Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park Overview

Best time to go

January – February (Wildebeest calving) | June – September (General wildlife viewing & a chance of see the wildebeest crossing of the Grumeti River (June-July) or the Mara River (September)

High Season

Most of the year | July – March (The Serengeti will be crowded around the Seronera area)

Low Season

April and May (Lower rates may apply)

Size

14,763km² / 5,700mi²

Altitude

1,140-2,099m / 3,740-6,886ft

Location

Tanzania

Best Weather

June to October (Little to no rainfall)

Dry Season

June – October

Wet Season

November – May

Worst Weather

March and April (Peak of Wet season)

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park is widely regarded as the greatest wildlife destination and national parks on earth. Home to one of the world’s greatest concentrations of wildlife and vast open grasslands, the Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s flagship conservation area and a must-do for first-time and returning safari goers alike. Meaning “endless plains” in the Maasai language, the Serengeti National Park is one of the most celebrated wilderness areas in the world.

Stretching along a vast plateau between the eastern arm of the rugged Rift Valley and the huge expanse of Lake Victoria, the Serengeti National Park covers an immense 14 800 km² (5 700 square miles) on Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya. Making up 50% of the wider Serengeti–Mara ecosystem, the Serengeti is the most famous protected wilderness area in all of Africa.

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest game reserve. It boasts one of the eldest and most distinct ecosystems on earth, featuring a vibrant and thriving vegetation that has remained largely untouched for millions of years.

Serengeti National Park

While the Serengeti is notorious for its vastly diverse and abundant wildlife, it is best known as the site of the world-renowned Annual Serengeti National Park Great Migration. The Serengeti Great Migration sees millions of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle traversing the open plains of the park in search of fresh grass from seasonal rains. One of the greatest spectacles in the natural world, the migration follows the seasonal rains, spending the wet season on the south eastern plains of Tanzania and the dry season in the woodlands of north western Kenya.

There is no doubt that a visit to the Serengeti National Park should be on every wildlife and nature lover’s bucket-list.

Serengeti National Park Wildlife

Serengeti National Park

Boasting some of the best year-round game viewing in Africa, witnessing the Serengeti National Park’s vast diversity of wildlife is undoubtedly one of the top reasons why wildlife lovers travel from all corners of the globe to visit this African wilderness gem.

While the Serengeti is famed for its annual wildebeest Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and eland cross the open plains and rivers, joining the trek for fresh grazing, the Serengeti National Park is home to one of the world’s greatest concentrations of wildlife

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti is home to the iconic African Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino), and is renowned for its array of predators. Huge herds of elephant and buffalo, families of giraffe, prides of lions, coalitions of cheetahs, solitary and leap leopards, black rhinos, hundreds of small mammals and primates (including vervet monkeys, olive baboons, caracals wildcats, and genets), as well as an abundance of antelope (such as eland, topi, kongoni and impala) can all be frequently spotted in the Serengeti.

Serengeti National Park

The riverine forests of the Serengeti National Park are a favorite spot for hippos and crocodiles, while cheetahs are very common on the south-eastern plains and leopards can typically be found lazing in one of the big trees along the Seronera River.

Serengeti National Park

Spotted hyenas and golden and black-backed jackals are also regularly spotted in the Serengeti while the endangered African wild dog is a rare, but remarkable find.

Serengeti National Park Great Migration

Serengeti National Park

Considered the most thrilling spectacle in the animal kingdom, the annual mass migration of wildebeest and other herbivores, with their ever-attendant entourage of predators is a truly breathtaking experience.

Deemed “The greatest show on earth” and most magnificent wildlife spectacle in the natural world, the annual Great Migration is an ever-moving circular migration of over a million animals across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. In this year-round cycle across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, over 2 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra, 300,000 Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle and 12,000 eland throng the landscape and traverse the open plains, following the rain, in search of fresh grass and pastures – The Great Migration is deemed the largest mammal migration on earth.

