It is in 1952 that the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania was established; making it a home to animals like birds, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, lions, wildebeests and zebras.
The Park has three sections. One of them is the popular Seronera Valley also called the Serengit by the Maasai; the other is the western corridor which has the Grumeti River, forests and dense bushes. Then the third section is the north Lobo area that links up with Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve – it is the least visited section of the national park.
What majorly attracts over 350,000 visitors annually to this 5,700 square mile national park is the great wildebeest migration. You are able to witness over two million gazelles, wildebeests and zebras move in a spectacular pattern in search of greener pastures across northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. This happens all year round.
The Serengeti climate, fauna and vegetation have not changed much in the past million years. The park is listed as one of the World Heritage Sites; regarded as the best wildlife reserve in Africa by UNESCO.
History of the Park
German explorer Bauman, is believed to have discovered Serengeti in 1892. However, the Maasai people are known to have grazed their cattle in the Mara region long before foreigners came. They called it “Siringet” which means great open space where the land goes on and on.
Lions at the time were the dominant animals in that area to an extent they were the hunters’ main reason for visiting and exploration. The British colonial administrators had to intervene since the lion population was running low. They came up with regulations to protect the area and started drawing borders of the reserve areas and in 1951, Serengeti National Park was established.
Today, Serengeti National Park is the largest park in Tanzania with more than 700,000 Thompson’s gazelles, 1,400,000,000 wildebeests and 200,000 zebras. This has contributed immensely the country’s earnings through tourism with a continuous flow of visitors.
Location of the Park
Serengeti National Park is located in the northern part of Tanzania, bordering with Kenya with Latitude and longitude coordinates at -2.332577, 34.832153. It ranges from 3,740 to 6,886 feet in altitude and still has some active volcanoes.
It is located in Serengeti district which is approximately 970kms from the capital city Dar es Salaam. This can take you up to 18 hours by car and 2 hours by plane.
If you must get to the national park by road, it is better to start the journey from Arusha town which is about 350 kilometers from the national park and can take you seven hours if you travel non-stop.
Traveling by air is a quicker alternative and the fact the national park has seven airstrips makes it easier for tourists to make a choice on which part of the park they can visit.
The national park is governed and managed by the Tanzania National Parks Authority together with 16 other national parks in the country which cover over 15% of the country.
The Serengeti’s four sections that include the Northern Serengeti area which is the least visited, the Western Serengeti area which offers wildlife viewing all year round including crocodiles and hippopotamuses; the Southern plains area and the Central Serengeti which is the most frequented section of the park due to it all year round viewing of wildlife.
The Best Time to Visit
The view of animals in the Serengeti National Park is good all year round but not for all parts of the park. The seasons have an effect on the movement of the animals within the park.
During the months of October and November, the national park receives some rains which attract wildebeests and zebras from the northern hills down the southern plains.
Then after the rains in April, May and June; they move towards the west and north.
A spectacular sight to behold happens in January and February when the wildebeests are calving. This marks the beginning of the annual migration cycle.
The wildebeest migration as its best during the dry season from late June to October; when the herd makes its journey to the Maasai Mara National reserve in Kenya.
This is also a good time for photographers to capture memorable pictures of animals especially the wildebeest river crossing.
Adventure Tourism Activities
Serengeti National Park is habitat to the highest concentration of large mammals in the world with animals like antelopes, elephants, giraffes, hippos, lions, wildebeests and zebras.
Definitely following the wildebeest migration – where wildebeests and zebras move in search of greener pastures and fresher waters – is a major tourism activity.
The national park is home to over 500 bird species that include the secretary bird, ostriches, flamingos, eagles and many more. Therefore, bird watching is a major activity in this national park.
Serengeti national park is also home to the Maasai Mara people, whose rituals, tribe and traditional practices have remained intact over the years. It is a community you would want to visit, interact and spend time with.
The Oldvai gorge is another attraction. It is where the famous East African archaeologist, Dr. Louis Leaky extracted the oldest remains of early man. The bones dug out were from about a million years ago. This discovery changed the understanding of the evolution of man.
The Kopjes are protruding rocks around the park in the Serengeti. They offer a disguise and shade to animals and predators, including the black rhinos. This area has enough shade, water and grass for grazing.
The Retina Hippo pool in the Seronera Valley is a wonderful place to visit in the Serengeti National Park because it is where you will find large schools of hippos dipping in this pool. In the dry season, due their high numbers, and faced with water scarcity, fights normally break up between the hippos in search for a good cooling spot.
The Grumeti river is a popular attraction during the wildebeest migration.
What makes it spectacular is the sight of millions of beasts trying to cross this river to Maasai Mara. This river is crocodile infested so it is survival for the fittest as the animals try to make it across.
Key Facts to have in Mind
It is important to make a stopover at the Serengeti Visitor Centre for its self-guided walk through and get information about the history of the national park, its ecosystem and wildlife. You are also able to stop for lunch break since the center has an outdoor area, restrooms, a snack and coffee shop, and a gift shop. It is opened daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
The park can be accessed through three entry and exit points between 6:00am and 6:00pm daily. These gates are the Naabi Hill gate, Ndaka gate and Klein’s gate.
Park fees are affordable are rated according to age.
For children below 5 years of age, it is free of charge;
For children between 5 and 15 years the fee is USD 20 for 24 hours;
For adults above 16 years, the fee is USD 60 for 24 hours.
East African citizen and Tanzanian expatriates above 16 years of age, the fee is USD 30.
All park fees are exclusive of Value Added Tax.
Accommodation at the national park is based on choice from public campsites, special campsites, tented camps, and lodges. Some camps are permanent and open year round, others are mobile and the rest are seasonal. The largest number and greatest variety of lodging exists in the Central Serengeti region.
There are over 50 Serengeti National Park vacation packages to choose from and the recommended on is a three day package that costs between USD 1,200 to USD 2,200
There are up to 10 excellent Serengeti Safaris to choose from that range from 3 days to 15 days, and to have wonderful experience as your visit the Serengeti National Park, it is advisable to get a Tour Operator. Good tour operators should have updated websites with clear and up-to-date information. Their address should be permanent and should be professional in managing email responses and calls. It is better to look out for reviews about them to make a final decision to pick them.