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Serengeti National Park

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Serengeti National Park 

Serengeti National Park inspires images of Africa’s wild savannahs, untouched wilderness and the ultimate safari experience. Truly, Serengeti’s reputation has been well-earned and remains unrivaled not only in East Africa, but globally.

What makes the Serengeti so amazing?
To begin with, it is one of the largest national parks not only in Africa, but in the world. It has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition because of its important ecosystem and yearly migration of a staggering amount of animals. The Serengeti Migration sees the largest annual movement of animals than any other place on earth, and it hands-down the best location in East Africa to witness the Big Five.

If you want the best information about Serengeti - when to visit, where to stay and what to see, continue reading for Altezza Travel’s full information guide about this incredible national park.


Historical reference 

The significance of the Serengeti within Africa - or even the world - cannot be overemphasized. Evidence has shown that some of the earliest humans lived in the area of what is now the Serengeti. Recent studies of ancient cow dung show that humans were herding cattle in the Serengeti as far back as 4000 years ago. It is believed that earlier humans lived in the area even millions of years prior to this, however they may not have necessarily been herding cattle at that time.

The name, Serengeti, is believed to have derived from the Maasai word, siringit, which when translated, means ‘endless plains’. This is a fitting description of Seregenti’s grasslands that seem to stretch on forever, and why the Maasai would prefer this area for herding cattle, even in ancient times.

The first European explorer to record his adventure in the Serengeti was Oscar Baumann, from Austria. A geographer by profession, Dr. Baumann took 23 days to completely cross the Serengeti and he also recorded visiting Lake Ndutu and Lake Eyasi in 1892.

Serengeti was named the first national park in Tanzania, when Tanzania was still colonized by the British. The lions of the Serengeti were being killed by trophy hunters in such numbers that the British Government named it a game reserve in 1921 in order to protect the animals. In 1951, it was the first area of Tanzania to receive recognition as the nation’s first national park. The area of Serengeti National Park has since been expanded from the initial reserved area, and today the lions of the Seregenti are thriving and considered to be one of the largest populations in all of Africa.

The Serengeti gained popularity after the release of book-and-film duo "The Serengeti Shall Not Die", by Bernhard and Michael Grzimek. This nature documentary about the Serengeti is considered to be one of the first documentaries for nature conservation. Released in the 1950s, this academy-award winning film continues to be especially important because it speaks to the importance of environmental preservation before climate change was widely recognized.


Hotels and accommodation

The ‘endless plains’ of Tanzania cannot be fully experienced in a single day. The best way to experience Serengeti National Park is to spend several days touring this massive park. Travelers often find that even two days are not enough to get a full safari across this massive park, so we recommend a minimum of three days (at least two nights) in a camp or lodge in the Serengeti.

Staying for multiple nights also means guests will enjoy several brilliant sunsets across the Serengeti grasslands. From luxury lodges and five-star hotels to budget camping in the park, guests have plenty of choices in accommodations. Altezza Travel has developed strong partnerships with several well-respected hotels and lodges in the Serengeti. We recommend the following to our guests:

Four Seasons, Serengeti
The Four Seasons brand-hotels continue to offer luxury services and top amenities to all their guests, even in the wilds of the Serengeti. A stay at the Four Seasons Serengeti means your safari experience is enhanced with the on-site museum and cultural experiences to learn first-hand about the ancient traditions of the Maasai tribe. Guests enjoy access to an infinity pool, business center and three high-quality restaurants to choose from.

Melia Serengeti Lodge
Part of the Melia chain of luxury hotels, the Melia Serengeti Lodge offers incredible services in pristine nature. The lodge overlooks the Mbalageti River, and is less than an hour’s drive from the national park’s Seronera Airport. Families, especially, will enjoy the lodge’s Kids&Co area for children’s activities and the outdoor pool with a view of the river valley.  Melia Serengeti offers the choice of two restaurants, a bar and a lounge, in order to meet the tastes of all guests. Relax further with Melia’s excellent spa and a wide range of exercise equipment in the lodge’s serviced gym.

Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge
Serena Hotels offers four-star accomodations in the heart of the Serengeti. Guests can enjoy a comfortable room amidst the wilds of Tanzania. After a safari drive in the Serengeti, relax in the pool with a view of the surrounding plains or savour a drink at the bar with a spectacular view. Rooms offer a private balcony to take in Serengeti’s breathtaking sunsets, wireless internet and full bath amenities for a top experience in a beautiful setting.