Serengeti National Park - Great Migration

The roughly 800 kilometer trek that constitutes the Great Wildebeest Migration follows the seasonal rains and coincides with the timing of the greening of nutritious grass on the short-grass plains during the wet season. These areas are safer because predators can be easily spotted making it an ideal place for calving. However, as the plains dry, the wildebeest are forced to move on in search of fresh grass and greener pastures.

The Great Migration journey starts in the Southern region of the Serengeti National Park. The ‘start’ of the Great Migration is also the prime wildebeest calving season, as thousands of wildebeest calves are born within a couple weeks of each other – Witnessing this spectacular wildlife phenomenon truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any avid wildlife enthusiast! Due to the rapid rise in the number of newborn wildebeest, there’s an equally rapid increase in the number of predators, such as lions, leopards, and hyenas in the area who are constantly on the hunt for newborn wildlife.

Serengeti National Park - Great Migration

When the drought starts to set in during the month of May and the dry season approaches, the huge herds of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and eland migrate north towards the Masai Mara in Kenya. This part of the Great Migration, similar to the others, is not without its risks as it involves the extreme and dangerous river crossing from the Serengeti National Park to the Masai Mara in Kenya. Despite the sheer volume of wildlife, crossing rivers means facing approximately 3,000 crocodiles, patiently waiting for a kill, as well as the famous Serengeti lion population – by far the largest in Africa – right and ready to pounce whenever opportunity strikes. These dramatic scenes of huge herds on the move, crossing rivers and vast plains, pursued by predators looking for their next kill, truly are the stuff nature documentaries are made of.

With the beginning of the short rains in late October, the great migration makes its way back into the Serengeti National Park. By December, the herds trek past Seronera / Central Serengeti to return to their calving grounds once again, completing the year-round cycle / ever-moving circular migration.

General Guideline: When to see the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti National Park

(These guidelines are subject to change as per seasonal rainfall)

Serengeti National Park - Great Migration

  Approximate time Region
Calving

January to March

Southern Serengeti

Intense Big Cat Action

January to March

Southern Serengeti

Rutting

January to March

Southern Serengeti

Grumeti River Crossings

May to July

Western Serengeti

Mara River Crossings

July to September

Northern Serengeti

On the Move

October to December

Northern Serengeti and Masai Mara

**Important Note: The above guidelines are approximate dates and places. The Wildebeest Migration is a year-round, circular journey and the river crossings cannot be predicted, although they generally occur between May and September.

Serengeti National Park Birdlife

Serengeti National Park

Beyond being a globally acclaimed wildlife and safari destination, the Serengeti National Park is a renowned bird lover’s paradise. Boasting more than 500 recorded bird species, the Serengeti attracts avid local and international birding enthusiasts alike. From November to April several remarkable migratory birds can be spotted in the Serengeti, making it a real treat for birders.

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is deemed one of Africa’s Endemic Bird Areas. This means that the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is regarded as important land for habitat-based bird conservation containing restricted-range bird species, hosting five bird species found nowhere else in the world.

These endemic bird species are easy to locate within their restricted range. The grey-breasted spurfowl is common in the Seronera area. In woodland areas, parties of Fischer’s lovebird draw attention to themselves, and the rufous-tailed weaver is a fascinating bird placed in its own genus. The other two endemics are the Usambiro barbet and the grey-crested helmet-shrike.

Some of Serengeti’s other birding highlights include watching marabou storks searching for juicy morsels in freshly burnt grass, male ostriches displaying for females, and pairs of crowned cranes calling to each other. Birds such as the blue-cheeked Cordon Bleu, raptors flying the thermals and pink flamingoes at Lake Manyara are other common, yet equally spectacular Serengeti bird sightings.

