A wildlife drive in the Serengeti either self-drive, as part of an organized safari or as operated by your Serengeti lodge is one of the most enjoyable things you can do in Africa.
Whilst the annual migration is the Serengeti’s most famous attraction, the Park is also renowned for its lion, many of which have been fitted with radio-transmitter collars so that their movements may be tracked, and additionally for its wealth of cheetah, zebra, giraffe, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, eland, impala, klipspringer, hippo and warthog.
Exploring the Serengeti’s four major areas including Seronera and the South, Grumeti and Western Corridor, the Central plains and the Northern Serengeti requires careful planning and understanding of what each has to offer and at which time of the year will determine how you experience this wonderful place. You can do the driving in the four regions as listed below:
Seronera and the Southern: Seronera, at the heart of the par and readily accessed from both Arusha and Mwanza, offers almost guaranteed sightings of lions, leopards and cheetahs.
However, this abundance comes at a price: you may find yourself observing lions with a pack of 20 vehicles jostling to look at a lion.
Southeast of Seronera is a prim base for wildlife watching during December – April wet season, when it is full of wildebeest.
This corner of the Serengeti also has year-round water and a good mix of habitats. Most Seronera safaris concentrate along the Seronera River, as the trees along the riverbank are home to one of the world’s densest concentration of leopards, while lion sightings are common.
Lion sightings are also plentiful around the Masai Kopjes, Simba Kopjes, Moru Kopjes, Gol Kopjes, and Barafu Kopjes and around Makoma Hill.
The vast plains south of the Seronera River, often known simply as the Serengeti Plains, are particularly good for cheetahs.
Grumeti and Western Corridor: The wildebeest migration usually passes through Serengeti’s Western Corridor and the contiguous Grumeti Game Reserve, sometimes between late May and early July.
While the crossing of the Grumeti River may not rival that of the Mara River further north, it is still one of the migrations’ great spectacles.
During the rest of the year, lions and leopards are prevalent along the forest-fringed Grumeti River, which also has hippos and giant crocodiles.
North of the river, try the Kitunge Hills, Ruaha Plain and just about anywhere in the Grumeti Game Reserve, while south concentrate on the Ndabaka Plain, Simiti Hills, Dutwa Plain, Varicho Hills and down to the Mbalageti River.
The Western Serengeti is best accessed from Mwanza, from the Ndabaka gate; count on at least half a day to reach Seronera.
Central Plains: Except when the migration passes through usually in November and December, this is not the Serengeti’s most prolific corner when it comes to wildlife.
It is a mix of light woodland, acacia thorn and open plains can also be dispiriting during the heat of the day, which given the lack of lodges in the area, is when most people pass through as they travel between the north and south of the Serengeti.
This is also one area of the park experiencing a growing problem with local communities encroaching into the park, with a concomitant effect on wildlife numbers.
In other words, you are more likely to visit here on your way elsewhere, rather than for its own sake. Even so, there are some vistas along this north-south route through the park plus remote, untrammelled feel.
If nothing else, the park’s central area is worth passing through to gain a deeper appreciation of just how vast the Serengeti ecosystem really is.
Northern Serengeti: Compared with Seronera and the South, the Serengeti’s North receives few visitors. It begins with acacia woodlands, where elephants congregate in the dry season, but north of Lobo is vast open plains.
The migration usually passes through the western side during August and September and comes down the eastern flank in November.
Where the park narrows and the Grumeti River crosses the park from east to west, as well as the areas immediately to the north and south of the river, arbe excellent wildlife regions.
Further north, the Bologonga Hills, Bologonga River, Nyamalumbwa Hills and Mara River are all outstanding.
Outside the park, the little visited Ikorongo Game Reserve, which shadows the north-western boundary of the park, is wild and worth visiting.
The Loliondo Game Controlled Area, just outside the Serengeti’s north-eastern boundary, offers the chance for Masai culture activities, walking safaris, night drives and off-road drives.
A loop east across Loliondo and then down through the crater highlands or Ngorongoro is a wonderfully remote alternative to driving back down through the park.
The Maasai are among the best known of African tribes due to their distinctive customs. They are among the best known local populations internationally due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress.
Unlike many Northern Serengeti Maasai tribes, the Ololosokwan tribe remains unaffected by large-scale tourism The Maasai speak the Maa language a member of the Nilo-Saharan family that is related to the Dinka, Kalenjin and Nuer languages.
Some have become educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania, Swahili and English. They welcome the few visitors they do receive and are always enthusiastic about sharing their way of life and customs with others, providing a wonderful opportunity to experience Africa in a way that may touch visitor’s lives forever.
Interactions for all ages can be arranged, including having your child herd sheep with the Maasai boys or learning how the Maasai build their homes with dung from the cattle they raise.
A visit to Masai village among the local people of Tanzania can easily become one of the most rewarding experiences of a visit to Africa. The simple houses are built of sticks tied together and then filled with cow dung.
The women of the village are the architects and constructors of the homes. One home for each family, which consists of the women and her children, and some nights a man.
The Maasai practice polygamy and the men can have as many wives as they can afford. In order to marry the man must give the woman’s family 15-20 cows as a dowry, or payment.
With Balloon safaris you will experience the expanse of the Serengeti from above. This incredible experience is available from the Lobo area operated by Adventures Aloft Serengeti. Their two A415 balloons from Cameroon Balloons have a flying capacity of 16 passengers.
The Great Wildebeest Migration is a movement of approximately 1.5 million wildebeest throughout the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems.
400,000 zebra and 200,000 gazelles accompany them along the way, making a total of over 2 million migrating animals.
The vast plains of the Serengeti comprise 1.5 million ha of savannah. The annual migration to permanent water holes of vast herds of herbivores (wildebeest, gazelles and zebras), followed by their predators, is one of the most impressive natural events in the world.
For any visitor to the Serengeti, the wildlife spectacle of the migration offers a huge enhancement to what is already an overwhelming sight.
Many of the lodges and safari camps are located in great positions for the arrival of the migration in their area and throughout the park numerous luxury mobile camps pop-up in time for the arrival of the herd.
Where do the wildebeest migrate?
The Wildebeest inhabit the Serengeti plains of southeaster Africa. For most of their lives, wildebeest graze in the grassy savannahs and open woodlands of the plains, which straddle the nations of Tanzania and Kenya. More than 1.5 million wildebeest migrate in an enormous loop every year.
Each year around the same time, the circular great wildebeest migration begins in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and loops in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti National Park and north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya.
The initial phase lasts from approximately January to March, when the calving season begins – a time when there is plenty of rain-ripened grass available for over 260,000 zebra that precede 1.7 million wildebeest and the following hundreds of thousands of other plains game, including around 470,000 gazelles.
During February, the wildebeest spend their time on the short grass plains of the south-eastern part of the ecosystem, grazing and giving birth to approximately 500,000 calves within a 2 to 3-week period. Few calves are born ahead of time and of these, hardly any survive.
The main reason is that very young calves are more noticeable to predators when mixed with older calves from the previous year.
As the rains end in May, the animals start moving northwest into the areas around the Grumeti River, where they typically remain until late June.
The crossings of the Grumeti and Mara rivers beginning in July are a popular safari attraction because crocodiles are lying in wait.
The herds arrive in Kenya in late July / August, where they stay for the remainder of the dry season, except that the Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles move only east/west.
In early November, with the start of the short rains the migration starts moving south again, to the short grass plains of the southeast, usually arriving in December in plenty of time for calving in February.