Serengeti National Park
A million wildebeest… each one driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling its instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life: a frenzied three-week bout of territorial conquests and mating; survival of the fittest as 40 km long columns plunge through crocodile-infested waters on the annual exodus north. This trek replenishes the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8,000 calves daily before the 1,000 km pilgrimage begins again.
Size: 14,763 sq km
Location: 335 km from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west.
Getting there: Scheduled and charter flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara and Mwanza. Drive from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater.
What to do: Hot air balloon safaris, Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks. Visit neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron’s flamingos.
When to go: To follow the wildebeest migration, December-July. To see predators, June-October.
Accommodation: Four lodges, four luxury tented camps and campsites scattered through the park; one luxury camp, a lodge and two tented camps just outside.
Wildebeest Migration summary
Serengeti National Park with (14,763 sq. km) is undoubtedly the best-known wildlife sanctuary in the world, unequalled for its natural beauty and scientific value. This world Heritage site is the second National park in Tanzania but the most popular.
The Serengeti Ecosystem is much larger than the 14763sq.km, the ecosystem includes Serengeti itself, Loliondo controlled area, Ngorongoro crater, Maswa game reserve, Masai Mara game reserves, Grumeti and Ikorongo controlled area.
Serengeti Ecosystem Map
Each year, enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra move thousands of kilometers across the Serengeti National Park to Masai Mara game reserves. Numerous predators depend on these herds and follow them closely as they move. This remarkable phenomenon is a flagship for Serengeti, an important part of what makes this region so unique.
Serengeti National park is divided into six management zones as follows:
Ndutu: This is a very special area, particular between December and May. Here the wildebeest calve and migration begins. This spectacle is interspersed by snorting and by the end of the year the migration will have come full circle returning to these plains.
Moru and Simba kopjes: Moru and Simba kopjes are set further north on the path of the migration as the wildebeest and accompanying zebras and gazelles begin to group and start their annual migration. Serengeti few surviving rhinoceros and heavily armed guard also exist in this area. This is a good area for game viewing throughout the year due to the presence of water but access during rainy season can be difficult because of the black cotton soil. The kopjes rising from the plains provides ample shade for prides of lion, that spend most of the day lolling about on perfect observation point from which they search for the next meal.
Western corridor: This area includes Grumeti and Mara River, June to October after the rains are the recommended months to visit but there is year-round resident game. It is set west to northwest of moru and simba kopjes and almost joins Lake Victoria at Ndabaka gate. The area is known as western corridor because through here the migrating heads pass in June and July. Apart from migration both hippopotamus and crocodile are abundant, black and white colobus monkey and many species of bird can be seen in the riverine forest along Grumeti River. There is resident wildebeest population that annually watches the migration go past, large herds of Topi, giraffe and buffalo.
Seronera: From the south and central plains, the migrating herds cut across the park towards the northeast passing through seronera and outside the park western boundary in the area of fort ikoma gate. Seronera is one of the Serengeti best viewing area where virtually all resident animals such as lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, jackal, serval, caracal, fox, giraffe, buffalo, topi, hartebeest, waterbuck, elegant Grants and Thomson gazelles, impala, reedbuck, dikdik, hippopotamus, warthog, baboon, vervet monkeys, hyrax, and variety of reptiles and birds can be seen. This is a good area to visit throughout the year, with the dry season January-March and June-October being the preferred months.
Lobo: From the center of the Serengeti, the migration heads north in June and July into this area where heads of elephants and buffalo are also commonly seen. Klipspringers are common on the kopjes and impala in broken country. Other common game such as hartebeest, gazelle and warthog are found throughout the year.
Short grass Plains: Tanzania has two rainy seasons, the short rains in November/December and the long rainy from March to May. As if sensing the rains, may be through sight (darkening skies and lightening) and sound (thunder) the migration turns heading south back, back into the Serengeti.
This rainy brings lush green grass to southern Serengeti plains and creates a rich grazing area for migration and foods for millions of insects that in turn attract countless migratory birds. This is the time whereby more than 1.5 million animals return to shortgrass plains to remain in the Naabi hill and Ndutu area before began the cycle again.
Serengeti Migration Route
|January||The migration is in the southern Serengeti on the short grass plains after the short rains which has nurtured fresh grass. This month and December are the peak month for zebra birth|
|February||The short grass plains are the main feeding ground for about two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle. It is time for predators to feed on the newborn, this is the main month for wildest calving.|
|March||This time is beginning of the long or heavy rains, clouds appear from the south and occasional lighting illuminates the night sky. The short grass plains pastures are nearing exhaustion and the new born can keep up with the herds|
|April||This should be the heaviest rainy month, wildebeest are almost evenly scattered on Serengeti southern plains.|
|May||The grass at short plains is still available but water begins to be a limiting factor, the vast herds begin to come together with columns containing hundreds of thousands stretched over many kilometers as they heard across the woodlands zones in the western corridor.|
|June||Rains come to an end and the herds leave the black cotton soil plains to cross the Grumeti river where many wildebeest drown every year providing food for the crocodiles that lurk at crossing points. depending on the start of the rainy season sometimes during June the wildebeest can be in seronera and Moru kopjes area|
|July||The migration now heads northwest briefly leaving Serengeti national park as they enter Grumeti controlled Area, with the small portion of the heard heading towards the Lobo area.|
|August||The migration and some predators trailing will now cross the Ikorongo Controlled Area. The various groups of migration begins to meet up, depending on the start of the rainy season sometimes during august the migration can be in the northern Serengeti and entering Masai Mara.|
|September||The migration has now entered Masai Mara Game Reserve just across the northern border from the Serengeti.|
|October||This is the driest month in Serengeti with the bulk of animals briefly absent in the Masai Mara game reserve where there is always plenty water and better grazing for the plains animals at this time of year.|
|November||As if sensing the incoming short rains with clouds gathering in the sky the migration begins its trek back home to Serengeti National park. Flame trees are begging to blossom and migrant birds start to arrive.|
|December||The migration increases its pace as it heads towards Serengeti southern plain where the short rains are generating the grass, The migration follows the Loliondo boundary of the park and it’s the time when zebra begin to give birth|
The month by month calendar is an approximate guideline as the Migration is dictated by the seasons that bring the rain and new grass. If the short rains fail the migration begins later but if there be plentiful rains, the migration may not leave the Serengeti ecosystem for Masai Mara. Like the weatherman, the wildebeest are victims of the unpredictable.
The Serengeti is one of the areas in Tanzania that offers good game viewing all year round, while all seasons can be a great time to visit, it is perhaps more important to figure out what parts of the Serengeti you’ll want to explore during your visit which will largely depend on your sightseeing priorities and the timing and length of your visit.