Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park Guide

Visiting the Serengeti National Park is one of the top things to do in Tanzania. Serengeti National Park is a wildlife haven that covers nearly 15,000 square kilometres. The park is a priceless piece of nature, created to preserve the path of the world’s largest migration circuit- the wildebeest migration. The name Serengeti comes from the Masaai tribe meaning endless plains and these rolling distances of short grass plains provide an exceptional landscape for wildlife viewing. Safari to the Serengeti National Park is indeed a once in a lifetime experience.

The wildebeest, zebra, eland and Thompson’s Gazelle make the most of an even greater area surrounding the park including Klein’s concession, the Masai Mara in Kenya, several game reserves and control areas as well as the Ngorongoro Conservation area which is a combined range of about 30,000 square kilometres in their annual trek. Of the animals that migrate, the wildebeest cover the greatest distances – from the Masaai Mara, the northernmost extent of their travels right down to the slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater.

Serengeti National Park Wilderbeest Migration
Wildebeest Migration Image by skeeze from Pixabay

The Serengeti National Park is a unique combination of diverse habitats which allows it to support more than 30 species of large herbivores and nearly 500 species of birds. Its landscape was originally formed by volcanic activity. It 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 the park. In the northeast rise the great volcanic massifs and craters of the Ngorongoro islands. Each area has a particular atmosphere and wildlife.

When the smell of rain reaches the pregnant wildebeests head south to the short grass plains where the new green shoots emerging through the mineral-rich volcanic soil provide essential nutrition for the unborn calves- usually born in February in the far south of the range. The Grumeti population resides all-year-round dropping their calves in November or December. After the birthing season and the end of the long rains of April and May, the animals return north, passing through the western corridor on their way back across the border and Mara River into Kenya.

There is a major obstacle on the way along their journey to Kenya and that is the Grumeti River which intersects the Serengeti National Park from west to east and it’s the focal point of the western corridor. I explored this area from the Kirawira Tented Camp. Here huge crocodiles are found sunning themselves on the sandy banks and the wildebeest are on the move, it’s a feeding frenzy.

Some guides speculate that these crocodiles don’t eat much, if anything, for the remainder of the year. The best place to view crocodiles is from the western corridor at any time of the year. You can also spot trees along the river, here you will also see the Colobus Monkeys. By late August the river dwindles and it becomes unrecognizable.

Where is Serengeti National Park Located?

Most visitors enter the park from the south-east Naabi Hill Gate, dropping down from the escarpment of the Ngorongoro Highlands onto the open short grass plains. The road passes by the Olduvai Gorge, where Dr and Mrs Leakey found 1.75 million-year-old remains of the Australopithecus Boisei (Zinjanthropus) and Homo Habilis. . The national park is broadly divided into three distinct areas namely, the Seronera Valley and Seronera River and the western corridor and Northern Lobo area that extends northwards through the Lamai Wedge to the Masaai Mara.

The permanent waters in the Seronera area support wildlife throughout the year. The place is a great area to spot the leopard, hippo and elephant it is also the most frequented by tourists. While there is plenty of water, there is not enough food for over one and a half million wildebeest so they don’t linger for long here on their way to and from the short grass plains around Ndutu, Kusinin and Gol Mountains.

How To Reach Serengeti National Park

Via Road 

There are several ways to get to Serengeti National Park one is to take a chartered plane that lands at the many airstrips located in the park. You can also get to Serengeti via from Arusha town road, this trip will take you approximately 8 hours. Take note too that the roads to Serengeti are bumpy. However, you will enjoy the scenic views on your way there. To make your trip more adventurous, include some stopovers and check out other scenic attractions. This will take you about two days before you reach Serengeti National Park.

Via Air 

Kilimanjaro Airport is one of the ways you can arrive on your international flight to Tanzania. This airport is located between the towns of Moshi and Arusha. Once you get to Arusha, drive down about 200 miles to the Southern gate of Serengeti National Park on your way there, you will get to see scenic views and Serengeti National Park animals. You can also take a chartered flight that lands at the park. This flight takes about one hour. Kilimanjaro International Airport has daily connection flights from Nairobi. If your flight arrives at Dar Es Salaam, however, you will need an extra night and a domestic connection flight with limited luggage allowance. On arrival, the Serengeti National Park will be available to take you to one of the Serengeti National Park Lodges.

