Africa

Serengeti National Park Safari Guide

The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is one of the most famous wildlife habitats in the world.  This large park in Northern Tanzania, along with its sister park (the Masai Mara) in Kenya, plays a pivotal role in the great wildebeest migration.  This great migration, which also features zebra, gazelle, and other grazing animals, brings over two million grass feeders thru the parks as they follow the rains each year.  It is quite an unbelievable spectacle to behold.

It is because of this migration, and its sheer volume of migrating animals, that the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania has become so famous.  The park provides visitors with a front row seat to see the migration and all of the drama that unfolds with it.  These migrating wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and other animals have to cross rivers that are infested with large Nile Crocodiles, navigate savannas that are teaming with ambushing lions and leopards, outmaneuver aggressive clans of Spotted Hyenas, and outpace the lightning fast cheetahs that hunt on the open plains of the parks.  All in search of fresh grass that sprouts after the rain storms that they instinctively follow.

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This is what makes the Serengeti National Park so special, and why it is a place that I will never forget.  In few other places in this world can you see nature at its most beautiful, and at its most cruel.  The sheer amount of animals that live in and migrate thru the park gives visitors an almost unprecedented opportunity to see the wildlife they came to see.

In our short, two day stay in the Serengeti, we were able to see both a mother lioness protecting her newborn baby cubs in a thicket, as well as the rest of her pride feasting on a fresh wildebeest kill that they had made.  These experiences are what makes the Serengeti National Park such an amazing wildlife destination.

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If you are looking for a great place to go on a safari in Africa, then your search should start with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya.  These parks provide visitors with the ability to see the “Big Five” animals of Africa (lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard), as well as a plethora of other amazing wildlife.  And if you plan your visit right, you might get to see the great migration unfold in this amazing place!

Before You Visit

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Going on safari in Africa is a big deal, and in the excitement of starting to make your plans, it is easy to overlook some important details that can make-or-break your trip.  Before you leave for Tanzania, you will want to make sure you read this section so that you don’t run into any issues with travel or your safari.

Immunizations

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Before you leave for your trip to Tanzania, you need to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations.  Not only to protect yourself, but to protect others.  In fact, depending on where you are visiting from and whether you are making any stops before visiting Tanzania, you might not even be allowed in the country without the proper vaccinations.

If you have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them, below are some general guidelines I can pass on to you from experience.

  • Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance, so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
  • Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
  • Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you.  This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultation will be covered by your insurance up-front.
  • Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them.  Walgreens is able to give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.

In case you are unsure of what travel vaccinations you might need, I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.

  • Antimalarial (Aralen, Qualaquin, Plaquenil, Mefloquine, or Doxycycline).
  • Typhoid (either a shot, which is good for 2 years, or live virus pill, which is good for 4 years).
  • Yellow Fever (be aware that some countries require a yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from another country that is high risk, even if your stay in that other country was short).
  • Hepetitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
  • Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
  • Rabies (if you are going to be working in close contact with animals).
  • Dukoral (gives you 3 month protection against travel diarrhea).
  • Flu Shot

Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements

Depending on which country you are arriving from, you may need to have a Yellow Fever vaccination to enter the country.  If you are travelling to Tanzania from another country in Africa, please use the US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) website to determine if you will be required to have proof of the Yellow Fever vaccination to enter.

Passport Requirements

Please keep in mind, you will need your passports handy in order to purchase a permit to enter the Serengeti National Park.  You are going to need to make sure you bring your passport with you when you go on safari.  If you are taking a guided safari, your guide should alert you to this and help coordinate the purchase of the necessary permit(s).

What to Bring

If you are visiting Africa and going on safari for the first time, you might not be sure of what to bring with you on safari.  To help you with these questions, I have developed a handy Safari Packing list and a Photographer’s Guide to Taking Pictures on Safari that will help you make sure you have the gear that is essential to make your trip a success.

Yellowstone-1733 The Essential Safari Packing List
Yellowstone-1733 Tips for Photography on African Safaris

Getting to the Serengeti National Park

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The Serengeti National Park is located in Northern Tanzania, right on the border with Kenya.  In fact, the Serengeti National Park continues into Kenya, where it becomes the Masai Mara National Reserve.  The huge area created by these parks, along with the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area that joins to the East of the Serengeti, make one of the largest wildlife conservation areas in the world.