Grumeti Migration Camp
Grumeti Migration Camp is a luxury tented camp ideally situated in Northern Serengeti to have the best access to the migration across the Grumeti River. Guests stay in glamorous tents, each with their own balcony and full bathroom and solar-powered features. The camp is situated along a hill with a fantastic view of the plains and migrating herds sometimes even cross through the camp’s property! Grumeti Migration Camp perfectly blends a luxury-tented lodge experience in nature, such as outdoor dining beside a fire, a beautiful pool for guests to enjoy after a day’s safari drive, and comfortable accommodations.

Altezza’s partnerships with hotels and lodges across the Serengeti is enough to suit everyone’s tastes and budget. If you have special requests, please contact us for a recommendation. We want to make your travel experience in the Serengeti truly unforgettable!


Weather 

The weather of the Serengeti is typical for tropical climate; warm and sunny days with chilly nights. While it is Africa, the nights can get cold so we recommend guests bring a fleece jacket or sweater for the evenings.

Tanzania’s seasons move from hot and dry to the rainy season, with a short cold period.

The typical yearly reasons are as follows:

January - early March: Hot and dry. The Serengeti may be dusty during this time, with rains unlikely and animals spotted at water sources.

March - late May: Rainy, with warm weather. Grasslands and woodland areas will be incredibly green and animals will flourish everywhere in the park. Most days have periods of sun and warmth.

June - September: Usually dry, but cold in the morning and evening. Depending on your home country, this cooler weather can be comfortable, while others find they need layered clothing for comfort during their safari adventure.

September - December: Hot and dry. Since this time follows the rainy and cool seasons, there is usually less dust in September and October, while November and December are very warm.


Best Time to Visit 

Safari-goers to Serengeti National Park are often encouraged to visit from early June through to late September, or December through March. These periods are the dry season across Tanzania, with almost guaranteed sunshine and overall pleasant weather (keeping in mind that June and July are cooler months). This is also the “high season” in the Tanzanian tourism sector. February, for instance is when many wildebeests birth their young throughout the plains and is a miraculous observance as the newborns can run only a few minutes after birth.

However, some travelers enjoy visiting Serengeti National Park during other months. April and May are usually the rainy season, but this means that there will not be dust throughout your safari drive in the Serengeti, and the landscape is an incredible, vivid green. The woodlands are lush and the wildlife becomes more playful - such as elephants splashing water at one another and fat zebras frolicing in long, green grass. Many photographers prefer the rainy season because of such striking images, while others simply prefer feeling as though they have the park to themselves, because there are fewer crowds. Though it is usually wet during the rainy season, it doesn’t rain constantly, the sun usually makes a brilliant appearance throughout the day, and sunsets are often stunning.

Rainy season also has an attractive perk - there are noticeably less safari cars. In August-September the Serengeti may be quite busy, and a single leopard may become be surrounded by a dozen vehicles with gazing tourists. In April or May you are likely to be there all alone! If you are eager to see the Great Migration, then rest assured - you will certainly find, as for over ten months the herd is in Tanzania, moving to the Kenyan side of the ecosystem for October-November only. 

Please note that late July through early August is the best time to see the spectacular crossing of the herd through Mara river. 

Wildlife 

Serengeti National Park is one of the most famous parks in all of Africa. It has been awarded the #1 destination for a wildlife safari in Africa multiple years in a row. Recently, Serengeti was named the top national park in all of Africa at the World Travel Awards.

Travelers planning an African safari should visit Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park: there is no better way to experience the wonders of Africa’s wildlife and pristine nature than in this acclaimed national park.

The high population of animals throughout the park makes the Serengeti the ideal option to spot the “Big Five”. What are the ‘Big Five”? The top five most dangerous animals in Africa: lions, elephants, leopards, rhino and Cape Buffalo. Leopards and the endangered Black Rhino are usually the more difficult ones to spot, but in the Serengeti travelers are likely to see these animals, and not just lounging around, but in action throughout the park.

Because of the density of wildlife in the park, it is important that all visitors observe the safety rules throughout their time in the park. These rules include:

Remain in the safari vehicle at all times, unless at a designated area (such as a camping site or picnic zone). This is for your safety, as the predators in the Serengeti are truly dangerous to pedestrians!

Please remain quiet throughout the park. No screaming or other loud noises, because it disturbs the animals. Don't produce any sounds to catch an animal's attention - you won't succeed anyway, and too much noise is stressful and harmful for the wildlife. 

Do not litter or throw any garbage in the park. Please respect the environment and dispose of all items at your lodge or accomodations for the night. The unique ecosystem of Serengeti National Park is precious and should be preserved.

Respect the roads within the park. Please do not ask your safari-guide to drive closer to the animals if it requires driving off-road, as it will eventually lead to the destruction of the environment of the Serengeti. A car may easily run over and crush nests, eggs or even slow animals such as tortoises, and other wildlife which is hard to see in the tall grass. 

