The most photographed and filmed game reserves in Africa with an incredibly dense population of wildlife and never-ending rolling plains. This is the Africa many dream of: a richness of wildlife, splendor, serenity and uninterrupted clear summer days.
Serengeti National Park is the largest park in the Tanzania national park system, covering an area of 14 763 km². It is a World Heritage Site, and a Biosphere Reserve. The Serengeti ecosystem is perhaps best known for the continuous migration of over 1.4 million wildebeest, 0.2 million zebra and 0.7 million Thompson’s gazelles.
For centuries, the vast wilderness of the Serengeti Plains remained virtually uninhabited but about hundred years ago the nomadic Maasai came down from the north with their cattle. The first European to set foot in the area was the German explorer and naturalist Dr Oscar Baumann, who passed by as an agent of the German Anti-Slavery Committee on his way to Burundi. He was followed by his compatriots who built Fort Ikoma in the north which was used as an administrative centre until it fell to the British in 1917.
The first professional hunters came in 1913. Seven years later, an American arrived in a strange new contraption known as a Ford motor-car and news of the wonders of the Serengeti had reached the outside world. Because the hunting of lions made them so scarce (they were considered ‘vermin’), it was decided to make a partial Game Reserve in the area in 1921 and a full one in 1929. With the growing awareness of the need for conservation, it was expanded and upgraded to a National Park in 1951. Eight years later the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was established in the south-east as a separate unit.
The Park can be divided into 3 sections. The popular southern/central part (Seronera Valley), is what the Maasai called the “serengit”, the land of endless plains. It’s classic savannah, dotted with acacias and filled with wildlife. The western corridor is marked by the Grumeti River and has more forests and dense bush. The north, Lobo area, meets up with Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve, is the least visited section. A unique combination of diverse habitats enables it to support more than 30 species of large herbivores and nearly 500 species of birds. Its landscape, originally formed by volcanic activity, has been sculptured by the concerted action of wind, rain and sun. It now varies from open grass plains in the south, savannah with scattered acacia trees in the centre, hilly, wooded grassland in the north, to extensive woodland and black clay plains to the west. Small rivers, lakes and swamps are scattered throughout. In the south-east rise the great volcanic massifs and craters of the Ngorongoro Highlands. Each area has its own particular atmosphere and wildlife.
1. Great Migration
The wildebeest and zebra migration in the Serengeti ecosystem is one of the last large scale terrestrial mammal migrations in the world and this momentous occasion is a huge draw card to the Serengeti. “The Great Migration,” is a huge annual movement of approximately 1.5 million wildebeest, accompanied by several hundreds of thousands of zebras and other antelopes. It is the classic view of the great migration, with huge numbers of wildebeest roaming around the endless plains. As always, the presence of the herds makes many predators in the area become active.
Over 500 species of birds have been recorded in the park, including a number of specialty species. Nearly 100 species found in the Serengeti have restricted ranges in the country, and of these 11 are endemic or near-endemic. Some 50 species are restricted to the western Grumeti area, which is less visited because it’s more remote than other parts of the Serengeti. The park is also the homeland of the amazing Lilac-breasted roller and the 3 endangered Tanzanian species: Grey-rumped spur fowl, Fischer’s lovebird and the babbler-like Rufous-tailed weaver. The Serengeti is also inhabited by a very special bird worth looking for the honey guide.
Not only is the wildlife amazing but the scenery is out of this world. Views include grasslands, kopjes, forests, swamps and woodlands. The nearly flat Serengeti plain is a vast, high plateau, short-grass savanna that covers approximately 25 000 kms². Trees appear only along the rivers and kopjes. The soils though easily eroded are quite fertile, making the Serengeti one of the most productive grasslands in the world.
4. Epic Photography
The Serengeti is a land of vast plains and abundant wildlife, where a never-ending drama plays out as predators and prey battle for continued existence. To witness the great migration, the largest migration of land animals on the planet, is breath-taking and predators are in abundant here making it an ideal destination for an African photographic safari.
You will be transferred Serengeti is about 325 km from Arusha in a 4×4. The road passes Lake Manyara, goes through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and takes approximately eight hours of road travel. We recommend that you fly-in as road conditions are terrible and therefore road travel may prove to be uncomfortable and exhausting, however but the road trip offers beautiful scenery.
