The Serengeti National Park has probably been the subject of more books, television documentaries, pictures, photos and lions-of-the-serengeti digital images on African wildlife animals, than any other African national park. Hosting the annual wildebeest migration across its grassy plains – arguably the world’s greatest wildlife animals’ spectacle. This park is without a doubt a defining image of East Africa and more specifically Tanzania.
The Serengeti Park in Tanzania covers an area of 14763 sq kms, but the greater Serengeti – roughly 30, 000 sq kms, incorporates several other reserves, notably the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park. The park is a picaresque grassland of awesome beauty and size derived from the Masai phrase “Siringet” meaning “endless plain”. The Serengeti Plains ecosystem is defined by an ancient migration route followed annually by around two million animals.
The national park can be divided into 3 major wildlife animal vegetation areas: In the south-eastern area are the open grasslands, to the north, the open woodlands and in the west, a mosaic of grass and woodlands. The lion is one of this African park’s main attractions, as there are about 2500 of these animals in the Serengeti Plains ecosystem. This is the biggest concentration in the world of Africa’s largest predators. Please refer to the map below, and images for further details and safari information guide on this awesome and picaresque wildlife national park in Tanzania.
A series of weathered granite outcrops called kopjes are scattered around the park, one that contains African rock paintings, while another features a mysterious “rock gong”. Most of these fascinating granite kopjes are miniature wildlife ecosystems, providing shade and drinking water in pools, left in the rock after the rains. The Moru Kopjes are the most frequently visited kopjes by tourists, in the park. Please refer to the map below, photos and images for further details and safari information guide in this regard.
The Serengeti African Park can be divided into four distinctive topographical areas:
- The southern park area which features the Serengeti plains and its kopjes.
- The central park area also referred to as the Seronera area where most of the campsites and some of the lodges are located.
- The western corridor, a wedge of land along the Grumeti River, which reaches to within 8kms of Lake Victoria.
- The northern corridor, which links up with the Masai Mara in Kenya which is used by most of the animals during the up and down migration periods.
Each area warrants at least a half day safari, meaning that two to three days is the ideal minimum to see a bit of everything the park has on offer.
Between December and May each year, this area becomes very special, as many wildebeast calves start their annual migration from this area. The short grass plains also feature an abundance of gazelle, before the annual migration. A small seasonal lake, Lake Ndutu [ Lagarja] surrounded by beautiful acacia trees, is without a doubt, the main attraction of the area. A number of giraffes reside in the area around the lake, which is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, supporting a rich bird life, including a great number of pink flamingos.
The Moru Kopjes (meaning “old” in Masai) are set further north on the migration path. These Kopjes display some interesting geological formations made up of ancient granite, which were left standing after centuries of erosion and weathering. The area offers some good wildlife viewing year-round, due to the presence of drinking water for the African animals. The kopjes are the favourites among many big cats, including lion and leopard. Rainwater gathers in the rocky clefts, providing much needed drinking water for a great variety of animals. This makes the kopjes particularly good for spotting wildlife in the dry seasons – including lions, which like to lie in wait on animals coming to drink, Look for the natural shelter used by Masai cattle herders about half a century ago, which is daubed with rock paintings.
The kopjes are named after the lions, which frequently use these kopjes to just lie and bath in the sun. You may also see baboons, giraffes and some interesting birds in this area.
The rolling landscape of the Plains appears endless and is only rarely broken by the occasional hippo-of-the-serengeti kopje. Conspicuously missing from these open plains are trees. The cornerstone of the park’s wildlife ecosystem is without a doubt the Serengeti Plains. About 3 million years ago during the massive eruptions of Ngorongoro and other volcanoes in the area, a thick rain of ash settled over the plains, creating a hard top coat, which discouraged the rooting of trees but encouraged the growth of shallow rooted grasses, packed with nutritious minerals. It is these grasses rich in minerals which are essential for many animals’ diets especially during lactating, which explains the reason why more than eighty percent of the wildebeest population give birth on these plains. The Plains are a hive of activity just after the annual and seasonal October to November rains when the new grass is sweet and the animals take full advantage of the short-term spurt of growth. These short-grass plains will however quickly deplete with the onset of the dry season, as no permanent water source exists here.