Notable birds in the Serengeti National Park include:

  • Fischer’s lovebird (locally common |Endemic to Tanzania)
  • Grey-breasted spurfowl (Locally common | Endemic to Tanzania)
  • Kori bustard (Common)
  • Rufous-tailed weaver (Locally common | Endemic to Tanzania)
  • Secretary bird (Common)

Birding specials & real treats for avid birders in Serengeti National Park:

  • Black-headed gonolek
  • Fischer’s lovebird (Endemic to Tanzania)
  • Green-backed woodpecker
  • Grey-backed fiscal
  • Grey-breasted spurfowl (Endemic to Tanzania)
  • Grey-crested helmet-shrike (Near endemic – Tanzania & neighboring countries)
  • Hildebrandt’s starling (Near endemic – Tanzania & neighboring countries)
  • Red-capped robin-chat
  • Rufous-tailed weaver (Endemic to Tanzania)
  • Rüppell’s vulture
  • Southern ground hornbill
  • Schalow’s turaco
  • Silverbird
  • Usambiro barbet (Near endemic – Tanzania & neighboring countries)
  • Verreaux’s eagle
  • Yellow-throated sandgrouse

Best time for bird watching in the Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park

While bird watching in the Serengeti is great year-round, the absolute best time for bird watching in the Serengeti National park is during November through to April (wet season). Not only is this when European and north African migratory birds are present, but it is the prime nesting season for resident birds, making it much easier to spot various bird species in their breeding plumage.

Serengeti National Park Scenery & Vegetation

Serengeti National Park

Stretching along a vast plateau between the eastern arm of the rugged Rift Valley and the huge expanse of Lake Victoria, the Serengeti National Park is the largest and most iconic national park in Tanzania, covering an extensive 14 800 km² (5 700 square miles) on Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya. As Tanzania’s oldest national park, the Serengeti boasts one of the oldest and most distinct ecosystems on earth, featuring a varied, vibrant, and thriving vegetation that has remained largely untouched for millions of years.

The park’s array of habitats, vegetation, and landscapes are equally as vast and diverse as the Serengeti itself. Meaning “endless plains” in the Maasai language, the Serengeti National Park is renowned for its infinite grassland plains and open savannahs. However, in reality, the Serengeti ecosystem is so much more varied than that.

The Serengeti National Park consists of the Southern Serengeti, Western Serengeti, Central Serengeti, and the Northern Serengeti, each of which is characterised by its own unique landscape and vegetation.

Serengeti National Park

The Southern Serengeti is known for its vast, nutrient-rich, open plains and grasslands and granite kopjes spread out across the landscape. In addition to its endless grassland plains and open savannahs, a small seasonal lake called Lake Ndutu, also known as Lake Lagarja, can be found in this region. Surrounded by beautiful acacia trees, Lake Ndutu is considered one of the most scenic and game rich places in the Southern Serengeti, supporting an amazing diversity of wildlife and birdlife. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see incredible flocks of pink flamingos around the lake.

The Southern Serengeti’s vegetation makes it a prime game viewing destination with exceptional wildlife sightings guaranteed year-round.

Serengeti National Park

The Western Serengeti, commonly known as the Western Corridor, is made up of Grumeti and Ikoma. This region of the Serengeti is known to be the ‘starting point’ of the annual Wildebeest Migration river crossing. The Western Corridor landscape is hilly and wooded, with large forests of acacia trees, infinite terrain, and several valleys, rivers.

Serengeti National Park

Central Serengeti, often called Seronera, is the heart of the Serengeti National Park. Featuring several diverse ecosystems, including open grasslands, acacia forests and riverine areas, Central Serengeti is home to a large variety of wildlife and birdlife. It also boasts the highest concentration of wildlife in the Serengeti, resulting in the best year-round game viewing and wildlife encounters.

Serengeti National Park

The popular Kogatende and Lobo areas form part of the Northern Serengeti. This region of the Serengeti National Park is the nearest to the Kenyan border as well as the iconic Mara River. This makes the Northern Serengeti one of the most sought-after destinations for local and global wildlife and nature enthusiasts alike, especially during the annual Serengeti Great Migration.

Serengeti National Park

The northern region of the Serengeti is renowned for its stunning scenic landscapes, made up of hills, riverine forests, vast open plains, and rocky outcrops. The immense Mara River also cuts through this region of the Serengeti National Park, providing the iconic setting for the greatest river crossing and wildlife spectacle in the world – The Annual Serengeti National Park Great Migration – also regarded by many as “The World Cup of Wildlife”.

