Serengeti National Park & The Great Migration

February 1, 2019

Serengeti National Park gets its name from the Maasai word, Siringet, meaning the place where the land runs on forever- endless plains. True to its name, Serengeti National Park is mostly made up of grassy plains. At 14,750 sq km in size, Serengeti is the largest national park in Tanzania located in the Northern Tanzania in the west of the Great Rift valley. Because of its biodiversity and ecological significance, the park has been listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Overview

The park borders the Kenyan Maasai Mara National Reserve in the north and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the southeast. On the southwest lies Maswa Game Reserve, to the west are the Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves as well as Loliondo Game Controlled Area to the northeast, forming the greater Serengeti Ecosystem.

Books and films have been made about the park and many references made to the park in various works of art, making it one of the most famous parks in Tanzania, Africa and probably in the whole world. The park is so famous that in Germany they called their leisure park/zoo Serengeti Park.

Serengeti was established in 1951 to protect the wildlife, especially lions, that were at the time at high risk due to excessive hunting. Today, Serengeti has the highest concentration of large mammals in the world and has the largest number of lions than found anywhere in the world. The park has many species of animals but the major attraction for most visitors is the great migration.

The Great Migration of Serengeti

The great migration consists of wildebeest, zebras as well as gazelles (Thompson, Impala and Grant’s). The best time to visit the park for predators and other game viewing is during the dry season June to October.

For following the migration the best time is between December and July, putting in consideration that the migration passes through different regions of the park at different months.

The park can generally be seen in three to four days, however, if you are a keen photographer you may need to give it more days to capture the best photos.

Serengeti Overview

Due to its vast size, Serengeti is divided into four regions:

  • The central Seronera Valley
  • The Western Corridor
  • The Northern Lobo and Kogatende areas
  • The Southern Plains.

The Central Serengeti and the Seronera River Valley is good to visit throughout the year due to its year-round water supplies from the river valleys. The migration passes northwards through the region from mid-April to late June. This area is where most large hotels are and in turn, sees a large number of visitors.  

The Western Corridor and Grumeti come alive with the great migration from May to mid-July when the migration crosses the Grumeti River and life-battling fights can be seen between the wildebeest and the Grumeti crocodiles.

The northern Serengeti (Kogatende, Lobo and Lamai) is the quietest and untouched area of the park. The great migration passes through the region from July to October, coinciding with the overall best game viewing time for the park, making this area the best place one can be to witness the Mara River crossing of the migration.

The southern Serengeti is the true vastness of the park. The plains extend from southern Seronera into the Ngorongoro conservation area. This region is best visited during the migration which crosses the area from December to March. The wildebeest calving season falls during February and thousands of wildebeest are born every day for a period of two weeks.

Highlights

Within the park boundaries, major attractions include the great migration, the presence of the big five and other large mammals. The park is famously known for the "big five" made of Lion, African Leopard, African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros and the African Buffalo. Other species in the park include cheetah, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, some species of antelopes, hyena, baboon, impala, African wild dog, and giraffe. Serengeti also hosts the highest ostrich population.

The migration sees a struggle of survival where animals such as zebras fight to keep in their groups during the migration and at the same time having to protect themselves against predators such as lions and leopards. The migration does not test the zebras only, but thousands of wildebeest also dies in the stampedes.

The Serengeti plains aren’t quite plain; there are wooded hills, termite mounds and kopjes. The termite mounds and Kopjes, while providing shelter to animals, are homes to animals that do not live well in plain lands. The lion kopje is the most famous of the kopjes and has made it to some movies such as The Lion King.

Activities in Serengeti

The main activity in Serengeti is daytime game driving. Walking Safaris and night drives are not permitted. Few camps in the southern Serengeti are permitted to organize walking safaris, check with us for more details on where to stay for walking safaris. Balloon safaris can also be organized in Serengeti.

Best Time to Visit Serengeti

The climate in the Serengeti is usually warm and dry, with two rainy seasons, March to May and the shorter rains October to November. The best time to visit the park is between June and October when animals come out from their hiding shelters in search of water. For the wildebeest migration, anywhere between December and July is great, please check with us on which camps to stay at various times of the year in order to maximize your migration viewing.

Other activities include hot air balloon safaris, walking safaris, bush picnics, visits to Maasai Rock Paintings and musical rocks. If you are staying at the southeast Serengeti you may also visit the neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Oldoinyo Lengai and Lake Natron.

How to Get there

The park is accessible by road and by small aircraft from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Kilimanjaro and other neighbouring regions. For drive-in visitors, the road to Serengeti passes down the escarpments of the Ngorongoro highlands through Olduvai Gorge where remains of the Zinjanthropus’ and Homohabilis were found, which suggests that our species first evolved in this area.

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