It is no wonder that the spectacular Serengeti is the iconic wilderness safari destination. This vast East African conservation area – comprising 15 000km² of savannah – is one of the last areas on Earth where you can get a front-row seat to the Great Migration.
Few lifetime experiences can beat that of watching over a million wildebeest plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebra – followed by their predators – embark on a 1 000km-long circular trek through unfenced Kenya and Tanzania in search of seasonal pasture and water. This natural spectacle is both thrilling and profoundly moving. But with its high biological diversity (it is home to over 100 mammals), the Serengeti also offers rewarding year-round adventure and intimate wildlife experiences, with exceptional, high-density game viewing as well as significant large predator-prey interactions.
Snapshot of The Serengeti
- Home to the biggest part of the Great Migration
- Exceptional concentrations and variety of game
- Iconic savanna landscapes
- The Great Migration
- Exceptional wildlife viewing
- Iconic safari experience
The Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem
This is quintessential Africa: vast rolling plains stretching as far as the eye can see dotted with gnarled acacia bushes, jagged kopjes and lush riverine habitat. The Serengeti National Park covers nearly 15 000km² in northwestern Tanzania between the Ngorongoro highlands and Lake Victoria. To the north it joins up with Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, while its southeast boundary blends into the Ngorongoro Conservation area. Neighbours include Maswa Game Reserve in the southwest, the Ikorongo and Grumeti game reserves to the west and the Loliondo Game Control area to east and northeast. Together these conservation zones make up the world-famous Serengeti-Mara ecosystem – which spans 30 000km² and is one of the least disturbed biospheres on earth.
Most of the Serengeti’s permanent water supply is found towards the northern and western areas – the seasonal lack of permanent water and grazing in the south is one of the main drivers behind the annual Great Migration, when some 1,2 million wildebeest, 500 000 Thomson’s gazelle and 250 000 zebra and other ungulates.
Regions of the Serengeti
The Serengeti is a vast wilderness that spans over a million hectares – so where to start planning your safari? The best way to ensure you get the best, most fulfilling experience possible is to understand what the different regions have to offer.
First-time visitors to Serengeti should not miss the Southern region. This is where you’ll find Serengeti’s iconic grassland plains, the Ndutu Woodlands and spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, where you’ll find an incredible diversity of wildlife year-round.
As the summer sun warms the landscape, the wildebeest begin their trek back to the lush grasslands of the south and neighbouring Ngorongoro Conservation Area (but not Ngorongoro Crater itself). Vast plains of lush new grass triggered by the start of the summer rains provide perfect fodder for the wildebeest, which come here to graze, rest and calve en masse. In February, the plains are filled with millions of wildebeest calves as mothers give birth to approximately 500 000 babies in a remarkably synchronised event. Of course, where there are wildebeest there are predators. In the southern grasslands, lion, leopard and cheetah are never far from the action, while Lake Ndutu in particular has high concentrations of the elusive African wild dog. The granite kopjes in this region make for great observation points for the big cats.
In the west, the Serengeti narrows into the remote ‘Western Corridor’, a small strip of verdant land that stretches almost to Lake Victoria. Two rivers flow through the area, the Grumeti and the Mbalageti, lined by evergreen forest and swampy savannah with its black clay soil.
From May to July, the Great Migration passes through and the herds of wildebeest pause to gather momentum before tackling the crossing of the Grumeti River, eagerly watched by predators at every turn. You’ll see enormous Nile crocodiles snapping opportunistically at their heels as they mill around the banks before stampeding across the fast-flowing waters. The landscape is as varied as the game: vast open plains, woodlands and savannas dotted with acacia trees provide a hospitable habitat for the wildlife species that can be sighted here.
The heart of the Serengeti, the central Seronera region is home to phenomenal quantities of game. The Seronera River and a number of other rivers sustain large populations of resident plains game year round, which ensures superb sightings of predators. Big cats take advantage of the elevated kopjes to scan their territories for prey and the endangered black rhino can often be found in the area.
Twice a year, in May/June and November/December, the extraordinary Great Migration passes through the area and the golden grass plains are filled with herds of wildebeest and the accompanying zebra, topi and gazelle as they continue their trek through the Serengeti in search of fresh grass.
The Eastern Serengeti is undoubtedly big cat territory. With the Ngare Nanyuki underground river creating pockets of permanent water, the area supports high concentrations of resident plains game and the resulting predators. Lion and leopard are frequently seen languishing on the rocky kopjes, while cheetah hunt their prey undisturbed. The Gol Kopjes on the Eastern Plains boast the highest concentration of cheetah and hyena, as well as plentiful other game.
From October to May the savannah is blanketed with newly sprouted grass, drawing great herds of wildebeest and other ungulates as hundreds of thousands of animals come to feast on the lush green banquet. Zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and eland also migrate to the area and herds of 100 and more are commonplace.
