A Travel Guide To Serengeti National Park, Tanzania : A 2023-2024 Complete Guide : It is difficult to think of a more fitting name for this well-known national park than “Serengeti,” which comes from the Maasai word for “endless plains.” Despite being the most well-known and frequently visited of all the national parks in Tanzania, the Serengeti National Park is still a place full of unanticipated discoveries.
Beyond each distant horizon, rust-colored and emerald-green grasses and trees spread out like a sea. When closely examined, its vast expanses frequently show themselves to be alive with wild, expectant, or predatory energy when viewed from a distance.
One of the most renowned wildlife preserves in the world is the Serengeti National Park. Kenyans deserve some of the credit for their country’s widespread acclaim because they worked so hard to market their own tiny portion of it. But thanks to the praise it receives from nearly all wildlife documentarians, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, visitors, and the Tanzanians themselves, this breathtaking expanse of land is being carefully preserved and returned to its most natural state.
Nearly 15,000 square kilometers of stunning Tanzanian land make up the Serengeti, and its sweeping miles of short grass plains make for an exceptional setting for wildlife viewing. This area is justifiably well-known for having large populations of wildlife, particularly big cats. Additionally, it is the location of the Great Migration, an enormous gathering of 16 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, and 350,000 gazelles that travel 1,200 miles each year in a race to find enough water and healthy grass to survive.
HISTORY OF THE SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
This is the world as it was in the beginning, reads a sign that hangs in a Serengeti entrance gate. This one area of the world has seen its fair share of history, despite the fact that it is difficult to resist romanticizing the likelihood of this assertion when surrounded by its enormous, ancient boulders scattered between land and sky.
Approximately 200 years ago, as the Maasai tribe moved south from Kenya, these vast plains—previously the domain of several pastoral nomad tribes—became Masailand, or “Siringet,” as the Maasai called it. The Maasai built their homes out of the mud and wood of the land, blending in with the natural order. With only a spear as their primary weapon, they had little to no negative environmental impact, occasionally killing a lion as a show of courage or for self-defense.
Here, the first organized safaris started in the 1920s, when foreign professional hunters learned about the abundant game and established routes in. Following reports that the region was home to a sizable lion population, the Seronera Valley and the park’s central region were declared a full game reserve in 1929.
The Serengeti became a closed game reserve in 1950, where certain species were given complete protection, and a year later it became a national park. This included the Ngorongoro Highlands and crater up until 1959, but after that they were divided up as a conservation area and used to re-house any Masaai that were still present inside the Serengeti’s borders. After Professor Bernard Grzimek, the head of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, emphasized the significance of these regions as the route of the yearly migration, its boundaries were also expanded to the north and south.
The Seronera Valley and Seronera River, the Western Corridor, and the Northern “Lobo” area, which extends north to join the Maasai Mara, are the three main regions that make up the Serengeti National Park. The migratory wildlife is always active, providing endless photo opportunities for the snap-happy.
Seronera, Central Serengeti
The southern Naabi Hill Gate, which leads to the Seronera Valley—a thriving wildlife area at the Serengeti’s center—is the most well-known entrance. The Seronera is distinguished by its vast expanses of open, grassy plains that are connected by a network of rivers that provide year-round water supplies and support an abundance of wildlife.
A haven of shade and water for all animals during the dry season, this region in particular is dotted with distinctive rock kopjes (pronounced “copies,” from the Dutch for “little head”), sporadic collections of enormous granite rocks that have weathered through the ages to form distinctive softened shapes rising out of the plains. The most notable and well-known kopjes are Simba, Gol, Barafu, Maasai, Loliondo, and Moro. They also have excellent navigational features.
At Moro Kopjes, Maasai rock paintings that are up to 200 years old are still clearly visible. The paintings are only occasionally attempted after a thorough search for resident lions because the path becomes wildly overgrown after the rains. The Seronera Valley is home to resident herds of buffalo, topi, hartebeest, and impala, as well as waterbuck, reedbuck, and dik-dik. There are also many giraffes, warthogs, and a variety of birds of all sizes and colors.
The numerous lion prides here are so well-known that they lured the first safari game-hunting expeditions here a century ago, and this region in Tanzania is where you are most likely to see cheetahs due to its rolling southern plains down to the Naabi Gate. While lions freely roam throughout, the rows of sausage trees that line the banks of the Seronera River make the ideal setting for lazy leopards to hide out on sun-dappled branches.
Lobo, Northern Serengeti
After leaving Seronera, the scenery changes as you travel north. Beyond the Orangi River, the area spreads out into the vast Togoro plains, which are clear, sun-baked, and appear to be the ideal habitat for cheetahs, though they are infrequent visitors.
It takes about three hours to travel in this manner to reach the hills and enormous kopjes of worn-smooth rock in the Lobo region, which are home to at least two extended lion prides. The Mara River, which is located further to the north, divides Kenya’s Maasai Mara from the Serengeti. Although there is a road that can be used to cross, it is not open to tourists.