Flights into Serengeti can land at a number of airstrips, including Seronera or Grumeti, and daily scheduled charter flights from Arusha run throughout high season. Arusha is served by two airports. Arusha Domestic Airport has daily flights from numerous local destinations and Kilimanjaro International Airport has daily flights from local, African and international destinations.
Weather & Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the Serengeti for most people is when the Great Wildebeest Migration is in full flow, but actually you can see evidence of movement for many months, not just when the dramatic River Mara crossings are happening, which is June-Sep. During these months it is also extremely hot, pushing over the 30°C . Many people avoid the rainy season, March-early May, with another short one Nov-Dec. Although there is still great wildlife to be seen, at a fraction of the cost. However, Jan-Feb is green and gorgeous with young wildlife being introduced to the world.
Accessing health care is major challenge and hence some lodges have an on-site doctor or medical assistant, and a dispensary for guests and staff. You will only find decent medical service at Arusha which is a 6-8 hour drive from the Serengeti. Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre is a full-service hospital and serves as a “consultant” hospital. It provides a full range of services including both primary care and sophisticated specialist care. The hospital serves as a Zonal Referral Hospital with specialist care provided for Inpatient Wards, Outpatient Visits, Emergency Department Visits, Dental Clinic Visits, and the HIV Care and Treatment Clinic. Selian Lutheran Hospital is a government run hospital located about ½hour drive from Arusha.
Health & Safety
A pre-travel consultation with your health provider is highly recommended and may bring along a small personalized medical kit. Generally, we recommend that your purchase medical evacuation insurance. Malaria transmission occurs in this game park. Safari activities include animals at dusk or after dark, sometimes near waterholes, all increasing the risk of being bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Taking preventative medication and using personal protection techniques – wearing long sleeved shirts and pants, using insect repellents, and under mosquito netting – are essential.
The primary draw to the Serengeti is the Great Migration and the great wildlife viewing opportunities, but there are other things you might want to consider adding to your itinerary. Also, there are alternative ways to see wildlife other than from the back of a Land Cruiser.
Games drives are the quintessential experience in Serengeti National Park and hands-down the best way to catch sight of the Big Five along with scores of other animals and absorb the magic of the plains. The options are endless it seems when searching for the right drive (be sure to do your research and catch up on plenty of reviews before booking). Making a sight-seeing priority list is a great way to narrow your focus down to what you want to see–not all areas of the park are the same and some take longer to get to than others. Roads are rough and distances long so visitors should note that the African massage is almost inevitable at some point. Professional guides can make a great trip into a fantastic one with their skill for spotting wildlife and explaining the ecosystem and animals in depth.
Mobile camps ranges from budget camps set up in the shared public campsites, through luxury mobile camps with en suite facilities, to semi-permanent tented camps which are as comfortable as and arguably far more luxurious than bricks and mortar lodges. Mobile camps can be set up in more remote areas than it is feasible to build lodges, which is generally to their advantage, but it means that they are not to be regarded as an economy option. What you lose in amenities (air conditioning, 24-hour electricity, swimming pool) you gain in ambience and intimacy.
Night Game Drive
The Serengeti is filled with nocturnal animals that cannot be seen during daytime game drives. Booking a night drive is the only way to see the extensive number of nocturnal animals living throughout the area include aardvarks, civets, bush babies, nightjars (birds), and maybe even some hunting predators (now that’s an incredible sight!). There are also hyena, jackals, impala, giraffes, foxes, and zebra–there’s quite a list of night-loving animals. Night drives aren’t permitted directly in the park yet some outfitters have permission to operate them on the very outskirts of the park, offering a much different perspective. Without any park fencing, the outskirts still afford great opportunity to see the likes of almost any animal found within park boundaries. The thrill of glowing eyes and the sound of wildlife at night is pretty spectacular and also a terrific way to beat the heat.
