The Ultimate Guide to a Serengeti Safari

The Serengeti is undoubtedly one of the world’s most celebrated national parks and a perfect snapshot of true African wilderness. Its great rolling grasslands and golden savannah give you an awe-inspiring sense of space and support large populations of zebra, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, gazelle and antelope – not to mention millions of wildebeest! And where there are game by the dozen, predators will not be far behind. It’s a paradise for lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyena and wild dogs – and one of the most sought-after game viewing destinations in Africa.

"Most exciting holiday we have ever experienced"

The lodges, travel arrangements and even the weather turned out to be just… absolutely top-notch… Serian Serengeti was in the middle of the Migration with millions of animals and all the predators… It was a complex, tailored journey but everything just worked as planned – no delays – no problems at all. All the guides and drivers were always on time and very pleasant. Even the weather was perfect with just a few hours of rain during the whole trip. So, thank you Maureen – not even a tiny detail might be improved – it was all perfect.
- Jorgen

 

Quick Serengeti Facts

 

  • Serengeti means ‘The Land that Moves on Forever’.
  • Home to one of the world’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
  • The bulk of the Wildebeest Migration takes place in the Serengeti – the second largest land mammal migration on Earth.
  • One of the best places to observe lions in the wild.
  • The Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem is one of the world’s biggest and most protected ecosystems.
  • High season: about June to October.
  • Short rainy seasons: about October to November and March to April.
  • Migration season: about October to July.

 

Following the herds with Olakira Migration Camp.

Location

Location: Where is the Serengeti?

 

Tanzania’s flagship park lies in the north-western corner of the country and borders with Kenya to the north. The conservation area continues across the Kenyan border into the Masai Mara National Reserve, together forming the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem – one of the biggest and most protected ecosystems on Earth. It spans approximately 30 000 square kilometres (12 000 square miles) – about the size of South Carolina.

 

Other safari areas around the Serengeti

  • Southeast: The Ngorongoro Conservation Area
  • Southwest: Maswa Game Reserve
  • Northwest and west: Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves

Flights and getting there

Arusha Airport is the gateway to the Serengeti, but you'll need to get there via Kilimanjaro International Airport, located about 50 kilometres (31 miles) away.

TIP: International flights often arrive at Kilimanjaro late at night, so we recommend an overnight in Arusha before catching a charter flight into the Serengeti.

Where to Go

Where to Go: Best Safari Areas in the Serengeti

 

Northern Serengeti

 

Go2Africa's Bonita on safari in the northern Serengeti.

 

The park’s northern region consists of small rivers, green rolling hills and lush granite outcrops (kopjes). It is far less crowded than the rest of the park and offers good wildlife viewing year-round. It’s the most remote corner of the Serengeti and sets the stage for the Wildebeest Migration’s dramatic Mara River crossings around July/August. This is a great place to go on a hot-air balloon safari for a bird’s eye view over thousands upon thousands of wildebeest, and a good area to see elephant and giraffe.

TIP: Although the national park is home to all the members of the Big 5 – elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard – rhino sightings are rare. Your best bet to see these endangered animals is in the Northern Serengeti.

One of our favourite areas in the northern Serengeti is the Lamai Wedge: a game-rich, uncrowded location where walking safaris and off-road game drives are allowed – activities not permitted in the public park.

Where to Stay:

Southern Serengeti

 

Elephant near Mwiba Tented Camp.

 

This is the most accessible part of the park, which means it can get a little busy during peak safari season (about June to October). During the rainy season from about January to March, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle graze here on fresh grass. It's also the time that the main calving season takes place and predators – especially the big cats (lion, leopard and cheetah) – are taking every opportunity to hunt easy prey.

The southern part of the park is within driving distance of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which makes it easy to combine with a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater delivers some of the easiest and most rewarding Big 5 viewing in East Africa.

Where to Stay:

Central Serengeti

 

Lemala Ewanjan Tented Camp

 

A very good game viewing all-rounder, the heart of the Serengeti houses a number of camps and lodges, which makes it a busy part of the park – especially during peak safari season from about June to October. It offers very good access to all the Migration hot spots and is home to a high density of plains game, leopard, cheetah and lion.

The region’s Seronera River Valley creates a natural boundary between the grassy plains of the south and the wooded hills of the north. As a result, this area is a haven for wildlife from both habitats, making the central Serengeti one of the richest ecosystems in the park with good year-round game viewing. Lions and cheetahs are common here, and leopards are often seen in the valley.