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If you are planning on a safari trip to Tanzania and Kenya, there are other parks that we would recommend in addition to the Serengeti and Masai Mara.  The Ngorongoro Crater, which we wrote about previously, is one of the most unique wildlife areas in the world because it is an enclosed, protected wildlife sanctuary that is located in the crater of an extinct volcano.  Wildlife in the crater doesn’t migrate because there is water in the crater year round, so it affords visitors some of the most predictable wildlife viewing experiences of any wildlife area in the world.

In addition to the Ngorongoro Crater, the Lake Manyara National Park is a unique and incredible wildlife park because of its abundance of animals and its unique tree-climbing lions.  It is a park that we visited during our trip and we absolutely loved.  There are also the Tarangire, Arusha, and Mount Kilimanjaro National Parks in the area that are absolutely worth exploring.  Depending on the length of your stay, you can combine many of these parks into a single safari vacation and get to see much of the beautiful wildlife areas in Tanzania and Kenya.

Travel-Pic Arusha National Park Safari Guide
Travel-Pic Lake Manyara National Park Safari Guide
Travel-Pic Ngorongoro Crater Safari Guide

One of the most memorable experiences we had while on safari in the Serengeti National Park was our experience camping in the park.  If you are planning on going on safari in Africa, I would absolutely recommend that you spend at least one night camping.  There is absolutely no better way get an authentic safari experience and really feel like you are part of the environment.  I wrote about our night camping in the Serengeti National Park in an article that I linked below.

Travel-Pic Camping in the Serengeti National Park

It was such a surreal experience to sit by the campfire, drinking a hot beverage and chatting with other like-minded adventurers, in the middle of one of this world’s most infamous wildlife sanctuaries.  Being woken in the middle of the night by a clan of hyenas passing thru our camp was both thrilling and exhilarating, to say the least.  If I had to point to one experience on my safari adventure in Tanzania as the most memorable, it would be the night that we camped.

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Now, before you start to worry about safety, let me assure you that the accommodations are very safe and secure.  These aren’t your typical camping tents that you sleep in while on a camping trip.  These are thick canvas tents that have a bathroom and shower inside.  As long as you follow the proper safety guidelines and not leave your tent when it is dark, you are perfectly safe sleeping in these tents.

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It may not have all of the luxuries you might be accustomed to back home, but nothing beats being out in the middle of the Serengeti and among the very wildlife you came to see.  It is truly an amazing experience that I absolutely recommend to anyone who is considering going on safari in the Serengeti National Park.

Below you will find a detailed map of the Serengeti National Park and surrounding park and conservation lands.  The map includes plenty of lodge and tented camps that you can consider when going on safari in the area.

Pro Tip:  Make sure you decide which parts of the Serengeti and surrounding areas you want to see first, and then look into the accommodations.  In most cases, your safari operator will have recommendations for lodges and camps in the areas that you will be visiting and will make the arrangements for you.

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Accommodations in the Central Serengeti

Dunia Camp
Lemala Ewanjan
Moru Under Canvas
Serengeti Pioneer Camp
Serengeti Under Canvas
Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge
Four Seasons Safari Lodge
Nasikia Central Camp
Serengeti Tortilis Camp
Serengeti Kati Kati Camp
Serengeti Sopa Lodge
Seronera Wildlife Lodge
Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp

Accommodations in Mara – The Northern Serengeti

Bologonya Under Canvas
Buffalo Luxury Camp
Kampi Kampi
Sayari Camp
Kleins Camp
Lemala Mara Camp
Olakira Camp
Serengeti Bushtops Camp
Nasikia Mobile Camp
Lemala Kuria Hills

Accommodations in Lobo – The Northern Serengeti

Lobo Wildlife Lodge
Serengeti Migration Camp

Accommodations in the Western Serengeti

Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp
Kirawira Tented Camp
Mbalageti Tented Camp
Serengeti Soroi Lodge
Ubuntu Camp

Accommodations in the Ikoma Region

Faru Faru Lodge
Sabora Tented Camp
Sasakwa Lodge
Eco Lodge Africa
Serengeti Simba Lodge
Ikoma Bush Camp
Robanda Tented Camp

Park Fees

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Important:  Make sure you read the section below carefully so that you understand how long your permit for the Serengeti National Park is good for.  I have read a lot of stories about people who had their trips ruined because they did not properly understand the rules.