The area is located in the southern-central area of the national park. The area features several kopjes and many watercourses and rivers, providing for some of the best wildlife safari viewing in the park. The river rine forest along the Seronera River is rich in African wildlife and offers excellent opportunities to view hippo wallowing in the river. There are a large number of drivable circuits in the area of which the Seronera River Circuit and the Kopjes Circuit are the most rewarding. The Visitor Centre close to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge and public campsites, is well worth a visit after a morning’s game drive. This nicely designed center offers some interesting wildlife displays, a gift shop selling information leaflets and route maps of the area. The centre also has a shop where cold drinks and snacks can be purchased, as well as a picnic area and an interesting information trail, winding up and around a nearby kopje.
This corridor is a 50 km wide strip of land following the Grumeti River from just west of Seronera area, all the way up to Lake Victoria. The area offers some unique wildlife safari and topographical viewing, which includes: rivers, valleys, hills and floodplains – in stark contrast to the southern Serengeti Plains landscapes. The perennial Grumeti River and its fringing belt of riparian woodland dissect this beautiful corridor. This area receives the annual migration between May and July, which is the best time to visit this area . During this time, the animals attempt to cross the flooded Grumeti River, where lions and crocodiles lie and wait for the weak and injured! The corridor does however also support a substantial size of non-migratory animals, like the ever-present predators, giraffe, eland, hartebeast, huge hippos and impala, which cluster along the river. The wooded riverbanks are a home to a population of black-and-white African colobus monkeys, and in the river you can see huge crocodiles (up to six meters in length), which spring into a vicious feeding frenzy, when the migration moves through.
The Lobo Hills are probably the most conventional scenic section of the park, with all beautiful-serengeti’s rolling hills and massive granite outcrops. The area supports a rich variety of resident animals and it has retained a tangible wilderness character, interrupted annually by the passing wildebeast migration parade. The safari game viewing is very good and you can follow game for long periods without seeing any other vehicles – truly on the forgotten corners of the park. The exceptionally large lion prides are a unique feature of this area. As you move north into this area, the vast expanses of grassland plains dramatically disappear, as acacia woodland bush and thick scrubs take over. The undulating nature of the landscape makes it easy to spot animals from a distance. The wildlife changes too and it is in this area, that visitors are most likely to see elephants. The higher ground area of the Lobo Kopjes, provide fantastic views of the migration, when the animals head north for Kenya, during July to September or return again during November and December each year. There is a nice game-viewing circuit to the east of the Lobo Wildlife Lodge, whose waterholes attract a variety of wildlife. Non-migrating game like elephants, buffalos, lions, zebras and gazelles can be viewed in this area all year round.
Hot air balloon safaris
Another very popular option to gain a bird’s-eye view of the wildlife below, is from a hot-air balloon safari . An early morning departure, gentle lift-off, the lush rolling expanse of the Serengeti plains below, and a romantic champagne breakfast to complete this very special and unforgettable park experience. Find information and pictures at this link: Hot air balloon safaris.
Animals of the Serengeti
Even with the migration up in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya, the Serengeti National Park contains a substantial population of African plain animals including buffalos, giraffes, warthogs and a wide range of antelopes like impala, bushbuck, waterbuck, dikdik, reedbuck, and the massive eland.
The elephants also tend to be migratory and a large number move down south towards the Tarangire National Park area. But probably the most memorable of the park’s animals is its thriving predators, which include the more than 3000 lions and whose males have unique and characteristic black manes, a great number of cheetahs, leopard, as well as over 8000 spotted hyenas.
When to visit the Serengeti on safari
The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, provides for an unforgettable and remarkable African wildlife safari experience and can be enjoyed throughout the year.
The rainy seasons (March to May and October to November) may affect road conditions, but this does not usually provide a serious problem. The wild beast migration normally takes place between April and June, while the wild beast are usually concentrated in the southern Serengeti during the calving season from December to May.
From December to February the park is at its busiest and to a lesser extent during July to August. The park is however massive and it will not get anything like the congestion experienced in the Ngorongoro during the same periods. Short rains fall November to mid-December in Tanzania and the long rains are from March to the end of May.
By September and October the bulk of the migration is concentrated in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya, but even during this period, there’s plenty of wildlife to see, including thriving lion prides and large clans (up to 80 members) of hyena. Visit the ‘Wildebeest migration guide for more detailed safari information, photos and images regarding this great wildlife spectacle.
Serengeti safari lodges and camp sites
There are several tented camps and lodges of various standards available inside and around the park.
Visit the Serengeti lodges and campsites page for full details, information, pictures, photos and images of all the lodges and campsites offered in our itineraries in and around the Serengeti African Park in Tanzania.