Where to Stay:

Eastern Serengeti

 

Cheetah in the rain at Namiri Plains Camp.

 

The eastern Serengeti offers diverse habitats, a wide range of wildlife, and good grazing for the migrating wildebeest between December and March. It’s a popular pit stop during the Migration’s calving season (between February and March), which attracts many large predators.

This area is much quieter than the rest of the Serengeti and a great location to avoid the tourist crowds. It’s also an excellent area to see big cats – one of the best for cheetah – and delivers those iconic lions-lazing-on-kopjes scenes.

Where to Stay:

Western Serengeti

 

Singita Sabora Tented Camp

 

The savannah of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor stretches all the way to Lake Victoria. The Grumeti River and its gallery forests run through this aisle of the Serengeti, a sanctuary for enormous Nile crocodiles and hippo.

Every year between about May and July, convoys of wildebeest (around 40km or 25mi long) arrive on the banks of the Grumeti to kick off the main event: the treacherous river crossings. This is one of nature’s most thrilling spectacles to witness, yet a bittersweet experience as many of the gallant gnus are killed by hungry crocs.

If you’re looking for a classic big game safari combined with away-from-the-crowds luxury accommodation, then we recommend the privately owned Singita Grumeti Reserve. It borders the Serengeti’s Western Corridor and lies directly on the Migration’s route, giving you front-row seats to all the action. It’s a quiet area with few camps and lodges and delivers excellent year-round sightings of general plains game and predators like lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena and crocodile.

Where to Stay:

Our Africa Safari Experts Say...

‘Between December and February, the Western Corridor sees a lesser-known migration: sizeable herds of topi antelope congregate here. Their rutting season (March to May) also delivers a lot of predator action in this area.’ – Mark Smith

 

What About Mobile Camping?

 

Sanctuary Kichakani Serengeti Camp

 

Mobile safari camps are lavish tented affairs with all the creature comforts of a lodge and the added advantage of moving with the seasonal Wildebeest Migration. If your dream Migration Safari is a contemporary take on the expeditions of early explorers and to stay as close to the herds as possible, then consider a mobile safari – an authentic experience in exclusive wilderness areas.

Follow in the tracks of massive wildebeest herds as they cross the vast plains of the Serengeti with some of our favourite mobile camps:

When to Go

When to Go: Best Time of the Year for a Serengeti Safari

 

Game drive with Serengeti Pioneer Camp.

 

The Serengeti’s density of wildlife offers a spectacular safari experience no matter what time of the year you visit. Although some of the wildebeest migrate to fresh grazing, not all of them do – and none of the predators move with the herds either. The park’s wide-open plains and mild climate mean that vegetation is never too thick to see wildlife, and the region’s two short rainy seasons (October to November and March to April) are seldom too inclement. Short thunderstorms mostly occur in the late afternoons, but the animals won’t relocate when it’s raining.

Peak or High Season Low or Green Season
About June to October About October to November; March to April
Highest rates Lowest rates
Need to book up to a year in advance No need to book so far in advance
Cool and dry weather Hot and occasionally wet weather
Not many baby animals or migrant birds Lots of baby animals and birds around
Most crowded Least crowded
Great photography conditions The best light of the year for photography

 

Guidelines for Seeing the Wildebeest Migration

 

The Migration with Serian's Serengeti North Camp.

 

For many visitors, the question of exactly when to go on a safari in the Serengeti really depends on whether or not you want to see the Wildebeest Migration. This natural event is, however, a free-flowing phenomenon and its exact timing cannot be foreseen – it’s subject to annual rainfall patterns and essentially, the wildebeest themselves.

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 August Northern Serengeti

NOTE: The above are approximate dates and places. The Wildebeest Migration is a year-round, circular journey and the river crossings cannot be predicted – they generally occur from about June to September. Your best chance of seeing river crossing may involve spending all day at a site where the wildebeest have congregated.

 

Our Africa Safari Experts Say...


‘The secret is to visit between January and March. You can still see the Migration but there are fewer crowds, prices are lower, and the environment is lush and green – great scenery and perfect conditions for photography.’ – Liesel van Zyl

 

More Travel Advice:

What Does it Cost?

