A Serengeti safari rightly centres on the wildebeest migration for many people, however (wildebeest aside) what sets the Serengeti apart from virtually any other national park is its extraordinary resident game viewing year round. With a little cunning its very possible to get away from the crowded areas and have world class game viewing.
We'd suggest making the migration an objective of your visit, but consider including other areas too to include some that may be overlooked at that time of year. Take a private vehicle and guide and drive between a few different camps - remember, in the Serengeti every "transfer" is a safari in itself and there is plenty to see.
The Serengeti migration in a nutshell
The boundaries of the Serengeti were drawn to encompass the movements of the migration, so that gives you a sense of the scale of this event. Estimates vary, but each year well over a million wildebeest, accompanied by a few hundred thousand zebra work their way in a clock-wise fashion around the park. Timings vary with seasons and they - as elsewhere in the world - are unpredictable. However, in simple terms this is where you can expect to find the herds:
January to April - the Southern plains of the Serengeti where they have gathered to give birth (400,000 calves in the space of a week or so...). If you're interested in a really out of the way safari then consider The Gol Mountains with a private light mobile camp in March / April.
May - June - South central Serengeti - as the southern plains dry off, the herds begin to move north for the beginning of the rut - our advice here would be to avoid the Seronera area like the plague; game viewing is good, but this is where you'll encounter the most traffic.
June - July - the herds move to the Serengeti Western Corridor. This part of the Serengeti is known for the monster crocodiles that hang out in the Grumeti River. Unlike the spectacular crossings of the Mara River the Grumeti tends to exist as a series of pools at which the wildebeest gather to drink. And it's at precisely this time that they are vulnerable to ambush by gargantuan crocs.
August to October - the action moves to the far northern Serengeti on the boundary with Kenya's Maasai Mara. Localised rainstorms from Lake Victoria keep this area green throughout the dry season and with a few days, a bit of luck and patience you have a good chance of witnessing a river crossing.
November - December - The herds make their way south to the calving grounds for the advent of the rains. (Rinse and repeat).
Beyond the headlines - not just the migration
Finding yourself in the thick of a throng of tens of thousands of wildebeest is an experience that's hard to beat, however, as with any good story, its worth looking beyond the headlines. When you're planning your safari it's worth including areas of the Serengeti that may be considered off peak, but still offer remarkable resident game viewing. It still amazes us how easy it is to have large areas of the park to yourself if you take this approach.
Soda Lakes and Acacia Woodland
An example of an area that often gets over looked is Ndutu in the Southern Serengeti short grass plains. Between December and March this area hosts the wildebeest calving however, by April / May the plains have begun to dry out and the wildebeest are moving north. With them go the tourists. But Ndutu, with it's flamingo-lined soda lakes, remains a stunning part of the Serengeti.
Its mature acacia woodland is where you'll find some of the best elephant viewing in the Serengeti, while the plains surrounding the woodland are amongst the best places to see cheetah as they prey on hardy posses of thomson's gazelles that remain here year round. This is not to mention resident leopard, striped hyena and a proliferation of genets and other small arboreal creatures in and around the woodland.
A private Maasai Mara
But one of the Serengeti's best kept secrets remains the northern Serengeti - an area well known between July and October for the dramatic river crossings that take place throughout this period. Visit on safari either side of this peak season and it's as if the circus has left town. You'll have the place to yourself as this video taken on a single game drive in January shows What remains however is some of the best resident game anywhere.
This sounds like hyperbole, but look at a map and you'll see that this region of the Serengeti is a direct continuation of Kenya's Maasai Mara, which has a year-round proliferation of tourists. To underline this fact it's interesting to note that while the Maasai Mara has in excess of a thousand permanent beds, the equivalent region of the Serengeti has short of 100. Moral - visit before everyone else catches on. They will.
If you're looking at taking in a few of these different parts of the Serengeti on your safari, then one of the best ways to do this is to combine time in a small intimate lodge like Ndutu in the south, or Lamai Serengeti in the north with a few days with a mobile camp.
These can be either small, simple light camps which focus on delivering comfort (not luxury) with a major emphasis on quality of guiding and service, or larger luxury tented camps where you can expect guiding tp a very high standard and large tradtional sleeping tents. At Natural High Serengeti Safaris are an area we have many years of experience in, so if you'd like us to work up a detailed proposal for you, drop us a line and we'll be happy to help.
Posted by: Alex