Do not feed the animals. At times, monkeys or birds may be in the trees around your picnic site. Avoid changing their behavior with human interaction, or altering their natural diet with human snacks. It can also be dangerous for guests to offer food to wild animals, even a harmless-looking bird.


Animals 

One of the reasons that the Serengeti has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status is because it hosts the highest number of ungulates (animals such as gazelles, wildebeests and zebras) as well as their predators in all the world. The sheer number of wildlife found in Serengeti National Park is something travelers cannot experience anywhere else on earth.

Safari dreams of viewing elephants in the wild, herds of zebras and swift cheetahs on the hunt at sunrise all come true in the Serengeti. The picturesque African Safari really does come to life during a multi-day safari tour in Africa’s best national park.

Guests who come for the Great Migration find that Serengeti National Park exceeds their expectations; the mind-boggling number of wildebeests leaping across the Grumeti River and the mesmerizing patterns of hundreds of thousands of zebras across the grasslands cannot be captured in a single photo - it can only be experienced in person, in the Serengeti.

Of course, the Great Migration and the high number of ungulates in the Serengeti at all times of the year draw the mightiest African predators: leopards, lions, cheetahs and other African big cats. Travelers desiring to spy these awe-inspiring creatures will find their dreams come true in the Serengeti, crouching in the long grass or camouflaged high in a tree in the woodlands. But remember - these are wild animals, and under no circumstances should guests attempt to interact with any of the wildlife they witness. 


Lions 
In 2005, Serengeti National Park designated a protected area as the “Lion Conservation Unit” to help observe and protect the large lion population of the park. The Lion Conservation Unit encourages preservation of Serengeti’s lions, as well as important research regarding the “king of the jungle”.

Experts believe that Serengeti National Park has the highest lion population in all of Africa, specifically due to the large number of animals which serve as their prey that reside in the park. The current estimation of total lions within the Serengeti is over 3,000 and that number is expected to grow. If a pride grows too large and poses a danger to humans (such as the Maasai tribes that reside near Serengeti National Park) teams of experts ‘dismantle’ some of the members and move them to other areas, or to another national park within Tanzania to make the pride less powerful and encourage population growth across the country.

The Wildebeest Migration 

When is the Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti?
The migration, or movement of wildebeest within the Serengeti is constant. Year-round, enormous herds of wildebeests move in a clockwise pattern in the Serengeti and in a small portion of the Masai Mara, along the border in Kenya. At all times in the year, safari-goers can experience the wonder of nature in the lives of the wildebeest in Serengeti National Park.

Of course, the cyclical movement of wildebeest herds naturally has changes within it, including calving times and river crossings. Here is the outline of the typical year for herds of wildebeests in the Serengeti:

In January, herds move south near Ngorongoro for the short grasses and to prepare for giving birth.

February marks the beginning of calving season, where as many as 8,000 new calves could be born in a single day! Over the course of several weeks, it is estimated that close to half a million wildebeest are born in the Serengeti every year. Wildebeest calves are some of the most active newborns of any animal, able to stand up shortly after birth and able to run within fifteen minutes of life. This ability can be life-saving, if the vulnerable newborn needs to run away from a predator.

In April, herds slowly make their way towards central Serengeti for fresh grass. Often, herds of zebra and gazelles will be following suit and crowds of animals will congregate around a popular area known as the Seronera Valley in the Serengeti.

When May arrives, there will be vast numbers of wildebeests, stretching for miles across the Serona Valley to the interesting rock formations called Kopjes, found within central Serengeti.

June is an interesting time of transition as the herds prepare for the river crossing and head west, to Serengeti’s Western Corridor and the Grumeti River along the border to Kenya.

July and August are an ideal time to view the wildebeest herds as they cross the Mara River. Usually, it is a dramatic scene as the herds surge into the flowing river, risking crocodiles as they head to new grasses on the other side. There are so many wildebeests that this occurrence annually spans some weeks and is not concluded within just a few days.

It is this time of the river crossings that sees the largest movement of animals of any location on earth. Each year, and estimated 1.7 million wildebeests, along with hundreds of thousands of antelope, gazelle and zebra cross the Grumeti River during this annual migration. Along the river banks, predators such as lions, leopards and cheetah stalk their easy prey for an unrivaled experience of nature’s brutality.

It is a spectacular, annual occurrence that has no fixed date; nature determines when the wildebeests will begin and end the river crossing.

By the end of August and beginning of September it is likely that herds have concluded the dangerous crossing over the Grumeti River. Some continue into the Masai Marai, while many remain in the area of North Serengeti, consuming the nutritious grass.

In November and December, herds of wildebeests return to eastern Serengeti and spread out for grazing. Generally, there are short rains October through early December, which means new, fresh grass for the wildebeest.

