Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari
At 14,763 square kilometres in size, Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari is arguably one of the finest experiences in Africa and offers a wealth of wildlife viewing opportunities.
Pretty much every large animal in East Africa can be regularly seen in the Ngorongoro crater national park or wider ecosystem.
When you include all the contiguous protected areas, of which Ngorongoro crater area is one of the most noteworthy, the total size of the entire Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is a staggering 30,000 square kilometres packed choc-full of truly extraordinary wildlife sightings.
Renowned for its predators – especially lions, leopards and cheetahs – and with plenty of elephants favouring the western woodlands of Grumeti, the Serengeti dazzles even the most hardened wildlife safari critics.
There is even a recovering black rhino population concentrated around Moru Kopjes giving visitors a realistic chance to sighting all of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo), although the critically endangered black rhinos will undoubtedly prove the greatest challenge.
Exploring the unique Ngorongoro Crater – surrounded by the towering volcanic walls on every side and blessed with prolific and extremely well-habituated wildlife – almost feels like you’re driving through a zoo; only the surrounding crater scenery is jaw-droppingly impressive.
With the greater Serengeti ecosystem so blessed with wildlife and scenic beauty, it is hard to imagine it could have anything more to offer, but the great East African migration steals the show.
Highlights of the Attraction
When it comes to Serengeti highlights there are so many (as alluded to previously), but there is quite simply nothing to match the great migration with its sheer numbers, noise, majesty and splendour.
Importantly, there is no beginning or end to the great migration, so you can witness the great herds during any month of the year so long as you plan your safari to visit the right region within the ecosystem to coincide with where the animals are concentrated at that particular time of the cycle.
The rainfall drives the movement patterns of the great herds of wildebeest and other plains game, so it must be emphasized that the description below refers to a typical year of normal rainfall in the usual seasons.
It is not uncommon for the wildebeest movements to be delayed or sped up if unseasonal rainfalls in another part of the ecosystem, attracting the animals to the green flush that follows. Typically the wildebeest and zebra herds, along with decent numbers of eland and gazelles, will shift as follows:
In January and February the great herds are ensconced on the nutritious short-grass plains in the south and southeast of the ecosystem with their newly born calves.
The zebra and gazelle do not have a pronounced birth spike like the wildebeest and their birthing period is more spread out between the months of December and April.
In March and April, at the height of the green or emerald season, the great herds typically start to come together with their young calves usually in the vicinity of Naabi Hills on the southern plains where they reach their highest densities.
- In April or May, the northward migration begins (this is called the Moru Crush when the Great migration exits the plains through a narrow valley at Moru Kopjes) with the wildebeest rut then taking place around May in the Seronera region of the central Serengeti.
May or June sees the first of the iconic river crossings when the herds make their way across the Grumeti River in the western Serengeti.
July to October sees the herds enter the far north of the ecosystem as they cross the Mara River in the northern Serengeti in what many safari stalwarts consider to be the holy grail of safari sightings.
It certainly is a sight to behold: thousands of wildebeest plunging into crocodile-infested waters driven forward by instinct and an irresistible urge to access fresh grazing on the other side.
- From October to November, the herds turn and move southward and into the central Serengeti once more.
This is probably the most unpredictable time with huge columns of wildebeest veering off – often back into the western corridor – depending on wherever the first showers have fallen and fresh green grass is emerging
The Great migration is quite unique in that it is a perpetual phenomenon without beginning or end. It is universally regarded as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.
The sound alone is deafeningly impressive. It is, however, often very difficult to appreciate the scope and sheer size of the Great migration because, without a bird’s eye view of proceedings, it is difficult to comprehend the sprawling scale of the wildebeest numbers on a Tanzania Safari.
A sunrise hot air balloon ride is the ideal way to appreciate the huge herds and long columns of plodding animals.
Standing atop a rocky kopje is another recommended way to gain some perspective to better appreciate the sheer number of animals involved.
While most Tanzania safari-goers target the June-July period for the western corridor and Grumeti River crossings, as well as the July-October period for Lamai and the Mara River crossings, there is a strong argument for waiting for the less popular rainy season months to view the wildebeest in the southern plains when they give birth to half a million calves over a three week period – usually in February.
The Ultimate Guide To a Serengeti Safari
With some experience in enjoying the wildlife in Africa, we thought we would give our ultimate guide to a Serengeti Safari and discuss some of the topics that we believe are the most important.
Some of the issues might seem self-explanatory, but sometimes even the most seasonal safari experts tend to forget something.
This guide will help you to tick all the boxes before you embark on your epic African adventure.
Packing clothes is something that we think most people don’t even think about until a couple of days before the actual starting date. Although it doesn’t sound like something significant to worry about, if you leave this until only a couple of days before your departure, then this might cause you some unnecessary stress.
We would always recommend three pairs of clothing, along with a warm jacket and a waterproof jacket, depending on the season. The majority of the game viewing will be done in closed vehicles, but there might be rain depending on the time of the year. Most of the camps offer laundry facilities and can be done for you.
The mornings can also be quite cold, and even though most ground handlers offer blankets, we would still pack something warm. Also essential is a pair of comfortable walking shoes, avoid brand new shoes, you don’t want any blisters causing you discomfort while on your Tanzanian African Safari.
Always pack your luggage in a soft-sided duffel bag, no trolly case or hard-shell luggage cases will be allowed on the light aircraft that you are most likely going to use.
Essential clothing items to remember: A hat, comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, and three pairs of clothing.
If you are like us and prefer not to be stung by Tsetsi Flies, make sure to pack some insect repellent in your bag.
Tsetse flies are only found in small pockets throughout the Serengeti, but your guide lets you know when you are about to enter these areas and spray the repellent. It is essential to try and avoid bright colours, especially blue clothing, best to stick to earth colours in general.
There is also a small risk of malaria and please speak to your local GP or Travel Clinic for advice, there are some great products on the market such as Mozitec which doesn’t give any side effects. I don’t think it is so bad that one should consider alternative destinations, but it is best to be prepared and know about your options before you arrive on your Tanzania Safari.
Camera Equipment & Binoculars
No matter who you are, a Serengeti Safari will bring out the photographer in you and bringing memories back home is part of any typical holiday. Make sure that you have enough space on your memory cards because you don’t realize how many photos you take when the adrenaline starts pumping when you see a leopard in a tree or a predator cat hunting its next meal.
The last thing you would want to do is start deleting photos on the spot to make space, and you might delete the perfect photograph.
Another essential tip would be to check your camera gear before you depart. It is vital to know that everything is in excellent working condition. The choice of camera equipment is also essential.
If you are looking for that perfect close-up shot, you will need a large telephoto lens with a better reach.
Important notes: Check your camera equipment, Sufficient memory card disk space, A big telephoto lens would be recommended.
Essential checks to be done before you depart on your Tanzania Safari
Checking your passport might be the most obvious thing that needs to happen before any international trip, but we have heard of some horror stories.
Important checks: Check that your passport is still valid for six months after your return date, Check visa requirements the same time you book your safari, Check travel vaccinations with your local GP or Travel Clinic.
Do your research
Very important is to do a bit of research about your Tanzania Safari. It is relevantly easy to do compared to about ten years ago before the internet made it so easy.
We think the above will be the perfect place to start, but there are so many more details that we can recommend when you book your safari through an operator such as Discover Africa.
Not only will you get better deals, but also the added advantage of the expert advice of your dedicated consultant. Our travel experts have been to countries and love sharing the little things that make a massive difference on your Safari experience!