In order to enter the Serengeti National Park, you must purchase a permit.  The permits are obtained on a per person basis, and they are good for 24 hours.  This is important when considering when you are going to enter the park.  Should you enter the park at mid-day, you will be expected to exit the park at mid-day the next day.  If you stay past the 24 hours allowed by your permit, you will need to pay for a permit for an additional full day.

In most cases, your safari operator will take care of purchasing your safari permits for you and will handle the logistics of when you enter and need to leave the park.  However, if you are planning on doing a self-drive thru the Serengeti, I have outlined the fees for visiting the park below for you to review.

Non Resident Adults Inside the park (16 year and above) $60
Non Resident Children inside the park (Between age of 5-16) $20
Non Resident Student $20
Children below the age of 5 Free

Best Time to Visit

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If you are looking for the best time to visit the Serengeti National Park and surrounding areas, it really depends on what you are most interested in seeing. There are several periods throughout the year that are very good times to visit.

Lake Manyara Best Times to Visit

If you are interested in seeing baby animals, the wildebeest calving season is between January and February. The period of time between June and September is great for general wildlife viewing and you have a great chance of seeing wildebeest and other animals do river crossings of the Grumeti River in June and July and the Mara River in September.

Best Time: January-February (calving), June-September (general)
Peak Season: Most of the season, but especially July-March
Low Season: April and May
Best Weather: June thru October
Worst Weather: March and April

During the wet season, which is typically during the months of March and April, the area can get quite a bit of rain.  These are the storms that the herds of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and other grazing animals follow to take advantage of the fresh grass that grows after the storms.  If you are looking to see the wildebeest migration at its height, visiting during the months of June and July are your best bet.

The wildebeest will be heading from the heart of the Serengeti on their way North towards the Masai Mara in Kenya.  These months typically have the best weather as well.  If you would like to understand the wildebeest migration and where the animals will typically be during certain parts of the year, I have included a map below that gives you an overview of the migration.

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June to October (The Dry Season)

  • Best time to see the wildebeest migration.  They tend to be in the Western part of the park between June and July and in the Northern part of the park between August and September.
  • The animals are typically easier to see because the vegetation isn’t as thick and the animals tend to gather around water sources.
  • This time of year typically has the best weather.
  • The park is the most crowded.
  • Mornings and evenings can be quite cold because this is the wintertime in Tanzania.

November to May (The Wet Season)

  • Late January into February is the best time to see baby animals as this is the wildebeest calving season.  It is also a great time to see predators in action as they tend to target the young wildebeest.
  • The animals can be more difficult to spot because water is plentiful, so there is no need to congregate around water sources, and the vegetation is the thickest.
  • April and May are the low season, so the park is less crowded and the rates are the lowest.
  • Migratory birds are typically in the park, so it is the peak season for bird watching.
  • March thru May is the peak of the wet season, but storms typically occur in the afternoon, so there is still time to go on safari early in the day.

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The Wildlife

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The landscape in and around the Serengeti National Park is truly remarkable in-and-by-itself, but the main reason people flock to this national park is to see the wildlife.  And let me tell you, the wildlife does not disappoint.  With the large numbers of migrating animals, and all of the predators that congregate to feast upon them, there is no shortage of wildlife in on the savannas of the Serengeti.

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When you are on safari in the Serengeti National Park, you can expect to see most, if not all, of the animals that you came to Africa to see.  In addition to the “Big Five” animals of Africa, which include elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and buffalo, you have a good chance of seeing spotted hyenas, cheetahs, hippos, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and many of the other grazing animals that Africa is known for.

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If you are looking to see some action, the Serengeti also provides you a great chance to see some predator action first-hand year round, but this is especially true during the calving season in late January and February and during the height of the great wildebeest migration.  When we were on safari in the Serengeti, we got to see lions feasting on a wildebeest, which was a very surreal experience.  It was sad to see a life lost, but we were happy to see that all of the little lion mouths would be fed that day.

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The Serengeti is a big place and there is so much to see, so make sure you communicate with your safari guide.  If you let them know which animals you are really interested in seeing, they will be able to put you into better position to see those animals.  In addition to their years of experience guiding and tracking these animals, they also have two-way radios that they use to communicate with other drivers and share information about what is happening throughout the Serengeti.

Safari Tips

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When you are on safari, especially in the Serengeti National Park, where animals are abundant, it is easy to get lost in the experience.  Being on safari is such an amazing experience and you should enjoy every single second of it.  However, if you aren’t careful, you might not get everything out of the experience that you could have.