This uncrowded area is virtually unexplored and teems with wildlife, including the largest concentration of elephants in the Serengeti. The landscape, which includes heavily wooded areas and bushy savannah, is spectacular, and offers an authentic off-the-beaten-track experience with viewings of hippo, giraffe, eland, Thomson’s gazelle and more.
From August to November, the plains of the Northern Serengeti spring to life as millions of wildebeest travel age-old migration routes in search of new grass. It is here that the wildebeest face one of the principal obstacles of their trek, the great Mara River, providing spectacular, chaotic and exciting viewing. Wildebeest not only risk being swept away by the swollen river but must also run the gauntlet of Nile crocodiles submerged in the water and hungry predators on the other side.
After the migration, once the wildebeest make their way south, calm descends on the northern plains. The grass rebounds into a lush green carpet, the Mara River returns to a sinuous ribbon of calm and resident game is plentiful. This is a special time to soak up the singular beauty of the Serengeti in peace and quiet.
The Serengeti is home to a simply remarkable number of species. Of course, the main attraction is the Great Migration, when over a million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle traverse the plains along age-old migration routes in search of fresh grass.
But the Serengeti is also one of the few places in Africa where game viewing is spectacular year round, and it is classic Big Five territory. Vast herds of grazers are ever present and predator numbers are high, with almost 3 500 lion in the area and frequent sightings of leopard and cheetah.
Our top sightings in the Serengeti include:
- The Big Five: elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhinoceros (black rhino are rare)
- Spotted hyena
- Aardwolf (very rare)
- Ground pangolin (very rare)
- Coke’s hartebeest
- Wild dog (mostly in the Southern plains)
- Golden jackal
- Bat-eared fox
Wildlife found in the South includes:
- Serval (rare)
- African wild dog (rare)
- Bat-eared fox
- Golden jackal
- Spotted hyena
In the Western Corridor, wildlife includes:
- African wild dog (rare)
- Black-and-white colobus monkey
- Thomson’s gazelle
The Central Seronera Region & Eastern Serengeti are home abundant wildlife including:
- Black rhino (rare)
- Aardwolf (rare)
- Ground pangolin (rare)
- Coke’s Hartebeest
- Spotted hyena
- Aardwolf (Namiri Plains)
- Big-maned lion (Namiri Plains)
- Pangolin (Namiri Plains)
- Rhino (Dunia)
Wildlife to be found in the Northern Serengeti includes:
- Black rhino (rare)
- Nile crocodile
- Spotted hyena
While heart-stopping wildlife encounters and extraordinary sightings in the Serengeti are guaranteed, there are many ways to experience and learn more about this very special wilderness.
Nothing beats the exhilaration of tracking and then finding an elusive animal. Asilia trains its guides to the highest standards and our game vehicles ensure everyone has a window seat to enjoy the action. Daily morning and evening game drives to get you right up close to the myriad wildlife species that call this wilderness home. Study and photograph the big cats of the area at your leisure, and absorb the astonishing sight of massive herds of wildebeest appearing to take over the plains. The guides share their profound knowledge of the flora, fauna and birds of the Serengeti with you as together you explore the finest corners and hidden secrets of this African Eden.
Our drivers are all extremely knowledgeable and know exactly how to place their vehicles for photographers. Sandbags for stability are available in our vehicles, which also have charging facilities.
East Africa’s bird life is rich and diverse, and our guides have extensive knowledge about the region’s feathered friends. Specialist birding guides can be arranged for serious twitchers.
Heighten your senses to the sights, sounds and smells of the bush on a walking safari from Namiri Plains or Sayari. It is likely that you will get close to larger mammals with Asilia’s experienced walking guides, but this is really the perfect chance to take a closer look at the little things and appreciate the African bush from the earth upwards. Walking is one of the most intimate ways to experience wild Africa – the pace is easy and the memories will stay with you forever. While your game drives will acquaint your with the Big Five, a bush walk will introduce you to the subtle beauty of Africa’s Little Five – the elephant shrew, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle – as well as birds, butterflies, trees and plants.
Available at these Serengeti camps: Namiri Plains and Sayari Camp
Nothing can beat the feeling of gliding silently over the game-filled plains on a balloon safari, as the early-morning sun rises over the horizon. Typically, a balloon safari begins at around 6 am and lasts for one to two hours. Balloon safaris (additional cost) in the Serengeti take off from designated sites in the nearby Seronera area. The safari is followed by a champagne breakfast in the bush, a fitting end to a memorable flight in the wild.
Available at these Serengeti camps: Namiri Plains, Dunia, Sayari, Olakira North, Olakira South, Ubuntu North
Maximise your time on the game-filled plains and enjoy uninterrupted game viewing, by taking a packed breakfast or lunch with you on a game drive to enjoy in a shady spot. Dinner can be arranged out in the bush for an unforgettable dining experience under the African night sky.
