The wildlife watching here is arguably the best in Africa. Predators are in abundance and there’s huge herds of herbivores including elephant to be found. Serengeti is the stage for the astonishingly vast wildebeest migration. There’s also a spectacular range of colourful birds to spot. And don’t forget the small stuff, the micro-fauna can be surprisingly delightful.
Home to the Masaai and Hadazbe hunter-gatherer, amongst
others. Northern Tanzania is also culturally rich. Village visits are a must or
why not spend a day or few in the highlands to trek with Maasai guides.
Home to the mind-bogglingly vast migration, which annually sweeps through the Serengeti ecosystem in a broadly circular, more or less continual journey. The best time to see the migration is December – February when, typically, the herds take up temporary residence on the short grass plains to calve. and during July - October in northern Serengeti when the migration herds cross the Mara River.The name Serengeti comes from the Maasai word Siringet which translates roughly as never-ending plains. This enormous national park is about the size of Wales, so we divide it into sub sections. The main ones are: Seronera in the centre, Kogatende and Lobo to the north and the Western Corridor each of these areas have airstrips for fly in safaris.
This is the busiest area of Serengeti but for good reasons. This section of the park is the transition zone between the grasslands to the south and the acacia scrub to the north. Consequently, it is biodiversity rich. Animal concentrations tend to be high especially during the dry seasons due its year round water supply. You are almost guaranteed to see most of the quintessential African wildlife set amongst glorious scenery. This area has the highest portion of the big cats - lions, cheetahs and leopards. If you have watched the movie Lion King, you will recognise that the film makers were very accurate in their recreation of this area. Busy as it is, with a quality guide you can enjoy a full day’s game viewing without being surrounded by other visitors.
A few hours north of Seronera, Kogatende is the place to be during the months of July and August. The Mara River is in this area and the famous river crossings of the migration herds across the crocodile infested waters is an amazing experience. There are several excellent tented camps in the area but no basic camping sites.
Situated in northern area of the park a few hours’ drive from Seronera. If you have the time and prefer a wilder safari experience then Lobo is for you. You can cut out the drive by flying as there’s an airstrip here.
The Grumeti River and its forest forms the backbone of this sector. Most often visited during May and June when the migration passes through, it hosts enough resident wildlife to warrant a stay at any time of year.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)
Unlike its neighbours, Ngorongoro it is designated as a conservation area to allow Maasai communities to live within their traditional lands. This does not detract from the wildlife experience and adds culture to your safari. Made up of a complex of extinct volcanoes and home to the short grass plains of the Serengeti ecosystem there’s varied habitats to explore.
Not to be missed is the famous Ngorongoro crater, a world heritage site. This is the largest intact caldera in the world measuring roughly 12km in diameter. The caldera walls provide a natural protective barrier for the resident populations. Here there is one of the few remaining healthy populations of highly endangered black rhino. Because of its smaller area and being in easy reach of the nearby towns it is possibly the busiest area you’ll visit. Many of the animals have become very habituated to the vehicles. However this makes for some spectacular moments of wildlife watching. and with the spectacular backdrop of the crater walls, it makes for a wonderful opportunity for wildlife photography. Because of the small size, 4 - 5 hours inside of the crater is sufficient to see all there is. Overnights inside the crater are not allowed so all accommodations are outside of the crater walls. The elevation here is pretty high, the crater walls reaching up to 2300m (7,500ft) and gets quite windy, so you should bring warm clothes for overnights. Even a knit cap and light gloves might feel welcome.
Outside of the crater you can visit some of the Maasai villages They will welcome you into to their boma (village), explain aspects of Masaai life and celebrate your arrival with song and dance. There’s also Oldupai Gorge, known as the cradle of humankind, where several species of early hominids have been unearthed. A museum is here where you can learn about the research made famous by the Leakey family of anthropologists.
During the months of January - March the migration herds are in an area of the NCA called Ndutu. Ndutu straddles the NCA and Serengeti. Here is where the birthing of the wildebeests takes place. During a 2 - 3 week period in February or March over 400,000 wildebeest calves are born. This attracts much attention from predators such as lions, cheetahs, and hyenas. There are lodges and tented camps in this area but no basic camp sites.
This national park is nestled at the base of the rift valley escarpment and centred on the lake. It is famed for its tree climbing lions though we’ve never seen them here ourselves and the Serengeti prides seem to be rather adept at this feat too! What you will usually encounter here are most of the usual safari suspects in a very pretty forest/wetland setting. The birdlife on the lake is prolific. It can, however, be a busy area due to its proximity to the towns.
An afternoon here is well spent if you’re on the way to Ngorongoro and Serengeti, giving you a taste of things to come. If you are short on safari time then Manyara in combination with Ngoronoro or Tarangire will deliver a rounded and gratifying wildlife experience.
This is a less visited park to the south of the main clutch of reserves in this part of Tanzania. It is enchantingly beautiful with classic African baobab and acacia bushland scenery. Tarangire is the setting of a second almost unknown migration which involves several species including elephant.
From June to November the park is home to large herds of grazers and predators who come to this area for its permanent water and abundant food. A visit during this period should not be missed.
For the rest of
the year the park provides a true wilderness feel being significantly quieter.
There’s fewer animals to see, nevertheless for the more experienced safari-goer
its smaller delights are worth the visit.
Although it’s not part of the classic northern circuit and we wouldn’t recommend a visit if you are going on to other game reserves, it deserves a mention. If you don’t have the resources to undertake a proper safari then Arusha National Park gives you a mini wildlife watching opportunity.
A day trip to Arusha national park rounds off a Kilimanjaro climb very nicely. You won’t see lion or cheetah here but most of the typical African game is represented. Situated around Mt Meru, the little sister of Kilimanjaro, there’s varied scenery and habitats.