April 11, 2023
10 Things to do in Serengeti National Park
Did you know that the Serengeti was recognized as a national park even before Tanganyika recieved its independence? Making Serengeti National Park older than Tanzania, itself!
Not only is the Serengeti Tanzania’s oldest park, established in 1951, but it’s also the most popular, bringing tourists year-round to experience the magic of Africa’s wildlife.
The park offers extensive savannahs and picturesque acacia woodlands. The Great Migration, a phenomenon of millions of animals crossing the Grumeti River on an annual basis, never ceases to amaze and inspire. Likewise, it is here that the Big Five of Africa freely roam, making the Serengeti one of the top places in the world to spy elephants, lions, Cape buffalo, Black rhinos and leopards in their natural habitat.
If you’re planning a visit to Tanzania’s incredible Serengeti National Park, check out this list of 10 things to do to make your visit even more memorable.
Go on a game drive
Serengeti is the most popular park in Tanzania, so it’s probably a given that you’re planning on going on a safari in Serengeti national park, also known as a game drive.
However, to really experience this massive park (the Serengeti is 5,700 square miles/ over 14,000 km), you’d need weeks on end. While you cannot fully explore all of the Serengeti in just a few days, you can get a taste of the different regions and animals that call this park home by making sure to hit some of the must-see areas; including the Serengeti Visitor Centre and Seronera.
Serengeti Visitor Center
More than just a rest stop, the Serengeti Visitor Center offers a place for tourists to learn about the history of the Serengeti with impressive visuals.
Here, you can discover more about the wildebeest migration, as it has been studied over the years, which will only increase your appreciate for the impressive herds when you venture on to the Grumeti River Crossing.
The whole of the Visitor Center is built atop a kopje (more on that, below), and there are raised platforms offering lovely views of the surrounding Serengeti landscape.
Of course, if you do need a quick stop, the Visitor Center is where you can get a cold soda, a chocolate bar or a souvenier to bring home.
A drive through Serengeti wouldn’t be complete without passing through the stunning Seronera Valley. Situated in the center of Serengeti National Park, the Seronera River provides a source of water and consistently lush grass, which in turn draws herds of grazing animals, like zebras and wildebeests during the dry season.
Aside from the migrating animals, there are some resident herds who live in Seronera year-round, so you’re almost guaranteed to see animals in Seronera Valley, not matter the season.
Following the herds are big cats like leopards, lions and cheetahs. Which is why the Seronera Valley is nicknamed the “Big Cat Capital”, it is not uncommon for tourists to spot all three of these elusive big cats in a single day at Seronera.
Seronera is know to be busy during the high season (June – September) but if you travel during the off-season (October and November) or even the rainy season (April and May), you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find fewer other safari cars, and be able to see and photograph more wildlife.
Despite it being a popular location where you may meet up with many other safari jeeps, the Seronera Valley is truly stunning and shouldn’t be missed.
Experience a Night Drive
A night drive safari gives visitors the chance to see nocturnal animals on the move; creatures like aardvarks; big cats like leopards and the rarely-seen civets, and hyenas. As for birds, you may see (or hear) owls and night jars flapping in the trees overhead.
A night drive typically takes three hours. You’ll depart well after sunset, when the nocturnal animals are up and on the move. During a night drive, you’ll be dependent on your ears and a good flashlight or torch to find the animals. Imagine switching on your light in the direction of a pair of eyes – only to see you’re looking at a lion on the prowl!
It can be very exciting to use senses other than sight to connect with the world, and be out in Africa’s nature after dark.
It is important to point out that night drives are not permitted within Serengeti National park.
Thankfully, all national parks are open and un-fenced, which means the animals are free to move about. That is why some of the best lodges and camps offer night drives in the protected wilderness areas (known as WMA areas) near the park boundaries. You might be on the outskirts of the park, but you’re still bound ot have an exciting night drive!
Driving at night near the park is completely legal, you will not face any problems as long as you are outside of the park gate.
Night drives are only available when road conditions permit. If there have been heavy rains, you may need to delay a night drive until it is safe. Please communicate with your tour operator if night drives are available, and if their driver-guides have experiencing leading night drives.
Altezza Travel offers night drives in permitted locations near (but not inside) Serengeti National Park.
Visit a Traditonal Maasai Village
Tanzania is more than just wildlife; there are interesting cultures to learn about, too. One of the local tribes that live around the Serengeti are the Maasai; a herding people with a rich culture or strong women and fierce warriors who live in tune with nature.
Take some time to learn about the Maasai during your safari; you can visit a local village and learn about how the women build their huts, the respect they have for their cattle and, maybe even witness an impressive jumping competition they are known for.
Please ask before taking photos, and be aware it is common for all Maasai, even children, to expect a tip if they’ve permitted you to take their photo.
Explore the Moru Kopjes
While driving through the Serengeti, you’re sure to see impressive clusters of rocks rising from the flat plains or smooth hills. Some will certainly conjure up images of the famous Disney Lion King – a kopje is what Simba’s father stands on when the monkey, Rafiki, lifts him up at the beginning of the film.
Kopjes are found all throughout the Serengeti. The most famous are the Moru Kopjes, found in the Serengeti Plains. They are well-known for animal sightings, being a great ‘look out point’ for lions and cheetahs. Further, the Serengeti plains are home to approximately 25 of the endangered Black Rhinos, making it a great stop to see this member of the Big Five.
See the Great Migration for yourself
The wonderful thing about the Great Migration is that it never stops. In it’s truest essence, the Great Migration is an endless cycle of the grazing animals of the Serengeti Plains.
