zebra are able to exist in harmony and migrate jointly is that they eat different parts of identical grass.
Best time To visit Serengeti National Park
The best time to visit the Serengeti National Park is in the Dry season (from late June to October). This period offers the best wildlife viewing in general – with the wildebeest migration as its absolute highlight. Wildlife viewing is good throughout the year, but certain areas are better at specific times.
The timing of the migration varies every year (the best chance of seeing it is during June and July) while the wildebeest calving is from late January to February.
- Best Time: January-February for the wildebeest calving; June-September for general wildlife viewing with a chance of seeing the wildebeest crossing of the Grumeti River (June-July) or the Mara River (September)
- High Season: Most of the year – July to March (The Serengeti will be crowded around the Seronera area)
- Low Season: April and May (Lower rated may apply)
- Best Weather: June to October (Little to no rainfall)
- Worst Weather: March and April (Peak of Wet season)
June to October: Dry Season
- June and July are the best months to see the wildebeest migration in the western corridor and August to September in the north of the park
- Animals are easier to spot since they concentrate around waterholes and rivers and the vegetation is less thick
- Mostly sunny and there is very little rain
- Few mosquitoes and the chance of contracting malaria is minimal
- It gets quite crowded around the Seronera area
- Mornings and nights get cold-warm clothing is recommended
November to May: Wet Season
- Late January to February is the time to see the calving – this is an excellent time to see predator action
- The scenery is lush
- April and May are low seasons, so it’s usually less crowded and rates might be lower
- Although wildlife is easier to spot in the Dry season, the Serengeti offers good wildlife viewing throughout the year
- Migratory birds are present and bird-watching is at its best
- Except for March, April, and May, rains are mostly short afternoon storms and seldom interfere with your trip
- March to May is the peak of the Wet season
Climate in Serengeti National Park
The climate in Serengeti is usually moderate and pleasant. It never gets very hot, but it is consistently cool to cold at night and in the early mornings. Don’t forget to take warm clothing.
Serengeti’s Dry season is from June to October. There are two Wet seasons. The ‘short rains’ are from November to December, and the long rains’ are from March to May. During the Wet season, it rarely rains all day, but afternoon thundershowers can be expected.
Dry season – June to October
Afternoon temperatures are usually around 25°C/77°F. Most days have a fine, clear sky. It gets cold at night with minimum temperatures around 14°C/57°F.
- June, July, August & September – Occasional cold fronts are possible, with temperatures close to freezing. It’s usually cold early in the morning.
- October – The short rains might start at the end of October if they are early.
Wet season – November to May
As in the Dry season, temperatures are moderate during the Wet season. Afternoon temperatures are usually around 26°C/79°F, and night temperatures are around 15°C/59°F.
- November & December – ‘Short rains’ – An unpredictable period of about a month of rains occur sometime between October and December. The rains will be unlikely to interfere with your safari.
- January & February – There tends to be a dry spell between the short and long rains. The exact timing is unpredictable.
- March, April & May – ‘Long rains’ – These are the wettest months. It tends to rain most days, although seldom for the whole day. It is often cloudy. In April and May, cold fronts might bring colder peak temperatures.
Tips for visiting Serengeti National Park
Here are some tips for going on safari in Serengeti National Park:
- Always listen to your driver-guide if you have one. He or she knows what’s safe to do and what’s not. Never get out of the vehicle without the all-clear from your driver-guide.
- Bring a decent pair of binoculars. When you spot wildlife a little ways away from you, you’ll want to be able to train your binos on it for a better view.
- For the same reason, a camera with a good zoom is a definite bonus.
- Bring plenty of water, a sunhat, and sunscreen – things can get very hot in the crater, especially in summer.
- Don’t forget to bring a good insect repellent.
- Bring a notebook and pen to jot down the names of animals and birds you see. These will be great to have when you’re scrolling through your photos back at home and your memory proves a bit fudgy.
Accommodation in Serengeti
Visitors to Serengeti National Park usually stay within the park. Luckily you can find numerous and diverse accommodations on offer, making it possible you’ll be able to find one that fits your needs and budget. In addition, it means there’s always room for last-minute travelers. Accommodation within Serengeti includes tented camps, chalets, B&Bs, lodges, and hotels.
It’s possible to select minimalist, deciding on a campsite with beachfront facilities, or ultra-luxurious, choosing a hotel with a swimming pool, laundry service, and other such niceties.
Be aware that off-season accommodation is drastically cheaper than peak accommodation. In reality, you can pay about a quarter of the fee at a few institutions.
How to choose a safari tour operator
When booking a Serengeti safari with a tour operator, how do you distinguish the good companies from the shysters? Here are a few tips for checking on the credibility of a tour operator:
- Browse the website to see that everything is solid and consistent
- Check for a physical business address in the contact info
- Compare their prices with those of competitors; if it’s drastically cheaper, check they can explain why
- Search for independent reviews of their services, not just those on the website (which could be fake)
- Check out their social media platforms and read the comments
- Assess their communication with you – don’t ignore your gut if it’s saying something is off
- Finally, you can always ask for a tax registration number
If you are interested in the exciting and breathtaking experience of an African safari, then you can never go wrong by heading to Africa and visiting a safari destination like Serengeti National Park. This beautiful and remarkable destination will offer you an awe-inspiring experience by taking you to the most extraordinary locations of this fascinating land of the plains, and plains again!
How to choose the Best safari tour operator
When booking a Serengeti safari with a tour operator, how do you distinguish the good companies from the shysters? Here are a few tips for checking on the credibility of a tour operator:
Make a thorough research
Browse the website to see that everything is solid and consistent
Check Business Address
Check for a physical business address in the contact info of tour operator
Compare their prices with those of competitors; if it’s drastically cheaper, check they can explain why
Search for independent reviews of their services, not just those on the website (which could be fake)
Assess their communication with you – don’t ignore your gut if it’s saying something is off
Finally, you can always ask for a tax registration number