Serengeti, a corrupted version of the Masai word “Siringit” meaning unending plains, boasts a huge population of wild animals including the rare tree-climbing lions, buffalo, leopard, hippo, jackals, hunting dogs, roan antelopes and many others.
The park supports over 30 species of large mammals and about 500 bird species. Serengeti was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981.
One of the major attractions of the national park is the Great Wildebeest Migration, the biggest animal show in the world. During this event, more over 1.5 million wildebeests, zebras and gazelle cross over to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in search of pasture and water.
Although the migration from Serengeti to the Masai Mara is not specifically predictable, the best time to catch a glimpse of the spectacular event is between June and August when the wildebeest gather in preparation to cross the Grumeti River in Serengeti.
Numerous predators among them lions, leopards, cheetah and hyenas escort the migrating wildebeest – eagerly waiting for the right opportunity to make a feast out of any weak prey. The party for the predators begins when the wildebeest jump across the crocodile infested Mara River in the Masai Mara.
Within no time, the banks of the Mara River become awash with countless carcasses of wildebeests and zebras that crocodiles, vultures and marabou storks feast on for weeks. It is estimated that 250,000 of the wildebeest do not make it to the other side of the river!
After crossing the Mara River, the animals finally arrive on the plains of the Masai Mara between August and September. Towards the end of October when the pasture is depleted in the north, the wildebeest trek back to the now green foliage of the Serengeti, where they give birth and mate before starting the cycle for the following year.
The best time to take a Serengeti safari is usually dependent on your priorities. If the focus of your trip is to experience the wildebeest migration, you should plan your safari between December and July.
On the other hand if you want to watch the predators making a kill out of the helpless prey then June to October is the best time to be there.
International visitors to the Serengeti are usually served by the Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha (about 320km away), from where they reach the park by road or air. The journey by road from Arusha will take you about 8 hours.