Search for cheetah on the open plains of the Serengeti and meet up with a local cheetah researcher to compare notes and learn more about these endangered big cats.
Available at these Serengeti camps: Namiri Plains
Most of our camp guides and managers are drawn from local communities. They are always eager to give interested guests deeply personal insight into the rich culture that defines these corners of East Africa. Visits to nearby communities and homesteads are easily and enthusiastically arranged.
When nomadic Ubuntu, Kimondo and Olakira are camped in the north (July to October) you can visit the nearby local villages for a glimpse into the traditional way of life and culture of the Kuria people. Spend a morning or afternoon visiting a traditional homestead, school or the marketplace (where you can shop for crafts and handmade souvenirs) or be entertained by local Kuria dancers.
At Sayari you can also stop off at the community vegetable gardens – mentored and sponsored by Asilia – to gather organic fresh produce for your evening meal.
Available at these Serengeti camps: Ubuntu North, Olakira North, Kimondo North & Sayari
If time allows, indulge in a spa treatment from our expert therapists or spend a few hours sunning yourself at the rim-flow pool with its spectacular views of the game-filled plains.
Available at these Serengeti camps: Sayari
Travel & Migration Seasons
The Serengeti is an excellent year-round safari destination, with a high concentration of game offering spectacular wildlife viewing.
To help place you in the right place at the right time, our migration camps move seasonally to prime locations along the wildebeest migration cycle. Namiri Plains and Dunia Camp are open year-round for exceptional game-viewing in the Central and Eastern Serengeti.
There is no ‘right time’ to experience the Great Migration, whether it is in the serene southern grasslands or in the north with its treacherous river crossings. The Annual Migration is at is peak with crossings of the Mara, Grumeti and other rivers in June and July, while wildebeest calving season in the south from January to March offers excellent viewing and predator action. The wet season from November to May, when migratory birds are present in the region, is popular with birding enthusiasts.
January to March: Calving in the South
Camps positioned for migration at this time: Kimondo South, Olakira South, Ubuntu South, Namiri Plains, Dunia
- January: Calving season begins in the Ngorongoro area of the southern Serengeti of Tanzania
- February: Wildebeest grazing and calving in southeastern region
- March: Calving season ends and rutting season begins
April to May: Grouping in the Central Region and the Seronera Valley
Camps positioned for migration at this time: Dunia and Namiri Plains
- April: The wildebeest start moving north and grouping in the central areas of the Serengeti.
- May: As the rains end, the animals start moving northwest into areas around Grumeti River, where they remain until late June.
June to July: The March North and into the Western Corridor
Camps positioned for migration at this time: Ubuntu West, Ubuntu North, Olakira North, Kimondo North, Sayari, Dunia, Namiri Plains, Mara Bush Houses, Rekero, Naboisho, Encounter Mara
- June: Dry season starts. Animals in Grumeti River region.
- July: Main migration of wildebeest, zebra and eland heading north across the Mara River, arriving Kenyan border and then into Maasai Mara late July/August.
August to October: Crossing the Mara River
Camps positioned for migration at this time: Ubuntu North, Olakira North, Kimondo North, Sayari, Mara Bush Houses, Rekero, Naboisho, Encounter Mara
- August: as the dry season approaches, the wildebeest face the second challenge of their trek: the Great Mara River. Many will perish in the stampede but the thousands of calves that are born more than make up the numbers.
- September: the herds are mostly concentrated in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, the northernmost range of the trek, but many still remain in the Serengeti in Tanzania.
- October: the Wildebeest face the swollen waters of the Mara River once more as they cross on their journey back to the south.
November to December: Moving South to Begin Calving
Camps positioned for migration at this time: Olakira, Kimondo and Ubuntu (all in North locations before these three camps move South), Sayari, Namiri Plains, Dunia, Mara Bush Houses, Rekero, Naboisho, Encounter Mara
- November: the short rains propel the wildebeest further South to the rejuvenated grasses of the Serengeti.
- December: the wildebeest make their way back ‘home’ towards the Southern grasslands of the Serengeti, ready to begin calving and continue their trek all over again
While the annual wildebeest migration is awe-inspiring, those in the know also savour the magnificent game viewing during ‘connoisseur’s season’, when the wildebeest herds – and other travellers – move off and it feels as though you have the spectacular Serengeti savannahs entirely to yourself. Seasoned safari goers appreciate the peace, exclusivity, wide open spaces and superb wildlife sightings that can be experienced outside high season: the reserve is home to large numbers of predatory cats, some of the last remaining free-roaming black rhino in East Africa, the rare African wild dog and most other African wildlife species, as well as more than 500 recorded bird species.
- Dry season: June to October
- Start of rains: November to February
- Peak of wet season: March to May
- Max. temp. range during the day: 20ºC – 25ºC / 68ºF – 77ºF
- Min. temp. range during the evenings: 11ºC – 14ºC / 52ºF – 57ºF