Enthusiasm and expectation are just two of the feelings that come to mind when getting ready to go on a safari to the Serengeti. Among these feelings, you may have a couple of lingering questions when it comes to your upcoming Serengeti safari. From practical to more interest driven questions, here are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to a safari in the Serengeti.
“When is the best time to visit the Serengeti?”
The magic question for anyone travelling to the Serengeti. Whether you are an avid safari goer or occasional game lover, trips to the Serengeti are usually planned according to herd movements. Calving season and the river crossings are usually the most sought after times for visiting the Serengeti. Although the Serengeti is rich in wildlife throughout the year (so you won’t be disappointed), different times of the year mean different viewing experiences. You may also want to consider the low (typically April and November) high (the month of July and from December to March) and peak seasons (August to October) when travelling to the Serengeti, as these will impact on the number of tourists in the Serengeti and your wallet.
“How far in advance should I book?”
As one of the most popular safari destinations in Africa, it’s suggested to book well in advance for your trip. Especially if you want to see the Serengeti during the high and peak seasons.
“What does a typical day on safari consist of?”
Most days begin early in the morning (06:30 – 07:00) with a light breakfast followed by an early morning game drive (+/- 2 to 3 hours). You will return to camp for a rest period, followed by lunch. Then there is usually a late afternoon game drive with sundowners and snacks. You will return to camp in the early evening for dinner and an evening under the stars. For the safety of visitors and the animals, night time game drives are not permitted.
“What is the ‘great migration’?”
Known as the Serengeti great migration (great migration for short or wildebeest migration), the Serengeti great migration is one of the world’s most spectacular natural events. Every year, around about the same time, over a million wildebeest, zebra and antelope (to a lesser extent) migrate clockwise around the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystem (approx. 1,930 km). Birthing (‘calving’), courting and mating happen along the way, as well as the battles that play out between prey and predator. Movements of the herds may vary from month-to-month, as the great migration is not an exact science and is dependent on the rains.
- January/February/March – From January the herds are firmly in the Serengeti as they begin to move further south towards the Ndutu plains and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The short rains of November, the previous year, mean the plains of the Serengeti provide rich grazing areas. These three months are known as calving season which means a lot of new-born calves finding their feet, while trying to avoid the predators that are swooping in for an easy meal.
- April/May – Make sure you are on the plains of the southern Serengeti as the wildebeest, zebra and antelope begin to move northward through the ‘western corridor’ and central Serengeti. You’re in for rumbling hooves as the columns of wildebeest, 30 – 40 km (20 – 25 miles) long, migrate for greener plains.
- June – The herds (with predators in wait) take a breath in the central Serengeti and western corridor as they get ready for the toughest part of their journey.
- July – The wildebeest and other migrating game face their biggest hurdle so far – crossing the Grumeti River. The wildebeest will not only have to contend with the murky waters, but with the Nile crocodiles that lie in wait beneath the surface.
- August – For their hard work, the wildebeest celebrate by grazing on the plains of the northern Serengeti. They also begin their crossing into the Masai Mara National Reserve – which first means crossing the great Mara River. Unless you’re a wildebeest or one of the other grazers, you will need your passport to get into the Masai Mara.
- September/October – The herds move back and forth between the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park (SNP). Some wildebeest may even cross back and forth between the Mara River up to ten times during a migration season, looking for good grazing areas.
- November – The short rainy season has begun and now it’s time for the herds to move south for better grazing in the Serengeti. For the wildebeest that have made it this far, they will have to contend with hungry predators that lie in wait.
- December – Fresh grazing means the herds are gathered in the north-east (around the Lobo woodlands) of the Serengeti and move further south towards the Seronera plains. Calving begins again, predators move in and the whole cycle begins again.
“What is the weather like in the Serengeti?”
The climate of the SNP is subtropical, with a dry and relatively cool season from May to August, a warmer and still quite dry season in September and October, and a rainy and hot season from November to April. The proximity of the Serengeti to the equator means that temperatures are relatively temperate.
Average Monthly Temperatures - SNP, Tanzania
Average Monthly Rainfall - SNP, Tanzania
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“Should I take any medical precautions?”
It is mandatory, for any visitor to Tanzania, to be vaccinated for Yellow Fever. You will need to present your vaccination card at your port of entry. Malaria is present in many parts of east Africa, including Tanzania. We suggest you bring prophylaxis prescribed by your local doctor, as well as a mosquito repellent. Tsetse flies are present and although, in most cases, their bites are harmless, the bites can be painful.
“What is the local currency used in Tanzania?”
The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. It is recommended to have some US Dollars on you (most lodges, tented camps and hotels advertise rates in US Dollars). Plan to carry enough money to cover expected expenses – such as gratuities, extra meals, drinks and activities. Major credit cards are accepted at many of the larger lodges and hotels, but should only be used as a plan B.
“How do I get to the Serengeti?”
There are a number of carriers that offer international flights to Tanzania. Once you touch down in Tanzania, you have two options to get to the Serengeti:
- Fly in – There are a few airstrips in SNP for light aircraft. Once you touch down at Arusha or Dar es Salaam, you can get a transfer to SNP in a ‘bush plane’. It is recommended to keep your luggage to a minimum, 10 – 15 kg (25 – 30 pounds), and in soft suitcases, rather than hard sided ones.
- Drive in – Transfers to SNP can also be done in a game vehicle or via one of the many shuttle services on offer. This is a cheaper option (depending on the number of passengers in the vehicle) and you may see some game along the way.
“What are the visa requirements?”
Travellers require a visa and passport (must be valid for 6 months after your date of entry) to enter Tanzania. Visas can be applied for online or at a Tanzanian consulate in your country. Travellers from some countries can obtain ‘visas on arrival’, but these will still have to be applied for online. Remember that the Masai Mara is in Kenya if you want to follow the migration. The wildebeest don’t need a passport, but you will. Please speak to a travel agent if you are unsure of the visa requirements, as they may change from time to time.
“What about accommodation?”
- Safari lodges – With exciting designs that blend into their surroundings and all the amenities of a luxury hotel, you can eat, drink and lounge by the pool as you observe game often not too far away.
- Tented camps – There are only a few luxury tented camps in the Serengeti, but they offer a unique safari experience. Don’t let the word ‘camping’ fool you though. Many of the tented camps offer great amenities and give you an unforgettable Serengeti experience.
- Explorer camps – Tented camps and lodges mean that you are in one place for the remainder of your trip (apart from the game drives). Explorer camps allow you to venture off those well-worn game tracks as you navigate the Serengeti on foot or in the comfort of a land cruiser as you follow the game.
“Is the Serengeti all it’s cracked up to be?”
There’s no other place on the continent that offers the variety and density of wildlife that the Serengeti does. Phrases such as ‘bucket list’ and ‘once in a lifetime’ are often used when describing a trip to the Serengeti, but you may also have that one friend who can’t stop talking about it. If you haven’t been put off by that one friend of yours, then the Serengeti is definitely a once in a lifetime experience.