Visit Olduvai Gorge
In the Arusha region in the eastern part of the Serengeti Plains is Olduvai Gorge, a paramount paleoanthropological location where human fossils and ancient tools dating back more than two million years were discovered by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey in 1929. This discovery is said to have been invaluable in expanding our understanding of Human evolution. The extensive gorge was excavated thoroughly, and more than 60 fossil remains of human ancestors were discovered. The gorge is located in the Great Rift Valley, a plummeting ravine spanning 48 kilometres in length–it’s just over 40 kilometres from another significant archaeological point called Laetoli where volcanic ash has preserved ancient human footprints. Just a few kilometres south of the park’s border, Olduvai Gorge is a handy place to stop for anyone traveling between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
One of the best ways for an aerial view of Serengeti National Park is to take a hot air balloon to the skies. The entire, magnificent park expanse is in sight, albeit, for a hefty price with the added “bonus” of a glass of champagne and a full breakfast. Hot air balloons take off at dawn–a great time to see lots of movement on the ground. The rides aren’t too long but entirely worth it if you’ve got the means. Leaving at dawn, riders are afforded a phenomenal view as the sun rises over the plains and comes to an end when the sun starts really heating up. As it peaks out over the landscape, the balloon will come down and level but with the treetops for an excellent view of the animals before they seek shelter from the heat of the sun.
Combine traditional game drives with guided walks in the Serengeti National Park. This adventure allows you to take a walk on the wild side in search of the impressive animal, bird and plant species that exist in the diverse Serengeti. Explore the rolling grassy great plains of the Serengeti, marvel at the cheetahs’ stealth and speed and the apparent laziness of the lions. Get your walking boots dusty as you make new discoveries about the African bush. Each location on this walk has beautiful and varied landscapes and of course, diverse wildlife.
Ngorongoro Crater Extension
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers 8,292 square kilometres and sits adjacent to the Serengeti and en-route from Arusha to The Mawe camp, so it offers the perfect opportunity to stop off and experience. The jewel in Ngorongoro’s crown is a deep, extinct volcanic crater, the largest un flooded and unbroken caldera in the world. About 20kms across, 600 meters deep and 300 kms² in area, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breath-taking natural wonder. Teeming with wildlife it is often compared to the Garden of Eden and wildlife viewing in the crater is out of this world – all major animals are easily seen. Ngorongoro is easily accessible from the Serengeti National Park.
The semi-nomadic Maasai people, who live in the Great Rift Valley along northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, have a long history with the Serengeti plains and ecosystem. They are East Africa’s most renowned tribe because of their villages’ close proximity to many favoured game reserves, they’re dedication to traditional practices, and their vibrant and unmistakable attire. The villages, called bomas, are open to visitors–the Maasai are friendly people–who are engaged by learning about the Maasai way of life: traditions, customs, and lifestyle. A typical village visit generally includes a look at a local school, a short dance ceremony, and the chance to peruse and buy some locally made traditional handicrafts (an important source of income for the Maasai). While some visits might be authentic, some can feel choreographed and commercial.
How long should I stay for?
As one of the most popular safari destinations in Africa, it’s suggested to book well in advance for your trip. Especially if you want to see the Serengeti during the high and peak seasons.
Should I take any medical precautions?
It is mandatory, for any visitor to Tanzania, to be vaccinated for if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever. Malaria is present in many parts of east Africa, including Tanzania. We suggest you bring prophylaxis prescribed by your local doctor, as well as a mosquito repellent.
Can I feed the animals?
The feeding of the animals is absolutely prohibited. The animals get ill from it and for you it is a life-threatening danger.
Is water safe to drink?
Most lodges and camps have bottled mineral water readily available and this water is very safe.
Is Wi-Fi internet access available on lodges / camps in the Serengeti?
Generally, Wi-fi internet is available and in some cases it is available on a limited basis.
Will I have mobile reception in the Serengeti?
Yes, you will be cellular coverage although you may experience intermittent loss in other areas.
Will I have access to ATM whilst I am at Serengeti?
No, you will not have access to an ATM machine, however major credit cards are widely accepted.
Can I take photographs of people whilst I am on safari?
Resist the urge to take photographs of people on the roadside (the Maasai, in particular) without first asking permission. Permission may not be granted, or will be for a fee, sometimes as high as $10 per person, in which case you may refuse with good grace.
Spoil yourself in 10 days in a fulfilling luxurious safari. Fly-off from the North and finish off on the South of Tanzania and cover the Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park and Ruaha National Park. Conclude …
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65 Casa Bella, 247 Sullivan Street, Centurion, Pretoria,South Africa, 0157
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