Tours To The Serengeti National Park

  1. Seronera Valley is the region in which the migration commonly happens in March every year. The Seronera region is mainly wide open grassy plains and rocky kopjes that are patched together within a network of rivers that ensure a consistent supply of water and keep this region rich with wildlife throughout the year. All other of the Serengeti are more seasonal and most of the time the wildlife viewing is dependant on the path of the migration.
  2. The Western Corridor This follows the trail of the River Grumeti towards Kenya’s largest freshwater lake. This region provides very good scenery viewing action once the animals migrating across the crocodile-infested waters of the Grumeti
  3. The Northern Reaches The Northern reaches of the Serengeti remain fantastically quiet and unvisited due to their inaccessibility. Previously inaccessible swathes of the National Park of Wogakuria closed to the Masaai Mara Border have been opened up with flying safari options to superb permanent tented camps such as Sayari. This region has been described as the ultimate paradise for keen safari enthusiasts.

Where To Stay in Serengeti National Park 

There is a wide range of choices of safari accommodation which can be combined to create individual tailor-made itineraries. Below are some lodges you can compare. You can also check out  a more detailed guide to luxury and budget safari here

Kirawira Camp

Kirawira is a luxury place. The details personified to your liking. The camp is situated within the Simiti Hills, the elevated tents all have broad vies across the Ndabaka plains towards Lake Victoria. The large tents are welcoming with patchwork quilts and reproduction of antique furniture. Dark wood panelling, black and white tiled floors and brass fittings make it hard to believe that its part of a tent.

From the mimosa cocktail offered at the airstrip to the impeccable service, your needs as a guest are truly anticipated. Dinner is served on arrival, I opted to have it in my room as I enjoyed bush fires on the deck. The morning tea was served as birds flew in to grab a crumb of bread or two. Kirawira is excellent for birding. I had fun watching the dry country species not only from my tent but from my table.

Tanzanians love to joke that all wildebeests are Tanzanian because they are born there and that they only take their holidays in Kenya. It is possible to experience migration within the Serengeti for the majority of the year. However global climate change is affecting this ecosystem along with the rest of the world. It is impossible to predict exact movements of the migration, one critical element remains stable and that is water.

It is located in western Serengeti. It has 26 tents, swimming pool, library and board games in the lounge, internet connection, massage services, excursions to lake Victoria. There is also 24-hour electricity, the nearest airstrip is Grumeti. It has a drive-in option.

Serengeti Migration Camp

Located in western Serengeti in the Lobo area. It has 20 tents, a swimming pool with 24-hour security. The nearest airstrip is Lobo and the camp has a drive-in option.

Activities in Serengeti National Park

  • Balloon Safaris
  • Game drives
  • Walking Safaris
  • Cultural Experience

When To Visit Serengeti National Park

The best time to visit the park is during June and July when the wildebeest migration happens. About two million heads of wildebeest cross the Grumeti and Mara Rivers. At about this time, the rivers have dangerous crocodiles lurking and waiting to devour the wildebeests. The end of the dry season is not the best time to catch the migration at Migration camp, the Grumeti River which runs just behind the camp and from which echoes of hippo laughs emanates in the green season is nothing more than a sandy swirl.

How To Visit Serengeti National Park

 Serengeti National Park 5 Day Itinerary

Day 1 – Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park

Day 2 – Lake Manyara – Serengeti National Park

Day 3 – Serengeti Plains

Day 4- Serengeti Plains – Ngorongoro Crater

Day 5 – Ngorongoro Crater – Arusha

 Day 1 – Kilimanjaro Airport – Arusha – Lake Manyara

From your international arrivals at Kilimanjaro airport take a drive down using a shuttle, taxi or tour van depending on the number of people travelling. With the advance in technology tour firms such as Kilimanjaro shuttle offer airport transfers from Kilimanjaro to Arusha. It takes about 1-hour drive from Kilimanjaro to Arusha. If you are using a saloon car to take you down to Arusha, it roughly costs $50

Once you arrive Arusha drive down for another two and a half hours from Arusha to Lake Manyara. It would be advisable to take a flight that gets you to Kilimanjaro in the morning so that you can use the morning hours for airport transfers and travel to Lake Manyara. The cost of the trip from Arusha to Lake Manyara is about $ 110.

If you take the morning flight you should arrive at Lake Manyara National Park at about lunchtime. Spend the rest of the day marvelling at the wildlife, flora and fauna found in this park. The park consists of a large shallow lake Manyara. Take a two-hour game drive in the evening and also take the opportunity to visit the Masaai Village and experience their culture nearby. Later come back to any of the accommodation options here. You have a choice of luxury, semi-luxury and tented camps.

Day 2: Take the drive from Lake Manyara National Park to Serengeti National

The drive from Lake Manyara National Park to Serengeti National Park takes about 6 hours. Plan to leave just after sunrise. Take breakfast then head out to Serengeti and on your way here experience the wild side of Africa by passing through Karatu and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. You will also get to see the Seronera River a valuable water source of the area. You will arrive just in time for a lunch break at the Serengeti National Park. Take a rest and freshen up as you get ready for an evening game drive at the park giving you a chance to see Serengeti National Park Animals.

