Complete Guide To Visiting Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is situated in Tanzania and holds one of the largest concentration of animals found in East Africa. It is known for its large herds of wild animals, which include billions of wildebeest that migrate each year from food-deficient grasslands in the southern Serengeti to the well-watered Masai Mara area in the north where the grasslands are better feed.
The Serengeti, also known as the Great Plains of Africa, is the oldest known national park in Africa, and one of the oldest and largest protected areas in the world. The park covers an area of more than 573,000 square kilometres, making it more than highly probable you will see some of the animals on your bucket list.
What Animals Can You Expect to See in the Serengeti National Park?
The park is well-known for its incredible scenery but the real draw is its diversity of wildlife. The Serengeti is located in the Great Rift Valley and is surrounded by the famous Serengeti plains. These plains are home to the great wildebeest migration and the annual wildebeest calving, making it one of the most popular and famous national parks in the world. It is a place where tens of thousands of animals, most of them wildebeest, gather to graze, and where visitors can see the largest concentration of Wildebeest.
In addition to the Wildebeest, the main attractions of the Serengeti are the great herds of zebra, located in the Northern Serengeti, and the great diversity of wildlife found in the park, including big cats and large herbivores like elephants, , lions, and rhinoceroses. The most common predators in the park are the African lion, leopard, and cheetah.
Wildebeest & Zebra
Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti National Park has been a yearly event since the late 1970s. The migration is a remarkable display of the power of nature. During the migration, there can be up to 2 billion wildebeest and 200 million zebra, which can move 40 miles a day. The wildebeest migrate in the height of the dry season usually around mid July. It would pay to check before you book however as it does depend slightly on rainfall and feed levels.
Wildebeests migrate in the wild between the Serengeti National Park & Masai Mara each year in search of better pastures. They are part of a long-distance movement that begins with the wet season and continues during the dry season. Wildebeest are usually found in the Mara River, the Masai Mara River and the Serengeti River. The population is highly varied at different times of the year. Its very difficult to predict when they will cross the river (which is the main draw card), however just seeing millions of wildebeest cantering through the park is still pretty incredible.
Zebras are the striped antelopes of Africa, making them not only beautiful but also a favourite animal of wildlife photographers and zoologists around the world.
A few big cat species are found in Tanzania, but the most common and popular is the lion, which is frequently seen in the Serengeti National Park, where they primarily eat antelopes and wildebeest. The lions are attracted by the sight of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest crossing the plain, all at once, is a spectacular sight to behold, and a veritable feast for the big cats.
Leopards & Cheetahs
One of the most popular animals to be seen in the Serengeti National Park is the leopard. Leopards aren't see super frequently and its rare to see one out in the open. They are often sighted deep in the bushes and trees of the savanna, hunting for prey. They are most commonly found in the northern part of the park where the vegetation is densest. There are two species of leopard found in the Serengeti: the African leopard and the Indian leopard.
Elephants are the largest land mammal in the world. They are found in woodlands, grasslands, savannas, and forests. An adult elephant can measure up to 9 meters in length and 3.5 meters in height. They can weigh up to 6.6 tons.
Elephants are found in the Serengeti National Park, where they primarily eat grass and leaves. The Serengeti is one of the best places in the world to see large herds of elephants. The largest herds are found in the northern part of the park, where the feed is most plentiful, but its not unusual to see them all over the park.
The giraffe is an icon of Africa and is found in the Serengeti National Park, where they primarily graze eating acacia leaves. The giraffe is the tallest living land mammal and can measure up to 18 meters in length and 2.7 meters in height. The male giraffe has a long neck and long legs, while the female is slightly smaller. Both sexes have a shaggy mane, which is a characteristic that has made them popular with tourists.
The giraffe is an animal found in the savannas, woodlands, grasslands, and forests of sub-Saharan Africa. The most common type of giraffe is the Masai giraffe, which is found in the Serengeti National Park. The Masai giraffe is the most populous species of giraffe in the world. The Masai giraffe is most commonly found in the northern part of the park but can be found throughout the region.
Other Animals you might see in the Serengeti National Park
Other animals that can be found in the park include the African wildcat, hyenas, chimpanzees, and of course the crocodiles. The park is also home to a small population of rhinoceros along with some beautiful birdlife.
The Best Time to Visit the Serengeti National Park
The best time to visit the Serengeti National Park is between June to September, with the dry season being the best time to enjoy the park. The period from January to February is also great for visiting the southern section of the park. During the rainy season from March to May, the park is usually closed as a result of heavy rain and the inability to safely manoeuvre through the park.