Budget: What Does a Serengeti Safari Cost

 

Ehlane Plains Camp

 

Before we look at the approximate costs of a Serengeti safari, it's important to consider these budget-influencing factors:

  • Your preferred level of luxury.
  • The time of year you want to travel: low or high season.
  • Flying or driving between camps and lodges – flying is more expensive but gives you more time on safari.
  • Whether or not you want to stay in private and exclusive-use areas.
  • Extra activities you want to add to your itinerary, e.g. spa treatments, hot-air balloon safaris and cultural tours.

 

Guidelines for Serengeti Safari Budgets

 

4-Star Comfort 4-Star Luxury 5-Star Luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$400 - $550 $ 450 - $600 $650 - $950 $750 - $1100 $1000 $1500

We take pride in tailor-making safari itineraries that make sense for your budget and personal travel wishes. We do not offer one-size-fits-all tour packages and prefer to create a bespoke journey that satisfies your individual needs.

Connect with one of our Africa Safari Experts to help you plan a Serengeti safari itinerary:

Combines Best With

A Serengeti Safari Combines Best With…

The Rest of Tanzania

 

Destination Why Go
Ngorongoro Crater
  • Best place in Tanzania to see the Big 5
  • Incredible cliff-top lodges
Tarangire National Park
  • See huge numbers of elephant, buffalo and giraffe (June to October)
  • Fantastic bird watching – over 550 species
Lake Manyara
  • Boat safaris
  • Excellent bird watching, especially flamingos
  • Spot tree-climbing lions
Ruaha National Park
  • Undiscovered and off the beaten path
  • See the biggest elephant herds in East Africa
  • Superb predator sightings, especially wild dog
Selous Game Reserve
  • Remote, raw and phenomenally wild
  • See animals in very large numbers – elephant, buffalo, hippo and giraffe
  • Home to rare wild dog
Mahale Mountains National Park
  • Trek for chimpanzee in remote mountains
  • Sunset boat cruises on Lake Tanganyika
Zanzibar
  • Perfect for a bush-to-beach finale
  • Luxury resorts on gorgeous beaches

Cultural interaction with Mwiba Tented Camp.

 

The Rest of East Africa

 

Destination Why Go
Kenya
  • See the Wildebeest Migration in the Masai Mara
  • Encounter massive elephant herds in Amboseli
  • Discover hidden gems like Lewa and Laikipia
Rwanda
  • Africa's easiest and most accessible gorilla trekking destination
  • Big 5 safari in Akagera National Park
Best Serengeti Itineraries

Our Favourite Serengeti Safari Itineraries

 

Go2Africa's Nicola on safari in the Serengeti.

 

The Serengeti is a bucket-list destination for many visitors to East Africa and the Great Wildebeest Migration is a must-witness event for any wildlife enthusiast. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned safari-goer, the Serengeti’s offering is so diverse that you’ll always discover something new – no matter how many times you’ve been there. If you’ve already seen the Migration during peak season, then perhaps try out a Green Season Safari – the savannah will be lusher and quieter, with far less other visitors.

Because it is such a bucket-list destination, many travellers choose a Serengeti safari to celebrate special occasions like honeymoons, engagements and birthdays. In addition, the Serengeti offers easy travel logistics, short transfers between camps, and English is widely spoken.

For Families:

For Couples and Honeymooners:

Tips for Planning

Tips for Planning Your Serengeti Safari

 

Spotting lions with Singita Sabora Tented Camp.

 

  1. Get your timing right: if you want to see the Wildebeest Migration, make sure your itinerary matches the movement of the herds.
  2. Book early: well-located camps at the Migration’s hot spots get booked out early – often a year in advance.
  3. Choose your activities: morning and afternoon game drives are standard activities, and some lodges also offer hot-air balloon safaris. Activities like night drives and guided bush walks are only permitted in the Serengeti's adjoining private reserves.
  4. Meet the Maasai: cultural interactions with the resident Maasai people are often highlights of a Serengeti experience – work with your travel consultant to ensure your engagement is genuine and beneficial to the local community.
  5. Expect crowds in peak season: many areas of the Serengeti are mostly quiet throughout the year, but the Migration’s big events like the Grumeti and Mara River crossings attract lots of visitors.
  6. Go private: head for one of the Serengeti's private reserves if you want exclusivity – accommodation is excellent, game viewing is superb and extra safari activities (see number 3) are offered.

 

 

Ready to Go?

 

You’ve set your travel goals, made your Serengeti safari wish-list, and worked out your budget range and preferred dates. It’s time to get ready for the holiday of a lifetime…