Day 3: Hot Air Baloon Tour At The Serengeti Plains 

Available at an extra cost is the hot air balloon safari across the Serengeti Plains. This tour will allow you to spot wildlife and enjoying the amazing views of the African Plains. After another game drive along the Sogore River that joins the Seronera River. These areas are popular spots for viewing the Lion, Gazelles, Ostrich and Cheetahs. A stopover at the visitor’s centre where you can have a picnic under the large acacia trees. After the lunch break takes another tour circuit around the Kopjes area that is famous for spotting more wildlife. Spend the evening at one of the Serengeti National Park Hotels in the Seronera area.

Serengeti National Park Baloon Safari
Serengeti Baloon Safari Image by 18986 from Pixabay

Day 4 – Take a 4-hour road trip from Serengeti Plains to Ngorongoro Crater

After the sunrise views and breakfast, take a 4-hour road trip from Serengeti Plains to Ngorongoro Crater. On your way stop at Olduvai Gorge that is an archaeological pre-historic site. Arrive Ngorongoro check-in and relax. After lunch takes an afternoon to evening game drive at the Ngorongoro National Park.

Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro crater Image by Image by Nici Keil from Pixabay

Day 5 – Ngorongoro Crater to Tarangire National Park – Arusha

After breakfast, take a 3-hour drive from Ngorongoro Crater to Tarangire National Park. Another chance to view the wild. The Park is famed for hosting some of the largest elephants in the world and the tour also takes you along Tarangire River. After driving down for about two hours to Arusha where you can spend a relaxing evening as you prepare for your flight back home

Day 6 Arusha – Kilimanjaro Airport

Drive to Kilimanjaro International for your flight back home as you view the serene landscape.

Fact File

  • Altitude: 920 to 1850 metres above sea level
  • How big is Serengeti National Park? 14,750 square kilometres.
  • Where is Serengeti National Park Located? Tanzania
  • Established: Serengeti National Park was established in 1951
  • Vegetation: The vegetation varies between riverine forest, savannah and grassland plains
  • Wildlife: Lion, cheetah, leopard and buffalos
  • Birdlife: There are over 500 species of birds that have been recorded here.

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Serengeti National Park Guide


  • angela

    A very informative itinerary and I was interested to find out everything that can be done. I have always thought the idea of a balloon ride over the park must be magical .

    • Sharon Lumbasi

      Yes, it is quite an experience, however, I should have mentioned that its an expensive activity. However, its money’s worth if its a once in a lifetime experience.

  • Jay Artale

    I think a balloon ride would be the best way to see the landscape. It’s such a peaceful and tranquil way to fly. Such an experience that wouldn’t be forgotten on a hurry.

  • Slavka

    I would love to see Serengeti NP! It’s a lifetime experience for sure. I’ll wait till kids grow up a bit and take them with me. Thanks for the info and beautiful shots.

    • Sharon Lumbasi

      Thanks, you and your family will enjoy Serengeti 🙂

  • Nancy Hann

    What a magical place! I would love to go and see the wildebeest migration. Thanks for sharing so much helpful info.

  • Sharon

    This is really helpful for planning a trip to the Serengeti. I had never thought about riding in a hot air balloon, but that’s an excellent way to see the land below!

  • Jan

    That’s a lot of information on Serengeti! Apart from the wildlife, I would love to do the hot air balloon ride for some nice landscape views and also do the road trip to the Ngorongoro crater!! 🙂

    • Sharon Lumbasi

      Thanks, the info should help in making an itinerary and budget for the trip.

  • Sue

    A really comprehensive post which has whet my appetite to visit the area again. I was there way back in 1994 & wish I could remember more about where I went. Fantastic memories! I will return one day & when I do I look forward to staying in one the amazing lodges & taking a balloon flight. Last time I couldn’t afford the flight & was staying in a tent!

    • Sharon Lumbasi

      I do hope you will, it’s a great experience. Glad you also had a great time the first time you come to Tanzania

  • Andi

    Great guide for what I suspect is one of the biggest and most popular parks. I learned a lot and am adding it to the list of possible destinations once my hubby and I decide to go. We have talked about the balloon ride over the animals – absolutely on our bucket list!

    • Sharon Lumbasi

      Yeah, Serengeti is one of the most popular parks in Africa with awesome experiences too!

  • Georgina

    A detailed and helpful guide to help plan my itinerary. Serengeti National Park is my bucketlist destination and look forward to ticking it off.

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