Of course if your main focus is the wildebeest migration mid July is usually the best best.
Be Aware: the river crossing for the wildebeest is actually in Masai Mara National Park further north across the border into Kenya.
Something else to consider is that the temperatures are nowhere near what most visitors expect them to be. Highs are typically around 27 degrees Celsius (80F) at the peak of summer so quite bearable.
Getting To Serengeti National Park
Most safaris to Serengeti start at Arusha. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Kilimanjaro Airport about 50km from Arusha and get your safari company to pick you up there or get one of many transfers available. This Viator page will show you multiple airport transfer options.
There are direct flights from Dar es Salaam to Arusha however they are often charter airlines and the cost varies quite a bit as do the times.
The most common way to get to Arusha is via Nairobi which is a large airport with multiple options to Kilimanjaro. You can only fly direct to Arusha from Dar es Salaam so unless you are already in Dar, get yourself to Nairobi and then to Kili airport from there. While there are charter flights from Kilimanjaro airport to Arusha, by the time you wait for your flight & pay charter prices a transfer is easier and cheaper.
Lately I've been using Get Transfer and have found them to be great even for these more remote locations. Give them a try and see if they have something that might help. Most of their transfers are based on the vehicle cost however so if there is only 1 of you it might be better to look for a shuttle.
Can I drive my own car to Serengeti National Park
If you plan on driving in the national park, you are REQUIRED to have a four-wheel-drive car. This is necessary due to the roadways, and unexpected flooding can happen at any time. It is strongly advised that you do not choose to go by self-driving vehicle; rather, you should go on one of the numerous available guided excursions.
Tours For Serengeti National Park
I would highly recommend paying for a tour of Serengeti National Park. Single or multi day tours are readily available and are by far the best way to see the park.
Tours with camping options, budget safari camps or even luxury lodges are on offer and you can pick and choose something to suit your travel style and budget.
Try to make sure you also get Ngorongoro Crater with your tour as well. Most tours that leave from Arusha cover this as it is on you way to Serengeti. The crater is teeming with wildlife and should not be missed.
Possible Tours For Serengeti
The tour shown below is a camping tour but with 3 nights and 4 days for $1250 Australian Dollars that is really good value for money.
This more luxury level tour is still based out of Arusha however is only 2 days. At $1850 AUD it is also a decent price for what looks to be a great level of accommodation.
Alternative Tours To Serengeti:
Other Serengeti Tours You Might Like
Ballooning in Serengeti National Park
If you feel like splashing out a sunrise balloon ride over Serengeti looks amazing. Unfortunately I didn't have the extra cash at the time but I did get this great photo of the lions watching the balloons. Check out the balloon trips, but make sure you book well in advance as they do sell out. They aren't cheap ($800 AUD and up) but they do usually include a bush breakfast as well.
Accommodation In Serengeti
There are several types of accommodations in the park: campsites and chalets, safari camps & lodges that will enable you to experience the best of Serengeti. The widget below will allow you to zoom in or out and check prices for multiple accommodations in one go.
Almost ALL accommodations (with the exception of the byo tent camp) can arrange safaris for you. Usually they will also do transfers to and from Arusha. The widget works best with dates so you can see accurate prices. The prices you see will be for the duration of your stay (not per night).
Accommodation in Arusha
Using Arusha as a jump off point to Serengeti National Park will mean that you will either have to stay for a night before your trip or after. Arusha is 190km to Ngorongoro Crater and about 380 from the center of Serengeti Park. You may be able to time your flight correctly however
I'm sure you will be able to book your Serengeti Safari and tour now with a little more confidence. The Serengeti is absolutely worth the 4 hour drive from Arusha and if you are in East Africa would be one of my top 5 things to see.
New Aquiline Hotel
From $36 AUD per night for a double room with a private bathroom this hotel is close to the middle of town.
The Milimani Lodge
At 3.5 km and a half hour walk from Arusha Central Market this hotel is a good price for a mid range hotel. $170AUD for a deluxe room.
The Sheraton Arusha
$370 AUD (approx.) per night will enable you to stay in the Sheraton Arusha and use everything the Sheraton usually offers.
Or use the map widget to find something close to where you would like to be.
Tell me how your visit to The Serengeti National Park goes
Hopefully this post will help you to have as great of an experience in Serengeti National Park as I had. It really was some of the best few days I had in all of Africa and I'm really looking forward to learning how your trip to The Serengeti went in the comments below.