Serengeti travel guide

2 minute summary

It’s a beautiful word, Serengeti, coming from the word ‘Siringet’ which is Maa (language of the Maasai) for ‘open plains’. Plains that are home to the greatest natural wildlife festival on earth: The Great Migration, when over two million wildebeest, zebra and more head north to Kenya in search of fresh fodder. It’s like Glastonbury Festival for wildlife lovers, except it goes on for longer, is wilder and the noise levels don’t need giant speakers to get your blood going. Today the term refers geographically to the Serengeti ecosystem, covering 30,000km2. Most of it is in Tanzania, with the smaller section that stretches into Kenya called the Maasai Mara. This Serengeti travel guide refers to vacations in and around Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, which protects about half of the Serengeti and is mind blowing. Which is why, while you are there, there is one other Maa word you will want to share with your hosts: kashipa. Meaning, simply, ‘I’m happy’.
The Serengeti is...

home to the world’s greatest wildlife show: the Great Wildebeest Migration. It goes on for months too.

The Serengeti isn't...

just about jeep safaris. You can walk, camp and even cycle. And it isn’t all sundowners at sunset on an Amex account; budget safaris are available too.

Serengeti map & highlights


The biggest highlight of the Serengeti is, of course, the Great Migration of millions of wildebeest, zebra and more. However, the Serengeti is far from a flash in the pan,’ one minute they’re here, the next they’re gone’ sort of wildlife experience. The Big Five are here to stay. The Serengeti National Park has one of biggest populations of lion in all of Africa. There are thousands of buffalo, elephants are omnipresent, hippos are forever hovering at rivers and lakes, and there are also the more elusive leopards and rhinos to catch a sighting of. So even when the gnu has gone, the Serengeti never sleeps.
Mara River Naaba Hill Ol Doinyo Lengai & Lake Natron Serengeti NP Simba Kopjes The Great Migration

Mara River

The Mara River rises in the Kenyan Highlands, flows through the Serengeti, and, after nearly 400km, drains into Lake Victoria. Famously the most perilous crossing for wildebeest and other animals on the Great Migration, as predators lie in wait. As do wildlife watchers keen to see the greatest wildlife show on earth, staying in nearby camps to catch sight of hippos, Nile crocodiles, rare black rhino and many more.

Naabi Hill

A rocky outcrop just beside one of the main gates into the park, do hike up to the top for a smack-in-the-face panoramic view of what lies ahead. Bring binoculars for this one to spot giraffes or zebras in the distance. These rocky outcrops formed by erosion of the volcanic rock are known as kopjes and, once hunting vantage points, are havens for reptiles, birds and butterflies.

Ol Doinyo Lengai & Lake Natron

The Serengeti landscape is interrupted solely by the nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano. Translated from Maa as ‘Mountain of God’, you do need almighty strength to climb it. Serengeti cycling vacations pass by, with an option of a guided climb. Although most are happy to enjoy views of this sizzling 2,878m cone from their campsite on the banks of nearby Lake Natron, famous for its flamboyance of flamingoes.

Serengeti National Park

This is bow down, kiss the earth and worship the supreme one, when it comes to wildlife watching. Created in 1951, this legendary landscape protects 15,000km2 of vast plains, originally created to protect the lion population, but which led to the displacement of the Maasai. Today, this UNESCO site is home to lions, elephants, cheetah, giraffe, hippos, zebra, buffalo and the wondrous wildebeest.

Simba Kopje

The Serengeti has several rocky outcrops formed by erosion of the volcanic rock. Simba are the highest ones, also known as Lion Hill. Due to their elevated status these Serengeti royalty and their cheetah courtiers can monitor their magnificent kingdom from up above. Down below is a small hippo pool as well as Lake Magadi to the west, famous for its pink flamingoes.

The Great Migration

Nearly two million wildebeest head north through the Serengeti, accompanied by thousands of gazelles, zebra and eland in search of greener pastures in Kenya’s Masai Mara from July-Oct. During this exquisite exodus, crocodiles, lions, cheetahs and hyena lie in wait at key vulnerable points. The main one is the Mara River but also the Mbalageti and Grumeti Rivers and the Ndutu, Masek and Lagarja Lakes.

Photo credit: [Topbox: ann-dabney] [Map topbox: David Berkowitz] [The Great Migration: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen ] [Mara River: Sankara Subramanian] [Naabi Hill: Stig Nygaard] [Ol Doinyo Lengai & Lake Natron: Richard Mortel] [Serengeti NP: Leon F. Cabeiro] [Simba Kopje: Stig Nygaard] [Helpdesk: SajjadF]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Michiel Van Balen]
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