In order to make sure that you get everything out of your safari experience in the Serengeti that you possibly can, I have provided some general safari tips below for you to review.

  • Be Patient and Open Minded – When you are on safari, everything isn’t going to go according to plan.  The weather, the animal’s behavior, and other factors are going to impact where you go and what you see.  The Serengeti National Park provides some of the most reliable wildlife viewing opportunities in Africa, but even in the the Serengeti you have to be ready to adjust your plans if necessary.
  • Safety First – It is really easy to get caught up in the safari experience and want to get the best pictures you possibly can.  However, safety should always be the primary concern.  To give you some help in how to remain safe while on safari in the Serengeti, I have outlined some general safety tips for you to review later in this guide.
  • Don’t Get Stuck Behind Your Camera – Everyone wants to get great pictures while on safari, and you should absolutely bring your camera and take a lot of pictures.  However, if you spend your entire time in the Serengeti looking thru your camera, you are going to miss out on some of the experience.  I would recommend setting your camera down every-once-in-a-while and just enjoy being in such an amazing place.
  • Ask Lots of Questions – Make sure you ask your safari guide a lot of questions while you are in the Serengeti.  It is easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to ask which type of animal you are looking at or why they are doing what they are doing, but your safari guide is there to answer these questions for you.  And believe me, they enjoy answering these questions.  Don’t get home and regret not asking those questions.
  • Be Conscious of Time – You are going to see some amazing things while you are on safari in the Serengeti.  However, as I mentioned before, the time that your daily permit is good for is limited.  Don’t get too caught up in one place within the Serengeti for too long as you might regret not having time to do other things later.  By no means am I suggesting that you should rush thru the safari, but you might not want to linger watching one thing for hours-upon-hours either.

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More than anything else, the best tip I can give you is to just have fun.  Visiting the Serengeti National Park should be a trip of a lifetime, and you should enjoy every single second of this adventure.  Don’t get caught up on the little things that might go wrong.  Before you know it you will be back at home and left with just the memories and pictures of your adventure.  Make those memories great ones!

Safety Tips

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Being on safari can be an amazing and exciting experience, but it can also be a very dangerous experience if you don’t follow the proper safety rules.  In order to ensure that your safari experience is a memorable and safe one, I have outlined some general safari safety rules for you to review below.

  • Obey your safari guide at all times – The most important safari safety tip of all is to listen to your safari guide and obey them at all times.  They are there to keep you safe, so let them.
  • Don’t stick anything out of the safari vehicle – It is never a good idea to stick anything outside of a safari vehicle.  Whether this be your arms, your feet, or your camera as you try to get a great picture, keep them inside the vehicle at all times.
  • Don’t make a lot of sudden or frantic movements in the vehicle – When you are in the safari vehicle, the animals tend to think of the vehicle and everything associated with it as one homogeneous entity.  However, if you make sudden and frantic movements, or do something else to make you stick out as a part from the vehicle, you may become an object of interest to them.
  • Never get out of the vehicle unless your guide says you can – This point cannot be stressed strongly enough. Never, and I mean never, get out of your safari vehicle unless your safari guide explicitly instructs that it is safe.
  • Never leave your tent or lodge room at night – This is another point that I cannot emphasize strongly enough.  You should never leave your tent or lodge room at night without a chaperone.  The African bush can be a dangerous place, especially at night, so make sure you follow whichever procedures your safari guide gives you for getting assistance at night.  If they don’t mention this, make sure you ask ahead of time.
  • Walk, never run – If you do find yourself outside of your vehicle and confronted by an animal (hopefully this never happens), then make sure that you stay as calm as possible, walk away slowly (never turning your back on the animal), and NEVER, EVER run away.
  • Never swim in lakes or rivers – Unless you are explicitly told by your safari guide that the waters are free of hippos and crocodiles, you should never attempt to swim in a lake, river, or pond.  Even then, I would think twice about doing it.  Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal, and crocodiles are not far behind on the list, so you always have to be safe when even approaching bodies of water.

Stuck in the Serengeti

It wasn’t all fun and games while we were on safari in the Serengeti.  On our second to last day of safari, we managed to get stuck in the mud in the Serengeti.  It was a interesting experience, to say the least.  Check out the short video below to find out how it could have been much worse for us.

Photo Gallery

The Serengeti National Park is one of the most amazing wildlife destinations in the world.  Below is a gallery of just some of the wonderful pictures we were able to take while on safari in the Serengeti.

Serengeti National Park
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