Updated: Dec 11, 2022
Understandably, many travellers are fixated on visiting the Serengeti National Park, solely to see The Great Migration, which has its preferred months depending where in Tanzania you are travelling. However, The Serengeti National Park is in fact, a fantastic year-round destination, always with something on offer. The question is, what is important to you – are you looking for a crowd-free getaway, sunny weather conditions only, to catch a glimpse of newborn calves, to visit in peak birding season, or is it The Great Migration? We’ve broken down the main attractions when visiting The Serengeti National Park, to help you decide when the best time is for you to plan a visit.
The Great Migration
Firstly, what is it? The Great Migration is the largest animal migration in the world, in which millions of animals follow the rains to greener pastures. It is a continual movement that happens year-round in which you can expect to see huge congregations of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, antelope and more, tackling the treacherous journey. Whilst the movement is dependent on rain and therefore unpredictable, we can still give you an approximate idea of timing and location when planning ahead for your safari.
December – April: During calving season, most herds can be found southeast of Seronera. Usually, herds congregate in Namiri Plains before moving to the fertile soils of Ndutu for calving season Jan-March. Towards the end of March, herds will then head west toward Masawa Game Reserve around Moru Kjopes.
May – July: The wildebeest move with their newly born calves from the southeastern part of the Serengeti, towards the Western Corridor, toward The Grumeti River.
August – September: The herds are now further north towards the Mara River as they cross towards the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. This is not the best time to see The Great Migration in The Serengeti. However, the park still has fantastic wildlife to be seen.
October – November: Herds cross the Northern plains and Lobo area as they move in a southernly direction back into The Serengeti.
The wildebeest calving season is a spectacular event that usually occurs between mid-January and the end of March. During this time, almost 80% of females give birth over the course of just a few weeks. with more than 500,000 calves being born into the open plain. It’s no surprise that the sheer volume of vulnerable calves attracts the attention of Africa’s predators – lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas are all lurking in hope. If visiting during this time, your chances of seeing a predator kill are extremely high. Towards the end of March, as the plains begin to dry, the Wildebeest and other animals continue their migration west, away from the influx of predators, towards the Masai Mara.
The Grumeti River Crossing
The Grumeti River, based along Tanzania’s Western Corridor, just west of the Seronera valley, is home to some of the world’s largest Nile crocodiles, who lie in wait for the herds of wildebeest, antelope and zebra looking to cross its waters. Though a dangerous path to take, it is one the animals must cross through. As a permanent water source, it usually boasts an abundance of wildlife year-round, including lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, hippos, giraffes and elephants. The Grumeti Crossing usually spans a two-week period in May and June. However, given the migration's dependence on rain, it is hard to predict exactly when the animals will cross the river. This part of the Serengeti is generally quieter amongst tourists due to its remoteness, whereas the banks of the Mara River are likely to be a lot busier in peak times.
Peak season, or the dry season as it’s also known, runs from June to October. There are many reasons why this is one of the most popular times to visit. Firstly, the weather conditions are favourable – long days of clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine. The dryer weather also means fewer mosquitos and subsequently a lower risk of malaria. Additionally, the thinner bush makes it easier to spot wildlife, who generally congregate around any remaining water sources. If thinking of travelling during this time, definitely book ahead as lodges will get booked up quickly. Though peak season, most lodges cater to just a small number of guests, so generally speaking, it shouldn’t feel too crowded (unless perhaps a leopard sighting has been announced on the radio)!
‘Green’ season, or the wet season as it’s also known, runs from November to May. There are a number of reasons to visit The Serengeti National Park during this time, not least because of fewer crowds and cheaper prices!.. The rain transforms the barren landscape into a luscious green playground, filled with wildlife and vegetation, perfect for budding photographers. Though it makes the game harder to spot, they are in abundance as they make the post of greener pastures, particularly when calving season arrives in the new year! This is also a fantastic time for birding as migratory birds flock to the area. Whilst rains are likely, they rarely go on for the whole day and can often be only a downpour in the afternoon.