Why do the Wildebeest Migrate?
Wildebeest migrate to follow the freshest grass throughout the Serengeti, which coincides with rainfall. Where it rains, new green grass flourishes. The migration, therefore, is easily tracked based on the regular season of rains throughout the Serengeti.

Is it dangerous to drive amidst the Migration?
It is not dangerous to observe the migration from your safari car, and thousands of travelers safely experience this every year. At the river crossing of Grumeti River, there are designated places to park with an excellent view of the migration.

Alternatively, you can take a hot air balloon safari to witness everything from above! A truly unforgettable experience.

Vehicles must remain on the designated road at all times, for the safety of the herds of animals.


Unique ecosystem 

Serengeti’s unique ecosystem is one of the reasons it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the park, guests will encounter two main types of vegetation: grasslands and woodlands.

Desert
While there are some images circling the internet that show the Serengeti with desert-like areas, this is inaccurate. There are no deserts within the Serengeti, rather there are dry grasslands where vegetation is plentiful. Serengeti’s vast grasslands are the main reason that so many animals reside in this park.

Africa’s deserts are mostly to be found in Northern and Central Africa, not in East Africa or Tanzania, specifically.

Grassland 
The vast grasslands of the Serengeti are the reason for its name and what attracts millions of animals every year in the annual Great Wildebeest Migration. Herds of wildebeests, gazelles, zebras and other animals that feast on the Serengeti’s rich grasslands make up this yearly attraction. Serengeti’s grasslands are famous, and cover the majority of the national park.

Kopjes
The opening scene of Disney’s “Lion King” shows a protruding rock formation where the lion pride has made stake. “Pride Rock” from this classic children’s film is actually a Kopje, or a protruding rock formation in the savannah.

Throughout the Serengeti, tourists can see these boulders popping up from the otherwise endless grasslands. How did they form? It is believed that billions of years ago, the molten rock forced itself up from the earth and formed these hills. Not far away from the Serengeti are the volcanic mountains Meru (dormant);
Kilimanjaro (extinct); and Ol Doinyo Lengai (an active volcano), making these suspicions not far-fetched at all. Over time, the hills may have eroded and what is left are these impressive rock formations that provide shade to the wildlife of the Serengeti.

Trees 

Acacias
The iconic tree of Africa, the acacia tree may be the most photographed of all trees by safari-goers: the lone tree, against a backdrop of a stunning African sunset is certainly awe-inspiring.

Africa has several species of acacia across the continent, and there are several common varieties found in the Serengeti: yellow fever, umbrella and whistling thorn, to name a few. Acacias have several common features, thorns being the most notable. It is the umbrella tree of the Acacia family that is often representative of Africa and safaris. However, elephants especially prefer these trees as saplings and usually eat them before they have a chance to grow bigger. Also, natural bush fires have killed any other surviving seedlings, meaning that most of the adult umbrella trees spotted in the Serengeti are either nearly 150 years old, or under 50 years old, with no growth in the intermediate.

Thorns help keep some animals, such as snakes, away and encourage weaver birds to build their nests in these trees, as the thorns provide natural protection for their eggs. Photographers are sure to see the woven nests and bright yellow birds fluttering around the limbs of acacia trees. 

Sausage Trees
While not common throughout the Serengeti, the Sausage Tree is noticeable wherever it does grow, because of its unique, long fruits. But, don’t attempt to eat these interesting ‘sausage fruits’, as they are poisonous. Visitors to the Serengeti are most likely to see these tall trees along dry river banks.

Fig Trees
Found in wet areas, such as river banks or rocky sides of the Serengeti’s unique kopjes, fig trees have large leaves and offer shade from the strong Tanzanian sun. Fig trees are especially beautiful to look at because of the inner-twined roots that create natural patterns as the tree continues to grow and spread its shade.

Date Palms
Serengeti National Park has many wild date palms, which grow in wet areas such as swamps and near rivers. However, don’t be tempted to get close to these trees: lions love to rest in their shade! While wild dates look appetizing, and are actually edible, we cannot recommend them: they taste very bad. Instead, locals often turn the sap into date palm wine (that is, when a lion hasn’t claimed the tree already).

The oldest national park in Tanzania and one of the largest parks in all of Africa, Serengeti is a not-to-be-missed destination for all Tanzania travelers. The Serengeti has been awarded the top safari destination in the world multiple times, and hosts the largest movement of animals in the whole world. The lion population of the Serengeti was once at-risk, due to trophy hunters in the early 1900s, however now Serengeti National Park is suspected to be home to the largest population of lions in the world.

Let your wildest dreams come true in the Serengeti!


Contact Altezza Travel to book the best safari experience, we are ready to introduce you to Africa’s ‘endless plains.’


Published on 19 April 2021

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