While most travelers imagine the Great Migration as the animals plunging across the Grumeti River, this is just one portion of the Great Migration and is when visitors can witness the greatest collective movement of animals anywhere on earth.
But all throughout the year, the grazing animals are living, feeding, giving birth and growing up to be the next generation of migrators.
January and Februrary of each year is ‘Calving Season’, the months when the pregnant wildebeests give birth. It is estimated that 8,000 new wildebeests are born each day in calving season.
The curious-looking babies are incredibly adapted to the dangerou environment, able to stand up within minutes of being born. A survival skill, to say the least, as predators such as lions and hyenas are always slinking around, ready to pounce on the vulnerable prey.
Calving season occurs in the Ndutu area of the Serengeti. It is not only wildebeests which give birth at this time, but many other grazing animals, including impalas, gazelles and zebras.
The following months the baby wildebeests will stay close to their mothers and develop their strength and speed as they graze throughout the savannah.
After the rainy season, starting around July and extending through to September, or even some years, until October, is when the massive surge of animals across Kenya’s Maasai Mara and back into Tanzania occurs.
This is when visitors to Serengeti can see stampedes of animals charging over the dangerous waters of the Mara River and feel the earth tremble under millions of animals thundering hooves.
While the timing of the migration is unpredictable, wildebeest and zebra populations often cross the Grumeti River into Kenya in the spring, and cross back into Tanzania in summer and early autumn by crossing the Mara River.
Visit the Grumeti River
The Grumeti River crossing during the Great Migration is absolutely astounding; here is your chance to witness the force of nature for yourself; to see how animals instincitvely know how to migrate to better grass and stay together as a herd.
It’s also a fabulous opportunity to see some of the big cats of Africa, where leopards and cheetahs are out on the hunt.
Even during the ‘off season’ the Grumeti River hosts animals like hippos, elephants and the big Nile Crocodiles that are so intimidating. There are resident lion populations, too, so you are likely to still get a great safari experience any time of year at the Grumeti River.
What’s the difference between the Grumeti River and the Mara River?
These two rivers are situated in the same area of Northern Tanzania. The Mara River is closer to the Kenya border, called the Maasai Mara, and a larger portion of the river is located within Kenyan territory.
The Grumeti River runs longer across northern Serengeti, and more of the river is inside of Tanzania, accessible for travelers in Serengeti National park.
The migrating animals cross each river at respective times of the year as they go on to greener pastures. Both river crossing are exciting, and bare the same dangers of predators like lions and crocodiles. The Grumeti, however, is generally considered more easy to view and get excellent photos of the river crossing.
Get Up Close at the Retina Hippo Pool
Located in Central Serengeti, the Retina Hippo Pool offers the best hippo sightings, probably anywhere in Northern Tanzania.
If you love hippos, then don’t miss your chance to see up to 200 of these immense water-loving creatures, wallowing in the shallows of the Retina Pool and take up-close photos, right from the riverbank.
Many visitors take a chance to enjoy lunch in the area, and its one of the select locations in Serengeti National Park where visitors are allowed to exit the safari jeep and walk around on foot.
Go back in time at Oldupai Gorge
Oldupai, also known as Ol Duvai Gorge is a renown archeological site where excavation continues.
It was here, at Oldupai that the famous Louis and Mary Leaky discover the remains of the first human tools, estimated to date back 1.8 million years ago. Other ancient bones and fossils have been uncovered by famous archeologists or geologists like Hans Reck.
Just to preface; Oldupai Gorge is not within Serengeti, but its a great stop on the drive there. When driving from Arusha or Moshi to reach Serengeti National Park, you will pass by the Ngoronoro Conservation Area, where Oldupai is located.
Why not stop in an see one of the most important archeological sites in the world?
Take to the Sky in a Hot Air Balloon Safari
Make your adventure in Tanzania extra special with a hot air balloon ride over the savannah.
You’ll have a view like no other, gliding over the savannah during an early morning hot air balloon safari. While you’re limited to roads within a safari jeep, you can sweep over a herd of mighty elephants from above, and truly see the immense number of animals migrating across the plains when you fly over on a hot air balloon.
When you touch back down to earth, you can enjoy a outdoor lovely breakfast with the regular coffee and tea – or champagne if it’s a celebration! Some clients choose a hot air balloon safari to celebrate an anniversary or birthday – or to propose while flying in the air!
There are a limited number of balloons operating in Tanzania, and they only fly in specific national parks, Serengeti being one of them.
If you’re interested in joining a hot air balloon safari, talk to your tour operator today.
Enjoy a romantic bush breakfast or sunset dinner
While you’re in the bush, take advantage of the beauty of nature and arrange for a early morning ‘bush breakfast’ to watch the sunrise, golden and magical, over the savannah.
Or, arrange a candle-lit bush dinner, timed perfectly with the sunset for an unforgettable romantic date while on safari.
The Serengeti has different moods, you can experience them all, including the jewel-toned dawn vibes, with a glamorous bush breakfast during sunrise.
In most cases, you should arrange with your tour operator before hand to plan a bush breakfast or dinner. Not all lodges or hotels in the Serengeti area offer special bush meals, but some of the top-rated ones do, so make sure you book with a tour operator, like Altezza Travel, to plan your romantic bush dinner in advance.
Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s most-visited national park, and for good reason! This massive park offers days upon days of adventure for travelers; from hot air balloon rides to watching the Great Migration up close, and just outside the park you can visit archeological sites or go on a night safari.
If you’re visiting Serengeti National park try to hit some (or all!) of the things on this list. Whatever you do, make sure your time in the Serengeti is the trip of a lifetime!