The vast treeless plains of the Serengeti, famous for its Great Migration particularly of wildebeest is world-renowned, this park, and many of the surrounding reserves offer spectacular wildlife sightings. The 14,763 sq km Serengeti is split into areas and its worth bearing in mind where the majority of the game will at different times of the year. The majority of safaris will try to follow the migration as the animals seek fresh pasture but note that some overland companies will have set routes staying at popular locations in an aim to offer value for money – this may not always offer the concentration of animals the migration offers but it does give all-round experience - you, as the client need to decide what is most important to you. Several smaller operators will make use of semi-permanent camps following the migration, and ensure they try to get the best game viewing experience. Remember that there is a resident wildlife population year-round and its not just about wildebeest crossing croc-infested rivers though its fair to say the number decline significantly! There is a healthy predator population of lion (many are fitted with radio-collars), leopard, cheetah, hyena along with smaller species such as jackal, and serval. Don’t forget the zebra that often migrate with the wildebeest, gazelles, giraffe, and other antelope.
Below is an indication of the migration, as well as an explanation of the areas.
Central/Serenera and Southern Serengeti
The central part of the plains is the most visited and easily accessible both from Arusha and the west corridor, as well as being close to the Ngorongoro boundary. The Serenera area offers incredible wildlife and is home to high densities of predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah, all snacking off the resident herbivores, thus making the region busy year-round. The vast and mainly flat, open southern plains is full of wildebeest during late November/December to April/May but can be quiet at other times, though there are still resident animals around Lake Ndutu and kopjie areas.
Home to the famous wood-lined Grumeti River (wildebeest migration), the region has good game-viewing year-round including most of the cat predators along with hyena and jackal following in the wake of the herbivores. There are also colobus monkeys in the forest areas.
Bordering Kenya, the migration continues north into the Maasai Mara. There is good permanent populations of animals amongst the undulating land and small rivers.
The Migration Explained
The following should be used as a guideline when planning your safari to East Africa – movement of wildlife depends on a great many aspects – but this helps to explain the seasonality of game viewing. Remember there is resident game throughout the year in the Serengeti/Ngorongoro eco-systems. Rainfall plays a significant part in the migration and below is a guideline
JAN / FEB / MARCH
The big herds of wildebeest are generally in the southern plains of the Serengeti eco-system, calving takes place over approximately two weeks. Lots of predators, good visibility of game, mix of open plains and some woodland.
APRIL / MAY
The herds start moving toward central Serengeti. This is typically the rainy season, however, game viewing is still excellent and there are some great discounts available at lodges and camps. It generally doesn’t rain all day. Photography is generally superb with moody skies and good depth of colour.
JUNE / JULY / AUGUST
The wildebeest move from the central area and split to the west and north, continuing their trek toward the Mara River. River crossings may be seen in both the western corridor (Grumeti area) and north (Mara River) within the Serengeti.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER
Whilst some of the wildebeest successfully reach the Masai Mara, there are still hundreds of thousands remaining in the northern region of Serengeti, offering those with patience the chance to see river crossings (the Mara River runs through the Serengeti).
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER
The big herds start to return from the north, to the southern plains, to start the whole process again!
There is excellent game viewing throughout the year.