Serengeti National Park
Home to the Great Migration
On a continent known for its wildlife and safaris, few national parks hold the same iconic status as the Serengeti, Tanzania’s oldest and most popular reserve. Home to all of Africa’s Big Five, this massive park spans some 12,000 square miles of savannah, open plains and rugged cliffs that some one million wildebeests, 200,000 zebras and 300,000 gazelles call home.
Each year, these animals make a three-week pilgrimage from the Serengeti to Maasai Mara in search of better grazing and more sufficient water supply. This incredible event, commonly referred to as “the great migration,” is unlike any other game viewing experience on earth. The sheer volume of animals can make passing in safari trucks nearly impossible, as thousands of zebras and wildebeests fan out over the plains. Regardless of the time of year, travellers will likely spot prides of lions, giraffes, rhinos, and maybe even a cheetah.
In the southern Serengeti region, visitors can explore the endless Serengeti Plain watching the calving of the wildebeest, visit Olduvai Gorge: Archaeological site of Louis and Mary Leakey, see the Moru Kopjes, famous for the endangered black rhino and Maasai rock paintings. In the western region, Lake Victoria invites exploration and fishing. One of the greatest natural spectacles on earth occurs in the western Serengeti June – July when the Great Migration crosses the Grumeti and Kirawira Rivers that are filled with hungry crocodiles as the migration follows its northern to northwestern course. From the northern highlands of the Serengeti, guests will see the famous Mara River and its huge crocodiles. In the northwest, Ikoma, the visitors can enjoy the walking safari and night game drive. Serengeti NP also offers Balloon Safari throughout the year.
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.
The national park offers a good range of safari lodges, tented camps, campsite within the park that are budget, mid-range and to Luxury.
The Great Migration
The bulk of the 3 million animal herd participating in the Great Migration are wildebeest. Wildebeest thrive on the short grasses with high concentrations of phosphorous, as every cell of their body contains phosphorous. The Great Migration also includes zebras, antelopes and other species that circulate in a clockwise direction following water sources on an 1,800 mile annually trek. During the fall rains is calving season when 250,000 wildebeest calves are born over a 3-week period in the southern Serengeti. They graze on these grasses in preparation for the next stage of their migration to the northwest Serengeti that begins in the early spring.
Great Migration Trend
The migration is making its way from the Maasai Mara in the northern Serengeti region to the southern Serengeti along its eastern border formed by the Great Rift Valley escarpment to begin its calving season. Once the herd arrives in the southwestern Serengeti, “calving season” begins when the wildebeest gives birth to a quarter million newborns during a three-week period. It is a great time to see the drama of the hunt, as predatory animals seek their babies. The short rains occur from November to December. Kusini Camp is on the wildebeest migration path, where they congregate on Kusini’s grassy plains during calving season. The Serengeti has specific areas that provide exceptional views of the Great Migration, such as the Moru Kopjes where the rare black rhino migrates this time of the year, and Maasai rock paintings. It is also an exceptional location for viewing cheetahs, as is Gol Kopjes, where fresh green grasses attract cheetahs. Lake, one of the Rift Valley’s soda lakes, attracts flamingos that nest in its waters. It also has stunning acacia woodlands where a variety of animal species hunt within
During this time of year, the Great Migration is scattered between southern Serengeti and Ndutu in the Ngorongoro side. This time of the year is also a calving season, whereby the wildebeests give birth.
This period includes the long heavy rainy season, when many camps are closed in the southwestern and central Serengeti. In the central Serengeti, the central Serengeti, the great Migration must defend itself against the large pride of lions, leopards, and cheetahs located in this area.
Around 800,000 zebras along with antelopes in the western Serengeti region join the Great Migration of about 1.8 million wildebeest. This is one of the most exciting and breathtaking times to view the Great Migration, as the massive herds of animals attempt to cross the Grumeti River which is filled with hungry crocodiles. As the baby wildebeest and zebras are still young, they make easy prey for the huge crocodiles that waiting in the Grumeti River’s turbulent, rushing waters. Many animals drown as they cross the Grumeti, getting pulled downstream by rushing currents heading westward toward Lake Victoria.
During these months, the migration has made its way to the northwestern region of the Serengeti, located in southwestern Kenya called the “Maasai Mara.” It is an amazingly beautiful sight to see the migration cross the famous Mara River.