The Loliondo Game Control Area, which extends south to meet the northern boundary of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, encircles this northern portion of the Serengeti. Beautiful scenery can be found in this area, which is hardly ever visited by tourists.
Those who make the effort to travel the distance are richly rewarded, regardless of whether they opted to fly in with Conservation Corporation to enjoy Kleins Camp’s luxuries or whether their appetite for adventure has sent them on a hiking and camping expedition with Focus East Africa Tours. The British Guild of Travel Writers ‘Highly Commended’ Hoopoe’s Community Conservation Project at Loliondo for their ‘Silver Otter’ global award for eco-tourism in 2000.
Clients of Hoopoe enjoy an exclusive camping concession as well as chances to interact with and go on walks with members of the local tribes in exchange for their extensive support of the Maasai village of Oloipiri.
Visitors are free to enjoy night drives and walking safaris of any length and combine their wildlife viewing with visits to villages and towns because they are only a short distance outside the park’s boundaries. The village has built up clean water sources as well as educational and medical facilities.
Huge colored granite rock formations that encircle the camp are what set this area apart, and the expansive views of the region’s rolling grasslands, forested hills, and waterways are breathtaking.
Grumeti: The Serengeti’s Western Corridor
The Serengeti divides off to the west of the Seronera in a region known as the Western Corridor, along the westerly reaches of the Grumeti River. Although there is still a healthy population of resident game in this area, it is more forested than the Seronera, making it more difficult to see them in the underbrush. If you’re visiting this region of the national park, it is worthwhile to bring a guide who is familiar with the area.
When the migration moves north from the Seronera in the months of June and July, they must overcome the often fatal challenge of crossing the crocodile-infested Grumeti River. Many of these local crocodiles depend solely on this annual feast in the spring and spend the rest of the year lying in wait with yellow teeth and mud-covered bodies.
A GUIDE TO THE GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION
During the months of the Great Migration, nothing but wildebeests can be seen off in the distance. These are joined by herds of gazelles and zebra. The zebra and wildebeest have an oddly symbiotic relationship because zebras have a natural sense of danger and seek refuge in groups of slower and less intelligent grazers.
When the migration is present, you are more likely to see grisly crime scenes because all predators—from cats to crocodiles—take advantage of the plentiful prey. Rapid hyena activity or vultures circling like tiny dark specks of ash in one area of the sky before swooping to land are both common signs of a kill.
Although the herds that migrate through the months of the year follow a general pattern of behavior, the precise speed and location of the migration are as unpredictable as the weather. They relocate in response to rain or the promise of it.
Holiday plans cannot always be made to coincide with the hordes because migrating animals cannot be counted on to be in one place at a specific time. Driving safaris can typically locate the action, while mobile camping safaris are frequently modified to fit the pace of the year.
When Can You See the Great Migration?
The migratory herds are centered in the plains between Olduvai Gorge and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area borders between January and February. The majority of zebra foals are born in January, while most wildebeest calves are born in February. These months are the calving season.
The Serengeti’s short grass plains were covered in herds in March, which crossed the boundaries near the Naabi Hill gate and grew wider as more young joined the herds. They stay in the southwest throughout April and May before gradually moving into the central plains on the Serengeti side of Naabi Hill Gate, west of Seronera.
The herds travel through Seronera regions in late June to early July before continuing up into the Western Corridor. They keep moving north through August, eventually arriving in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, where they spend September and October.
The herds disperse once more along the northern strip in November, returning in December to the plains immediately outside the Serengeti Naabi Hill Gate.
SERENGETI BALLOON SAFARIS
The rules and regulations in Serengeti Park are extremely strict. Though it does restrict opportunities for engaging in vigorous exercise, it must be done in order to preserve this magnificent wilderness.
Zooming through the bush in search of wildlife action is already stressful and adrenaline-inducing, but a balloon safari is the only way to experience that extra heart-stopping edge of excitement. Serengeti Balloon Safaris only offers these in the Seronera area.
All hotels and operators will make sure that you are picked up and transported to the launch pad during some gloomy hour before dawn since balloon safaris take place in the early morning. We advise that you bring a warm sweater for the occasion!
As dawn approaches, the balloon is put together, and passengers board in a horizontal basket that is then gently puffed vertically as the enormous bubble above inflates. This is an amazing way to see the plains below from a completely different angle, giving you a true sense of the vast spaces below and offering fantastic photo opportunities.
If the migration is in the Seronera region, a balloon trip is highly recommended because there is little chance of seeing wildlife otherwise. After the journey, guests are treated to a lavish champagne breakfast with stunning views in the shelter of a spreading acacia.
As the sun begins to rise, breakfast is a lavish and festive affair that is served at a long table with lots of people. No matter how alluring it may be to soar above the Serengeti in a hot air balloon, the cost makes this an indulgence. Despite slight seasonal variations, the average cost per person for the entire trip is $500.