Several areas in the Serengeti National Park are also dotted with ‘koppies’, granite outcrops rising up from the plains.

Best Time To Go To Serengeti National Park

Best Time To Go

January – February (Wildebeest calving) | June – September (General wildlife viewing & a chance of see the wildebeest crossing of the Grumeti River (June-July) or the Mara River (September)

High Season

Most of the year | July – March (The Serengeti will be crowded around the Seronera area)

Low Season

April and May (Lower rates may apply)

Best Weather

June to October (Little to no rainfall)

Worst Weather

March and April (Peak of Wet season)

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park’s winning combination of magnificent game viewing and vast and diverse landscapes makes it the perfect year-round safari destination. The park’s open plains and mild climate means that the vegetation is never too dense to enjoy amazing wildlife sightings, and the region’s two short rainy seasons (November – December and March – April) are rarely too unpleasant.

Despite being a pristine year-round destination, the Serengeti has two distinct seasons:

  • The Dry Season: June – October
  • The Wet Season: November – May

Each season offers visitors a unique experience as it pertains to wildlife and birdlife sightings, temperatures, park conditions, surrounding scenery and vegetation. As most people (both local and international) travel to the Serengeti to witness its incredible diversity of wildlife and exciting wildebeest migration, the Serengeti’s dry season is considered the best time to visit the Serengeti National Park.

Dry winter season in Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park

Dry season highlights

Prime time for wildlife sightings

The Great Migration is at its absolute prime

June and July: The heart of the migration is in the Western Corridor

August to October: The heart of the migration is in the Northern Serengeti

The thick bush thins out making wildlife easier to spot

Animals gather around the rivers and waterholes

Less chance of malaria, since there are fewer mosquitoes

Your chances of witnessing an iconic river crossing are at their best

Lovely & mild day-time temperatures & minimal rain

Wet summer season in Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park

Wet season highlights

Late January to February is the prime time to see the calving in the Southern Serengeti

Excellent time to see predator action

The Serengeti is filled with newborn wildlife

Migratory birds are present & birdwatching is at its best

Lush green landscapes

It is the low season which means the Serengeti is far less crowded

Although wildlife is easier to spot in the Dry season, the Serengeti offers good wildlife viewing throughout the year

Incredible photography opportunities

Serengeti National Park Weather & Climate

Serengeti National Park

Dry Season: June – October

  • Average day-time temperatures: +/- 25°C/77°F
  • Average night-time temperatures: +/- 14°C/57°F
June – September:
  • Occasional cold fronts can be experienced during this time
  • Temperatures can drop close to freezing during intense cold fronts
  • Typically cold early in the morning
  • Dry weather with minimal rainfall
  • Temperatures gradually start to increase in September
October:
  • Cool and dry weather
  • The short rains might start at the end of October if they are early

Wet Season: November – May

  • Average day-time temperatures: +/- 26°C/79°F
  • Average night-time temperatures: +/- 15°C/59°F
November – December:
  • Short rains are common during November and December in the Serengeti
  • The rain during this period is unlikely to interfere with your safari experience
January – February:
  • Rainfall is unpredictable during this time
  • There tends to be a dry spell between the short and long rains
March – May:
  • These are the wettest months in the Serengeti with high levels of rainfall
  • ‘Long rains’ are common during this period
  • It tends to rain most days, however, it will seldom rain for the entire day
  • It is often cloudy
  • In April and May, cold fronts might bring colder peak temperatures

How To Get To Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park

Eventhough Serengeti National Park is located in a rather remote corner of unspoiled Africa, the Serengeti and all its wilderness wander is fairly easy to access.

There are two ways to get to the Serengeti National Park, by air (via international air travel, domestic air travel, regional air travel, or private charter flight), or by road (via Serengeti drive-in safaris or Serengeti self-drive safaris).

