Tanzania National Parks – Combine the Best Experiences
Tanzania national parks can broadly be divided into North, South and West amongst which are the most famous safari destinations but also a few hidden gems.
19 Tanzania national parks and nature reserves in Tanzania cover about 37% of the country. These 155,000 square miles of protected areas are home to an incredible 310 mammal species, including the Big Five and over 910 different types of birds.
Serengeti National Park is located 320km northwest of Arusha. With a name that means endless plains, this is the most famous safari destination.
The major attraction in the Serengeti is the Great Wildebeest Migration when over 1.5 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle migrate to Kenya’s Masai Mara following the rains.
Below is a map of the great wildebeest migration broken down into different seasons:
The Serengeti is a great place to see hunting predators, especially during calving season (January-February).
Size: 5,700sq miles / 14,760km²
Notes: Low day fees. Crowded during peak season.
Here’s a complete guide on taking a safari in the Serengeti National Park.
The Serengeti National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders.
It is one of the most popular safari destinations in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Three Areas of Serengeti Plains
The 15,000 square kilometre Serengeti National Park is unfenced and forms part of the 30,000 square kilometres Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, also including the fascinating Ngorongoro Crater. It is in the northwest of Tanzania, bordered to the north by the Kenyan border, where it continues with the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
The park has three distinct regions.
The endless, almost treeless grassland of the south. This is where the wildebeest breed, as they stay in the plains from December to May. Granite mounds, or koppies, are very common in the region and great observation posts for predators, and a refuge for hyrax and pythons.
Black clay soil covers the swampy savannah of this region. The Grumeti River is home to enormous Nile crocodiles, colobus monkeys and martial eagles. The migration passes through from May to July.
The landscape is dominated by open woodlands and hills, from Seronera in the South to the Mara River into Kenya. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra, the bushy savannah is the best place to find elephants, giraffes and dik-dik.
There are five rivers in the Serengeti National Park that feed the landscape and provide sustenance to its inhabitants.
The Grumeti River, Mara River, Mbalageti River and Orangi River flow westward to Lake Victoria, while the Oldupai River flows eastward into the Olbalbal Swamps.
The Grumeti River is a major river crossing for the Great Migration. Between May and August, thousands of wildebeest and other animals cross the crocodile-infested waters. For every one wildebeest captured by the crocodiles, 50 drown.
Additionally, there are also 34 raptor species and six species of vulture.
The Serengeti National Park falls into the classic weather pattern of East Africa – the long rains between March and May and the short rains in November and December. The hottest and most humid period stretches between November and February (25–31°C/77-88F) while the coolest period occurs between May and August (15–20°C/59-68F).
The dry season between June and October is usually the best time to go on a safari in the Serengeti National Park. This is when the weather is moderate with average daytime temperatures in the mid to high 20 degrees Celsius.
During the dry season, the vegetation also thins out, making it easier to spot wildlife. The big game also tends to flock to available water sources, so sightings of herds and prides gathered around waterholes is fairly common.
The short rains in November and December in the Serengeti National Park will bring respite from the hot and humid conditions.
The long rains between March and May are accompanied by heavy downpours that can ruin safari outings.
Best Time to Visit Serengeti National Park
The best time to visit the Serengeti is between June and October when the Great Migration is at its height. It is the dry season and overall provides the best opportunity for spotting wildlife such as black rhino, plains game, predators, elephants, and more.
This is also the time to witness incredible predator kills on the banks of the Mara and Grumeti Rivers. Ferocious crocodile populations lunge at wildebeest and other plains game on the riverbanks, putting on quite a show for onlookers. July is reportedly the best month for predator kill sightings.
Another good time to visit the Serengeti is between January and February, and during the spring months from March to May (low season). Outside of the high safari season, the accommodation tends to be cheaper, but some of the mobile camps might not be in operation. A trip should be planned around the movement of the great migration.
Planning Your Safari in the Serengeti
Find Accommodation in the Serengeti
A safari to the Serengeti National Park typically includes accommodation, all meals, activities, private walks, transfers and local drinks. Because there aren’t any shops and practically no civilisation, everything is included in the rate.
Some camps and Serengeti hotels are more expensive than others, and some are completely remote which hikes the price up by quite a bit. A good budget to work with is $500 to $1000 per person sharing per night (see our guide on Tanzania safari costs).
Choose Different Serengeti Activities
There are countless options when it comes to exploring the Serengeti National Park and experiencing all that this natural gem has to offer.
How to get to the Serengeti National Park
Most visitors to the Serengeti National Park fly into Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport and then take a flight from Arusha (less than 50 kilometres away) to several airstrips inside the park. A word of caution – limit luggage to 15 kilograms per person, and rather use soft bags than hard-sided suitcases.
It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport, just outside of Dar es Salaam, and then fly on to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
One can also travel to the Serengeti via road from Arusha and enter the park through the Naabi Hill Gate. The distance is 325 km and the drive takes around eight hours.
Interesting Facts About the Serengeti National Park