Serengeti National Park Safari Guide
The Serengeti is one of the most famous parks in Africa and is synonymous with wildlife and classic African scenery. It is Tanzania’s oldest park and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is home to the spectacular wildebeest migration and offers top-class wildlife viewing throughout the year.
Pros & Cons
Annual wildebeest migration (late January to September)
Top wildlife viewing all year-round
Endless plains feel like authentic Africa
Superb for spotting predators
Excellent mid-range and luxury lodges
Hot air balloon safaris
The Seronera area gets crowded during peak season (June and July and October to April)
Wildlife & Animals
The Serengeti is considered Tanzania's best park. Big herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and many antelope, such as eland, topi, kongoni and impala are resident at any time of the year. All three big cats are easily seen. Lion are often found on a kill. Cheetah are very common on the southeastern plains, while leopard can typically be found lazing in one of the big trees along the Seronera River.
The Serengeti is famed for its annual wildebeest migration, when some 8 million hooves cross the open plains, as more than 1,500,000 wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the trek for fresh grazing. Predators follow the migration and sightings of big cats hunting is particularly exciting. Spotted hyena, golden and black-backed jackal are never far off either.
The Serengeti has more than 500 bird species recorded, and the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is one of Africa’s Endemic Bird Areas (land important for habitat-based bird conservation containing restricted-range bird species), hosting five bird species found nowhere else.
These specials 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. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Serengeti National Park is in the Dry season (from late June to October). This period offers the best wildlife viewing in general – with the wildebeest migration as its absolute highlight. Wildlife viewing is good throughout the year, but certain areas are better at specific times. The timing of the migration varies every year (the best chance of seeing it is during June and July) while the wildebeest calving is from late January to February.
June to October – Dry Season
June and July are the best months to see the wildebeest migration in the western corridor and August to September in the north of the park
Animals are easier to spot since they concentrate around waterholes and rivers and the vegetation is less thick
Mostly sunny and there is very little rain
Few mosquitoes and the chance of contracting malaria is minimal
It gets quite crowded around the Seronera area
Mornings and nights get cold – warm clothing is recommended
November to May – Wet Season
Late January to February is the time to see the calving – this is an excellent time to see predator action
The scenery is lush
April and May are low season, so it's usually less crowded and rates might be lower
Although wildlife is easier to spot in the Dry season, the Serengeti offers good wildlife viewing throughout the year
Migratory birds are present and bird-watching is at its best
Except for March, April and May, rains are mostly short afternoon storms and seldom interfere with your trip
March to May is the peak of the Wet season
Weather & Climate
The climate in Serengeti is usually moderate and pleasant. It never gets very hot, but it is consistently cool to cold at night and in the early mornings. Don’t forget to take warm clothing.
Serengeti's Dry season is from June to October. There are two Wet seasons. The ‘short rains’ are from November to December, and the ‘long rains’ are from March to May. During the Wet season, it rarely rains all day, but afternoon thundershowers can be expected.
Dry Season – June to October
Afternoon temperatures are usually around 25°C/77°F. Most days have a fine, clear sky. It gets cold at night with minimum temperatures around 14°C/57°F.
June, July, August & September – Occasional cold fronts are possible, with temperatures close to freezing. It’s usually cold early in the morning.
October – The short rains might start at the end of October if they are early.
Wet Season – November to May
As in the Dry season, temperatures are moderate during the Wet season. Afternoon temperatures are usually around 26°C/79°F, and night temperatures are around 15°C/59°F.
November & December – 'Short rains' – An unpredictable period of about a month of rains occurs sometime between October and December. The rains will be unlikely to interfere with your safari.
January & February – There tends to be a dry spell between the short and long rains. The exact timing is unpredictable.
March, April & May – 'Long rains' – These are the wettest months. It tends to rain most days, although seldom for the whole day. It is often cloudy. In April and May, cold fronts might bring colder peak temperatures.
Most safaris to the Serengeti start from the town of Arusha. The best option to get there is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) which is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), just outside of Dar es Salaam, and fly on to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
There are regular flights from Arusha to several airstrips inside the park.
It’s also possible to drive; the trip is about 325km/202mi and will take about eight hours. It is a bumpy ride but it’s scenic and you’ll see some wildlife on the way.
As the trip takes you through 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. Coming from the crater, the distance to the Seronera area in the Serengeti is about 140km/90mi, and the driving time is about three hours.