Most travelers start their Serengeti safari adventure at either Kilimanjaro International Airport or the bustling Arusha Airport. From there, you will either travel to your preferred lodge by means of a short transfer flight or by a 4×4 safari vehicle. It is also possible to combine the two and enjoy the best of both worlds!

Getting to Serengeti National Park by air

International air travel

As most safaris and transfer flights to Serengeti National Park start from the town of Arusha, the best way to get to the Serengeti is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) (the recommended point of entry) or Arusha Airport (ARK). The Kilimanjaro International Airport is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha and approximately 200 miles / 320 kilometers from the park’s southern entrance.

There are a couple of international flight options to the Serengeti, including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (daily), Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines (a few times per week). Kilimanjaro International Airport also has daily connections with Nairobi (NBO) in Kenya, which offers more international flight possibilities.

Additional airlines such as British Airways, Emirates and others fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), just outside of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania’s capital) and then fly to Arusha Airport or Kilimanjaro International Airport. If you do happen to fly into Tanzania’s capital Dar es Salaam, it might require you to spend an extra overnight as well as take an additional domestic flight on a small regional airline which may have added luggage restrictions.

Regional air travel

Flying from Kilimanjaro International Airport or Arusha Airport is the favoured route for a Serengeti fly-in safari. From there it will take approximately 1 – 5 hours to fly to one of seven airstrips within the Serengeti National Park. All regional flights to the Serengeti are operated by local airlines such as Grumeti Air or Coastal Aviation. Once you’ve landed at the airstrip, the lodge staff will pick you up and transfer you to your desired final destination. Depending on your chosen lodge, 45 minutes to 2 hours should be allocated for road transfer to your Serengeti lodge.

It is also possible to fly from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport (NBO) or Wilson Airport (WIL) to Kilimanjaro International Airport. When travelling from the Lake Victoria area, the favoured airport is Mwanza Airport (MWZ). There are also direct flights from the Serengeti to Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and other national parks in Tanzania such Lake Manyara and Tarangire.

Serengeti fly-in safaris (private airstrips)

If you’re looking for an even faster and more convenient way to get to the Serengeti National Park, a scheduled or private charter flight is definitely the way to go. Some of Serengeti’s more exclusive lodges have their own private airstrip and are able to arrange direct scheduled and/or private charter flights from Kilimanjaro International Airport or Arusha Airport directly to their airstrip.

Getting to Serengeti National Park by road

Besides traveling to the Serengeti National Park by air, the park is also accessible by road. There are two main ways to travel to the Serengeti by road / vehicle – Serengeti drive-in safaris & Serengeti self-drive safaris.

Serengeti drive-in safaris

The most popular way to travel to Serengeti National Park by road is by booking a drive-in safari. In general, the drive-in safaris start from the town of Arusha. As it will take approximately eight hours to travel from Arusha to the Serengeti National Park, an overnight stay at one or more wildlife sites en route is usually part of your safari itinerary.

Serengeti self-drive safaris / Self-driving to the Serengeti

*Note: While it is possible to self-drive to the Serengeti National Park, it is not wildly recommended.

When traveling to the Serengeti National Park by road, a 4×4 vehicle is required to successfully navigate and access all roads, regardless of the time of year. The total trip distance to the Serengeti is approximately 325km/202mi and will take you roughly eight hours. It is a bumpy ride, and careful planning is necessary when deciding to self-drive.

**As the trip to the Serengeti takes you through some stunning locations and wilderness regions, including the Ngorongoro Conservation area, a popular option is to fly one way and drive the other way, taking in an overnight stop to visit the Ngorongoro Crater and other surrounding areas. Coming from the crater, the distance to the Seronera/Central area in the Serengeti is about 140km/90mi, and the driving time is approximately three hours.

**Tip: Considering all of the above-mentioned options, the easiest and most convenient way to get to the Serengeti National Park is to fly from Arusha to one of the park’s seven private airstrips. Booking an overland safari in a 4×4 safari vehicle from Arusha to the Serengeti and visiting one or two other parks along the way is another popular and equally exciting option. Of course it’s also possible to combine these options, that way you get to experience the very best of both experiences.